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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

January 7, 2024: My actions are my only true belongings.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

My actions are my only true belongings.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Our own life has to be our message," he wrote in The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology.


"It is my conviction that there is no way to peace—peace is the way," he wrote in The Art of Power.


In his book Teachings on Love, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, "Each moment is a chance for us to make peace with the world, to make peace possible for the world, to make happiness possible for the world."

"It is said that God has created man in his own image. But it may be that humankind has created God in the image of humankind," Thich Nhat Hanh

The great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh came of age in Vietnam right as his nation was descending into civil war. He didn’t want to be part of a religious community that was disengaged from his culture at a time of great need. He began to articulate what he called a form of engaged Buddhism.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle. - Thich Nhat Hanh

It was the same with Thomas Merton. He became a Trappist monk. We might think of Trappists as people who are withdrawn from all the events and affairs of the world. But Merton, who wrote New Seeds of Contemplation, also wrote a book called Seeds of Destruction because he said he wanted a form of engaged contemplative Christian faith.

“Prayers and sacrifice must be used as the most effective spiritual weapons in the war against war, and like all weapons they must be used with deliberate aim: not just with a vague aspiration for peace and security, but against violence and against war.


This implies that we are also willing to sacrifice and restrain our own instinct for violence and aggressiveness in our relations with other people. We may never succeed in this campaign, but whether we succeed or not, the duty is evident.

It is the great Christian task of our time. Everything else is secondary, for the survival of the human race itself depends upon it. We must at least face this responsibility and do something about it.

“Only when we see ourselves in our true human context, as members of a race which is intended to be one organism and ‘one body,’ will we begin to understand the positive importance not only of the successes but of the failures and accidents in our lives. My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. - Thomas Merton

When Richard Rohr started the CAC, he wanted it to be the Center for Action and Contemplation: engaged contemplation rooted in a Christian tradition. And of course, this just draws from the example of Jesus, who withdrew for a period of contemplative silence at the beginning of his ministry, a period of forty days, the story says. But then of course, he engaged with the struggles and challenges of his people in his time.

Every day Jesus would follow that same rhythm: withdraw for solitude, but then come back to engage by healing, feeding, caring, welcoming, binding up the wounds of this world, and implanting in people a vision of resilience, engaging with a world on fire.


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