Thich Nhat Hahn is a modern Zen poet who is also a teacher, scholar, and peace activist. He lives in exile in a small community in France where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees worldwide. Thich Nhat Hahn poetry reveals his dedication to peace, compassion and humanity. His poetry has helped give him the reputation as one of the world’s most admired spiritual leaders.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Collection

The Beauty of Spring Blocks My Way

Spring comes slowly and quietly
to allow Winter to withdraw
slowly and quietly.
The color of the mountain afternoon
is tinged with nostalgia.
The terrible war flower
has left her footprints-
countless petals of separation and death
in white and violet.
Very tenderly, the wound opens itself in the depths of my heart.
Its color is the color of blood,
its nature the nature of separation.

The beauty of Spring blocks my way.
How could I find another path up the mountain?

I suffer so. My soul is frozen.
My heart vibrates like the fragile string of a lute
left out in a stormy night.
Yes, it is really there. Spring has really come.
But the mourning is heard
clearly, unmistakably,
in the wonderful sounds of the birds.
The morning mist is already born.
The breeze of Spring in its song
expresses both my love and my despair.
The cosmos is so indifferent. Why?
To the harbor, I came alone,
and now I leave alone.

There are so many paths leading to the homeland.
They all talk to me in silence. I invoke the Absolute.
Spring has come
to every corner of the ten directions.
Its, alas, is only the song
of departure.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


Being Peace

If we are peaceful.
If we are happy.
We can smile and blossom
Like a flower.

And everyone
In our family,
Our entire society
Will benefit
From our peace.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


Please Call Me by My True Names

I have a poem for you. This poem is about three of us.
The first is a twelve-year-old girl, one of the boat
people crossing the Gulf of Siam. She was raped by a
sea pirate, and after that she threw herself into the
sea. The second person is the sea pirate, who was born
in a remote village in Thailand. And the third person
is me. I was very angry, of course. But I could not take
sides against the sea pirate. If I could have, it would
have been easier, but I couldn't. I realized that if I
had been born in his village and had lived a similar life
- economic, educational, and so on - it is likely that I
would now be that sea pirate. So it is not easy to take
sides. Out of suffering, I wrote this poem. It is called
"Please Call Me by My True Names," because I have many names,
and when you call me by any of them, I have to say, "Yes."

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow --
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his "debt of blood" to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


Looking For Each Other

I have been looking for you, World Honored One,
since I was a little child.
With my first breath, I heard your call,
and began to look for you, Blessed One.
I've walked so many perilous paths,
confronted so many dangers,
endured despair, fear, hopes, and memories.
I've trekked to the farthest regions, immense and wild,
sailed the vast oceans,
traversed the highest summits, lost among the clouds.
I've lain dead, utterly alone,
on the sands of ancient deserts.
I've held in my heart so many tears of stone.

Blessed One, I've dreamed of drinking dewdrops
that sparkle with the light of far-off galaxies.
I've left footprints on celestial mountains
and screamed from the depths of Avici Hell, exhausted, crazed with despair
because I was so hungry, so thirsty.
For millions of lifetimes,
I've longed to see you,
but didn't know where to look.
Yet, I've always felt your presence with a mysterious certainty.

I know that for thousands of lifetimes,
you and I have been one,
and the distance between us is only a flash of though.
Just yesterday while walking alone,
I saw the old path strewn with Autumn leaves,
and the brilliant moon, hanging over the gate,
suddenly appeared like the image of an old friend.
And all the stars confirmed that you were there!
All night, the rain of compassion continued to fall,
while lightning flashed through my window
and a great storm arose,
as if Earth and Sky were in battle.
Finally in me the rain stopped, the clouds parted.
The moon returned,
shining peacefully, calming Earth and Sky.
Looking into the mirror of the moon, suddenly
I saw myself,
and I saw you smiling, Blessed One.
How strange!

The moon of freedom has returned to me,
everything I thought I had lost.
From that moment on,
and in each moment that followed,
I saw that nothing had gone.
There is nothing that should be restored.
Every flower, every stone, and every leaf recognize me.
Wherever I turn, I see you smiling
the smile of no-birth and no-death.
The smile I received while looking at the mirror of the moon.
I see you sitting there, solid as Mount Meru,
calm as my own breath,
sitting as though no raging fire storm ever occurred,
sitting in complete peace and freedom.
At last I have found you, Blessed One,
and I have found myself.
There I sit.

The deep blue sky,
the snow-capped mountains painted against the horizon,
and the shining red sun sing with joy.
You, Blessed One, are my first love.
The love that is always present, always pure, and freshly new.
And I shall never need a love that will be called “last.”
You are the source of well-being flowing through numberless troubled lives,
the water from you spiritual stream always pure, as it was in the beginning.
You are the source of peace,
solidity, and inner freedom.
You are the Buddha, the Tathagata.
With my one-pointed mind
I vow to nourish your solidity and freedom in myself
so I can offer solidity and freedom to countless others,
now and forever.

- Thich Naht Hahn
From " Call me by my true names"

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


Interrelationship

You are me, and I am you.
Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


Non-Duality

The bell tolls at four in the morning.
I stand by the window,
barefoot on the cool floor.
The garden is still dark.
I wait for the mountains and rivers to reclaim their shapes.
There is no light in the deepest hours of the night.
Yet, I know you are there
in the depth of the night,
the immeasurable world of the mind.
You, the known, have been there
ever since the knower has been.

The dawn will come soon,
and you will see
that you and the rosy horizon
are within my two eyes.
It is for me that the horizon is rosy
and the sky blue.
Looking at your image in the clear stream,
you answer the question by your very presence.
Life is humming the song of the non-dual marvel.
I suddenly find myself smiling
in the presence of this immaculate night.
I know because I am here that you are there,
and your being has returned to show itself
in the wonder of tonight's smile.
In the quiet stream,
I swim gently.
The murmur of the water lulls my heart.
A wave serves as a pillow
I look up and see
a white cloud against the blue sky,
the sound of Autumn leaves,
the fragrance of hay-
each one a sign of eternity.
A bright star helps me find my way Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Indexmyself.

I know because you are there that I am here.
The stretching arm of cognition
in a lightning flash,
joining together a million eons of distance,
joining together birth and death,
joining together the known and the knower.

In the depth of the night,
as in the immeasurable realm of consciousness,
the garden of life and I
remain each other's objects.
The flower of being is singing the song of emptiness.

The night is still immaculate,
but sounds and images from you
have returned and fill the pure night.
I feel their presence.
By the window, with my bare feet on the cool floor,
I know I am here
for you to be.

This poem is about an insight related to vijnanavada. It is a difficult poem, fit to be explained in
a course on vijnanavada. You are there for me, and I am here for you. That is the teaching of
interbeing. The term interbeing was not yet used at that time. Although we think of the
Avatamsaka when we hear the term interbeing,the teaching of interbeing also has its roots in
vijttanavada, because in vijnanavada, cognition always includes subject and object together.
Consciousness is always consciousness of something.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


Disappearance

Disappearance

The leaf tips bend
under the weight of dew.
Fruits are ripening
in Earth's early morning.
Daffodils light up in the sun.
The curtain of cloud at the gateway
of the garden path begins to shift:
have pity for childhood,
the way of illusion.

Late at night,
the candle gutters.
In some distant desert,
a flower opens.
And somewhere else,
a cold aster
that never knew a cassava patch
or gardens of areca palms,
never knew the joy of life,
at that instant disappears-
man's eternal yearning.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Inde


Drink Your Tea

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
- slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


To Meditate

To meditate does not mean to fight with a problem.
To meditate means to observe.
Your smile proves it.
It proves that you are being gentle with yourself,
that the sun of awareness is shining in you,
that you have control of your situation.
You are yourself,
and you have acquired some peace.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


Kiss The Earth

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


A Teacher Looking For His Disciple

I have been looking for you, my child,
Since the time when rivers and mountains still lay in obscurity.
I was looking for you when you were still in a deep sleep
Although the conch had many times echoed in the ten directions.
Without leaving our ancient mountain I looked at distant lands
And recognized your steps on so many different paths.
Where are you going, my child?
There have been times when the mist has come
And enveloped the remote village but you are still
Wandering in far away lands.
I have called your name with each breath,
Confident that even though you have lost your
Way over there you will finally find a way back to me.
Sometimes I manifest myself right on the path
You are treading but you still look at me as if I were a stranger
You cannot see the connection between us in our
Former lives you cannot remember the old vow you made.
You have not recognized me
Because your mind is caught up in images concerning a distant future.
In former lifetimes you have often taken my hand
and we have enjoyed walking together.
We have sat together for a longtime at the foot of old pine trees.
We have stood side by side in silence for hours
Listening to the sound of the wind softly calling us
And looking up at the while clouds floating by.
You have picked up and given to me the firstred autumn leaf
And I have taken you through forests deep in snow.
But wherever we go we always return to our
Ancient mountain to be near to the moon and stars
To invite the big bell every morning to sound,
And help living beings to wake up.
We have sat quietly on the An Tu mountain' with the
Great Bamboo Forest Master
Alongside the frangipani trees in blossom.
We have taken boats out to sea to rescue the boat people as they drift.
We have helped Master Van Hanh design the Thang
Long capital we have built together a thatched hermitage,
And stretched out the net to rescue the nun Trac Tuyen When!
The sound of The rising tide was deafening
On the banks of The Tien Duong river.
Together we have opened the way and stepped
Into the immense space outside of space.
After many years of working to tear asunder the net of time.
We have saved up the light of shooting stars
And made a torch helping those who want to go home
After decades of wandering in distant places.
But still there have been times when the
Seeds of a vagabond in you have come back to life
you have left your teacher, your brothers and sisters
Alone you go...

I look at you with compassion
Although I know that this is not a true separation
(Because I am already in each cell of your body)
And that you may need once more to play the prodigal son.
That is why I promise I shall be there for you
Any time you are in danger.
Sometimes you have lain unconscious on the hot sands of frontier deserts.
I have manifested myself as a cloud to bring you cool shade.
Late at night the cloud became the dew
And the compassionate nectar falls drop by drop for you to drink.
Sometimes you sit in a deep abyss of darkness
Completely alienated from you true home.
I have manifested Myself as a long ladder and
Lightly thrown myself down
So that you can climb up to the area where there is light
To discover again the blue of the sky and the
Sounds of the brook and the birds.
Sometimes I recognised you in Birmingham,
In the Do Linh district or New England.
I have sometimes met you in Hang Chau, Xiamen, or Shanghai
I have sometimes found you in St. Petersburg or East Berlin.
Sometimes, though only five years old, I have
Seen you and recognized you.
Because of the seed of bodhchita, you carry in your tender heart.
Wherever I have seen you, I have always raised
My hand and made a signal to you,
Whether it be in the delta of the North, Saigon or the Thuan An Seaport.
Sometimes you were the golden full moon hanging
Over the summit of The Kim Son Mountain,
Or the little bird flying over the Dai Laoforest during a winter night.
Often I have seen you
But you have not seen me,
Though while walking in the evening mist your clothes have been soaked.
But finally you have always come home.
You have come home and sat at my feet on our ancient mountain
Listening to the birds calling and the monkeys
Screeching and the morning chanting echoing from the Buddha Hall.
You have come back to me determined not to be a vagabond any longer.
This morning the birds of the mountain joyfully welcome the bright sun.
Do you know, my child, that the white clouds
Are still floating in the vault of the sky?
Where are you now?
The ancient mountain is still there in this
Place of the present moment.
Although the white-crested wave still wants to
Go in the other direction,
Look again, you will see me in you and in every leaf and flower bud.
If you call my name, you will see me right away.
Where are you going?
The old frangipani tree offers its fragrant flowers this morning.
You and I have never really been apart. Spring has come.
The pines have put out new shining green needles
And on the edge of the forest, the wild Plum
Trees have burst into flower.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


You Are Me

You are me and I am you.
It is obvious that we are inter-are.
You cultivate the flower in
yourself so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself so
that you do not have to suffer.
I support you you support me.
I am here to bring you peace
you are here to bring me joy.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index


Be A Bud

Be a bud sitting quietly on the hedge.

Be a smile, one part of wondrous existence.

Stand here. There is no need to depart.


Sometimes

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.

Thich Nhat Hahn Poetry Index