Fyodor Dostoevsky Profile

Fyodor Dostoevsky Profile

Carolyn and I have long enjoyed the writings of Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who wrote many great novels, short stories, and essays during his lifetime. His powerful works explore the human condition in 19th-century Russia, and they engage with a variety of timeless philosophical and spiritual themes.

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1821. He had an older brother, his father was a doctor, and he was raised in his family’s home, which was on the grounds of the Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor. This hospital was in a lower-class district on the edges of Moscow, and when playing in the hospital gardens as a child Dostoevsky encountered patients who were at the bottom of the Russian social scale.

When Dostoyevsky was four years old his mother used the Bible to teach him how to read and write, and he was introduced to books at an early age. His nanny read him fairy tales, legends, and heroic sagas, and his parents introduced him to a wide range of literature. Although his father’s approach to education has been described as “strict and harsh,” Dostoevsky reported that his “imagination” was “brought alive” by his parent’s nightly readings.

In 1837 Dostoyevsky left school to enter the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute, and after graduating he worked as a lieutenant engineer and book translator, from French into Russian. In 1839 signs of Dostoevsky’s epilepsy first appeared, and his seizures plagued him throughout his life. During his 20s, Dostoyevsky recorded several journal descriptions of his seizures, and there are also descriptions in his novels. There have been numerous medical hypotheses about the type of epilepsy with which Dostoevsky suffered, the most notorious feature of his type of epilepsy being the so-called “ecstatic aura.” While these seizures were debilitating, they also appear to have contributed to mystical experiences that enhanced the creativity of his writing.

Dostoyevsky had this to say about his epileptic seizures, “I felt that heaven descended to earth and swallowed me. I attained God and was imbued with him… all the joys life can give I would not take in exchange for it… for a few moments before the fit, I experience a feeling of happiness such [that] it is impossible to imagine in a normal state and which other people have no idea of. I feel entirely in harmony with myself and the world, and this feeling is so strong and so delightful that for a few seconds of such bliss, one would gladly give up ten years of one’s life if not one’s whole life.”

Between 1844 and 1845 Dostoyevsky wrote his first novel, Poor Folk. His motivation for writing this novel was said to be largely financial. Dostoyevsky was having financial difficulties, due to an extravagant lifestyle and a gambling addiction, so he decided to write a novel to try and raise funds. The novel is written in the form of letters between the two main characters, who are poor relatives, and it describes the lives of poor people, their relationship with rich people, and poverty in general. This novel became a commercial success, and it gained Dostoyevsky’s entry into Saint Petersburg’s literary circles.

In 1846 Dostoyevsky’s second novel, The Double: A Petersburg Poem, about a bureaucrat struggling to succeed, was published in a journal and it received negative reviews. Around this time Dostoyevsky also published several short stories in a magazine, which also received negative reviews, and this caused him stress and greater financial difficulty. After this his health declined, his seizures increased in frequency, and Dostoyevsky’s life took a dark turn.

In 1847 Dostoyevsky was arrested for belonging to a particular literary group called the Petrashevsky Circle, which discussed banned books that were critical of Tsarist Russia. Dostoyevsky was sentenced to death, but at the last moment, his sentence was commuted. He later described this experience, of what he believed to be the last moments of his life, in his novel The Idiot. Dostoyevsky spent the next four years doing hard labor in a Siberian prison camp, where he had frequent seizures, and then after surviving that, he had to do six more years of compulsory military service.

In the years that followed Dostoyevsky worked as a journalist, editing several magazines, and he traveled around Western Europe. For a time, he experienced such serious financial hardship that he had to beg for money. In 1866, when he owed large sums of money to creditors, his widely acclaimed novel Crime and Punishment was first published in a literary journal, in twelve monthly installments. It was a “literary sensation” of 1866 and is now one of the most widely read books of all time.

The novel is about the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of an impoverished young man who plans to kill an unscrupulous old woman, who stores money and valuable objects in her apartment. What’s so remarkable about this story is how Dostoyevsky portrays the psychological process of his self-tormented main character.

Between 1868 and 1869 Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot was first published serially in a journal. The title of the book is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, a young, Christ-like, epileptic prince whose “goodness, open-hearted simplicity, and guilelessness lead many of the more worldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight.”

In 1880 Dostoyevsky published his final novel, The Brothers Karamazov, a passionate and philosophical story about rival love affairs, that explores questions of God, free will, and morality. Dostoevsky’s body of work consists of thirteen novels, three novellas, seventeen short stories, 221 Diary articles, and numerous other works.

Dostoyevsky died in 1881. Since his death, he has become one of the most widely-read and highly-regarded Russian writers. Dostoyevsky’s books have been translated into more than 170 languages, they’ve served as the inspiration for numerous films, and his work has influenced many other writers.

In 1971, Dostoevsky’s former apartment in Saint Petersburg was opened as a museum, known as the F.M. Dostoevsky Memorial Museum. The apartment was Dostoevsky’s home during the composition of some of his most notable works, including The Double: A Petersburg Poem and The Brothers Karamazov. The museum library holds around 24,000 volumes and a small collection of manuscripts.

Some quotes that Fyodor Dostoyevsky is remembered for include:

To love someone means to see them as God intended them.

Beauty will save the world.

What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.

I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.

It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently.

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.

Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.

Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.

The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.

by David Jay Brown

Wayne Dyer Profile

Wayne Dyer Profile

Although I recall seeing a book by the late Wayne Dyer in my mom’s library when I was a teenager, it was Carolyn who first introduced me to his writings years later, during a time of great difficulty in my life. Carolyn says he changed her life and is her foremost muse. I found Dyer’s wise, insightful, and encouraging words to be extremely helpful at the time and he has remained a powerful inspiration.

Dr. Wayne Dyer was an internationally renowned motivational speaker and self-help author, who published more than 40 books in the fields of self-development and spiritual growth, including 21 New York Times bestsellers.

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1940, Dyer had a difficult childhood. He spent the first ten years of his life in an orphanage, and then in foster homes because his father left the family when he was a child. After graduating from high school, Dyer served 4 years in the U.S. Navy. Then, in 1970, he completed a doctorate in educational counseling at Wayne State University. His dissertation was titled: Group Counseling Leadership Training in Counselor Education.

Early in his career, Dyer worked as a guidance counselor with high school kids in Detroit. He went on to have a successful private therapy practice and then to teach counseling psychology at St. John’s University in New York City as an associate professor. Around this time, a literary agent approached Dyer and encouraged him to write a book about his ideas.

Dyer took his advice, and in 1976 he wrote Your Erroneous Zones. The book offers step-by-step advice on how to break patterns with negative thinking and take greater control of one’s life. Dyer began driving across the country by himself, selling copies of Your Erroneous Zones from the trunk of his car, and this was how he began his career as a self-help author and motivational speaker. The book became the bestselling book of the 1970s, and one of the bestselling books of all time, selling around 100 million copies to date.

Dyer went on to write 20 more bestselling books and he produced a number of television specials for PBS. His books Wisdom of the Ages, Manifest Your Destiny, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, The Power of Intention, and others have been featured as National Public Television specials.

Dyer also created many of his own audio and video programs, and he appeared on thousands of television and radio shows, including the Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tonight Show, and virtually every major talk show at the time. Dyer’s feature film, The Shift, was released in 2009, and a film based on his life, My Greatest Teacher, was released in 2012.

Dyer discovered that there was a widespread need for the principles of self-discovery and personal growth, and he sought to bring these ideas to a wider audience. His early work was influenced by psychologists Albert Ellis and Abraham Maslow, and it focused on themes such as self-actualization and motivation. Yoga guru Swami Muktananda influenced his later work and he focused more on spirituality, collaborating with physician Deepak Chopra on a number of projects.

Dyer was also a generous philanthropist, whose charitable contributions included donating a million dollars to his alma mater, Wayne State University, and raising over $150 million for National Public Television through his PBS specials.

Dyer left our world in 2015. According to Dyer’s official website, “His main message was that every person has the potential to live an extraordinary life. What’s more, it’s possible for every person to manifest their deepest desires — if they honor their inner divinity and consciously choose to live from their Highest Self.”

Carolyn has been close with Marcelene, Dyer’s wife and the birth mother of their 7 children. Here’s what she had to say about Carolyn’s book Immortal Seeds: Bearing Gold from the Abyss:

“Carolyn Kleefeld, my beloved heroine, in Immortal Seeds, paints on the page opposite her words of love for David Campagna. These paint her world for me. This love pulses a rapture rare of design and rarer still of existing. Oh, how I long for this to play differently. Yet it is perfection in its telling.”

Some of the quotes that Wayne Dyer is remembered for include:

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.

With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.

I am realistic – I expect miracles.

When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace

Begin to see yourself as a soul with a body rather than a body with a soul.

by David Jay Brown

Bob Dylan Profile

Bob Dylan Profile

Photo: ©Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy

Bob Dylan is often regarded as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, and he has been a favorite musician of both Carolyn and mine for decades. With a prolific career spanning more than 60 years, Dylan has profoundly influenced music and popular culture in many ways, with his unique poetic gifts, acute political awareness, and natural storytelling abilities.

Born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941, and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, Dylan’s grandparents were Jewish refugees from Russia and Lithuania, who arrived in the United States around the turn of the 20th Century.

While attending Hibbing High School, Dylan performed in several bands. He played cover songs by Elvis Presley and Little Richard in a band called The Golden Chords, and his performance of Rock and Roll is Here to Stay with Danny & the Juniors at his high school talent show was so loud that the principal cut the microphone during mid-performance.

In 1959 Dylan enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where he studied American folk music. Dylan started performing at coffee shops around this time, and he began introducing himself as “Bob Dylan” to give himself anonymity and recreate his persona. He used various aliases initially in his career, such as “Elston Gunn” and Robert Dillion,” but Bob Dylan is the one that stuck.

In 1960, after his first year in college, Dylan dropped out of school, and a year later he traveled to New York City where he went to perform, and he visited his music idol Woody Guthrie, who was seriously ill in the hospital. In 1961 Dylan began playing in clubs around the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan and often accompanied other folk musicians on the harmonica. When Dylan was 19, he performed at the Café Wha? in Greenwich Village, which was started by our beloved friend Jai Italiaander and her husband.

That same year Dylan played the harmonica on an album by Carolyn Hester, which brought his work to the attention of the album’s producer, who signed Dylan on to Columbia Records. Dylan’s first album, Bob Dylan, consisted of traditional folk, blues and gospel songs, with only two original compositions. The album sold just enough copies to break even, but Dylan was starting to become better known.

Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, was released in 1963, and his music— often labeled as “protest songs,” with lyrics that questioned the social and political status quo— became more popular. This album contained his well-known song Blowin’ in the Wind, which was partly derived from the melody of a traditional slave song. Along with the politically charged The Times They Are a Changin, these songs became anthems for the antiwar and civil rights movements of the 1960s.

Dylan’s revolutionary third album Bringing it all Back Home, which was released in 1965, featured his first recordings using electric instruments, and with free-association lyrics that were reminiscent of beat poetry. Using electric instruments with folk music caused some controversy within the folk music establishment, but Dylan’s popularity continued to soar. Dylan has since gone on to sell more than 125 million records, making him one of the bestselling musicians of all time. To date, Dylan has released 39 studio albums, 95 singles, and 15 live albums.

Dylan has strong spiritual beliefs and he has “always thought that there’s a superior power.” Although Dylan was raised in a small, close-knit Jewish community, and even had his Bar Mitzvah when he was 13, he converted to Christianity in the late 1970s and has released three popular albums of contemporary gospel music.

Dylan’s lyrics have received detailed attention from academics and poets. In 1998 Stanford University sponsored the first international academic conference on Dylan’s work, and in 2004 Harvard Classics professor Richard Thomas created a seminar on Dylan’s song lyrics, that put him in the context of classical poets like Virgil and Homer.

Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won numerous other prestigious awards, including 10 Grammy Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Golden Globe Award, an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize in 2008, and a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. Dylan has also published eight books of drawings and paintings, and his watercolor and acrylic work has been exhibited in major art galleries around the world.

Some of the quotes that Bob Dylan is known for include:

There is nothing so stable as change.

I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.

I change during the course of a day. I wake and I’m one person, and when I go to sleep I know for certain I’m somebody else.

I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.

I define nothing, not beauty not patriotism. I take each thing as it is, without prior rules about what it should be.

Yesterday’s just a memory, tomorrow is never what it’s supposed to be.

You’re going to die. You’re going to be dead. It could be 20 years, it could be tomorrow, anytime. So am I. I mean, we’re just going to be gone. The world’s going to go on without us. All right now. You do your job in the face of that, and how seriously you take yourself you decide for yourself.

by David Jay Brown

Allen Ginsberg Interview

Allen Ginsberg Interview

Photo: Associated Press

The late, widely acclaimed poet and writer Allen Ginsberg was the cousin of our beloved friend, Dr. Oz Janiger, and Allen used to stay with Oz whenever he was visiting Los Angeles, so Carolyn and I spent some time with him, and I interviewed him for my book Mavericks of the Mind.

Along with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, Ginsberg was part of a core group of experimental writers that came to be known as the “Beat Generation,” and he received numerous honors and awards, including the National Book Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

Ginsberg is probably best known for his revolutionary poem Howl, which caused such a stir when it was first published in 1956 that it was seized by the San Francisco police and U.S. Customs. The controversial poem became the subject of an obscenity trial because it described homosexual acts, at a time when those acts were illegal in every state, and it went on to become one of the most widely read and translated poems of the 20th century.

Carolyn used to send some of her manuscripts to Allen when he lived in New York, and one night when we all had dinner at Oz’s home Carolyn showed Allen the book that she was currently working on, The Alchemy of Possibility. Allen returned it to Carolyn with edits and ideas, and she was able to use some of them after “scrutinizing what fit” for her “as the author, and yet much respecting Allen.”

Interestingly, our friends Jerry and Estelle Cimino have documented much of Allen’s work, and have an extensive collection of Beat memorabilia, including original manuscripts, rare books, letters, personal effects, and cultural ephemera at The Beat Museum in San Francisco.

Here is an excerpt from my conversation with Allen in Mavericks of the Mind:

David: What was is that originally inspired you to start writing poetry?
Allen: It’s a family business. My father was a poet, his Collected Poems were posthumously published. . .

David: Was it something that you always knew you were going to do?
Allen: No, but I always wrote poetry; since I was a kid I knew poetry. My father taught high school and college, so I knew a lot of Milton, Poe, Shelley, and Blake when I was five, six, seven years old. And I memorized it, or it just sort of stuck in my head. I started writing when I was maybe fifteen, or younger, but I never thought of myself as a poet. I just thought that it was something you did on the side, like my father had done. But then, when I met Jack Kerouac at the age of seventeen, I realized that he was the first person I had met who saw being a writer as a sacramental vocation. Rather than being a sailor who wrote, he was a writer who also went out on ships. That changed my attitude towards writing, because now I saw it as a sacred vocation.

by David Jay Brown

Hafez Profile

Hafez Profile

A few weeks ago I wrote a profile about the 14th Century Persian poet Rumi. A passion for Rumi’s poetry led me to the work of another 14th Century Persian poet, Hafez, whose beautiful spiritual poetry is equally insightful and inspirational. Carolyn and I have both enjoyed Hafez’s wonderful lyrical poems over the years, and his collected works are often regarded as some of the most treasured literature to emerge out of Persia.

Commonly known by his pen name “Hafez” (or “Hafiz”), the late Sufi poet was born as Khwāje Shams-od-Dīn Moḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī sometime between 1310 and 1325 in Shiraz, which is located in present-day Iran. Although accounts vary, most scholars think Hafez was born in 1315 or 1320. Not much is known for certain about Hafez’s early life, so historians rely on anecdotes to try and understand what happened, and separating fact from legend about Hafez is tricky, as many mythical stories were written about him after his death.

Hafez is said to have memorized the entire Quran when he was young, by listening to his father read it. He was given the name “Hafez” at an early age, which was a title given to those who had memorized the Quran by heart, and means “memorizer and safe keeper.” Hafez must have had an incredible memory, for he is said to have memorized numerous other writings as well, including the works of Rumi.

Hafez had two brothers; his father was a coal merchant who died young and left the family in debt. Hafez’s uncle helped to raise him, and he had to leave school to work for his family, first in a drapery shop and then in a bakery. While working at the bakery, Hafez had to deliver bread to a beautiful young woman named Shakh-e Nabat, who he fell in love with, and to whom many of his poems were addressed.

Enraptured by this young woman’s beauty, but knowing that his love for her would not be returned, he supposedly held a 40-day-and-night “mystic vigil” at the tomb of Baba Kuhi (a 10th Century Persian Sufi), where he encountered an angel. This was a life-changing event for Hafez, as the angel led him into his pursuit of a spiritual union with the divine.

Hafez became a Sufi, a practitioner of the mystic branch of Islam. He received a classical religious education, lectured on the Quran and other theological subjects, and he wrote commentaries on religious classics. Hafez married when he was in his twenties and had one child.

Hafez mostly wrote lyrical poetry, or what is known as “ghazals,” which are lyric poems with a fixed number of verses and a repeated rhyme, and usually set to music. Some of the themes of Hafez’s ghazals include love, faith, and exposing hypocrisy. He was also known to ignore the religious taboos of his time, and he found humor in some of his society’s religious doctrines. Hafez was a court poet, and as such, was supported by patronage from several successive Persian regimes, although he briefly fell out of favor with one of the rulers due to his mocking of inferior poets.

Hafez wrote approximately 994 poems, which were collected into (at least) 5 volumes, and his poems have been translated into all major languages. The Complete Divan of Hafez, which contains 793 of his ghazals and other spiritual love poems, is available in English translation. Translations of his collections Faces of Love, Beloved: 81 Poems from Hafez, and The Collected Lyrics of Hafiz of Shiraz are also available.

At the age of 60, Hafez is said to have begun another 40-day-and-night vigil, by sitting inside a circle that he had drawn. On the 40th day, it was said that he had achieved “cosmic consciousness” and attained spiritual union with the divine.

Hafez died in 1390. His tomb is located in Shiraz, the city of his birth. The Tomb of Hafez, known as Hāfezieh, is a popular destination for tourists. It is composed of two memorial structures erected on the northern edge of Shiraz, which house the marble tomb of Hafez.

Today Hafez is the most popular poet in his native country, and October 12th is celebrated every year as Hafez Day in Iran. His spirit is alive and well here too. His poetry is read widely, and I see Hafez’s wisdom shared on social media memes almost daily.

Some of the quotes that Hafez is remembered for include:

I wish I could show you… the astonishing light of your own being.

You, yourself, are your own obstacle; rise above yourself.

Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends.

What we speak becomes the house we live in.

This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.

The heart is a thousand-stringed instrument that can only be tuned with love.

For I have learned that every heart will get what it prays for most.

An awake heart is like a sky that pours light.

by David Jay Brown

Thích Nhất Hạnh Profile

Thích Nhất Hạnh Profile

Thích Nhất Hạnh’s wisdom and teachings have been a great inspiration to Carolyn and I. He was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, as well as an author, peace activist, poet, and teacher, who had a major influence on Western practices of Buddhism. According to The New York Times, “Among Buddhist leaders influential in the West, Thích Nhất Hạnh ranks second only to the Dalai Lama.”

Nhất Hạnh combined a variety of teachings from Early Buddhist schools, with different Buddhist traditions, and ideas from Western psychology, in order to teach the foundations of mindfulness, offering a modern perspective on meditation practice. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Nhất Hạnh was born in 1926, in the ancient capital of Huế, which is located in central Vietnam and was under French colonial rule at the time. His father was an official with the French Administration and his mother was a homemaker. Nhất Hạnh was the fifth of six children, and until the age of five, he lived at his grandmother’s home with his large extended family.

At the age of seven or eight, Nhất Hạnh saw a drawing on the cover of one of his older brother’s magazines of a peaceful, smiling Buddha sitting on the grass, and he recalls that this picture gave him joy, and left him with a feeling of peace and tranquility.

One day on a school trip when Nhất Hạnh was eleven, he visited a nearby sacred mountain where a hermit was said to live, and he had what he would later describe as his first spiritual experience. The hermit was said to sit quietly every day to become peaceful like the Buddha. Nhất Hạnh explored the area, looking for the hermit, who he never found. However, he found a natural well there, which he drank from, before falling into a deep sleep on the nearby rocks. When Nhất Hạnh awoke he felt so completely satisfied from drinking this magical well water that he was inspired to become a Buddhist monk.

Nhất Hạnh first expressed interest in training to become a monk at the age of 12. Although his parents were cautious about this at first, they eventually let him pursue his calling at the age of 16. In 1942 Nhất Hạnh entered the monastery at Từ Hiếu Temple, where he received three years of instruction, and his primary teacher there was a Zen Master.

From 1955 to 1957 Nhất Hạnh lived in Huế and served as the editor of the official publication of the General Association of Vietnamese Buddhists. However, after two years the publication was suspended, as higher-ranking monks disapproved of Nhất Hạnh’s writings. In 1964 Nhất Hạnh became involved in co-founding the Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies, a private institution in Saigon that taught Buddhist studies, Vietnamese culture, and languages.

In the early 1960s in Vietnam, Nhat Hanh also co-founded Van Hanh Buddhist University and the School of Youth for Social Service, a grassroots relief organization of 10,000 volunteers based on the Buddhist principles of “non-violence and compassionate action.” This was a neutral corps of Buddhist peace workers who went into rural areas to establish schools, build healthcare clinics, and help rebuild villages.

In 1966 Nhất Hạnh received the “lamp transmission” at the Từ Hiếu Temple in Vietnam from a Zen master, making him a Buddhist teacher and spiritual head of temple and associated monasteries. That same year he was exiled from South Vietnam, after expressing opposition to the war and refusing to take sides. Nhat Hanh continued his humanitarian efforts, rescuing boat people and helping to resettle refugees. ​Nhất Hạnh then spent decades living in exile, mostly residing in France during this time.

In 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated Nhất Hạnh for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for peace and reconciliation during the war in Vietnam. Nhất Hạnh played an important role in educating Dr. King about the reality of the war from a Vietnamese perspective and inspiring King’s transformation into a national leader in the anti-war movement.

In 1982 Nhất Hạnh established Plum Village France, the largest Buddhist monastery in Europe​ and the hub of the international Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism, a social movement composed of Buddhists who are “seeking ways to apply the Buddhist ethics, insights acquired from meditation practice, and the teachings of the Buddhist dharma to contemporary situations of social, political, environmental and economic suffering, and injustices.”

Nhất Hạnh published over a hundred books during his lifetime, which have been translated into more than forty languages, and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Some of his popular books include Being Peace, Peace is Every Step, and The Miracle of Mindfulness.

After a 39-year exile, Nhất Hạnh was permitted to visit Vietnam in 2005. Nhat Hanh was fluent in seven languages until 2014 when he experienced a brain hemorrhage that left him unable to verbally communicate for the remainder of his life. In 2018, he returned to Vietnam, to his “root temple,” Từ Hiếu Temple, near Huế, where he lived until his death in 2022, at the age of 95.

Thích Nhất Hạnh’s spirit is still very much alive. His students continue his work of healing, transformation, and reconciliation, establishing “communities of resistance” around the world. His teachings continue to be read widely, and I see his wisdom shared regularly on social media memes.

Some of the quotes that Thích Nhất Hạnh is known for include:

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.

Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything— anger, anxiety, or possessions— we cannot be free.

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.

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.

Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Through my love for you, I want to express my love for the whole cosmos, the whole of humanity, and all beings. By living with you, I want to learn to love everyone and all species. If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone and all species on Earth… This is the real message of love.

The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.

We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.

Life is available only in the present moment.

by David Jay Brown