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Daily Meditations

Responsible living
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most celebrated contemporary masters of the Buddhist tradition. Ordained into the monastic life at the age of 16 and educated both in his homeland and at the University of Princeton, U.S., this Vietnamese Buddhist monk has earned an international reputation as a distinguished writer and scholar, a courageous and responsible social activist and spiritual guide. G. Ramamurthy/Wilderfile During the Vietnam War, Hanh worked indefatigably for peace and reconciliation between the Communist North and the U.S.-sponsored South. In 1966, at the age of 40, he was exiled from his native country: both North and South saw his peace activism (correctly, as it happens) as an attempt to dismantle the violence of their attempted military resolutions to the country's intractable human problems. Even after peace returned to Vietnam, and that devastated country was unified, Hanh was not permitted to return. He now lives in exile in Plum Village, a small community in south-western France. There, he teaches, writes, gardens, and extends his compassionate attention and concrete assistance to refugees across the globe. Thich Nhat Hanh championed the movement known as "engaged Buddhism", which links traditional practices of meditation and reflection with non-violent political activism. Among other endeavours, he has established relief organisations to rebuild destroyed villages, set up the School of Youth for Social Service, and founded a peace magazine. He has also written more than 75 books, which include poetry, prose texts and prayers. We re-print, here, two sequences of verses for daily meditation composed by Thich Nhat Hanh: "Earth Verses" and "Meal Verses". Intended to be recited quietly as the individual goes through the small routines and gestures of everyday activity - as s/he awakes, washes, waters the plants, sits down to eat - these verses re-sensitise the mind and body to their special possibilities, their place and role in the world, the responsibilities they owe their environment. At the core of these verses lie the four brahma-viharas, or "divine abodes", the four great modes by which the Buddhist practitioner reaches out to embrace the world: maitri (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upeksha (equanimity).

Daily Meditations EARTHVERSES First step of the day

The green Earth is a miracle! Walking in full awareness, the wondrous Dharmakaya is revealed.

Turning on water Water flows from the high mountains. Water runs deep in the Earth. Miraculously, water comes to us and sustains all life.

Washing hands Water flows over my hands. May I use them skillfully to preserve our precious planet.


As I mindfully sweep the ground of enlightenment, a tree of understanding springs from the Earth.

Daily Meditations Walking The mind can go in a thousand directions. But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, a gentle wind. With each step, a flower.

Gardening Earth brings us into life and nourishes us. Countless as the grains of sand in the River Ganges, all births and deaths are present in each breath. Watering the garden Water and sun green these plants. When the rain of compassion falls, even the desert becomes an immense, green ocean.

Recycling Garbage becomes rose. Rose becomes compost Everything is in transformation. Even permanence is impermanent. Watering plants Dear plant, do not think you are alone. This stream of water comes from Earth and sky. This water is the Earth. We are together for countless lives.

Daily Meditations Planting trees I entrust myself to Buddha; Buddha entrusts himself to me. I entrust myself to Earth; Earth entrusts herself to me. MEALVERSES Blessing the meal

This food is the gift of the whole universe - the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it. May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially our greed. May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. We accept this food so that we may realise the path of practice. Filling the plate My plate, empty now, will soon be filled with precious food. Seeing the full plate In this food, I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence. Sitting down to eat Sitting here is like sitting under the Bodhi tree. My body is mindfulness itself, entirely free from straction. Before the first bite

Daily Meditations

Many beings are struggling for food today. I pray that they all may have enough to eat.

Contemplating the food This plate of food, so fragrant and appetising, also contains much suffering. The first four mouthfuls With the first taste, I promise to offer joy. With the second, I promise to help relieve the suffering of others. With the third, I promise to see others' joy as my own. With the fourth, I promise to learn the way of nonattachment and equanimity. Upon finishing the meal The plate is empty. My hunger is satisfied. vow to live for the benefit of all beings.

Holding a cup of tea This cup of tea in my two hands Mindfulness is held uprightly! My mind and body dwell in the very here and now.
These verses by Thich Nhat Hanh appear in Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism, an anthology edited by Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft, Shambhala, Boston & London, 2000.