Thich Nhat Hanh Helps Us Overcome Fear

“We have great fear inside ourselves. We are afraid of everything–of our death, of being alone, of change. Fear is born from our concepts regarding life, death, being, and nonbeing. If we are able to get rid of all these concepts by touching the reality within ourselves, then nonfear will be there and the greatest relief will become possible.”

So writes Thich Nhat Hanh, a world-renowned Zen monk, poet, and peace activist who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are his healing insights about fear using the metaphor of the wave, from his book “True Love”:

In the beginning we think that we have a beginning and an end, a birth and a death, and we might think that before our birth we were not there and after our death we will not be there, and we get caught up in the concept of being and nonbeing.

Let us look deeply at a wave in the ocean. It lives its life of a wave, but it lives the life of water at the same time. If the wave were able to turn toward itself and touch its substance, which is water, then it would be able to attain nonfear.

The wave does not have to search for water, because water is the very substance of the wave.

Concepts such as birth and death, being and nonbeing, might in some sense be applied to waves. As far as water is concerned, these qualifications cannot describe the nature of water. When we speak of birth, of death, of being and nonbeing, we are talking in terms of phenomena (similar as a wave is to an ocean).

In Buddhism, we call this the historic dimension. When we talk about waves, we are in the historical dimension, but when we talk about water, we are in the ultimate dimension in which we cannot speak of birth and death, of being and nonbeing. The wave might think that before its birth it was not there and that after its death it will not be there, but these are notions–concepts–that cannot be applied in the dimension of the ultimate.

The Buddha declared the following: “There is no world, but there is no birth and there is no death, there is no high and no low, no being and nonbeing.” If that world is not there, how could the world of birth and death, the world of being and nonbeing, be possible?

Adapted from True Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh (Shambhala 2004). Copyright (c) 2004 by Thich Nhat Hanh. Reprinted by permission of Shambhala.
Adapted from True Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh (Shambhala 2004).

25 comments

Ruth Barker
Ruth Barker3 years ago

I see us as the energy that moves the wave along. Not the wave. Not the water but rather the energy. We say that light has a speed when in fact it doesn't move. How we perceive it is measured. The wave does not move neither. The energy that is passing through the water is moving. This goes for colour, light and sound. Pure energy of. You Are. You have passed through a membrane or veil to be who you perceive is you. There is no-thing to fear unless of course you wish it. It is up to you.

Anne Marie S.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thich Nhat Hanh, master Thay, the best ever. Thank you for this article.

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez3 years ago

birth, life, death, all part of a cycle. We have no reason to fear any of it. We spend too much time worrying about what we can't control, that we don't take care of the things we can.

a             y m.
g d c.4 years ago

hmmm

J.L. A.
JL A.4 years ago

good reminders to check on our realities

Sheila L.
Sheila Swan L.4 years ago

What is in your mind creates your reality --that is how you perceive what you see. This is a difficult concept to grasp but once it becomes a reality in the mind then one can live as a
being who doesn't look at the world like a cat. To the cat, everything happens to him: if the keys drop next to him it's something that happened TO him, not a random act. This applies to everything.

Ed O.

Elaine wrote, According to the article:

"The Buddha declared the following: “There is no world, but there is no birth and there is no death, there is no high and no low, no being and nonbeing.” If that world is not there, how could the world of birth and death, the world of being and nonbeing, be possible?

Hellooo. If there's no birth where did Buddha and the other seven billion humanoids come from? If "there is no world" what do Buddha and Thich Nhat hanh think they are walking on? Where do they think all the food they eat came from? DUH!

what a load of pscho babble woo woo.

Francis S.
Francis S.5 years ago

A difficult (for me at least) proposition to keep the transcendent nature of existence and the manner in which that existence is perceived by our human senses in balance.

Helen D.
Helen D.5 years ago

This is so true! It reminds me of the story of the wave that was afraid to die when it saw it was going to break on the rocks. Its creator soothed it by saying, "Don't be afraid little wave, don't you know you are just part of the ocean?"

Lady Kaira
None None5 years ago

thanks