The Number One Cause of Human Suffering According to Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh

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Ever heard of the four noble truths of Buddhism? If you haven’t, it’s basically the four principles of life that govern Buddhism philosophy.

The first noble truth says that suffering is inevitable, which is caused by desiring and attaching ourselves to objects and relationships that are impermanent.

This is explained in more detail by Thich Nhat Hanh, who says that we attach ourselves to future “conditions of happiness”:

“We have negative mental habits that come up over and over again. One of the most significant negative habits we should be aware of is that of constantly allowing our mind to run off into the future. Perhaps we got this from our parents. Carried away by our worries, we’re unable to live fully and happily in the present. Deep down, we believe we can’t really be happy just yet—that we still have a few more boxes to be checked off before we can really enjoy life. We speculate, dream, strategize, and plan for these “conditions of happiness” we want to have in the future; and we continually chase after that future, even while we sleep. We may have fears about the future because we don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and these worries and anxieties keep us from enjoying being here now.”

Thich Nhat Hanh says that the only way to counteract this is to embrace the present moment fully and openly. Here he explains exactly how to do that:

“You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.

Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.
Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy. If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.

You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone. Life is like that. If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone. You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life. It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go. The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it. Worrying is worthless. When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment. Then you will begin to experience joy in life.”

“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.”

If you would like to learn a meditation technique to embrace the present moment, I highly recommend this technique:

A Simple Mindfulness Strategy That Literally Rewires Your Brain To Be More Present

This article was originally published on The Power of Ideas. 

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