This Profound Thich Nhat Hanh Quote Teaches Us What War Really Means

Wise words from the peace activist and Zen Buddhist

J.R. Flaherty


Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

If you have been contemplating war and destruction more than usual, as I have, you would eventually come to a conclusion to make peace with the inevitable chaos that is unfolding. Mine can be summarized in a quote by Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh.

We have an ice-cold manipulative 70-year-old hell-bent on destroying a country filled with 44 million people, nuclear energy and wheat that feeds one-third of the world.

To keep the planet at a livable temperature, there is plenty we need to be doing right now, rather than starting a twentieth-century-style war. Not to mention, this is a critical decade — less than that, only eight years — for addressing climate change.

How can we find peace in this moment?

While traveling in India in my early twenties, I found solace in Thich Nhat Hanh’s words about suffering in “Peace is Every Step.” Years later, I’ve found inspiration in his peace activism and “engaged Buddhism.”

It is impossible to live in a suspended state of stress. Let alone the people living through this life quake and what that means for decades, if not generations, to come.

So, it's time to turn to answers from someone who has been there before.

What can Thich Nhat Hanh teach us about war?

Thich Nhat Hanh passed away in early 2022 and I wonder what he would say about what is happening.

In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh traveled to the United States and Europe to advocate for peace in Vietnam. As a peace activist, he wrote books to convey the essence of Buddhism and the lessons he learned during the Vietnam War.

His last book before his death at the age of 95 is on climate action and the environment, published only in November 2021, titled “Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet.”

This reminds us that Thich Nhat Hanh was not only a Zen monk but also one of the world’s prominent peace activists. In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.