50+ Wise Thích Nhất Hạnh Quotes That Will Inspire You to Live a Better Life

A devoted activist and spiritual leader, Thích Nhất Hạnh has penned some of the wisest and most inspiring quotes. Here are our favorites.

An esteemed peace activist and writer, Thích Nhất Hạnh became one of the founders of the Engaged Buddhism movement during the Vietnam War. He and his fellow monks had to decide between continuing life as if the war were not happening or undertaking the duty of helping their country through the war. They chose the latter. After the war, Thích Nhất Hạnh moved to the United States to bring this ideology of Engaged Buddhism to the West. 

Living his life as a devoted monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh has become a leader in teaching the ideas of humility, compassion, and mindfulness. We offer this collection of his quotes to gently remind you to live in the moment while making an active commitment to positive change in your community—and the world. 

Quotes on Love 

Thích Nhất Hạnh’s philosophy on love, compassion, joy, and equanimity helped shape Buddhist ideology throughout the 20th century. Drawn from his awe-inspiring writings on love, here are some of our favorite quotes. 

1. “In true love, there is no pride.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

2. “What is love? Love is treating your heart with a great deal of tenderness, with understanding, love, and compassion. If you cannot treat your own heart this way, how can you treat your partner with understanding and love?” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

3. “In true love, you attain freedom. When you love, you bring freedom to the person you love.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart

4. “To love is to recognize; to be loved is to be recognized by the other.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart

5. “If you are not able to take care of yourself, if you are not able to accept yourself, how could you accept another person and how could you love him or her?” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart

6. “Without suffering, we do not have the opportunity to cultivate compassion and understanding; and without understanding, there can be no true love.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

7. “If you love someone but rarely make yourself available to him or her, that is not true love.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

Quotes on Mindfulness 

Thích Nhất Hạnh has long been a pioneer in popularizing mindfulness—the practice of living fully in the moment. Here are some of his most inspirational quotes to strengthen your focus on the present.  

8. "Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

9. “I promise myself that I will enjoy every minute of the day that is given me to live.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

10. “Mindfulness... is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

11. “You can see everything in the universe in one tangerine. When you peel it and smell it, it’s wonderful. You can take your time eating a tangerine and be very happy.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

12. “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

13. “Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see... Every breath we take, every step we take, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

14. “We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

15. “Anxiety, the illness of our time, comes primarily from our inability to dwell in the present moment.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

16. “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

17. “Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life. Don’t be attached to the future. Don’t worry about things you have to do. Don’t think about getting up or taking off to do anything. Don’t think about ‘departing.’” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

18. “Some people live as though they are already dead. There are people moving around us who are consumed by their past, terrified of their future, and stuck in their anger and jealousy. They are not alive; they are just walking corpses.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

19. “The reality is that we are safe and we have the capacity to enjoy the wonders of life in the present moment. When we recognize that our suffering is based on images instead of current reality, then living happily in the present moment becomes possible right away.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child

20. “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace

Quotes on Suffering and Anger

Here are some of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s most inspirational words of wisdom to offer hope and solace in times of suffering and anger. 

21. “When a person’s speech is full of anger, it is because he or she suffers deeply.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

22. “The main cause of your suffering is the seed of anger in you, because it has been watered too often, by yourself and by other people.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

23. “The fact is that when you make the other suffer, he will try to find relief by making you suffer more. The result is an escalation of suffering on both sides.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

24. “When you begin to see that your enemy is suffering, that is the beginning of insight.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

25. “The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don't wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

26. “The only way to ease our fear and be truly happy is to acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source. Instead of trying to escape from our fear, we can invite it up to our awareness and look at it clearly and deeply.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm

27. “The source of suffering is a false belief in permanence and the existence of separate selves.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha

28. “Sometimes our parents are full of love and sometimes they are full of anger. This love and anger comes not only from them, but from all previous generations. When we can see this, we no longer blame our parents for our suffering.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child

29. “Go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your perceptions need you, your feeling needs you. The wounded child in you needs you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child

30. “When anger manifests in us, we must recognize and accept that anger is there and that it needs to be tended to. At this moment we are advised not to say anything, not to do anything out of anger. We immediately return to ourselves and invite the energy of mindfulness to manifest also.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

31. “Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace

32. “If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Quotes on Happiness 

Happiness and the presence of miracles are common themes throughout Thích Nhất Hạnh’s writings. Here are some of his most uplifting quotes to give you a boost of optimism. 

33. “The most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Here we do not mean political freedom, but freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy, and delusion... As long as these poisons are still in our heart, happiness cannot be possible.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

34. “If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace

35. “You have to realize that happiness is not something you find at the end of the road. You have to understand that it is here, now.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

36. “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 possession—we cannot be free.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

37. “To breathe and know you are alive is wonderful. Because you are alive, everything is possible.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

38. “Happiness is a function of compassion. If you do not have compassion in your heart, you do not have any happiness.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

39. “If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace

40. “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.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

Quotes on Wisdom and Action

Here are some of the wisest and most impactful sayings from Thích Nhất Hạnh, one of the most respected spiritual leaders of the 20th century, whose words speak to today’s troubled world.

41. “The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

42. “If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

43. “I come here empty-handed, and I go empty-handed. My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

44. “Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

45. “To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

46. “The Three Kinds of Pride are: (1) thinking I am better than the other(s); (2) thinking I am worse than the other(s); and (3) thinking I am just as good as the other(s).” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

47. “When our beliefs are based on our own direct experience of reality and not on notions offered by others, no one can remove these beliefs from us.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

48. “The truth is the truth, whether or not it is accepted by the majority. Therefore, I tell you children, it takes great courage to stand up for and protect what is right.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha

49. “Now I see that if one doesn’t know how to die, one can hardly know how to live—because death is a part of life.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

50. “[The Buddha] realized that body and mind formed one reality which could not be separated. The peace and comfort of the body were directly related to the peace and comfort of the mind. To abuse the body was to abuse the mind.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha

51. “Life is illuminated by right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha

52. “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace

53. “Guarding knowledge is not a good way to understand. Understanding means to throw away your knowledge.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace

54. “You are not an observer, you are a participant.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace

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