Nine Quotes by Thích Nhất Hạnh That Could Change the Way You Do HR (and Life)

Thich Nhat Hanh fake oil painting by Alvin Alexander

“Thích Nhất Hạnh is a real poet.” – Robert Lowell

I have maintained since day one of writing this blog that philosophy offers professionals a difference making outlook on life, work, love, and everything. To me, philosophy is about living one’s best life and acting on what is right.

Doing HR right is an act of philosophy to me. It is always important to create space to think, put things into perspective, and act well and correctly.

Buddhism straddles the line between philosophy and religion. The religion has monks, prayers, rituals, sacred texts, and all the things that make a religion a religion – well except a god (or gods).

Still, in many respects, its teachings are incredibly philosophical in ways other religions aren’t. The Buddha said:

  • “If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.”
  • “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
  • “Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”
  • “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”
  • “If we fail to look after others when they need help, who will look after us?”
  • “The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live.”
  • “The trouble is, you think you have time.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh is one of the most prolific Buddhist teachers of this age. Along with the Dalai Lama, no one individual is so influential to 20th and 21st century Buddhist thinking.

Thích Nhất Hạnh passed away this past January. I wrote about it here. While I am no Buddhist, his teachings have deeply influenced my line of thinking – personally and professionally for neither can be separate. The way one acts personally is how one acts professionally. I learned that from Thầy (Vietnamese for “teacher” – Hạnh’s nickname).

As such, here are nine powerful quotes from Thích Nhất Hạnh that can help us all become better professionals, and people!

  1. “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

It’s been said ad nauseum. HR is a hard job. People are messy. Empathy has its limits and takes its toll. I’m not saying anything that isn’t new. One of the few ways to combat this is to live a life of peace. Live a life that is so full of peace that even how we walk represents our love and affection for the universe.

  • “Because you are alive, everything is possible.” Living Buddha, Living Christ

It’s a mistake to say you only live once. You live EVERY DAY. You only die once. While alive, remember that anything is possible. Don’t put limitations on yourself. Don’t tell yourself it cannot happen. If you do, you’ve already lost. Don’t do that to yourself.

  • “Many people think excitement is happiness…But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.” The Art of Power

I believe many have a warped understanding of happiness. Happiness is not a feeling, like joy. Many folks confuse joy and pleasure for happiness. Joy or pleasure are not happiness. They can help create the condition for happiness, but ultimately happiness is a state of mind. In the ancient context, happiness meant “a flourishing life.” Peace is the ultimate in flourishing. Work for peace – internal and external – and happiness follows.

  • “My actions are my only true belongings.” Understanding Our Mind: 50 Verses on Buddhist Psychology

Everything we have will disappear. Our cars. Our jobs. Our families. Our hair. Our health. Our feelings and emotions. Our lives. Everything is ephemeral. All of life is change. The only things that never goes away, never changes are our actions. The things we do. The echo in eternity. Remember that before each action, and hopefully, the right action follows.

  • “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” Being Peace

The old saying, perception is in the eye of the beholder, rings true. But how true are perceptions? Can you trust your eyes? Can you trust your ears? Can you trust your thoughts? Maybe. Maybe not. Ultimately, the truth often lays somewhere in the middle void – the middle path. Few times are things so concrete that new information or new experiences cannot make us think again. To let things become clear, we need to let go of our ego, and let go of our attachments to what we want. This can allow space to allow what is.

  • “Our own life has to be our message.” The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology

A poetic, beautiful way of saying – walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.

  • “It is my conviction that there is no way to peace—peace is the way.” The Art of Power

Often, humanity makes simple things complex. Peace is not hard. Pease is rather easy. Treat others well. Do not harm others. Be kind. Be nonjudgmental. Be grateful. However, human history, despite having many examples of these actions, is dominated by people treating others poorly, harmfully, unkindly, judgingly, ungratefully. Ultimately, we want peace (at work, in our lives, in the world), we need to embrace the simplicity of peace.

  • “What you are looking for is already in you…You already are everything you are seeking.” You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

“When I get that new job, I will be happy.” “When I get married, I will be happy.” “When I get respect at the office, I will be happy.” The world is littered with people saying, thinking, feeling such phrases. However, as I wrote earlier, happiness is not a thing that can be brought from external sources. It can only come from internal sources. If one is not happy here, now, no amount of anything will bring it about.

  • “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Peace Is Every Step

Truly, a revolutionary insight. Why do people stay at a toxic workplace? Why do people stay in toxic relationships? Why do people stay in communities they are not invested in? It’s because change is harder than doing nothing. Familiar pain is more comforting that unfamiliar happiness.

Bonus Quote:

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” The Art of Power

I don’t need to add anything. This is beautiful as is. 😊

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

Published by Paul LaLonde

Husband. Father. Passionate about HR, helping people, and doing the right thing. Also, heavy metal, craft beer, and general nerd things! #SHRM19Blogger. Find me on Twitter at @HRPaul49 and LinkedIn. Thoughts, views and opinions on this site are solely my own and do not represent those of my employer or any other entity ​with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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