Beliefnet
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen monk, teacher, poet, peace activist, and the author of more than 100 books, including "Anger," "The Miracle of Mindfulness," and "Living Buddha, Living Christ." In his latest book, "No Death, No Fear," he invites both Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike to look deeply into the nature of life and death.

For someone who is dealing with a painful loss or a personal fear of death but knows nothing about Buddhism or meditative technique, what do you recommend as way to begin to let go of fear and grief?

I think there's a way of training ourselves in order not to become the victim of fear and grief -- that is to look deeply into ourselves and to see that we are made of non-self elements. And when we look around ourselves, we can recognize ourselves in the non-self elements, like a father looking at his children can see himself in his children, can see his continuation in his children. So he is not attached to the idea that his body is the only thing that is him. He's more than his body. He is inside of his body but he is also at the same [time] outside of his body in many elements. And if we have the habit of looking like that, we will not be the victim of our attachment to one form of manifestation, and we will be free. And that freedom makes happiness and peace possible.

Other than meditation, is there any specific practice that can help you come to this understanding?

Yes. The Buddha advised us to bear in mind that everything is impermanent, that nothing has an absolute entity that remains the same. And when we keep that insight in mind, we can see more deeply into the nature of reality, and we will not be locked in the notion that we are only this body, this life span is the only life span we have. In fact, because nothing can be by itself alone, no one can be by himself or herself alone, everyone has to inter-be with every one else. That is why, when you look outside, around you, you can see yourself. And when you look into yourself, you can see the world outside. So that is a training.

I wonder if you'd answer the question you say you like to pose to your Christian friends: "Where was Jesus before he was born?"

In the Christian tradition, people speak of the living Christ, the living Jesus. It means Jesus is not affected by birth and death. So the question can be rephrased, "Where was Jesus after he was born?" Because if you look at that manifestation of his body and you think that Jesus is only that body, you are misled -- Jesus must be much more than that body, that manifestation. So if you can answer that question, you can answer the other question.

It's like when you look at a sheet of paper and look deeply, you can see that the paper is made of trees and sunshine and earth and clouds, and even before the manifestation of the sheet of paper in this present form, you can only see the sheet of paper in the non-paper elements that existed before.

So we should be able to see Jesus Christ even with that manifestation. And before that manifestation, we cannot say that Jesus did not exist because the nature of Jesus is the nature of no birth and no death. And birth and death cannot affect Jesus. If we look like that we have a much deeper understanding of the person, of the nature of the Lord.

Can you explain what you mean by that manifestation? What is beingmanifested?

Manifestation is showing a presence -- when conditions are sufficient,something manifests itself. And that is not a beginning, that is acontinuation also. It's like a beautiful cloud in the sky -- that is amanifestation: before being a cloud, the cloud has been other things like water, vapor, heat and so on. So looking deeply, you can only recognize the presence of the cloud in the non-cloud elements that have been there before that manifestation of the cloud.

You say that without awareness or mindfulness we live like dead people. Can you talk about what you mean by the practice of resurrection?

Usually people have a tendency to be caught in the worries concerning the future or in the regret concerning the past. There is some kind of energy that is pushing them to run and they are not able to establish themselves in the present moment. And that prevents them from getting in touch [with] what is there in the present moment. And life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply. That is why those who are not capable of being there in the present moment, they don't really live their life -- they live like dead people, like the French writer Camus used to say.

That is why if you know the techniques of mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful smiling, you can bring your mind back to your body and you become truly alive at every moment and that can be described as the practice of resurrection. Resurrection can be at every moment for life to be truly possible.

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