My Review: The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh

Rated 5/5 Stars

The Art of Power is Buddhism for the modern-day busybody. 

Thich Nhat Hanh’s central lesson is that happiness is not excitement but peace, and that the battle for this peace is waged by powers on cravings. He defines the five powers as faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration and insight; and the four objects of craving as sex, power, fame, and wealth.

Like many Buddhist texts, Thich Nhat Hanh talks of fully dedicating ourselves to the present and of being instead of thinking.

He argues that too many people think that happiness is something they have to work for, something that happens in the future once they meet certain conditions. In reality, people get used to any new condition and they don’t feel happiness from it after a short period of time. In fact, they may be busier and working harder to maintain these conditions they now believe are integral to happiness.

A few other interesting points: 

  • Romantic love is the starting point for unconditional love of the world.
  • If you see only the bad in others it’s because you only see the bad in yourself.
  • Since the present leads to the future, the present is both the present and future and it is all we have. 
  • You don’t need to be accepted by others, you need to accept yourself. True happiness and power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, and having confidence in yourself.

Favourite passages:

With your energy that dispersed, where is your power?

If we simply allow our bodies to rest, our bodies can heal themselves without a lot of medicine.

When we are clear about our motivations, our actions are much more powerful because we can do them with one hundred percent of our intention. 

Understanding is love and love is understanding. 

When you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.

This type of happiness without peace has an element of fear and cannot be true happiness. To hold on to these conditions of so-called happiness, you have to be busy all day long. And with these worries, uncertainties, and busyness, you don’t feel happy and you become depressed.

When you know how to cultivate understanding and compassion in every moment of your life, the outer form of your life doesn’t matter anymore.

Attachment to views, attachment to ideas, attachment to perceptions are the biggest obstacle to the truth.

We may find that ambition—the desire to become someone special—is very strong in us. Achieving and “becoming someone” is seen as significant, yet it can lead us to suffer a lot in spite of our many achievements. How can we deal with the desire to become someone?

To make another person happy you have to be happy yourself.

To love another doesn’t mean we sit and look at each other, it means we both look in the same direction.

We have an inferiority complex and believe that the true, the good, and the beautiful don’t exist in us.

His energy of demanding recognition dominated the environment and made it difficult for others to be joyful around him.

You may want to experiment with being yourself and coming to others without the need to be recognized.

The practice of understanding yourself and training yourself to produce more and more beautiful thoughts, words, and actions gives you self-confidence, and that will transform everything else.

Love is an energy. Is it giving rise to more craving, to more anxiety and fear? Or does it give us the energy of peace, of compassion and liberation? 

If we do not understand our partner, if we do not share in her suffering, this is not love at all, it’s just consuming the other person to satisfy our own individual needs.

One relationship can be a foundation for gaining more insight into our situation and the situation of the world.

First, we learn to love one person with all our understanding and insight, then we expand that love to embrace another person, and another, until our love is truly boundless.

(From Yvon Chouinard) Whenever you’re making products for people who want but don’t really need them, you’re at the mercy of the economy.