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10 Thich Nhat Hanh Quotes to Cultivate Compassion, Empathy and Peace

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, author, poet, and global spiritual leader whose teachings focus on inner transformation and spreading mindfulness and peace throughout the world.

He is known for simplifying ancient Buddhist practices, so we may easily develop and apply them in our lives, especially during difficult times.

Try These 8 Hacks to Make Mindfulness a Habit

Thich Nhat Hanh was at the forefront of bringing Buddhism to the west and has often been referred to as “The Father of Mindfulness” and “The Other Dalai Lama.”

Want to learn more about Buddhism? Read: An Introduction to Buddhism, The Four Noble Truths, and The Eightfold Path

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called Thich Nhat Hanh “an apostle of peace and nonviolence” when he nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

From founding monasteries and mindfulness communities around the world to addressing political leaders across the globe, his teachings have impacted countless people’s lives.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called Thich Nhat Hanh “an apostle of peace and nonviolence” when he nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967

In 2014 at 88 years old, Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a severe stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to talk. His words, however, live on and can continue to help us navigate our lives more peacefully.

Here Are 10 Thich Nhat Hanh Quotes to Bring You Peace During Challenging Times:

These Thich Nhat Hanh quotes will help you cultivate empathy and compassion, spreading peace to the world around you.

1. “In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change”

This first quote from Thich Nhat Hanh reveals that a key component in Buddhism is attachment. The Buddha taught us that it is our attachments that cause our suffering. We are attached to our beliefs and the way we think life should be lived.

That’s a big can of worms! Dive deeper: Learn About Buddha’s Second Noble Truth and the Causes of Our Suffering

That attachment closes our minds and disrupts our ability to open our hearts and truly understand one another. If we can release our grasp of what we think we know and give ourselves the space to consider another perspective, we can then achieve meaningful and productive conversation.

Here Are 9 Buddha Quotes to Refresh Your Outlook on Life



2. “You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty their heart”

Are we talking with each other, or are we talking at each other?

A real conversation involves both sharing your point of view and listening to another’s: Listening not with the intention to rebuttal, seeking out the supposed holes in the person’s logic. But instead, listening with the intent to understand their perspective fully.

Allowing someone to share who they are and why – this is the goal of conscious communication from the standpoint of the listener.

3. “Compassion is a verb”

It can be difficult to feel compassion towards those who have wronged us or people with opposing views and beliefs. But therein lies the issue – we believe compassion is a feeling, something we either possess or don’t.

But we should not be waiting for or trying to feel compassion. Compassion is something we should be doing. It takes effort to find it and practice to cultivate it. We must stop waiting for it to arrive and instead build both compassion and empathy within ourselves.

4. “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over”

Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote goes on to say: “He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

What we consider acts of aggression are expressions of pain. Hate, anger, violence, and insult all stem from fear. It is a deeply rooted fear that fuels insecurities and feeds off feelings of unworthiness. People cause pain because they are in pain.

We all bring to the world whatever we have inside us. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can stop judging each other and blaming each other and begin to feel for each other, recognizing the most significant change we can bring to the world is the change we bring to ourselves.

5. “When you begin to see that your enemy is suffering, that is the beginning of insight”

Recognizing the pain in another begins to teach us about perspective. We are all navigating this life with a limited view. We only know and understand the world from our specific viewpoint – one that has been molded and shaped by every experience of our lives.

Your perspective is unique only to you. After all, no one else has lived every moment of your life as you. It is your perceived truth because it is all you can ever truly know. But that goes for each person on this planet.

What Thich Nhat Hanh is referring to here is that we cannot ever truly know another’s perspective, but we can understand and accept that it exists. And it is as true to them as yours is to you.

6. “Understanding means throwing away your knowledge”

When did we lose our ability to say, “I don’t know?” In a hyper-connected world full of information right at our fingertips, we seem unwilling to admit when we don’t know enough about a person or a subject to have an educated opinion.

But there is so much strength and so much power in recognizing where we lack knowledge. This quote from Thich Nhat Hanh shows that recognizing where we’re lacking knowledge opens the door for learning, growth, understanding, empathy, and compassion.


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

So much of what we think we know is shaped by the past and determined by limited experiences. That’s how our brains are wired to work. It is a protective measure and useful in some aspects, but it impedes us from understanding others and understanding life.

There is so much possibility in the present moment. The present is the only place change can happen, and the only place where we can learn. Yet we tend to live blindfolded to it by assuming we know what will happen or who someone is.

Here Are 5 Hacks to Help You Be More Present In Your Daily Life

8. “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness”

We may all be different, but we are all connected. It can be a difficult concept to grasp, but every person you encounter throughout your life is part of your learning process. Every person is a mirror, showing you parts of yourself you haven’t healed and where your triggers lie.

In that regard, they are part of you. These are the difficult lessons and frustrating self-work, but they exist for our betterment. We are all here to help one another grow. We are in this together.

9. “Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path”

This Thich Nhat Hanh quote reminds us that we are all on a spiritual path, whether we realize it or not. We are not human beings who have spiritual experiences. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. We are here to learn and grow.

Every religion and philosophy ultimately teaches us that the path and goal are to move towards love. That is the point of this existence. And that path requires an open heart, ability to listen to each other, a desire to understand one another, the strength to admit when we are wrong, and the flexibility to change.

10. “At any moment, you have a choice that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it”

In every interaction and conversation, we are always either moving closer to love or moving further away from it. We are either opening our hearts or closing them. We are either seeing another as separate and wrong or connected and different.

This is the most important choice we make in our lives – the only one that truly matters – and it is presented to us repeatedly.

No matter what anyone else says or does, no matter the situation we find ourselves in, it is always our choice to make.

Practice This Guided Metta Meditation to Bring More Love and Kindness Into the World

Which Thich Nhat Hanh Quote Do You Most Resonate With?

Peace, compassion, empathy, and positive change all start from within.

These quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh are a powerful dose of inspiration and guidance on nurturing these aspects first within ourselves so we can then spread them like flower petals for the world to see and benefit from.

To quote another inspirational great, as Gandhi said, we must be the change we wish to see in the world. The change begins within.

Which Thich Nhat Hanh quote was your favorite? Have another quote to add to this list? Please share in the comments below – we love hearing from you!

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Kacie Main

Kacie is a writer, author – I Gave Up Men for Lent, the story of a jaded, hopelessly romantic, health-conscious party girl’s search for meaning – and host of The Better You podcast. She is blunt, honest, curious, and jokes that she is a party girl turned spiritual junkie.

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