I have rarely been so affected by a radio/podcast piece in my life. I have had the great pleasure of getting to know several monks of both Catholic and Buddhist backgrounds and have learned much from those encounters, however, listening to the philosophy of Thich Nhat Hanh moved me. I was uplifted by the message of Thich Nhat Hanh of using the dualities of life, embracing both the garbage and the flower as necessary parts of life and the human experience.
He teaches that suffering is the key to enlightenment, that without suffering, we are unable to harness compassion and understanding and that he believes that suffering must continue into the next life.
It is this, almost enthusiastic, embrace of suffering that was so fascinating to me. The philosophy that suffering is the key to enlightenment and the ability to understand and communicate with each other that rang so true to me. I have used the same explanation with those I have counseled about their own sufferings, but not nearly so elegantly and it is a beautiful way to look at the world in contrast to a religion like Christianity which views suffering as the result of sin and failure and as a punishment, and thus focuses on overcoming the suffering as a way to leave suffering behind rather than embracing suffering as something that exists to help us reach the ultimate enlightenment.
I understand there are significant cultural differences when trying to compare the foundations of a Western religion like Christianity with an Eastern religion like that of Thich Nhat Hanh. In my travels in the East, I have noticed a much greater sense of community over self, which I think contributes to the espousal of embracing suffering and how it contributes to compassion and enables more effective communication. However, I have seen how Christianity has brought together the workings of many different religions in their development and I think there would be a lot of benefit to applying the message of Thich Nhat Hanh with the words and works of Christianity.
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