You might have heard or seen quotes from a person named Thich Nhat Hanh, but chances are you don’t know who he is. He is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist. He has written over 100 books (more than 70 of his books are in English). He has written about mindfulness, peace and about life in general.
His writings teach people how to live better lives. Some of the concepts, like mindfulness, are now more popular and widely embraced. Other concepts, like the thoughts on consumption, go against our modern Western culture which tells us to buy more in order to be happy.
I have selected a handful of his most popular quotes that talk about joy and happiness. These quotes have been organized into five different categories because that’s just how my mind works!
Quotes on Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a practice that concentrates on being present now. Through mindfulness, people are more relaxed and experience more joy. Use these quotes to help guide you through your own mindfulness journey.
1. The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.
2. Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.
3. The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
4. When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.
5. In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.
6. Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.
7. Each time you look at a tangerine, you can see deeply into it. You can see everything in the universe in one tangerine. When you peel it and smell it, it’s wonderful. You can take your time eating a tangerine and be very happy.
8. The first element of true love is loving kindness. The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So, build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.
Quotes on Consumption
We live in a society that tells us to be happy by buying more stuff. In reality, buying and having more stuff only brings us temporary happiness. But when we buy only what we need, we can then focus on what will really make us happy.
9. Happiness does not come from consumption of things.
10. If you know how to be happy with the wonders of life that are already there for you to enjoy, you don’t need to stress your mind and your body by striving harder and harder, and you don’t need to stress this planet by purchasing more and more stuff.
11. The main affliction of our modern civilization is that we don’t know how to handle the suffering inside us and we try to cover it up with all kinds of consumption.
12. What’s already available in the here and now is plenty for us to be nourished, to be happy. Only that kind of insight will get us, each one of us, to stop engaging in the compulsive, self-sabotaging behaviors of our species.
13. We have negative mental habits that come up over and over again. One of the most significant negative habits we should be aware of is that of constantly allowing our mind to run off into the future. Perhaps we got this from our parents. Carried away by our worries, we’re unable to live fully and happily in the present. Deep down, we believe we can’t really be happy just yet—that we still have a few more boxes to be checked off before we can really enjoy life. We speculate, dream, strategize, and plan for these “conditions of happiness” we want to have in the future; and we continually chase after that future, even while we sleep. We may have fears about the future because we don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and these worries and anxieties keep us from enjoying being here now.
Quotes on How to be Happy
Is finding happiness easy or hard? According to Thich Nhat Hanh, it can be very simple. These quotes show us how to be happy with what we already have.
14. There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way.
15. Our notions about happiness entrap us. We forget that they are just ideas. Our idea of happiness can prevent us from actually being happy. We fail to see the opportunity for joy that is right in front of us when we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form.
16. It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.
17. Be Yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just be.
18. Life is a miracle, and being aware of simply this can already make us very happy.
19. Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness.
20. Happiness is available. Please help yourself to it.
21. Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
22. When you hold a child in your arms, or hug your mother, or your husband, or your friend, if you breathe in and out three times, your happiness will be multiplied at least tenfold.
Quotes on Peace
I love these quotes on peace. The message here is that when you find peace, you will also find happiness. Do you agree?
23. Many people think excitement is happiness. But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.
24. Each moment is a chance for us to make peace with the world, to make peace possible for the world, to make happiness possible for the world.
25. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.
26. From time to time, to remind ourselves to relax and be peaceful, we may wish to set aside some time for a retreat, a day of mindfulness, when we can walk slowly, smile, drink tea with a friend, enjoy being together as if we are the happiest people on Earth.
27. If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.
28. If a child smiles, if an adult smiles, that is very important. If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.
29. When you feel overwhelmed, you’re trying too hard. That kind of energy does not help the other person and it does not help you. You should not be too eager to help right away. There are two things: to be and to do. Don’t think too much about to do—to be is first. To be peace. To be joy. To be happiness. And then to do joy, to do happiness—on the basis of being. So first you have to focus on the practice of being. Being fresh. Being peaceful. Being attentive. Being generous. Being compassionate. This is the basic practice. It’s like if the other person is sitting at the foot of a tree. The tree does not do anything, but the tree is fresh and alive. When you are like that tree, sending out waves of freshness, you help to calm down the suffering in the other person.
Quotes on Suffering and Fear
You can’t be happy all the time. That’s just how life works. But you can learn how to get through the suffering and become happy again.
30. Without suffering, there’s no happiness. So, we shouldn’t discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.
31. NO MUD, NO LOTUS Both suffering and happiness are of an organic nature, which means they are both transitory; they are always changing. The flower, when it wilts, becomes the compost. The compost can help grow a flower again. Happiness is also organic and impermanent by nature. It can become suffering and suffering can become happiness again.
32. The art of happiness is also the art of suffering well.
33. The only way to ease our fear and be truly happy is to acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source. Instead of trying to escape from our fear, we can invite it up to our awareness and look at it clearly and deeply.
34. In a friendship, we try to offer our friend happiness. Sometimes you think that you’re doing something for someone else’s happiness, when actually your action is making them suffer. The willingness to make someone happy isn’t enough. You have your own idea of happiness. But to make someone else happy, you have to understand that person’s needs, suffering, and desires and not assume you know what will make them happy. Ask, “What would make you happy?”
35. People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?
Which Thich Nhat Hanh quote is your favourite? I think my favourite is “Happiness is available. Please help yourself to it.” It’s a simple message with two parts: 1) Stop looking so hard for happiness; 2) Start by looking at what is around you and finding happiness in that.
Until my next blog post, here’s wishing you lots of joy and happiness!