The skeptical part of my brain sometimes wonders what these buddhist monks really know about relationships, seeing as how they’re living monastically and all. But then I stumble upon teachings (like I did this morning) that reach directly into my heart and remind me that we are all part of a tribe, we were all born into a family, and we all have wisdom to share. Thich Nhat Hanh has this to say…
We have to learn the art of creating happiness. If during your childhood, you saw your parents do things that created happiness in the family, you already know what to do. But many of us didn’t have these role models and don’t know what to do. The problem is not one of being wrong or right, but one of being more or less skillful. Living together is an art. Even with a lot of goodwill, you can still make the other person very unhappy. The substance of the art of making others happy is mindfulness. When you are mindful, you are more artful.
You and your [loved one] each have a garden to water, but the two gardens are connected. We have two hands and we have names for them: right hand and left hand. Have you ever seen the two hands fighting each other? I have never seen this. Every time my finger gets hurt, I notice that my right hand comes naturally to help my left hand. So there must be something like love in the body. Sometimes they help each other, sometimes they each act separately, but they have never fought.
My right hand invites the bell, writes books, does calligraphy, and pours tea. But my right hand doesn’t seem to be proud of it. It doesn’t look down on the left hand to say, “Oh left hand, you are good for nothing. All the poems, I wrote them. All the calligraphy in German, French, and English—I’ve done it all. You are useless. You are good for nothing.” The right hand has never suffered from the complex of pride. The left hand has never suffered from the complex of unworthiness. It’s wonderful.
When the right hand has a problem, the left hand comes right away. The right hand never says, “You have to pay me back. I always come to help you. You owe me.”
When you can see your [loved one] as not separate from you, not better or worse or even equal to you, then you have the wisdom of nondiscrimination. We see the happiness of others as our happiness. Their suffering is our suffering.