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Becoming a buddha is not so difficult. A buddha is someone who is enlightened, capable of loving and forgiving. You know that at times you’re like that. So enjoy being a buddha. When you sit, allow the buddha in you to sit. When you walk, allow the buddha in you to walk. Enjoy your practice. If you don’t become a buddha, who will?

Every single person contains the seeds of goodness, kindness, and enlightenment. We all have the seed of buddhanature. To give the buddha in you a chance to manifest both in yourself and your loved ones, you have to water those seeds. When we act as if people have these seeds inside them, it gives us and them the strength and energy to help these seeds grow and flower. If we act as if we don’t believe in our inherent goodness, we blame others for our suffering and we lose our happiness.

You can use the goodness in yourself to transform your suffering and the tendency to be angry, cruel, and afraid. But you don’t want to throw your suffering away because you can use it. Your suffering is compost that gives you the understanding to nourish your happiness and the happiness of your loved one.


Two Gardens

You have two gardens: your own garden and that of your beloved. First, you have to take care of your own garden and master the art of gardening. In each one of us there are flowers and there is also garbage. The garbage is the anger, fear, discrimination, and jealousy within us. If you water the garbage, you will strengthen the negative seeds. If you water the flowers of compassion, understanding, and love, you will strengthen the positive seeds. What you grow is up to you.

If you don’t know how to practice selective watering in your own garden, then you won’t have enough wisdom to help water the flowers in the garden of your beloved. In cultivating your own garden well, you also help to cultivate her or his garden. Even a week of practice can make a big difference. You are more than intelligent enough to do the work. You need to take your situation in hand and not allow it to get out of control. You can do it. Every time you practice walking mindfully, investing your mind and body in every step, you are taking your situation in hand. Every time you breathe in and know you are breathing in, every time you breathe out and smile to your out-breath, you are yourself, you are your own master, and you are the gardener in your own garden. We are relying on you to take good care of your garden, so that you can help your beloved to take care of hers.

When you have succeeded with yourself and with your beloved, you become a sangha—a community of two people—and now you can be a refuge for a third person, and then for a fourth, and so on. In this way, the sangha will grow. There is mutual understanding between you and your beloved. When mutual understanding is there and communication is good, then happiness is possible, and the two of you can become a refuge for others.

If you have a difficult relationship, and you want to make peace with the other person, you have to go home to yourself. You have to go home to your garden and cultivate the flowers of peace, compassion, understanding, and joy. Only after that can you come to your partner and be patient and compassionate.

When we marry or commit to another person, we make a promise to grow together, sharing the fruit and progress of practice. It is our responsibility to take care of each other. Every time the other person does something in the direction of change and growth, we should show our appreciation.

If you have been together with your partner for some years, you may have the impression that you know everything about this person, but it’s not so. Scientists can study a speck of dust for years, and they still don’t claim to understand everything about it. If a speck of dust is that complex, how can you know everything about another person? Your partner needs your attention and your watering of his or her positive seeds. Without that attention, your relationship will wither.

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 partner 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 partner 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.

Look into your hand. The fingers are like five brothers and sisters from the same family. Suppose we are a family of five. If you remember that if one person suffers, you all suffer, you have the wisdom of nondiscrimination. If the other person is happy, you are also happy. Happiness is not an individual matter.

Our goal in practicing mindfulness and the deepest gift it can bring us is the wisdom of nondiscrimination. We are not noble by birth. We are noble only by virtue of the way we think, speak, and act. The person who practices true love has the wisdom of nondiscrimination and it informs all his actions. He doesn’t discriminate between himself and his partner or between his partner and all people. This person’s heart has grown large and his love knows no obstacles.


Excerpted from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Introduction to
Love’s Garden: A Guide to Mindful Relationships, by Peggy Rowe Ward and Larry Ward. © 2008 by Peggy Rowe Ward and Larry Ward. Introduction © 2008 by Unified Buddhist Church. With permission from Parallax Press, www.parallax.org.


Thich Nhat Hanh is a renowned Zen master and poet, and founder of the Engaged Buddhist movement. The author of more than forty books, he resides at practice centers in France and the U.S. Thich Nhat Hanh’s newest book is The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology. 

Growing Together, Thich Nhat Hanh, Shambhala Sun, November 2008.






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