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The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

4.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,603 Ratings  ·  259 Reviews
“If there is a candidate for ‘Living Buddha’ on earth today, it is Thich Nhat Hanh.”
– Richard Baker-roshi

In The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, now with added material and new insights, Thich Nhat Hanh introduces us to the core teachings of Buddhism and shows us that the Buddha’s teachings are accessible and applicable to our daily lives. With poetry and clarity, Nhat Han
Paperback, 294 pages
Published June 8th 1999 by Broadway Books (first published May 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 24, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it
First, I want to make a distinction between what I’d like to call ‘cultural Buddhism’ and ‘secular Buddhism’. Secular Buddhism, much like secular Christianity, is a distilled version of cultural Buddhism made to fit the vogues of our society. Offensive elements are purged, unreasonable stories and precepts dismissed, and what you have left is a perfectly digestible form of the original that now can be taught as an elective for school credit. Cultural Buddhism, as I’ve deemed it, is Buddhism as r ...more
Mary Overton
"Let us look at a wave on the surface of the ocean. A wave is a wave. It has a beginning and an end. It might be high or low, more or less beautiful than other waves. But a wave is, at the same time, water. Water is the ground of being of the wave. It is important that a wave knows that she is water, and not just a wave. We, too, live our life as an individual. We believe that we have a beginning and an end, that we are separate from other living beings. That is why the Buddha advised us to look ...more
Laura Cowan
Mar 21, 2013 Laura Cowan rated it it was amazing
I've read a few books on Buddhism before, but none have been so beautifully articulate or compassionate as this book by Thich Nhat Hanh. I love how he weaves a few of his own poems into the text to illustrate certain principles and experiences, because he is a phenomenal poet. It really is his explanation of how certain lines of Buddhist thought have become altered from earlier versions, and how different practices intersect and contain each other's ideas that really sets this apart. I read it t ...more
Clif Brittain
Mar 03, 2010 Clif Brittain rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I think I love Buddhism, but please, please, please, don't make me take a test on it.

When I decided I wanted to know more about Buddhism, it was because of my developing interest in yoga. I can't tell you how exactly Buddhism is related to yoga, but it surely is. First of all, I find no need for faith in yoga or Buddhism. It works. I practice yoga, I feel better. I practice Buddhist principles, I feel better. No faith involved.

Compare this with Judaism. You believe in God? Pro
Oct 18, 2009 Jake rated it it was ok
Shelves: buddhism
If you're looking for an erudite, comprehensive overview of mainstream Buddhist thought, "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching" is an adequate choice, but prepare for a long, hard slog. Thich Nhat Hanh is at his best when he's telling stories from his own life— his time in Vietnam during the war, or stories about the Buddhist community he started in France. Unfortunately, most of the book isn't told from his personal point of view— it's an academic rundown of major Buddhist ideas (and endlessly li ...more
Aug 25, 2009 Suzy rated it it was amazing
I have been savoring this book for some time, and was lucky to have it with me while trapped on planes and in airports and on an overnight detour to Detroit--Hanh's teachings didn't quite transform the ordeal into great spiritual practice, but they did vastly improve the experience. Many of his other books can be read almost as a philosophy of Buddhism; here he explains the basic religious tenets in depth (and with more clarity than I'd previously encountered in introductory texts). While not qu ...more
Nicholas Whyte
Jun 16, 2012 Nicholas Whyte rated it liked it

A book by a prominent Buddhist monk outlining key teachings of Buddhism. I started off rather liking it as an approach to mindfulness and how to process suffering and the good things about life. But after he Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, I started to get a bit irritated with the constant discovery of new lists of important spiritual things, from the Two Truths up to the Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising; it seems to me that over-descr
Ankur Banerjee
Nov 09, 2012 Ankur Banerjee rated it really liked it
This book by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh goes into a lot of the background from the later-life teachings of the Buddha such as the Lotus Sutra, so in a way, it's more about what the Zen school of Buddhism or Mahayana sects in general teach. Concepts are well-explained with copious footnotes, and it remembers the Indian roots of Buddhism throwing in Sanskrit / Pali terms in addition to Japanese and Chinese terms.

But while the book is easy to read, it often overwhelms the reader with
Adding this one to the list of "books that have changed my life." This is an excellent, clearly-written explanation of major tenets of Zen Buddhism. My only complaint is the use of terms without definitions. For some unfamiliar terms, definitions are provided late in the text, while others go completely unexplained. Overall, though, a lovely and important read.
James Langer
Feb 21, 2009 James Langer rated it it was amazing
I first picked up this book when I was going through an identity crisis in the seventh or eight grade. Many books have made me think, many books have changed my opinions before, but the Heart of the Buddha's Teachings has been the only book to change my life. I remember the very day when I read a passage from this piece and it was like a great awakening.
Jessamyn Smallenburg
Jul 03, 2010 Jessamyn Smallenburg rated it really liked it
The tag line of this book is "Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation." In Part I, the author writes about the Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth is Suffering (dukkha), the recognition that suffering is ever-present in our lives. The Second Noble Truth is the origin, roots, nature, creation, or arising (samudaya) of suffering. The Third Noble Truth is the cessation of suffering, which is achieved by refraining from doing the things that cause us to suffer. The Fourth Noble T ...more
the gift
this is a very useful book for me, helping to clarify exactly what is the difference between religious and philosophical texts, what I like about Buddhist thought, what I learn, what I generally do not note. as far as difference: ethical assertions within a metaphysical superstructure, referring often to texts or authorities or stories, is religion, exploration of said superstructure, of metaphysics, argument, referring often to other philosophical texts, is philosophy...

there are a lot of numbe
What should we think when on the one hand Buddhism tells us that life is suffering and on the other we are told to enjoy life's every moment? Loved around the world for his simple, straightforward explanations of Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh has finally turned his hand to the very core of Buddhism and conundrums such as this. In the traditional way, Thich Nhat Hanh takes up the core teachings one by one--the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising- ...more
Nov 02, 2007 Vanessa rated it it was amazing
I started to read this book for my meditation class at the community college, but it became more than an assignment for me. The beginning shook me up because of the reference to "allowing the Buddha to enter your heart"-- it sounded a little close to Christianity. But I took a chance and got past that first chapter. I really like the way the Venerable Monk teaches the basics of Buddhism in this volume. He doesn't stop at the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which can be expounded on exp ...more
Oct 22, 2007 Angineeki rated it it was amazing
An absolute "must read" for newcomers to Buddhism as well as those who have practiced for many years. Thich Nhat Hanh breaks down some of the most basic concepts of Buddhism by way of analogies, stories, concrete examples, and comparisons, making the concepts accessible to anyone. He is respectful of other perspectives and sects of Buddhism and has written the book with complete awareness of the present day and Buddhism's relevance to it. I've been a Buddhist all my life and this one will defini ...more
Jessica Zu
Aug 04, 2011 Jessica Zu rated it it was amazing
This is the books we read at the study group of "Exploring Buddhism" at East West Crossings. I like this book very much. In particular, the way Thich Naht Hahn's comment on the Buddha today may as well be a Sangha, a community of meditators who are already treading on the path of liberation. His understanding of the dependent co-arising (Paticca Samupada) is also deep, there is no need to abandon our mind and body, no need to run away from this world, we simply need to transform them with love a ...more
The Heart of Buddha's Teaching is a great resource for anyone interested in learning or expanding their current knowledge about Buddhism. Thich Nhat Hanh's prose is easy to follow and his wealth of knowledge is expansive: both beginners and more experienced practitioners are sure to find something new within these pages.

The complexity of Nhat Hanh's subject material also works against him; everything in Buddhism relates to everything else, and Part III (Other Buddhist Teachings) is especially
David Moore
Jul 10, 2015 David Moore rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, buddhism
More technical that most TNH books, and definitely less accessible to the average reader. Not the best introduction to Buddhism, as it really helps to already have a grasp of many of the terms and ideas in order to follow along and make sense of some of the more abstract material he covers (I have a background in philosophy as well as being fairly well read on the subject, and it is not easy going in places). Read this in a Buddhist sitting group, and many of folks found it too difficult and in ...more
Jason Carney
May 14, 2015 Jason Carney rated it it was amazing
This is an in-depth, even academic introduction to the specific doctrines, texts, and concepts of Buddhism from diverse traditions. Despite the density of the subject matter, however, it is conveyed calmly, deliberately, and politely in Hanh's crystal-clear prose. It is comparable to something like C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity: Abolition of Man. Hanh strips Buddhism down to its core essentials for laypeople and non-Buddhists. Unlike Hanh's other works, like Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Min ...more
Tim Niland
Nov 07, 2014 Tim Niland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reads
I don't put much stock in religion, but there are some aspects of Buddhist philosophy that are comforting and thoughtful during this difficult time. Hahn is a Vietnamese monk, persecuted during the war in the 1960's, he would travel and study at Princeton, impressing Martin Luther King so deeply that he recommended him for the Nobel Peace Prize. In this book, Hahn interprets the Buddha's teaching for a modern western audience, he introduces ideas like the four noble truths and the noble eightfol ...more
Jan 31, 2014 Boris rated it really liked it
In a relatively compact book Nhat Than knows how to explain some essential thoughta of Buddhism. It introduces the fundamental principles (the four noble truths, etc) and goes into quite some detail when presenting them. Most of the times Nhat Than knows how to maintain an objective point of view, though at times stressing what is important in his interpretation. This makes a quite direct approach on the topic possible, and due to this he is able to present the reader with an abundance of inform ...more
Jun 10, 2011 Jordan rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, buddhism, own
A nice introduction to the basics of Buddhism. Thich Nhat Hanh makes concepts simple and easy to understand for those unfamiliar with Buddhism and lays out the basics in a clear fashion. If you're looking for some of the finer details, this probably isn't the book for you, but for a nice overview, this is a great place to start. I'd highly recommend this to beginners due to its simplicity and knack of getting basic concepts across.
Joseph P.
Nov 24, 2015 Joseph P. rated it it was amazing
This is the book that I have probably read most in my life. It came at a time when i was first getting interested in spirituality and i constantly re-read it, especially in times of hardship. Thich Nhat Hanh writes in a very peaceful and eloquent manner. His words bring peace of mind and stillness to the reader. I highly recommend this book to any person and all different ages of people.
Jun 15, 2014 Jordan rated it liked it
Very interesting read/overview of Buddhist thought and teachings of the Suttas.

Highly repetitive throughout the entire book. This could have been about 100-150 pages shorter and as equally fulfilling and worthwhile. Too many references to Hanh's other writings that it almost promotes buying the others. This is good as a beginners guide to Buddhism, especially in America, but for more in-depth analysis, teachings, and presentation, you must keep searching.

Although it is quite a paradox to find
Andrew McKee
Nov 12, 2010 Andrew McKee rated it it was amazing
Great book. Not recommended for a beginner getting into Buddhist concepts and practice. This was a lot of information, you could spend years just reflecting and practicing on one chapter. Some really beautiful prose at times, found some passages that really resonated with me and helped me think in a more positive way about some things in life.
Sep 22, 2009 suzy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ummm ok. I must've lent this one to my ex-boyfriend because I just found his list of contacts in it from when I first suggested he go to an AA meeting. Appropriate bookmark? You bet.

Anyway, I must have gotten this when I was nineteen and knew everything because now I'm too afraid to even crack it open. Those noble truths'll get ya.
Arizona Mildman
An exact journey through the four noble truths and the eightfold path in a way that only Thich Nhat Hanh can teach. Simplicity and eloquence are his best qualities. From someone who has studied as a Buddhist Monk for almost seventy years and it shows. He defines in detail without complications and questions left unasked.
Jan 28, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I took a really long time to read this book. I seem to only be able to read books while simultaneously reading other books. But it feels like all the books inform and converse with each other in my brain when I do this. Thich Nhat Hanh is such a great writer! I can see why people all talk about his books. I'm sad to hear that his health is not so good right now. Ah, but his book...was a great introduction for me to Buddha's teachings. I get the sense that these teachings have all been filtered t ...more
May 30, 2015 Tomek rated it it was ok
I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed by this book. Thich Naht Hanh's prose is beautiful, but I feel as this was not a beginner-friendly book. It tries to provide a primer for practitioners of Buddhism, which is what I was looking for, but Hanh tries to cram his extensive knowledge into ~250 pages. Many of the chapters are merely nested lists of different Buddhist principles (The Four Noble Truths are a function of the Five Rememberences, which are based on three Dharma Seals), which can ...more
Mar 03, 2015 Thaddeus rated it really liked it
This book took me 14 months to complete due to the density of the subject matter covered. I was able to read the first two parts of the book on The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path in reasonably quick order. When starting to read the Other Basic Buddhist Teachings I had to put it down due to inability to grasp the subject matter effectively. In the following months I absorbed dharma talks on youtube and in audiobooks. I was pleasantly surprised that when I picked the book up I was now ab ...more
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Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist who now lives in southwest France where he was in exile for many years. Born Nguyễn Xuân Bảo, Thích Nhất Hạnh joined a Zen (Vietnamese: Thiền) monastery at the age of 16, and studied Buddhism as a novitiate. Upon his ordination as a monk in 1949, he assumed the Dharma name Thích Nhất Hạnh. Thích is an honorary ...more
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“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free.” 723 likes
“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don't wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.” 559 likes
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