Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, now 83 years old, is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist teacher, author, poet, and peace activist. During the Vietnam War, he started the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS), a neutral corps of Buddhist peaceworkers who went into rural areas to establish schools, build healthcare clinics, and help re-build villages. Because he refused to take sides during the war, he was subsequently exiled by the Vietnamese government. Later, in 1967, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
My introduction to Thây, as he is often called, was in 1996, when I transcribed some of his talks for Parallax Press. At first I could hardly understand a word he said, but after a while I began to attune to his accent and found the act of transcribing his words became a meditation in itself.
This quote comes from one of his first books, Peace Is Every Step (Bantam Books, 1991).
We must be aware of the real problems of the world. Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help. If we maintain awareness of our breathing and continue to practice smiling, even in difficult situations, many people, animals, and plants will benefit from our way of doing things. Are you massaging our Mother Earth every time your foot touches her? Are you planting seeds of joy and peace? I try to do exactly that with every step, and I know that our Mother Earth is most appreciative. Peace is every step. Shall we continue our journey?