The Art of Power

What does power mean to us?

Thich Nhat Hanh

Why are most people willing to do almost anything to get it?
Just with Paypal

Book Details
 322 p
 File Size 
 875 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2007 by Thich Nhat Hanh 

About the Author
THICH NHAT HANH has lived an extraordinary life in an
extraordinary time. Since the age of sixteen he has been a
Buddhist monk and a peace activist. During the war in
Vietnam, he worked tirelessly for reconciliation between
North and South Vietnam. His courageous efforts to
generate peace moved Martin Luther king Jr. to
nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Forced
into exile because of his efforts to negotiate peace in
Vietnam, he continued his social activism, founding
universities and social service organizations in his
homeland and working to rescue boat people. Thich
Nhat Hanh is the author of many books including such
important classics as Peace is Every Step and Anger. He
lives in France. Visit the author online at

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In January 2001, I was privileged to accompany Thich
Nhat Hanh and his longtime assistant, Sister Chan
Khong, to the World Economic Conference, held each
year in Davos, Switzerland. Thich Nhat Hanh had been
invited along with other prominent religious leaders
from around the planet to meet and discuss how
spiritual values could be used to help resolve global issues.

Before an estimated thirty heads of state, two
hundred of the world’s richest men and women, and a
few thousand of the most influential movers and
shakers alive, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke with love,
compassion, and total fearlessness. He was not there to
seek support or approval from the great and famous. He
was there hoping to awaken in them their best, to help
them change the world by touching their own true
selves. In a gathering dedicated to wealth, influence, and
power in all its fabulous manifestations, he spoke in a
soft and quiet voice. He asked nothing of them, only
reminding them to please always remember their
common humanity. On its Web site, the World
Economic Forum proudly displays the motto
“Committed to Improving the State of the World.” That
day, in Davos, Switzerland, Thich Nhat Hanh asked
everyone to adopt the motto “Committed to Improving
the State of Every Heart.”

Thich Nhat Hanh has spent his life speaking truth to
power and truth to the powerless. He is a determined
revolutionary—not one who asks us to mount the
ramparts in anger, but rather a revolutionary of the
human spirit, a revolutionary of understanding and of
love. Born in 1926, he grew up in Vietnam, one of the
most war-torn countries of the twentieth century. At
age sixteen he was ordained as a Buddhist monk. From
the beginning he was that rare person who could
undertake multiple vocations and excel at all of them.
Simultaneously he was a Buddhist monk, scholar, poet,
writer, reformer, and social activist. And he did all of
this as a young man in a time and place of immeasurable
turmoil and suffering. He lived through the invasion of
his homeland by the Japanese in 1941, the return of the
French at the end of the Second World War, the guerilla
war that followed and became what is known in
Vietnam as the American war and in the United States
as the Vietnam War. As a reformer and activist, he
helped found many groundbreaking institutions,
including the An Quang Buddhist Institute, which
became one of the foremost centers of Buddhist studies
in South Vietnam, and the La Boi Press, which
established itself as one of the country’s most
prestigious publishing houses. He was also a founder of
the School of Youth for Social Service, called “the little
Peace Corps” by the American press. During the worst
years of the war, he and his assistant, Sister Chan
Khong, risked their lives along with thousands of other
young people, including many Buddhist monks and
nuns, by going into the countryside to establish schools
and health clinics and to rebuild villages destroyed by
the fighting. During this time he was also editor-in-chief
of the official publication of the Unified Buddhist
Church and the author of numerous books of poetry,
Buddhist psychology, and social commentary. In 1966
he traveled to the United States to call for peace. During
this trip he spoke to the American public to “describe
the aspirations and the agony of the voiceless masses of
the Vietnamese people.” He also met with many
important figures in America, including Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr., who nominated him for the 1967 Nobel
Peace Prize. In 1969 he led the Buddhist Peace
Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, organized to
negotiate an end to the war in Vietnam. In 1973, because
of his peace work, he was denied permission to return
home. But being exiled did not deter him. Over the past
forty years of living in the West, he has established
himself as one of the most influential and respected
spiritual leaders in the world. He has continued his
social activism through the support of over one hundred
schools and programs of village improvement in his
homeland. He has also continued to be involved with
peace and social justice movements around the world,
speaking out on issues from AIDS to the Iraq War.
With more than one hundred books in print in over
thirty languages and a year-round teaching schedule, his
impact continues to grow worldwide. From his
hermitage at Plum Village in southwestern France, he
guides numerous communities of monks, nuns, and
laypersons on five continents. In 2005 he was able to
return to his homeland for the first time in thirty-nine years.

In his new work, The Art of Power, Thich Nhat Hanh
approaches the subject of power from a radically
different direction than most philosophers and thinkers
in the Western tradition. Beginning about 2,500 years
ago in classical Greece, the topic of power and the
appropriate use or abuse of power has been a central
subject of debate in Western civilization. For millennia,
inquiries into the subject of power have focused
primarily on the state’s monopoly on violence, its
proper legal use, and the legitimacy and behavior of
those who control it. Over the centuries, innumerable
books have been written on the techniques of power,
how to gain power, how to use power, and how to hold
on to power.

In these pages, however, Thich Nhat Hanh begins his
inquiry into power at its very base, its most organic
level. He begins with volition, our deepest intention. He
explains to us that the ability to attain any goal is
absolutely contingent on the condition and quality of
our mind. That a wholesome intention combined with a
lucid mind is the prerequisite for genuine power. He
reminds us of the obvious fact, so long forgotten, that
anyone with a clear and caring mind is inherently
powerful, no matter how little power she appears to
possess. He makes crystal clear that everyone, without
exception, at their core being has the deepest intention
of love and goodness, and he asks, advises, exhorts, and
inspires all of us to return to that primal source.
He knows all too well, having personally witnessed
war and its immeasurable suffering, people’s awful
propensity to be corrupted by power. Like the prophet
Levi, who came out of the desert to confront King
Solomon, he reminds us that all power, especially great
power, has within it the seeds of its own destruction.

And that all the power you possess, no matter how
great, is useless if it does not bring you joy and does not
bring peace and happiness to those you love. He asks
us how we can make the claim to be powerful when we
are not free from the oppression of our anger or the
scourge of our fear. He challenges us to realize that
genuine power comes only with a clear mind and a calm
heart, and that when we are not in control of our own
thoughts we are actually quite powerless, nothing more
than slaves to our fears, emotions, and craving. When
this happens, it is not we who possess power; it is
power that possesses us. He states boldly that every
person is born with the capacity to be free of fear,
delusion, and tyranny, whether external or, just as
important, internal. To him both the tyranny of the
state and the tyranny of our own mental anguish and its
terrible effects are surmountable. He tells us that the
surest way to deal with the age-old problem of the
corrosive nature of state power is to create a society of
insightful and healthy minds, a citizenry that is strong,
happy, and free—especially free from the fear of not
having power and the fear of losing power. In this book,

Thich Nhat Hanh, as he begins his ninth decade, shows
us the way out of the crippling paradox of corrupt
power and powerlessness and points us in the direction
of authentic power. He continues to walk his talk and to
tell us, “I have done it, you can do it, and my friends,
we can all do it.” He asks us to have the courage to
begin with ourselves as we express our compassion and
determination to heal the world.
—Pritam Singh

Table of Contents

1 True Power
2 Handling Power Skillfully
3 The Art of Mindfulness
4 Getting What We Really Want
5 The Secret of Happiness
6 Boundless Love
7 Being Present at Home and at Work
8 Taking Care of Nonbusiness
9 Sparking a Collective Awakening
Appendix A: Meditations to Cultivate Power
Appendix B: Work and Pleasure: The Example of Patagonia

About the Author
About the Publisher

The Art of Power
* During the Buddha’ s time, monastics wore yellow robes and
laypersons wore white robes when practicing with the monastics.
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