Often a catchy title of a book makes you want to read it all the more. One such book is, “No Mud, No Lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh, who is reckoned to be one of the best Zen Buddhist teachers in the world. This slim book, just 109 pages in all, was published by Aleph Book Company in 2017. As a reader we figure out what the title of the book suggests and this is borne out by the book’s byline, ” The Art of Transforming Suffering.” At the outset, writes Hanh, “Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud, to help the lotus flower of happiness to grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”
What is in store for us as readers is beautifully described by Shantum Seth in his foreword to the book. Seth writes, “The basis of Thay’s practice is to water the seeds of mindfulness, thereby becoming aware of mental formations as they arise.In this way we become aware of the roots of those mental states and, in an internal weeding of our mind’s garden, we cull or transform the unwholesome seeds and cultivate or quicken the wholesome ones”.
To start with, writes Thay (as Hanh is popularly called amongst his disciples from all over the world), we tend to run away from suffering. We seek to avoid confronting it by resorting to excessive consumption or getting habituated to other distractions. The secret is to accept, recognize and understand our suffering. We come across sufferings of the body such as pain, illness, hunger and physical injury as also sufferings of the mind such as anxiety, fear, jealousy despair etc. The book is written in a very simple style and describes the concepts in an easily understandable manner.
The key word is “mindfulness”, how you attain it, use it, and strengthen your character to lead a better, more productive and peaceful life by being aware of what you do at any point in time. The book explains this and other concepts and includes a series of exercises which you are encouraged to practice and hopefully master some day.
For a self-help book, it may look overly simplistic but it has great value if you put your mind to understand how these concepts can help you transform yourself and implement them assiduously.