The ocean of suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see the land. 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. When one tree in the garden is sick, you have to care for it. But don’t overlook all the healthy trees. Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life — the beautiful sunset, the smile of a child, the many flowers and trees. To suffer is not enough. Please don’t be imprisoned by your suffering. … When you have suffered, you know how to appreciate the elements of paradise that are present. If you dwell only in your suffering, you will miss paradise. Don’t ignore your suffering, but don’t forget to enjoy the wonders of life. For your sake and the benefit of many beings.
When I was young, I wrote this poem. I penetrated the heart of the Buddha with a heart that was deeply wounded.
an unripe plum.
Your teeth have left their marks on it.
The tooth marks still vibrate.
I remember always,
Since I learned how to love you,
the door of my soul has been left wide open
in the winds of the four directions.
Reality calls for change.
The fruit of awareness is already ripe,
and the door can never be closed again.
Fire consumes this century,
and mountains and forest bear its mark.
The wind howls across my ears,
while the whole sky shakes violently in the snowstorm.
Winter’s wounds lie still,
Missing the frozen blade,
Restless, tossing and turning
in agony all night.
I grew up in a time of war…Once the door of awareness has been opened, you cannot close it. The wounds of war in me are still not all healed. … Embrace your suffering, and let it reveal to you the way to peace.
~Thich Nhat Hanh (The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, pp. 3-5)