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The Art of Power Paperback – Jul 1 2008
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“The Art of Power is a bold and visionary work that reframes power, ambition, success, happiness, love, and peace.” (Spirituality & Practice)
“Among Buddhist leaders influential in the West, Thich Nhat Hanh ranks second only to the Dalai Lama.” (New York Times)
About the Author
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master, poet, scholar, and peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is the author of many bestselling books, including the classics Peace Is Every Step, Fear, and The Art of Power. Hanh lives in Plum Village, his meditation center in France, and leads retreats worldwide.See all Product Description
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Bringing his well-known "engaged Buddhism" to bear upon problems of contemporary society - from relationships, sex, and family, to business, politics, and the environment - he offers simple, straightforward practices for transforming the energy of power in real-life situations. In addition to explaining the Four Noble Truths in plain language, he presents the Five Spiritual Powers, the Five Mindfulness Teachings, and ten concrete practices to strengthen power and spiritual energy. In lively and unpretentious prose, he masterfully interweaves Zen philosophy and stories from the life of Buddha (as well as some of Buddha's lesser-known associates) with examples from his own life and the lives of others with whom he has worked in recent years. We observe how, paradoxically, impermanence, nonself, interbeing, and mindfulness form the foundation of the very peace, happiness, freedom, and prosperity we all seek on individual and collective levels. Thus, ancient wisdom finds contemporary relevance for everyone, from housewives (and househusbands) to corporate visionaries and heads of state.
People who enjoy this book might also be intrigued by Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior by David R. Hawkins and The Integral Management of Tao by Stephen P. Chang, as well as Manual for a Perfect Government by John Hagelin and Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life by Shantideva. Westerners of a Buddhist persuasion will also be inclined to look for the "Sutra on the White-clad Disciple," which addresses laypersons and householders seeking greater meaning from life, after reading The Art of Power.
Thich Nhat Hanh is quietly one of the most powerful people on Earth today. He walks gently, intently, lovingly, and consciously in every step. He models the power of which he speaks. With this book, all can follow in his footsteps and tread a similar path. To quote him (p. 163): "Everyone can participate in the work of awakening, helping enlightenment to be born in society. Awakening is your task. By skillful means, you can contribute greatly to the collective awakening that is the foundation of all change." With The Art of Power, we have in our hands a much-needed guidebook and manual for this very awakening. Thank you, Thuy.
But, of course, the Buddhist writer Thich Nhat Hanh defies our normal assumptions about power: that it is something we strive to attain so that we can control and perhaps even dominate people around us. That's the typical model of power in our culture -- power as "winning" in a competitive world.
Anyone who has read his previous works -- or heard his talks in person or on video -- knows that his traditional Buddhist approach to life is to set aside striving and competitiveness. Instead, compassion becomes the glue that should hold together our community.
So, what he really is writing about here is the social force that flows from the kind of authority we build through our exercise of compassion and a positive approach toward life. Some critics have observed that, over the years, Thich Nhat Hanh's books have tended to repeat themselves. And, yes, frequent readers will find the same heart of Buddhist teaching here that we know from other works.
But there are fascinating, fresh anecdotes and emphases in his teaching in this volume. For example, there's an intriguing story here about his return to Vietnam -- after many years of exile -- and the way he approached this extremely challenging journey. There are a couple of practical supplements in the back of the book, including some plain talk about Buddhist principles in the realm of business.
Yes, there is a deliberate twist in the title -- but it's a play on words in the service of wise and compelling teachings.
While I really enjoyed this book, and really think it will influence my life in a positive way, some of Hanh's metaphors and allegories caused a bit of eye-rolling, and some of his statements just came off a bit over-the-top. A flower doesn't need the sun to open, and its certainly not actually The Sun or The Clouds. I know its probably just my cynical nature that keeps me from fully appreciating the brilliance of Interconnectedness. Also, the repeated references to Jesus and The Kingdom of God in the context of the here-and-now were a bit off-putting to me. Either Thich Nhat Hanh doesn't really understand the meaning of what Jesus is and did, or he's purposefully ignoring Jesus' message for the purpose of making sure we all get along. Its the typical casting of Jesus, Mohamed, Moses, and Buddha as "great teachers" and nothing more. Somewhat irritating, but not enough to dampen my enjoyment of the book overall.
Basically, I think almost anyone with an open mind would appreciate and benefit from this book. Focus on yourself, appreciate everything for what it is, and make an effort to achieve happiness. Good lessons for a life well-lived. Highly recommended!
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