The Better Way to Live Alone

My teacher, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (known affectionately by his followers as Thay – teacher) , often teaches on the better way to live alone.

Thich Nhat Hanh - Vancouver Retreat - 2011

Thich Nhat Hanh at the Vancouver Retreat, 2011 | Photo Jerome Freedman

His teachings are based on the words of the Buddha passed down orally until they were written down. These writings are called sutras.

In this article, we are going to review Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone. It is based on a talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on April 5, 1998. He probably has given these teachings many times since then.

The Better Way to Live Alone

Thay began the talk by explaining what it means to live alone:

“Knowing how to live alone” here does not mean to live in solitude, separated from other people, on a mountain in a cave. “Living alone” here means living to have sovereignty of yourself, to have freedom, not to be dragged away by the past, not to be in fear of the future, not being pulled around by the circumstances of the present. … There are many places in the sutras where the Buddha says that “being alone” does not mean to be separated from other people.

One of the Buddha’s monks, a man called Thera (or “elder”), liked to live alone. He like to do everything by himself – sitting, walking, eating, begging for food – just about everything one could do alone and still be a monk.

When the Buddha learned of his behavior, he asked Thera to come and speak with him. During the conversation, the Buddha recited one of his many poems. Thay’s translation of this poem is:

Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.

Looking deeply at life as it is
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells
in stability and freedom.

When Thera heard this poem, he realized that his practices afforded him only the outward experience of living alone and that there was a better way.

This is the essence of Buddha’s teachings: dwelling happily in the present moment!

Do You Know A Better Way To Live Alone?

If you are really feeling lonely, the first thing to do is to experience the truth of Buddha’s poem!

Next, you might benefit by seeing what the poet, singer, and songwriter, Tanya Davis does by watching her video at The Better Way To Be Alone!

Do you know a better way to live along? If you do, please comment below.

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