Reviews

Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962-1966, by Thích Nhất Hạnh

kirstenhands's review against another edition

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inspiring reflective medium-paced

5.0

 Personal stories, sometimes whimsical and humorous, poetically woven into spiritual insights.  I can’t really speak to the pace of this collection.  It’s something that sat on my nightstand.  I’d pick it up and read an entry, take notes, and let it roam around my mind for a bit.  It would have been just as easy to sit down and effortlessly read through it in a morning.  It’ll stay on the nightstand.  I’ll pick it up again.  

Some quotes that stood out and/or resonated with me.  The entry I re-read a few times is January 20, 1963.  From that date, “When you read these lines, will you see me in them?”.  Yes.  August 16, 1962, “Some nights I stood gazing at the forest for hours... I felt the urge to leave civilization behind, throw away my bookish knowledge, tear off my clothes, and enter the forest naked.  To do what?  I didn’t know.  But I would enter the forest’s depths.  Even if wild animals devoured me, I knew I would feel no pain, terror, or regret.  I might even enjoy being devoured.”; December23, 1962, “Those who suffer do not want pity.  They want love and respect.”  “I cannot be a human being and, at the same time, be an unchanging object of love or hatred, annoyance or devotion.  I must continue to grow.”; December 12, 1964, “The best medicine to chase away the heart’s dark isolation is to make direct contact with life’s sufferings, to touch and share the anxieties and uncertainties of others.”; July 12, 1965, “Our faith is not built on shaky ground or esoteric understanding.  It is faith in the strength of unconditional love.  It asks nothing in return and cannot be shaken even by betrayal.”; May 11, 1966, “Clinging to what you have learned is worse than not learning it in the first place.” 
  
 

studiomikarts's review

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dark emotional hopeful informative inspiring mysterious reflective tense fast-paced

5.0

While I can't say I began reading this book with any specific expectations, I still felt blown away by how much I enjoyed it. It's a memoir written in journal format and offers glimpses of the author's life in Vietnam & New England during the 1960s, and his world view born of those experiences and the framework that his Buddhist training provided. I can see now why Thich Nhat Hanh is credited with bringing Buddhism to the West. That said, many of the progressive ideas he shared here are far more secular than anything else, pulling out the bits of Buddhism that can serve everyone without the need for religious belief. I highlighted many passages like that. Ultimately, however, the most gripping parts of the book were the author's personal experiences, which were described so vividly and fluidly that I felt hooked on the story, almost desperate to know what happened next, as if I was reading a contrived plot instead of a personal account. The end of the book was very satisfying, even exciting, but the one question it left me with is, "What, if anything, happened with his friend Steve once he returned to America?" Obviously not within the scope of this book, but something I'm very interested to know! 

alexlesen's review against another edition

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5.0

I loved reading this. His story telling is very sweet and captivating. My one complaint is more of a translation issue. At several points in the novel he tries to insert short pieces of poetry or mantras. However, I really feel like some of the heart of the message got lost in translation.

My favorite parts of the book are when he is talking about his time in Phuong Boi. A lot of those entries really resonated with me. Even later when he was reminiscing about Phuong Boi was very touching. There were also several entries that I felt really caused some introspection while still remaining a light and flowy read.
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