When Bodhipaksa of Wildmind asked me to review Thich Nhat Hanh's new book, Answers from the Heart: Practical Responses to Life's Burning Questions, I immediately said yes. I've read many of his books and found them to be loving and peaceful.
In the spirit of honesty, I must say that I was disappointed with this book. It seems vague; most of the responses to questions asked are answered with an all-encompassing response
of basically to be mindful of the emotion you
are feeling. In my opinion, Thich Nhat Hanh doesn't offer concrete--or practical--answers to questions in the chapters about Daily Life, Family, Parenting, and Relationships, Spiritual Practices, Engaged Buddhism, Sickness and Health, Death and Dying, and Children's Questions. But perhaps this is the purpose of Answers from the Heart. To offer us koans to help us create our own answers, to look within for our own compassion and understanding.
Here's an excerpt from the chapter on Family, Parenting, and Relationships: Question: My teenage son and I argue all the time. How can I stop these fights? Answer: The first thing you can do is to look at yourself, to see whether you have enough calm energy to help calm him when he is in your presence. The problem may not only be with the child, but within the parent. If the parent is not peaceful, this can trigger negative emotions in the child, especially if there are negative seeds planted in him. In the past there may have been times when you got irritated and reacted in a state of annoyance--this has deposited those seeds in him. You have to undo this in the present moment. Being loving and calm and having the capacity to listen can absorb a lot of suffering. If you can engage him to talk to you about his difficulties by practicing deep, compassionate listening, that will help remove the kinds of energies that are making him suffer. If you have loving kindness and the energy of peace in you, even without speaking you can influence another person and he or she will feel better just sitting with you.
The book is $12.95 and is available from Amazon.
I had a bit of a dilemma about whether to post this review since it's negative and I have so much respect for Thich Nhat Hanh. I've read many of his books and enjoyed them tremendously, but I didn't enjoy this book and would not recommend it. I decided to post this review (obviously, since you're reading it) because it is my honest opinion of
the book. Have you read this book? What did you think about it?