From Me to We: True Love Is a Process of Humility

–by Thich Nhat Hanh

A community of people walking together on a spiritual path has a great deal of strength; its members are able to protect each other, to help each other in every aspect of the practice, and to build the strength of the community. There are many things that are very difficult for us to do on our own, but when we live together as community, they become easy and natural. We do them without growing tired or making a strenuous effort. The community has a collective energy. Without this energy, the practice of individual transformation is not easy.

When we live together in community it becomes a body, and each one of us is a cell in that body. If we are not part of the community body, we will be isolated, hungry, and needy, and we will not have a suitable environment for practice. We can visualize the community body as a forest. Each member of the community is a tree standing beautifully alongside the others. Each tree has its own shape, height, and unique qualities, but all are contributing to the harmonious growth of the forest. Looking at the trees standing steadily alongside each other like that, you can sense the beauty, solidity, and power of a sacred forest.

Our community body is going forward on the path of practice and its eyes are able to direct us. The eyes of the community are able to see the strong points as well as the weak points of every member of the community. By community Eyes, we mean the insight and vision of the collective body of the community, which includes the vision and insight of all of its members from the youngest to the eldest. Although the contribution of everyone’s insight is necessary for the community insight to be clear, it is not just a simple adding up of individual insights. The collective insight has a strength, a wisdom, and a vitality of its own, which surpasses any individual insight. […]

The energy of the community body has the capacity to protect and transform us. As a member of the community, all we have to do is to make our contribution to that energy. This is called community building. It is the most precious work a monk, nun or layperson can do. […]

When we are stubborn, we are not open to listening to others or seeing the limitations of our own way of thinking. We think our way is the best and our ideas are best. We may become angry when our community makes a decision that does not exactly reflect what we wanted. This is the result of our stubbornness and arrogance. We are so sure of ourselves, so sure that our view is the best. This is an obstacle to overcoming our suffering and finding peace and happiness in the present moment.

I have often said that there is no place for pride in true love. True love is a process of humility, of letting go of our individual ideas and notions to embrace and become one with another person or our entire community. When we are proud we can be easily wounded. We are like the tall, dry grasses that do not bend down low in the face of the winds. Instead, they try to remain standing tall and in the process are broken to pieces. Our pride is an obstacle to developing our understanding, compassion, and boundless love. When we are humble we have nothing to fear, nothing to lose. We easily flow with the circumstances that we find ourselves in and are endlessly open to learn, to practice, and to transform ourselves.

–Thich Nhat Hanh in Joyfully Together: The Art of Building a Harmonious Community.

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