"I had been reading Bonhoeffer's account of his final days, and I was awakened to the starry sky that dwells in each of us. I felt a surge of joy, accompanied by the faith that I could endure even greater suffering than I had thought possible. Courage and strength swelled in me, and I saw my mind and heart as flowers," notes Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh while in America as a student and teaching assistant at Princeton and Columbia Universities from 1962-1963. The rest of these journals cover his three years of engaged Buddhism in Vietnam where he pioneered self-help villages, a new university, and an order for monks.

Thich Nhat Hanh's stay in the United States is draped in homesickness. He yearns for Phuong Boi, his beloved monastery in the forest highlands of Central Vietnam; the country's dramatic thunderstorms and the uncanny midday stillness; and the delight of eating watermelon seeds during the three days of New Year celebrations. In lyrical passages this Buddhist monk and peacemaker pays homage to the art of living in the present moment, the importance of mindful speech, and the challenge of making even the most ordinary tasks sacred.

Thich Nhat Hanh's return to Vietnam is caught up in his crusade to use Buddhism as a force for social change — inspiring unity and social responsibility. Fragrant Palm Leaves, which is translated by Mobi Warren, is a stirring testament to the link between mindfulness and social action.