The Five Mindfulness Trainings encompass the essential ethical foundations of Buddhism. Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh delivers his overview of these practices in this succinct and morally stirring paperback. In the foreword Joan Halifax sees them as "crafting the art of living beautifully, honestly, and with strength and dignity." They are guidelines and not rules and regulations that must be followed rigidly.
In his discussion of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, Hanh discusses not killing, not stealing, not committing adultery, not speaking harmful words, and not taking in toxins under the thematic umbrellas of:
• Reverence for Life
• Sexual Responsibility
• Deep Listening and Loving Speech
• Diet for a Mindful Society
The First Mindfulness Training goes: "Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life." According to Thich Nhat Hanh, those who do not oppose war are advocating the killing that ensues and bear that responsibility: "If, during the Gulf War, you did not say or do anything to try to stop the killing, you are not practicing this training. Even if what you said or did failed to stop the war, what is important is that you tried, using your insight and compassion."
We are in total agreement with what Thich Nhat Hanh says about mindful consumption in his assessment of consciously keeping track of what we put in our bodies and minds. To watch violent films is to water the seeds of violence within us and to eat junk food is to pollute our bodies. We can also watch what we say and be alert to how it affects others. This means not talking behind another's back or ever humiliating or shaming anybody.
As usual in any book by this Zen master, the author includes practices. Here is one to try when you turn on the light in a room:
"Forgetfulness is the darkness,
mindfulness is the light.
I bring awareness,
to shine upon all life."