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Understanding Our Mind: 50 Verses on Buddhist Psychology

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This profound look at Buddhist psychology offers important insights into how Buddhism's ancient teachings apply to the modern world. Basing his work on the writings of the great fifth-century Buddhist master Vasubandhu and the teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the direct experience of recognizing the true nature of consciousness. Presenting the This profound look at Buddhist psychology offers important insights into how Buddhism's ancient teachings apply to the modern world. Basing his work on the writings of the great fifth-century Buddhist master Vasubandhu and the teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the direct experience of recognizing the true nature of consciousness. Presenting the basic teachings of Buddhist applied psychology, he shows how the mind is like a field, where every kind of seed is planted — seeds of suffering, anger, happiness, and peace. The quality of life, he writes, depends on the quality of the seeds. By learning how to water seeds of joy and transform seeds of suffering, understanding, love, and compassion can flower.


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This profound look at Buddhist psychology offers important insights into how Buddhism's ancient teachings apply to the modern world. Basing his work on the writings of the great fifth-century Buddhist master Vasubandhu and the teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the direct experience of recognizing the true nature of consciousness. Presenting the This profound look at Buddhist psychology offers important insights into how Buddhism's ancient teachings apply to the modern world. Basing his work on the writings of the great fifth-century Buddhist master Vasubandhu and the teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the direct experience of recognizing the true nature of consciousness. Presenting the basic teachings of Buddhist applied psychology, he shows how the mind is like a field, where every kind of seed is planted — seeds of suffering, anger, happiness, and peace. The quality of life, he writes, depends on the quality of the seeds. By learning how to water seeds of joy and transform seeds of suffering, understanding, love, and compassion can flower.

30 review for Understanding Our Mind: 50 Verses on Buddhist Psychology

  1. 4 out of 5

    Smitha Murthy

    I have briefly flitted with turning into a ‘monkini,’ and the fact that there are Tibetan monasteries just two hours away from my city has made that flitting idea sometimes become more entrenched. But then, when I read a book like this, I wonder if I can really understand the complexities of the mind enough to surrender myself to it 24 hours a day. Can I become a monkini without really trying to understand these heavy Buddhist sutras? This is one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s more technical books. I was c I have briefly flitted with turning into a ‘monkini,’ and the fact that there are Tibetan monasteries just two hours away from my city has made that flitting idea sometimes become more entrenched. But then, when I read a book like this, I wonder if I can really understand the complexities of the mind enough to surrender myself to it 24 hours a day. Can I become a monkini without really trying to understand these heavy Buddhist sutras? This is one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s more technical books. I was completely at sea and missed the more easily accessible teachings on mindfulness that I had found in his other books. Somehow, in between the ‘store consciousness,’ ‘mind unconsciousness’ and all sorts of consciousness, I lost consciousness myself and just floated through the book. The rating is NOT a reflection on the quality of the book - it’s me saying “dear book, forgive me, I could not be friends with you right now, but I think we can connect again in the present moment which is our future.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    I'm in more or less ongoing search for the best book to introduce my non-Buddhist and/or atheist friends to a perspective that's central to the way I live day by day. Understanding Our Mind may well be the one I've been looking for. Nhat Hanh uses a set of 51 verses adapted from the Mahayana (Middle Way) tradition to introduce the practical implications of basic Buddhist notions such as interdepence, emptiness and a host of others. The voice doesn't predispose knowledge of Buddhism and focuses o I'm in more or less ongoing search for the best book to introduce my non-Buddhist and/or atheist friends to a perspective that's central to the way I live day by day. Understanding Our Mind may well be the one I've been looking for. Nhat Hanh uses a set of 51 verses adapted from the Mahayana (Middle Way) tradition to introduce the practical implications of basic Buddhist notions such as interdepence, emptiness and a host of others. The voice doesn't predispose knowledge of Buddhism and focuses on the day by day relevance of ideas that might seem abstract out of context. A very good place to begin an exploration of the Dharma.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Linda Walters

    This is one of Thay's more "technical" books. It is a rather detailed introduction to the complex topic of Buddhist psychology. This will deserve a second reading in a few months that will include many side trips to referenced texts and cross-referencing with other works on Buddhist psychology. If the subject of Buddhist psychology interests you, but delving into it has seemed like a daunting undertaking, this is a perfect place to start. This is one of Thay's more "technical" books. It is a rather detailed introduction to the complex topic of Buddhist psychology. This will deserve a second reading in a few months that will include many side trips to referenced texts and cross-referencing with other works on Buddhist psychology. If the subject of Buddhist psychology interests you, but delving into it has seemed like a daunting undertaking, this is a perfect place to start.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Thich Nhat Hanh is THE master of mindfulness practice, in my limited opinion... This book holds one key to understanding Buddhism - the drive to understand the mind as it really is.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sterre

    These 50 Verses are truly beautifully written! Multiple times I've quoted some simple but clever analogy Thich Nhat Hanh uses to let you understand a concept. For example: "Clouds are the past life of rain. Rain is a continuation of the clouds." However, in each verse there's quite some repetition and because of that it gets a bit boring at the end of the book. At other times though, I came across a verse that required much effort to understand it. But once you do, you see the interconnectedness o These 50 Verses are truly beautifully written! Multiple times I've quoted some simple but clever analogy Thich Nhat Hanh uses to let you understand a concept. For example: "Clouds are the past life of rain. Rain is a continuation of the clouds." However, in each verse there's quite some repetition and because of that it gets a bit boring at the end of the book. At other times though, I came across a verse that required much effort to understand it. But once you do, you see the interconnectedness of it with the other verses. So, in short, Understanding Our Mind is a beautifully written work, but sometimes falls into repetition of already explained concepts or requires a lot of your concentration. One thing after reading this book is clear though: it's all about mindfulness :)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chanita

    This profound look at Buddhist psychology offers important insights into how Buddhism's ancient teachings apply to the modern world. Basing his work on the writings of the great fifth-century Buddhist master Vasubandhu and the teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the direct experience of recognizing the true nature of consciousness. Presenting the basic teachings of Buddhist applied psychology, he shows how the mind is like a field, where every kind of seed is planted — This profound look at Buddhist psychology offers important insights into how Buddhism's ancient teachings apply to the modern world. Basing his work on the writings of the great fifth-century Buddhist master Vasubandhu and the teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the direct experience of recognizing the true nature of consciousness. Presenting the basic teachings of Buddhist applied psychology, he shows how the mind is like a field, where every kind of seed is planted — seeds of suffering, anger, happiness, and peace. The quality of life, he writes, depends on the quality of the seeds. By learning how to water seeds of joy and transform seeds of suffering, understanding, love, and compassion can flower." (from Amazon)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Priya

    The concepts in this book, if applied properly, can be very useful for individuals as well as for professionals working with clients suffering from mental afflictions. This book supports the ecological relationship between individuals and their social environments. Some of the ideas presented can also be useful in promoting culturally informed psychotherapeutic practices.

  8. 4 out of 5

    David

    A very broad perspective on a very complicated subject - the mind. Thich Nhat Hanh brings his gentle language to explaining what brings about mental turmoil and how to alleviate that suffering in a detailed and thorough manner.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Difficult to read. One must really have their full attention and a quite space to contemplate the teachings. I need to read this again as I feel a lot of the material has escaped.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Prabhat Saraswat

    Another gem. 50 verses amazingly put together. Takes on the labyrinth of a journey in our mind, thoughts and consciousness.. should read. a good read

  11. 5 out of 5

    Akshunya

    I remember when I read this book for the first time, I could not go beyond 100 pages, and whatever i read that also involved a lot of struggle. Now when I read this book after more than an year I have realized that it is not a book to just read, but you need to study it carefully for deeper understanding. There is a well designed hierarchical structure of consciousness as understood in Buddhist philosophy, and you need to have some basic understanding of that system if you want to unlock the mess I remember when I read this book for the first time, I could not go beyond 100 pages, and whatever i read that also involved a lot of struggle. Now when I read this book after more than an year I have realized that it is not a book to just read, but you need to study it carefully for deeper understanding. There is a well designed hierarchical structure of consciousness as understood in Buddhist philosophy, and you need to have some basic understanding of that system if you want to unlock the message hidden in these 50 verses of Vasubandhu, on which Thich That Hanh has done the commentary. It is not that it is not explained in the text itself, however one tends to not pay enough attention, and with weak understanding of those concepts, struggles to understand the core message. For example he starts with eight levels of consciousness in the first chapter, and then the further chapters discuss about various concepts like modes of perceptions which are again related to one or the other levels of consciousness. So if you did not pay attention in the beginning itself, whatever you read further keeps evading your understanding. The core message that is conveyed here and looked upon from so many different angles is the message of interdependence, that is how every object and phenomenon depends on each other to be able to exist or manifest. This is something happening right in front of our eyes, however because of the delusions of the mind, remains hidden from our view. The 50 verses are quite in-depth and comprehensively cover everything ranging from unconscious mind, ego, nature of mind, behavior, habits, sensory perceptions, nature of delusions, practice of mindfulness, importance of working in a Group and so on, explained in great detail for a beginner. I am glad that i have finally read the whole of it this time. I think the title of this book suggests as if it is a simple and straightforward text about how our mind works, however it is way more complex than that, just like our mind. The writing is dense, and may require multiple readings. I think going forward, i will not only NOT judge the book by its cover, but also NOT by its title. What appears to be simple and straightforward, may not actually be one. Having said that, the (tough) journey has been truly rewarding!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Oliver

    Honestly a great book with lots of life-changing tidbits of advice scattered throughout, just way too much filler in between, with a full breakdown of each of the 50 verses, overly descriptive with the 8 types of consciousness and the 16 wholesome actions along with the 22 unwholesome actions and 12 neutral actions composed of 4 levels each of..... Buddhism is simple concepts in the end, but just about every text on the subject seems so pompous, condescending, and massive amounts of deep studyin Honestly a great book with lots of life-changing tidbits of advice scattered throughout, just way too much filler in between, with a full breakdown of each of the 50 verses, overly descriptive with the 8 types of consciousness and the 16 wholesome actions along with the 22 unwholesome actions and 12 neutral actions composed of 4 levels each of..... Buddhism is simple concepts in the end, but just about every text on the subject seems so pompous, condescending, and massive amounts of deep studying to really have a complete grasp of the concepts. Also why does every other word have a sanskrit translation next to it? The bible doesn't have aramaic translations next to everything. Buddhisms determination on clinging to and respecting the past only hurts its future growth, in my opinion. Would easily be a 5 star book if it was focused on the important concepts instead of trying to cover everything. I loved it anyways, but lots of sections were a struggle to get through and felt like I was studying for an exam.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Spitz Cohan

    “Understanding Our Mind” really helps you understand your mind. As advertised. Drawing on the teachings of a Fifth Century Buddhist master, Naht Hanh uses the metaphor of seeds to illuminate consciousness. Our mind is a storehouse of an ever-growing collection of seeds, which are ideas, experiences and interpretations. Through the practice of mindfulness, we can discern between helpful seeds and damaging seeds, nurturing the former and loosening the grip of the latter. While the metaphor of water “Understanding Our Mind” really helps you understand your mind. As advertised. Drawing on the teachings of a Fifth Century Buddhist master, Naht Hanh uses the metaphor of seeds to illuminate consciousness. Our mind is a storehouse of an ever-growing collection of seeds, which are ideas, experiences and interpretations. Through the practice of mindfulness, we can discern between helpful seeds and damaging seeds, nurturing the former and loosening the grip of the latter. While the metaphor of watering and fertilizing helpful seeds certainly works, Naht Hanh would be the first to admit that metaphors, ideas, interpretations and conceptualizations obscure our perceptions of reality. In other words, this metaphor of seeds has value, but limited value. This is not one of Naht Hanh’s typically pithy books. It has some heft. And although its repetitive, I suppose repetition is necessary to penetrate our thick skulls and drive home the nature of reality.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mehdi Hassan

    Fantastic read! Thich Nhat is a Buddhist by heart and a scientist by nature. The book highlights the nature of reality and the various levels of conscious that our mind is made up of. He denounces duality and reconstructs phenomenons as spectrums. He captures the process through which reality is perceived through human mind. He distinguishes between representations, images and dynamism. One needs not to be interested in Buddhism to enjoy this book. One only needs to be curious in exploring model Fantastic read! Thich Nhat is a Buddhist by heart and a scientist by nature. The book highlights the nature of reality and the various levels of conscious that our mind is made up of. He denounces duality and reconstructs phenomenons as spectrums. He captures the process through which reality is perceived through human mind. He distinguishes between representations, images and dynamism. One needs not to be interested in Buddhism to enjoy this book. One only needs to be curious in exploring models of thought to enjoy this fascinating breakdown of real life systems. The language is very informal and gives the reader a feeling of conversation with the writer. I cannot wait to read his other volumes.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    I have read several books by Thich Nhat Hanh. I find his philosophy and perspective on living to be very helpful. This book incorporates psychology with the teachings of Buddhism. I read it in small chunks, reflectively, often rereading portions so as to better process them. There were some dense parts which, for me, were not accessible on a first read. However, I found that the more I reread and reflected, the more the insights became clear for me. I expect to return to the ideas in this book a I have read several books by Thich Nhat Hanh. I find his philosophy and perspective on living to be very helpful. This book incorporates psychology with the teachings of Buddhism. I read it in small chunks, reflectively, often rereading portions so as to better process them. There were some dense parts which, for me, were not accessible on a first read. However, I found that the more I reread and reflected, the more the insights became clear for me. I expect to return to the ideas in this book again and again, as a kind of spiritual guide.

  16. 4 out of 5

    James Murphy

    This book is a way to water the seeds in the garden of of your store consciousness. While developing an intellectual understanding of Buddhism is insufficient on its own, this book is powerful when read in conjunction with mindfulness meditation and yoga. Hanh uses modern scientific and social developments to add depth to his description of these ancient verses.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Mak

    Five stars are not enough to express how much I recommend this book! Thich Nhat Hanh has the rare ability to teach complex concepts in Buddhism in a simple and understandable way. This book really deserves a second or even a third read. I recommend this book to all people that are interested in Buddhism.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vinayagamoorthy Kuppusamy

    This was just awesome. Took 4 levels of notes and took it into my mind. The concept of store consciousness, Manas consciousness, Mind consciousness and the other 5 sense consciousnesses was really helpful to me. Decided to observe the insance levels of busyness in my mind. Everything else will be taken care of automatically.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This is a challenging book. It requires a serious mind and a determination to contemplate the intricate details of the Buddhist Psychological approach to the mind. The terminology is different and it is a deep dive into the workings of our mind. Buddhists -- the first psychologists. I am reading it slowly and in concert with my Satsang group.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sisilia

    A book that I will need and want to read a few times 😊

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Understanding Our Mind takes you beautifully through complex mindfulness concepts that take years to conceptualize alone by the hand of the narrator Thich Nhat Hanh.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Yash Kapoor

    Very technical book, at some point of time you will loose interested still it reaches lot of things

  23. 4 out of 5

    April

    This book is a slow read. It took several months to read and innerstand the message.

  24. 4 out of 5

    HM Teow

    Wonderful works A simple way to understand how our mind works. Recommend reading this book slowly. Thanks for all the great works.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David K. Glidden

    This is one of the best books on the epistemology and phenomenology of Buddhist Mahayana thinking.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Schulte

    Takes a while and material is dense but written in Thay's usual style which makes it easi3r. Takes a while and material is dense but written in Thay's usual style which makes it easi3r.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Justin Covey

    Can be a little dry but also kind of the only book you ever need?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chris Carlisle

    "Our mind is a field in which every kind of seed is sown--seeds of compassion, joy, and hope, seeds of sorrow, fear, and difficulties," Thich Nhat Hanh writes. "Every day our thoughts, words, and deeds plant new seeds in the field of our consciousness, and what these seeds generate becomes the substance of our life" (p. 21). This book is a compilation of dharma teachings given by Thich Nhat Hanh between 1989 and 1998 on Buddhist psychology. The teachings here are subtle, complex, and look deeply "Our mind is a field in which every kind of seed is sown--seeds of compassion, joy, and hope, seeds of sorrow, fear, and difficulties," Thich Nhat Hanh writes. "Every day our thoughts, words, and deeds plant new seeds in the field of our consciousness, and what these seeds generate becomes the substance of our life" (p. 21). This book is a compilation of dharma teachings given by Thich Nhat Hanh between 1989 and 1998 on Buddhist psychology. The teachings here are subtle, complex, and look deeply into the nature of consciousness. "One could spend an entire lifetime looking deeply into them," Thay writes in the book's Introduction. "Please do not be daunted by their complexity. Go slowly," he encourages us (p. 4). When put into practice, they point the way to transformation, bringing life into "sharp, clear focus" (p. 141). This book shows we can cultivate paradise or hell in our own minds (p. 54), turning our inner garbage into flowers (p. 218). Thay writes, "when we are able to touch our habit energies and transform the roots of violence, despair, fear, and anger in our store consciousness, transformation occurs. We begin by recognizing the internal knots and latent tendencies in order to transform them. We have to train ourselves in the way of looking with the insights of nonself and interbeing. Day and night we have to water the seeds of understanding in our store consciousness so that it will grow and help us to see the nature of interbeing in every thing we see and touch. We have to bring this understanding into our daily life" (pp. 224-5). Not an easy read, this insightful book is highly recommended for any reader interested in Buddhist transformational psychology or the interdependence of all things.

  29. 5 out of 5

    William

    This was a book of value. Perhaps not because of an extraordinary plot, wise character development, or brilliant writing style, but because of the meaning behind the words. Thich Nhat Hanh writes about the mind with fifty verses from Buddhist master Vasubandhu as the core. Explaining the verses in depth in clear language that always gets to the heart of the matter, Thich Naht Hanh ties mind consciousness into one's daily life. I struggled to get through this book, but it has added meaning to my This was a book of value. Perhaps not because of an extraordinary plot, wise character development, or brilliant writing style, but because of the meaning behind the words. Thich Nhat Hanh writes about the mind with fifty verses from Buddhist master Vasubandhu as the core. Explaining the verses in depth in clear language that always gets to the heart of the matter, Thich Naht Hanh ties mind consciousness into one's daily life. I struggled to get through this book, but it has added meaning to my life in a singular way. While it would seem confusing to those without some Buddhist background, I would recommend this book to those who truly want to understand their consciousness.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Walter Burton

    This was not a book to be read quickly or taken lightly. It is a very in depth look at the foundation of Buddhist psychology and how our mind reacts or seeds of conscientious plant both from our past and current actions. It a wonderful guide to both the why and how we respond to life and more importantly stress we are in control of our Karma. It is not a book to just read and think you can apply the concept. It should supplement a good Zen practice to help prepare the mind to become mindful vers This was not a book to be read quickly or taken lightly. It is a very in depth look at the foundation of Buddhist psychology and how our mind reacts or seeds of conscientious plant both from our past and current actions. It a wonderful guide to both the why and how we respond to life and more importantly stress we are in control of our Karma. It is not a book to just read and think you can apply the concept. It should supplement a good Zen practice to help prepare the mind to become mindful versus reactionary. I will read it again and again to capture the finer points, but be warned the desired out come is to drop all and achieve the oneness which come with mindfulness of no duality

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