Book Review – No Mud, No Lotus


No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering is a book written by the Vietnamese monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, which focuses on various aspects surrounding the concept of transforming suffering. The meaning behind the title is that without mud, the beautiful lotus flower could not grow. This is an analogy to life—without suffering, there cannot be happiness. The key is to develop a keen ability to transform one's own suffering, for which Hanh lays out a detailed plan with various helpful techniques.

In the very beginning of the book is a quote and approach which resonated with me that can be used when someone asks a difficult question about suffering that has no end in sight. Hanh explains that during the Vietnam war, when someone would ask when the war would be over, he knew that he could not tell a lie and say that it will be over soon, nor could he say "I don't know", which would only cause the person to despair even more. So he would answer, "Everything is impermanent, even war. It will end some day." I appreciated this advice and will try to put it into practice when addressing others' suffering.

Hanh discusses the question of whether or not the Buddha suffered by saying that since he had a body, feelings, and perceptions (like all of us) he also experienced suffering. Although both physical suffering and suffering of the mind is inevitable, we can suffer much less by "not watering the seeds of suffering inside us." The act of consuming in order to cover up our suffering does not work; we need a spiritual practice to develop the skill and strength necessary to look deeply into our suffering and make a breakthrough.

There are many mantras, meditations, and techniques in the book that can help address suffering. For example, there is the concept of being a mindfulness bell for a loved one—gently squeezing their hand whenever there is something that may trigger their anger or sadness during a difficult conversation with someone else. Or the morning verse for happiness, which is a daily reminder to breathe and become aware that we have twenty-four new hours to live each morning when we wake up.

According to my records, this is the sixth book by Hanh that I have completed. I enjoy his books a lot, and have gotten much benefit from them. However, I do feel that they borrow a lot of content from one another (granted, he has written a myriad of books, so this is to be somewhat expected) and have a lot of overlapping stories and advice between them. I enjoyed this book, although there wasn't much in it that I couldn't have gotten from reading one or two of his other books. I do plan to continue reading Thich Nhat Hanh's works, and I wouldn't hesitate to suggest his books to anyone else. They are very quick and easy to read, and are very helpful. Please do check one of them out when you get a chance.

3/5 stars. 128 pages.