Jan 25 2013

Thich Nhat Hanh – Interrelationship

Published by at 9:03 am under Poetry

by Thich Nhat Hanh

You are me, and I am you.
Isn’t it obvious that we “inter-are”?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy.

— from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, by Thich Nhat Hanh

/ Photo by jmurawski /

This poem by the great modern Buddhist teacher and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh was written during a retreat for psychotherapists held in Colorado in response to someone else’s statement, “You are you, and I am me, and if by chance we meet, that’s wonderful. If not, it couldn’t be helped.”

This is a brief meditation on the Buddhist teaching of “inter-being.” Within the nondual awareness cultivated in Buddhism, especially the Zen Buddhism taught by Thich Nhat Hanh, nothing exists separately of everything else. Everything, ourselves included, is recognized as being a meeting point of shifting forces, environment, time, and perception. It is only in that touching, that interaction, that forms arise and individuals are said to exist. Remove those forces, and individual beings and objects cannot exist. In this sense, as individuals we are not spots that occupy space on the blank field of creation, rather we are empty spaces that are only suggested by the confluence of various forces. Discover that empty space, and you discover the eternal, blissful Void that is the true Self — void of form and “thingness,” but filled with life and awareness.

To return to Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem, as individuals with a certain body form and name and history, we exist only in the perception of each other. This is how he can pose the question, “Isn’t it obvious that we ‘inter-are’?”

By cultivating pure and compassionate awareness within ourselves, we transform those who perceive us, for their perception of us is a part of what they are composed of. And the more we “transform the garbage” in ourselves, the less that garbage shows up in those around us.

In this way of inter-being, the more we discover peace, the more we offer peace; the more we find joy, the more we bring joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Thich Nhat Hanh poetry, Buddhist poetry Thich Nhat Hanh

Vietnam/France/US (1929 – )
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

More poetry by Thich Nhat Hanh

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7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Thich Nhat Hanh – Interrelationship”

  1. Michael Skeldingon 25 Jan 2013 at 12:51 pm

    If I let you be you
    and you let me be me.

    If we let them be them
    and they let us be free.

    To peacefully pursue
    each personality.

    That is unique to you
    and is unique me.

    How wondrous
    life would be.

  2. MILVIA A. R.on 25 Jan 2013 at 1:08 pm


  3. Arleen Wineron 26 Jan 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Hello Dear One:

    I am a young Senior that has been thoroughly enjoying your website, the poems you so beautifully choose, your commentaries and your own thought for the day. I also purchased your poetry book……sensational! Since I am not very computer friendly, please tell me how I can send a little donation to you for your inspiring work. Does it have to be done on line or can I send you a little check? Just know that I have been on this spiritual path for some time, am a Lover and supporter of our beleaguered Mother Earth, and…although the body is getting on in years, I feel like a new beginner each day. I’m so glad that at your young age you are so steeped in Truth and Divine Love. I have been physically challenged healthwise through the last 2 decades and being exhausted is one of my Spiritual Practices, so I can truly be in compassion with you on your Chronic Fatigue moments. Many blessings to you on your Journey……as Thich Nhat Hanh says so exquisitely….you and I “inter-are” and what Grace that is!!!! Sincerely and respectfully, Arleen Winer, Surfside, Florida

  4. Ivan M. Grangeron 26 Jan 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you, Arlene, for your lovely, heart-felt note. A beautiful way you phrased that — being exhausted as one of your spiritual practices.

    About donations, I always welcome donations through the mail. You can send a check made out to “Poetry Chaikhana” and mail it to:

    Poetry Chaikhana
    PO Box 2320
    Boulder, CO 80306

    While donations are hugely appreciated, please never feel that you should send more than you can comfortably afford.

    Thank you — and much love.


  5. fuzzy tomon 27 Jan 2013 at 6:31 am

    Could this have been my “inter-are”?

    I am who I am,
    you don’t judge me.
    Appreciate me,
    you don’t have to.
    Accept me,
    if you care.
    Understand me,
    you might have to
    and just give me that little space to be me,
    that me that won’t judge you.

    You are who you are,
    I won’t judge you.
    Appreciate you, I will.
    Accept you, I will.
    Understand you, I must
    and will give you that space to be you,
    hopefully that you, that will not judge me.

    Judgment, I would leave to our real conscience,
    yours and mine,
    because it will inform these bodies of ours rightly,
    if we will understand one another and not seek the path
    of ‘Abram and Lot’ and their quarreling herdsmen.

    Fuzzy tom

  6. ebrahimon 28 Jan 2013 at 12:23 pm

    if i forget your name, don’t cry –
    we are body all the same
    and if i am oblivious to your being, don’t cry –
    we are in seed one and the same
    so near i am to you that i cannot see you
    and so near you are to me that i have mistaken
    your pores for mine
    i wish i could see you as you and me as me
    but whence death came she threw out all
    discrimination and identification
    now i cannot distinguish what is you and who is me
    save if someone says this is that
    i concur and say that is this

  7. […] borrow a term from Thich Nhat Hanh, when we love each other, we inter-are. I become a part of you, and you become a part of me. This is one of the places where I experience […]

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