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Is the Buddha in the car? by Thich Nhat Hanh


One day, while riding in a bus Thay asked his attendant: “Do you think the Tathagata is in this bus with us or not?” Brother Phap Nguyen replied: “Yes, I think he is.” Thay said: “Are you sure?” There were 3 buses, Thay was in one, and there were still the other two buses. Wanting to find out if the Buddha is in the bus is not difficult.

If there are 50 people in the bus, and one of them is breathing in mindfulness, that means the Buddha is in the bus. If not only one, but two, three, or five people are breathing mindfully and enjoying the landscape mindfully, then the presence of the Buddha is assured. And if 50 people breathe mindfully, then that would be wonderful! We only need one person in the car to breathe mindfully to have the Buddha present in the car. With the presence of the Buddha everyone is safer and protected by his energy.

Sitting in a bus, a van or a car, if you ask “Is the Buddha in this car or not?” you can find the answer yourself. Are we capable of inviting the Buddha to be present in the car for us or not? By breathing in mindfulness, we can ensure that the Buddha is sitting in the car and everyone is protected.

In the flight from San Francisco to Paris, Thay also asked: “Is the Buddha in this airplane?” The answer is very clear. We only need to breathe mindfully and the Buddha will be present in the airplane right away. Usually we are unaware that we have such a great power. If there are two or three people breathing mindfully, the presence of the Buddha will be even more obvious. Therefore, Thay would like you to ask one another, while sitting in the car before traveling from the Upper Hamlet to the Lower Hamlet, or to New Hamlet, this question: “Is the Buddha in this car?”

Thich Nhat Hanh in India 2008; picture courtesy of Ahimsa TrustThich Nhat Hanh in India 2008;
picture courtesy of Ahimsa Trust

Thay remembers a trip to India, organised by the Dharma teacher, Shantum Seth. We had three hundred people in the delegation and we had to use eleven buses. Thay wanted the Buddha to be sitting in each bus, not just in Thay’s bus. So Thay requested that in each bus there should be a bell, and that occasionally the bell would be invited for everyone to breathe mindfully. When everyone breathes mindfully, surely the Buddha is in the bus. And when the Buddha is with us, we are happier and safer. So if we want to know whether the Buddha is in the car or not, it is easy to find the answer.

Our sangha should have a bell in the car when traveling everywhere in the world, and there should be a place to put the bell. In Vietnam as well as in other Buddhist countries, people usually have in their car a Buddha statue, or hang a small bag containing The Heart of the Prajnaparamita Sutra. Yet it doesn’t mean that when you have the Buddha statue, the Buddha will be in the car. It is not the Buddha, whether the statue is made of plastic or of jade.

Only when someone in the car breathes and looks mindfully, the real Buddha will be present. Thay suggests that from now on, in each car of our monastaries, we should have the question: “Is there the Buddha in the car?” posted. So when we get into the car, upon seeing that question, we will say: “OK, let’s invite the Buddha to be present!” If other people are too busy, or too worried or lost in their thinking, we can breathe for them.

Yesterday, Thay wrote the caligraphy: “Is Buddha in the car?” From now on, in each car, bus or van we should have that question visible to all. We also need a small bell. If you are the driver, after the sangha gets into the vehicle, you can gently ask: “I wonder if the Buddha is in the car or not?”, and ask someone to invite the bell so that everyone can come back to their breathing. That is one way to practice mindfulness.

We are so happy to have the Buddha is our life. But we not only have the Buddha, we also have each other and one another. Our happiness is so great! So when we invite the bell, everyone will stop talking, and stop thinking in order to come back to our breathing and be conscious that we have the Buddha in our life, as well as we have each other. Is there a greater happiness?


About the Author Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the best known and most respected Zen masters in the world today, poet, and peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh (called Thây by his students) has led an extraordinary life. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is perhaps most known for his prolific writings on meditation, mindfulness, and peace. He has published over 100 titles of sutra translations and commentaries, mindfulness manuals, poems, prose, and children’s stories, with more than 90 in English, including the best-selling Peace Is Every StepThe Art of PowerTrue LoveOld Path White Clouds and Anger. Thich Nhat Hanh’s key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.

Born in central Vietnam in 1926 Thich Nhat Hanh entered the monkhood at the age of sixteen at Tu Hieu Temple, Hue, and received the full ordination there in 1949. The Vietnam War confronted Buddhist monastics with the question of whether to adhere to the contemplative life and remain meditating in the monasteries, or to help the villagers suffering under bombings and other devastation of the war. Thich Nhat Hanh was one of those who chose to do both, helping to found the “Engaged Buddhism” movement, coining the term in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. His life has since been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society.

You can read more about Thay here:

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