12/28/2006 01:59 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Fragrant Palm Leaves for the New Year

Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals, 1962-1966
Thich Nhat Hanh

Reading Thich Nhat Hanh's Essential Writings is like having Michael Jordan teach you how to play basketball. The focus is not on the dazzling tricks. It's about the fundamentals. And they are few --- compassion, mindfulness, tolerance, breathing.

Hearing Thich Nhat Hanh lecture is to experience holiness on a very high order. We once drove hours to hear him talk about death. You would expect him to focus on theology. But what I took away was completely practical: Hold the dying person's feet, as he/she may not feel connected to the earth.

But it is when he is most personal that Thich Nhat Hanh is at his best. And 1962 to 1966 were key years for him. With some other "committed" Buddhist monks, he had tried to broker peace in his native Vietnam. No one --- not even the Buddhist hierarchy --- wanted any. In 1966, he was exiled. (He didn't return to Vietnam for 40 years.) Read more at HeadButler