Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Call Me by My True Names

--by Thich Nhat Hanh (Jul 13, 2015)

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a world renowned Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr.  

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On Jul 10, 2015 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 Compassion is like unconditional love, not bound by right or wrong or good or evil laws.Compassion has no boundaries or barriers. Compassion is like mercy offered to any one regardless of flaws. I used to begin my classes with meditation in a state university . There was no reference to any religion.The students loved it and they found it very helpful for relaxing their body and quieting their mind. One of the professors objected to  starting my classes with meditation in a state university. It took the turn of a scandal. According to me, I was not violating any law as meditation is not religious.  In his eyes, I was trying to convert the students to follow a religion. This situation presented a great learning opportunity for me to apply compassion to my apparently adversarial colleague.I requested him to visit my class any day and then make a judgment about what I was doing. He accepted my invitation and it resulted in a respectful and cordial genuine relationship. Practicing compassion has made me humble and has helped me  keep my heart open to relate to others with no expectation in return.

Compassion, like unconditional love, is a spontaneous emotion with no agenda for getting anything in return.It is not imposed on anybody.It is not offered when someone asks for it.When I see someone in pain or hurting, I deeply feel for that person and offer my helping hand to him. A compassionate act does not look for a reward in return. It is an offering from the heart. Compassionate actions have enriched and fulfilled my heart.

This poem eloquently expresses the beauty of compassion and kindness. I read it over and over and it feels my heart with joyful gratitude.

May we feel compassion for us, for the people close to us and far away from us, and especially those who disagree with us and may hurt our feelings.


Jagdish P dave

On Jul 10, 2015 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 One of the phrases that helps me find and share compassion with everyone is, "we are all tall children." I also remember, Hurt people, hurt people. Healed people, heal people. This means we have the choice to view everyone as a child, not in a demeaning way, but in a way that we can see their innocence, their hurt, their heart and we can offer kindness and compassion. No one is born hurting others, it is learned through pain. Those who hurt us are often unaware of how deep their actions affect us. Compassion and kindness go a long way in building a bridge between us. Hugs from my heart to yours.

On Jul 11, 2015 david doane wrote:

Compassion isn't forced on me, but it is available for me, coming from me and to me.  Compassion is a natural extension of the fact that all that is is one.  Just as it makes sense for me to have compassion for every part of myself, it makes sense for me to be compassionate toward all that is, from the smallest creature that lives to fellow human beings to the planet and to the universe of which I am a part.  I am to be compassionate of what I like and don't like, what I consider good and what I consider evil, of the light and the dark.  I have been touched by being on the receiving end of compassion, feeling compassion and love from others more than I had for myself, which resulted in my increased compassion for myself and for others.  What helps me be compassionate is awareness that we are one, reminding myself of that, reflecting and meditating on that.  Others have said "I look across the room and see me" and "the only you I know is me," and statements like that help me be compassionate.

On Jul 13, 2015 Vedashini wrote:

 Compassion is nurturing, sustaining womb of God, where no one is excluded. when we become aware of it we stop being unjust to anybody and we take action with communal passion (com-passion) for justice for all!

On Jul 14, 2015 Sophia wrote:

Hi this is such a beautiful poem and thanks for sharing, but if my real name is compassion then how I  can cause pain?

On Jul 14, 2015 Sidney DeKoven wrote: got to learn to forgive and one way is by seeing ourselves in our persecutor(s). Being Jewish, I've had a particularly difficult time having compassion for the Nazi's but just as the poet sees himself as also the pirate rapist of a 12 year old girl whose heart has not yet learned to love , so too can I see myself as both the persecuted one and the Nazi who "knows not what he does". Forgiveness and compassion are necessary not just for those we forgive but maybe even more so for ourselves for we cannot spiritually unfold with bitterness and hatred in our hearts. 

On Jul 14, 2015 Zoe Keithley wrote:

 Compassion is only possible when I can first embrace my own humanity, where I've grown & where I've not yet grown, and where I am in the process. If I cannot forgive myself my own humanity, how can I forgive others theirs? And if I can allow and trust the process of growth in nature all around me, can I not accept it in myself and you?

On Jul 14, 2015 paashi wrote:

In Thich Nhat Hanh poem,  Real names for me are the states of consciousness that are arising in all living beings at various stagesof evolutionary life.  Acceptance of this creative dance of life through the lens of compassion is where we are being pulled towards.  This helps while struggling with the presence of egoic tendencies  in self and others while marveling at the goodness and wonder present around us.

On Jul 15, 2015 Ingeborg Mara Hecking wrote:

In fact it was only one sentence that kept me going and alive for years. A sentence said with compassion and about compassion. On the phone. But with a depth in the voice so these words were nourishing and warming. They went right to my heart. The words were: "Mara, you do have my deepest compassion".
My real name is not Mara. But in saying Mara the way this person did it, it would not only open up my heart and help me out of a shocked state of being, it literally kept me alive.
Reconnecting to the warm sound these words were said with many years ago, opens up my heart in compassion for myself and for people around me even if I might not understand what they are doing or saying. Sometimes I still find it challenging to stay compassionate when I am hurt badly or feel treated with injustice and feelings of revenge come up in my mind. To remember I am part of everything, like written in the poem, is helpful to me then.
And I practice to reconnect with the feeling I had when I listened to the sound of the voice on the phone.

On Jul 15, 2015 mamta wrote:

 Wow! Amazing words! They help me to see myself in everyone and everything - not just the aspects of life I like to be part of, but also inspire me to not avert my eyes from aspects of life that are difficult to look at or to be with - and use them to help me see and accept parts of myself that may be hidden. 
Very inspiring to help accept all that is.
Helps me to understand the word interbeing much better. Thank you.

On Aug 26, 2016 zinhle msimango wrote:


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