Painter and digital Thangka artist Jampay Dorje aims to bring “Thangka painting into a modern era” with spectacular art, lessons for students, and a life-long project to illustrate all of the 11 Yogas of Naropa
Buddha teaches us to view every meal as if we were reluctant cannibals: Samyukta Agama Sutra 373, the Four Nutriments
Letting Go — letting go of past, letting go of future, letting go is the hardest thing to do: Na Tumhaka Sutta
Becoming Gesar, the fearless Buddhist: How to overcome fear in uncertain times, according to Pali Sutta, Mahayana Sutra and Tantra
The Hand of Buddha defeats the three poisons : Vajrapani (literally, “Vajra Hand”) — Guardian of Shakyamuni Himself; Vajrapani, the power of the mind to overcome obstacles such as pride, anger, hate and jealousy
Tonglen video: Why giving and taking practice is an important kindness meditation and Bodhichitta practice; how to do it: taught by Zasep Rinpoche
Understanding Dependent Co-Arising is critical to Buddhist practice: The Great Causes Discourse Maha-nidana Sutta
Pali Sutta for Our Age: Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Book Review of a Classic
The bridge between science and Buddhism, atoms and no atoms, theism and athiesm; Yidam deity meditation and the Cognitive Science of Tantra
“Every one has Buddha Nature.” A teaching video: Venerable Zasep Rinpoche with mantra chanting by Yoko Dharma
Cankama Sutta: Walking Meditation Sutra: put some mileage on your Buddhist practice with formal mindful walking
Milam Sleep Yoga: lucid dreaming can bring us closer to experiencing non-dualistic “reality” than waking meditation
2017 Tsog Dates: Happy Dakini Day — Introducing the Wisdom of the Female Enlightened Dakinis
Guan Yin and the ten great protections of the Goddess of Mercy: Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion
The Maha Samaya Sutta: The Great Meeting Sutra: refuge from fear in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Soma Sutta: Sister Soma gets the better of Mara — what difference does being a woman make in Buddhism? None
Healing video: full Medicine Buddha guided meditation with Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche; with Medicine Buddha Mantra chanting by Yoko Dharma
Phurba or Kila: the most potent of wrathful ritual implements in Vajrayana Buddhism, symbolizes the Karma activity of the Buddhas
Happy Birthday Venerable Zasep Rinpoche: May the pure white light of your peerless wisdom shine undiminished until the end of existence
Buddha: How to protect wealth, associate with virtuous friends and relate to your spouse, employer, children: guidance for lay practitioners in Sigalovada Sutta
“Mind is the creator of our own happiness or suffering”—Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche teaches Lojong  Seven-Point Mind Training
The Path of Purification? No, my friend. Ratha-vinita Sutta (Chariot Relay Sutra) teaches us not to confuse the seven purifications, with the destination, Nirvana
Atisha’s Great Praise: 11th century wisdom.
Why Buddha Nature is one of the most important understandings in Mahayana Buddhism and why Tathagatagarbha Buddha Nature is not the soul
Why do Buddhas and Enlightened Beings need offerings? The simple answer: they don’t. The better answer is…
Book Review: Tara in the Palm of Your Hand: a guide to the practice of the twenty-one Taras in the Surya Gupta lineage
Amitabha Sutra: cutting delusions with one-pointed blissful contemplation of Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land
Reviving the genuine Dharma ritual art traditions: an interview with Vajra artisan and craftsman Rigdzin Pema Tuthob
Great Compassion Mantra: Purification, healing and protection, the Maha Karuna Dharani Sutra — benefiting all beings
Video: Why is Mantra important to daily practice? For protection: “We are human beings. We have many problems.”
A Sutra for Troubled Times: Usnisa Vijaya Dharani Sutra and Mantra— Purify Karma, Eliminate Illness and Prevent calamities
Naked wisdom for degenerate times: Vajrayogini, enlightened wisdom queen, leads us to bliss, clear light and emptiness, despite modern obstacles
Headed for darkness or light? Of world’s 7.5 billion people, Tamonata Sutta says there are four types of people, two headed to darkness
Interview Lama Dr. Shannon Young: Dzogchen teacher focuses on bringing Dharma practice into daily life and bridging heritage with modern life
H.H. 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje in Canada for one month, arrived in Toronto for teachings
What’s so special about Hayagriva? This wrathful Heruka emanation of Amitabha, with horse head erupting from fiery hair, literally neighs with the Hrih scream of Wisdom
Pali Sutta for Our Age: Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Book Review of a Classic

Pali Sutta for Our Age: Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Book Review of a Classic

Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha is about as close any of us will get to actually simulating what it felt like to live alongside and learn from the greatest teacher of all tilme. This book is as much an experience as a classic book.

There are many great English translations of much of the Pali Canon — most of it freely available online — making the great teachings of the Buddha highly accessible. Although there have been many “narrative collections” — and even one or two “novelizations” — of Buddha’s life and teachings, only one really stood out for me over the years. I first read Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha years ago. I consider this a classic and I return to it often, probably annually, and I realized I’ve never reviewed this timeless book. If you haven’t added this to your library, or your ebook library, here’s why I think you should consider adding it. (It’s worth noting that this priceless book has a collective average 4.8 stars out of 5 rating on Good Reads with 2505 reviewers. That’s saying something.)

Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh, hardcover: 599 pages
Publisher: Parallax Pr (November 1990)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0938077406
ISBN-13: 978-0938077404

It’s difficult to characterize Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha, by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s an older book (1987) that didn’t get as much attention as some of his other books, but it’s worth a look for anyone who hasn’t read it, or someone starting out in Buddhism, or someone who want a modern-day approachable version of Sutta teachings.

Is it a novelization of Buddha’s life and teachings — as has been unsuccessfully attempted a few times (unsuccessfully, at least from the point of view of sutta authority of teachings) — or is it a non-fiction “biography” style narrative, or is it a collection of the Suttas, or is it something else? Mostly, it’s something else. It reads like a novel, certainly, but carries the full weight of credible teachings from the Suttas, wound together into a narrative from one of Buddha’s monks — who we first meet as a boy “untouchable” in India.

In Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha, the great Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, makes the original Pali Suttas more engaging to modern students.

I suppose it takes a great teacher, who can speak with authority (as opposed to a scholar or a novelist), to carry this off. Across 600 pages, each time I read, I find myself nodding and smiling and learning and making notes.


  • MUST READ for new students or people considering Buddhism
  • MUST READ for any student who has struggled with staying focused on translations of Sutta now available
  • SHOULD READ for any Buddhist interested in the original Sutta teachings
  • GOOD READ for anyone who enjoys uplifting stories with moral compass (regardless of spiritual path)
  • AVOID the READ if you are hyper critical of any treatment of Sutta material (although bearing in mind Thich Nhat Hanh is a well-known teacher who took few liberties with the material for dramatic purposes, other than the narrative binding character).

Overall Summary

Written in a clear, simple, approachable style, Thich Nhat Hanh has achieved a blend of “engaged” and enjoyable read with purity and authority of teaching. Limiting his narrative to the Pali Suttas, even though he is a Zen (Mahayana) teacher makes the book unversally appealing. The choice of winding the sutta content into a narrative story-line is not new, but here, it is masterfully crafted.

Modern narrative engagement: enjoy the read

Perhaps the concepts of “enjoy” and Sutta are not meant to go together; after all, we speak in Sutta of the twelve links of Dependent Co-Origination and the downsides of emotional attachment. Still, a certain level of enjoyment is needed in a read of Sutta for the average student. This book is NOT fo scholars and probably not for teachers, but it’s wonderful for most students. Thich Nhat Hanh strikes that needed balance of “modern engagement” and “authority” of teachings.

In the extensive Appendix, Thich Nhat Hanh lists the many sutras he incorporates into the narrative. He writes,

“In researching and writing this book I have drawn almost exclusively from the texts of the so-called “Lesser Vehicle,” purposely using very little from Mahayana texts in order to demonstrate that the more expansive ideas and doctrines associated with Mahayana can be found in the earlier Pali Nikayas…”

No miracles, plenty of profound wisdom

Thich Nhat Hanh, the great zen teacher.

Thich Nhat Hanh limited the narrative to the older Pali Sutta and avoided “miraculous” events that are layered into some stories.

A quick look at the contents (below) reveals that all the key teachings are contained in his wonderful narrative work. Although it is true that some liberties are taken in the connecting narrative — in terms of adding “dialogue” to the characters who interact with the Buddha — that is devised to make this a cohesive story — the actual Sutta content is sincerely and properly presented in modern, approachable language.

The Vast scope: but a fast read

I have copies of nearly all translated sutta in English. It would be a daunting task to work through them all, as I have been trying to do over the last few years. The Suttas are priceless, and perfect, and engaging, but they were written centuries ago. Which is why I frequently return to this book. Thich Nhat Hanh presents most of the most important teachings in a narrative style that pulls you through the entire body of teachings in days, not weeks. This will never replace sutta, but it’s a wonderful introduction.

A quick summary of the book reveals just how powerful the content is from a modern-practice point of view.


In the first chapter, the narrative character Svasti meets the Buddha in Uruvela village. It’s worth noting that Svasti becomes an important narrative glue to the overall narrative. For those who have studied Sutta, the titles of the chapters below will be enough to demonstrate how comprehensive this narrative is:




Leave a reply

Are you a Sentient Being? *

Awarded Top 50 Buddhist Blog

Copyright Buddha Weekly 2007-2017. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to excerpt stories with full credit and a link to Budddha Weekly. Please do not use more than an excerpt. Subject to terms of use and privacy statement. All information on this site, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote  understanding and knowledge. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, including medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Buddha Weekly does not recommend or endorse any information that may be mentioned on this website. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is solely at your own risk.

Send this to a friend