Reconnecting with nature to reboot our “spiritual self” activates a feeling of self-transcendence
Video: Buddhist Teachings on Ngondro, The Foundation Practices with Venerable Zasep Rinpoche
Kucchivikara-vattha: The Monk with Dysentery (Sutra teachings) “If you don’t tend to one another, who then will tend to you?”
“Putting Compassion on the Scientific Map”: Compassion Boosts Happiness/Health; and Research Indicates That Practicing Buddhists Are Happier than Average.
Video with wonderful mantra chanting: Om Gate Gate Paragate Para Samgate Bodhi Soha, the essence of Heart Sutra and Emptiness
Music Mantra Video: Taking Refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and the Four Immeasurables wonderfully sung by Yoko Dharma with video visualizations
Broken Commitments: 3 Teachers weigh in on practice “overload” and breaking Vajrayana practice promises. What do we do about it?
Dalai Lama and Lama Tsongkhapa: teachings on calm abiding meditation that go beyond “the breath” as the focus — targeting the main affliction
Music Mantra Video: Om Mani Padme Hum wonderfully chanted by Yoko Dharma, the sacred sound of compassionate Buddha Chenrezig
Tara Book excerpt and teaching: Who is Tara and how can She help us? An introduction to Tara, Karma, Shunyata, Dependent Arising, and Buddha Nature by Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
What’s with all this consort union in Tantric Buddhism? No, it’s not about sexual fantasies. The psychology of Yab-Yum consorts, union of wisdom and compassion
Video: “How do I deal with my anger? Sometimes it consumes me and hurts others”: a Buddhist student asks teacher Ven. Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
Video: “Experience Buddhism” with Namdrol Rinpoche “Buddhism emphasizes, and lays its very foundations on, equanimity.”
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and other teachers recommend Kṣitigarbha mantra and practice for times of disaster, especially hurricane and earthquake, because of the great Bodhisattva’s vow
Medicine Buddha healing mantras chanted by the amazing Yoko Dharma
Why 35 Confessional Buddhas practice and “The Bodhisattva’s Confession of Moral Downfalls” is a critical purifying practice for Buddhists
What the Dalai Lama and Patch Adams Have in Common: Laughter, and Compassion, the Best Medicine
“Preliminary practices… clear and enrich our minds, allowing practice to progress smoothly” — Thubten Chodron. Why Ngondro is a lifetime practice, and a “complete path”
Tantra Helps “Stop Ordinary Perception”, and is the Fast Path to Enlightenment. But How Do Modern Buddhists Relate to Deities?
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
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