What you think, what you say, and what you do is your continuation – a kind of energy that will continue for a long time. When your body has disintegrated, you continue onward because of the three kinds of energy that you produce everyday. After you leave this active form of being, you acquire other forms of being, because the energy you produce will result in new forms.

It’s like a cloud. When a cloud is no longer a cloud, it is something else, like rain or snow or hail. So when you don’t see a cloud in the sky, you don’t say that it’s no longer there. It is still there in other forms. That is also true with a human being. When you are no longer in this form of body, then your action – your karma, what you produce in terms of thinking and speech and action – is your continuation. That’s why when you practice mindfulness, concentration, and insight, you can assure a good, beautiful continuation in the future.

– Thich Nhat Hanh


lotus and koi
Thich Nhat Hanh is well known for coining the term “interbeing,” which refers to the interconnectedness of all things. Over the years, he has frequently used the image of a flower to explain this teaching. Sunflower, orchid, lotus – if you are mindful and concentrated, you can see that a flower is made of infinite non-flower elements. A flower is made up of not just rain but also the cloud that released the rain. It’s made up of not just soil but also the decomposed plants and animals that enrich the soil. If you remove any of the non-flower elements from the flower, the flower ceases to exist. “So the flower cannot exist alone,” Thich Nhat Hanh told me. “It has to inter-be with everything else in the cosmos.” The same is true of people. “A human being is made of non-human elements, and if you remove the non-human elements, the human being is no longer there. So a human cannot be by herself alone. She has to inter-be with everything else in the cosmos.”
“It’s like the lotus and the mud. Without the mud, you cannot grow a lotus. Without the mud of suffering, you cannot create happiness. This is why, if you touch the nature of interbeing, you don’t try to run away from suffering anymore. Instead you try to embrace your suffering. You look deeply into it to understand its nature and to lean how to make good use of suffering to produce happiness.”

– Andrea Miller interviewing Thich Nhat Hanh (from Shambhala Sun issue January 2013)