Summary of True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

  • Post category:Summaries
  • Post last modified:February 2, 2024

Summary: 5 min

Book reading time: 1 hour

Score: 8/10

Book published in: 2006

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  • In Buddhism, there are four elements of true love: kindness, joy, compassion, and freedom.
  • Being mindful helps you get in touch with these.
  • The best way to be mindful is to practice meditation by means of mindful breathing.
  • There are four mantras of love you can tell both to others and yourself:
    • Dear one, I am here for you.
    • Dear one, I know that you are here, and it makes me very happy.
    • Dear one, I know that you are suffering, that is why I am here for you.
    • Dear one, I am suffering, please help.

Table of Contents

What True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart Talks About

True Love is a book written by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s an introduction to Buddhism with a focus on mindfulness and meditation.

I was looking for a book about love and living from the heart instead of living in your head and Chat-GPT recommended this one.

Not going to lie, I was a little disappointed. The book is mostly an introduction to mindfulness and only talks about love in the first five chapters.


Summary of True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart Written by Thich Nhat Hanh

Chapter 1: The Four Aspects of Love

According to Buddhism, there are four elements of true love.

  • Maitri: loving kindness, the ability to bring joy and happiness. Based on understanding the person that you love. You need to train to love properly.
  • Karuna: compassion, the ability to ease the pain of another person.
  • Mudita: joy.
  • Upeksha: freedom. True love brings freedom to the person you love.

Chapter 2: Love Is Being There

To love, in the context of Buddhism, is above all to be there.

It’s not easy to do, so you need to practice. Being there is also a matter of time. Do you have time to love?

The most precious gift you can give to the one you love is your true presence.

The best way to train to be present is to practice mindful breathing.

You can also repeat the mantra: “dear one, I am here for you”.

Chapter 3: Recognizing the Presence of the Other

Once you are present, you can acknowledge the presence of others.

To love is to recognize; to be loved is to be recognized by the other.

It’s not true love if you don’t acknowledge the presence of someone.

Recognize the presence of the person you love several times each day.

The mantra is: “Dear one, I know that you are here, and it makes me very happy.”

Chapter 4: Being There When Someone Is Suffering

The third mantra is: “Dear one, I know that you are suffering, that is why I am here for you.”

Your presence is a miracle to those who suffer.

Chapter 5: Overcoming Pride

This mantra is the hardest. It’s for a situation when you suffer because of, you think, the person you love.

You refuse to go to them and ask for help as a result, because of pride. But there’s no pride in love. Don’t let it keep you apart.

The mantra is: “Dear one, I am suffering, please help.” Talking helps clear misunderstandings.

Chapter 6: Deep Listening

The four mantras for the practice of true love are:

  1. Dear one, I am here for you.
  2. Dear one, I know that you are here, and it makes me very happy.
  3. Dear one, I know that you are suffering, that is why I am here for you.
  4. Dear one, I am suffering, please help.

Learn them by heart, and practice them.

Now, what happens when the situation is so dire that you can no longer practice these mantras?

In Buddhism, it’s called samyojana which translates to “internal formation”.

When you say something that makes someone suffer, it creates something in their chest, some sort of knot. If they are trained in Buddhism, they can untie the knot. If not, the knot grows and the person we love becomes a bomb that can explode at any moment.

If we love someone, we should train in being able to listen. By listening with calm and understanding, we can ease the suffering of another person.

Just one hour of deep listening per week is very effective.

Chapter 7: Learning to Speak with Love Again

Beyond loving listening, there is loving speaking.

It’s important to speak with love so that the other person is receptive.

A man could not write a love letter to his father. So he was instructed to meditate on his 5-year-old self for a week, bringing his inner child compassion.

Then he was instructed to do the same thing but for his 5-year-old father.

Meditation is the practice of looking deeply into the nature of your suffering and your joy.

Chapter 8: Restoring Peace Within Yourself

Your love for the other, your ability to love another person, depends on your ability to love yourself.


If you can’t love yourself, you won’t be able to love others.

We are each a king reigning over a territory with 5 rivers.

  1. Our body
  2. Sensations:
  3. Perceptions
  4. Mental formations: there are 51 of them.
  5. Consciousness

We don’t really want to rule over this kingdom which has many conflicts so we mainly run away from it.

Meditation is the practice of coming back to the kingdom.

Caring for yourself, reestablishing peace in yourself, is the basic condition for helping someone else.

Chapter 9: The Energy of Mindfulness

Meditation helps you understand what’s happening because it helps you see reality. If you’re in pain, meditation helps you understand it and look directly at it.

When the seed of anger manifests on the level of our conscious mind, our immediate awareness, it is because the seed of anger is in the depths of our consciousness, and then we begin to suffer.

The point, when this happens, isn’t to suppress the anger, but to invite another energy to take care of it.

Use mindful breathing to do that.

Chapter 10: Caring for Our Pain

Every time you have an energy that needs to be transformed, like jealousy or fear, do something to care for this energy.

Become mindful. If you manage to keep mindfulness for 5-10 minutes, you will immediately feel better.

You will also understand the nature of your anger, despair, or fear.

Chapter 11: The Principle of Nonduality

When pain arises, it stays in the conscious mind then goes back to the unconscious. When you embrace it with mindfulness, it becomes weaker.

Chapter 12: Reconciliation

The principle of non-duality entails understanding that you are both pain and happiness, and must not discriminate against one another.

Don’t suppress one side in favor of another.

We must have a nonviolent attitude with regard to our suffering, our pain. We must take care of our suffering the way we would take care of our own baby.

When you meditate and touch your heart, you will hear its suffering if you drink or smoke. After a few weeks, you will stop.

Chapter 13: Coming to Life Again

When we are not mindful, we’re like the dead. When we are mindful again, we are alive again.

Chapter 14: Telephone Meditation

Next time the telephone rings, become mindful. Listen to it. Only pick it up after the third ring.

Chapter 15: Everybody Should Practice Mindfulness

Practice mindfulness.

Chapter 16: Getting Rid of Our Concepts

The Nirvana – the greatest state Buddhists can reach – is a state of nonfear in daily life.

Fear is born from our ignorance, from our concepts regarding life, death, being, and nonbeing. If we are able to get rid of all these concepts by touching the reality within ourselves, then nonfear will be there and the greatest relief will become possible.

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