Thich Nhat Hanh: The Art Of Letting Go and Why It Isn’t What You Think

Thich Nhat Hanh The Art Of Letting Go

Gratitude and Joy

In truly letting go you practice gratitude. Mudita or joy arises when we are overcome with gratitude for all that we have, such that we no longer cling to some other longed-for result. Buddha’s definition of joy is more like “Unselfish joy.” It means that we don’t only find happiness when something good happens to us, but when others find happiness.

If you’ve ever had to say goodbye to love or friend so that they could continue on their life’s path – one that may not have continued to intertwine with your own – you may have felt pain when they found someone new to love or made a new friend that seemed to take your place. This is not true detachment. Joy arises when you find happiness even when others find joy – and it has little or nothing to do with you.

Related: 10 Signs it’s Time to Let Go

Upeksha (Equanimity)

Master Hanh describes the final quality of true love which sheds inordinate light on the true art of letting go.

He states,

“The fourth element of true love is upeksha, which means equanimity, non-attachment, nondiscrimination, even-mindedness, or letting go. Upa means “over,” and iksha means “to look.” You climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other. If your love has attachment, discrimination, prejudice, or clinging in it, it is not true love.

People who do not understand Buddhism sometimes think upeksha means indifference, but true equanimity is neither cold nor indifferent. If you have more than one child, they are all your children. Upeksha does not mean that you don’t love. You love in a way that all your children receive your love, without discrimination.”

Hanh explains that without this quality our love tends to become possessive – a stomping ground of the ego. We try to put our beloved in our pocket and carry them with us when they are more like the wind, or a butterfly, or a stream, needing to move and flow, or risk dying. This is not loved, this is destruction.

Related: What It Really Means When Someone Says “I love you”: A Zen MASTER Explains

For love to be true love, it must have elements of compassion, joy, and equanimity – and this is truly letting go.

The Art of Letting Go is Artless

The real secret is that letting go is not an art, it is an allowing, a being. A non-attached relationship is healthy, strong and filled with effortless love, kindness, and compassion. It is completely selfless because your sense of ‘self’ is no longer asserted in every situation. If you want to truly let go, you’ve got to love more, not less. This is the most common misunderstanding about this priceless teaching of the Buddha.


This article (A Zen Master Explains the Art of Letting Go, And It Isn’t What You Think) was originally created for The Mind Unleashed. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution and author bio.

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