In 1997 I spent three months in India. A friend in Delhi had Old Path, White Clouds, a very thick, novel-like account of the Buddha’s life by Thich Nhat Hanh. I soaked it up like a sponge, reading for hours in the land where the events recounted in the book had happened millennia earlier.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s intention was to make the Buddha and his disciples come alive, and that is how I experienced them. I was moved by the Buddha’s calm and even his humor in the face of insult and slander, his compassion when he helped a serial murderer to awaken, how he was saddened by a major split in the sangha, and the way he taught through his final moments. Every word on the page awoke in me the wish to follow this path for myself and discover the liberation that this awakened individual was pointing to in my own heart.

I’ve read this book several times since. It was my bedtime reading one summer retreat at Plum Village, and I looked forward to reading it each evening by flashlight. A good story never grows old.

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