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Maya Sammane
Ms. Smit
AP Literature & Composition
9 January 2015
A Tale for the Time Being and Singing the Living Tradition: Peace as a Way of Life
The Buddhist way of life is widely known for its tendency to look toward peace and Zen
in sequence with everything in life. When a problem or obstacle arises for those who follow this
belief, peace of mind is always there to ease the way. In the novel A Tale for the Time Being,
Ruth Ozeki is able to outline the lives of several characters while at the same time discuss how
important the Buddhist state of mind is to this group of people. Even though this is not the only
topic in the book, characters in the novel become submerged with the Buddhist point of view that
Zen is a beautiful way to deal with what life throws their way, and that recognizing others
suffering is necessary to a peaceful life. In poem #505 of Singing the Living Tradition by
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, the art and lifestyle of adhering to maintaining peace of
mind is emphasized. In both of these works, Ozeki and Hanh demonstrate how rewarding and
mentally beneficial the Buddhist way of life can be toward oneself, ones peers, and the world. In
A Tale for the Time Being, several main characters show how important it is to be peaceful when
interacting with others, and in Thich Nhat Hanhs poem, he illuminates the importance of
approaching all aspects of life, including people, with a peacefully passionate attitude.
Ozekis novel is concerned with a multitude of characters, and one of them is Nao
Yasutani. Nao spends a great deal of her life suffering from the all-too-familiar obstacles that her

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life seems to incessantly attract. She experiences torment from teachers and students at school,
then returns home to her parents who have no idea what she is going through. Nao is preparing to
eventually take her own life, seeing that her constant suffering never seems to come to an end.
However, Nao has a certain way of dealing with some of lifes obstacles. For reference, Nao
spends a lot of time in the beginning of the novel characterizing her experiences in a pessimistic
voice. In one moment in the novel, one of the first points where her perspective takes a
significant turn from the norm, Nao is being emotionally and verbally harassed by not only
students in her class, but also the substitute teacher who is dying to get some kind of approval
from the students. Nao, no matter how hurt or offended, seems to avoid returning the negative
treatment. Nao describes just how awfully the teacher, Ugawa Sensei, treats her, but she
complies and thinks to herself that he is not a bad man and he is simply insecure (Ozeki 78). In
Hanhs poem, a specific line states that it is important to recognize the existence of life and
the suffering that are going on around us just as Nao does in a moment where she could
otherwise fight fire with fire (Hanh10-11). Ozekis character Nao displays an ideal than Hanh
sees as an ideal way to view lifes situations: recognizing that other people are suffering and that
a non-belligerent mode of action is necessary to promote a peaceful way of life.
Another character in A Tale for the Time Being that seems to recognize the fragility of life
and how important it is to treat the world in a peaceful manner is Naos father, Haruki Yasutani.
Ozeki builds up Haruki as a character who has been beaten down by life; he has lost his job, is
suffering from depression, and has even become suicidal. Haruki previously works for a
company in which he designs advanced machinery and interfaces. Haruki consequently loses his
job because he refuses to allow his technology to be used for violent purposes. When the
company he works for intends to use his interfaces for killing a group of people in war, Haruki

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immediately declines the request since he will not stand the suffering of others to be on his
conscience. Haruki continues to think of the guilt he would feel if he caused suffering to so many
families (388). This recognition of the necessity of treating all life with respect and reverence is a
common Buddhist truth, and is also one that Hanh emphasizes in his poem. Hanh sheds light on
the importance of ceasing to be the cause of suffering to each other (7-8). This universal
Buddhist belief is touched on in both Ozekis novel and Hanhs poem, demonstrating just how
much weight this belief holds to maintaining a peaceful life for oneself and ones environment,
including all other living beings.
Depending on the readers point of view, Jiko, Naos grandmother and Harukis mother,
holds arguably the largest view of importance on the Buddhist teachings. Jiko has spent a large
portion of her life being dedicated to her role as a Buddhist nun. Earlier in her life, she decides to
channel her energy and motivation into the Buddhist way of life. She is one of the reasons why
Haruki immediately becomes happier when he visits her back home, and why Nao begins to see
how beneficial it is to adhere to life as Jiko does, in a peaceful and positive manner. When Nao
spends a summer with Jiko, Jiko teaches Nao all about Buddhism, Zen, and positivity. Her dayto-day rituals and routines start to rub off on Nao, and Nao begins to see the significance that
Jiko sees in this life-long passion. Jiko shows Nao how to be thankful for arbitrary matters, like
the fact that they have a toilet in which they can use to their liking. Nao is taught a saying that
promotes thankfulness and expression of consideration at what life offers to people, and Nao
begins to see that it was okay just to feel grateful sometimes and show her appreciation toward
what seems to be nuances in life (167). Hanhs poem, similarly, communicates the significance
of Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion toward what life offers to people (5).

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Ozeki and Hanh, in a collective manner, both succeed in communicating the general
teachings of Buddhism in their works, A Tale for the Time Being and poem #505 Singing the
Living Tradition. Both of these writers are able to convey, through portrayal of the message
through characters and poetry, that in order to have the ideal outlook on life, one must provide
compassion to those who are suffering, recognize the gifts that life provides, and be able to deal
with lifes circumstances with an attitude that exudes peace and positivity.
Works Cited
Ozeki, Ruth. A Tale for the Time Being. New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.
Shantideva. Tag Archives: Thich Nhat Hanh. Life is but a dream! Wordpress.com. Web.
8 January 2015.