"Tin Nguoi" is the Vietnamese title of this little book. It means "humanity," and humanity is precisely what Nhat Hanh reflects on in it. What it means to be human, what it means to seach for one's true self, what it means to live in community with other humans: each of these questions are explored through a series of short story-like reflections on Nhat Hanh's years as a young Buddhist monk.
At first reading, the book seems slight. But like most of Nhat Hanh's books, it's better thought of as simple rather than simplistic. We make the world too complicated with our rushing about and our efforts to master everything. Nhat Hanh's prose offers a simpler, slower, more meditative approach to reality, and thus mirrors the points he wishes to make.
So his stories about memorizing large books as part of his novice training, or of being assigned to look after the cattle (kept by the monks solely for their manure), or his delightful sketches of fellow-novice Brother Man or monastic cook Aunt Tu, generally aim to teach a lesson about what it means to follow the Buddha's path. They are parables, and as such will provoke any number of reflections on the part of the perceptive reader. The chapter dealing with koans is one of the most insightful treatments of the subject I've ever read. It alone is worth the price of the book.