November 19, 2018

No Room for Love in Zen

Today I am going to use the word Zen instead of Buddhism, because if I say There is no room for love in Buddhism, people will think I am crazy. Of course, there is no room for love in Buddhism, but let's just talk about Zen, by Zen I mean the lineage of Buddhist teachers from Bodhidharma through master Dogen up to contemporary successors in Dogen's lineage.

I can imagine some people would like to argue with me right at the beginning. How can you claim there is no room for love in Zen? And then we would have an argument about the definition of love. But there is no room for argument in Zen either. It seems there is no room for anything in Zen, right?

Exactly, in fact there is no room for anything in Zen. So we can just pack up and go home. Or we can discuss, not argue but question and investigate. What does it mean that there is no room for anything in Zen? That means that we should not attach to anything. There is no room for advise like Look, that is really important, keep that in your mind. In Zen there is nothing we should keep in our mind. And if you say that our mind should be empty, ditch that idea, too. There is no room for empty mind in Zen, there is no room for unempty mind and anything else that looks similar to empty or unempty. Still, there is something in Zen that is important. That important thing is not something in your mind, but something real here and now.

Anyway, what about love. You must have come across the word compassion in connection with Buddhism or even Zen. What is the difference between compassion and love? More or less not much difference. Anyway, before we can express authentic compassion, we have to let go of ideas about compassion. True compassion comes out of our natural action before we think. If you see a blind person trying to cross the street, before you think, you help the person. But if you first think, oh, as a Buddhist... then no compassion follows, it is calculation. Anyway, how come there is no room for love in Buddhism? There is no room for romantic ideas about love.

When it comes to romantic relationships, when a man falls in love with a woman or vice versa or LBGT or what comes relationships, they have no room in Zen. That does not mean that such relationships are not welcome or discouraged. There is just not much comment. Have you ever heard a Zen master discuss tennis? Maybe comparing zazen to the moment before you serve the ball. But do Zen masters discuss the problems and theory of tennis? No. Do Zen masters from Bodhidharma through Dogen and master Sawaki ever discussed how to make a violin? Not likely. Why? Because these are specific fields of human civilized efforts. And so is a romantic love. It seems the relationship we have with our closest friends or parents or children or partners are so important and there must be a way to address these relationship in a Zen way. The relationships are important, of course.  It is important how  we treat our partners or parents or children. But there is no teaching on love in Zen, like how to love or why love somebody or how to express love or compassion. Instead Zen teaches something like: Forget about it, man. Just forget about it. Master Dogen taught that to study our true self, we have to forget ourselves. We have to forget ourselves and all ideas about love and romance and just become completely stupid at this moment. In that moment of perfect stupidity we can see our partner for the first time in our lives. That is a kind of hello moment, a moment of rebirth. In fact we don't even know whether that person is our partner. We have no idea if we love each other. A baby that has just been born does not think I love you, mom. It just acts - without any notions of love or hatred. It sucks completely. It shouts completely. The whole universe breathes in and out.

It seems like this is my instruction or advice on how to love someone. No, no. As I said, Zen has nothing to say about love. It just notices there is a complete action at this  moment when we are completely ourselves. A human love, romantic love is a kind of story, a movie. It may be very dramatic, frustrating, beautiful, sweet, strange, bitter, dark, crazy, passionate, wild, lukewarm, mutual or one-sided. But it is always a kind of story. People call this story love. But zen teaches say that when we let go of our stories, there is something truly brilliant. A monk comes to a master after a few years. He is touched by the moment and expects the master to show some emotions. The master, to the monk's disappointment, shows no trace of warmth. "Why are you so cold, master? We haven't seen each other for such a long time", says the monk. The master says: "There is something very intimate in the moment when we meet here and now." That means that when we truly, completely meet someone, there is more passion than in the wildest sex ever. But please, do not imitate this story. Forget this story and see for yourself what happens when you do not imitate anyone. Be spontaneous.

When I read my first book about Zen, it mentioned an old Chinese master talking about the sound of the creek in the valley. If you go to the valley with your beloved partner, it will be difficult to hear the sound of the creek. But if you say: "Do you mind if I forget about you for a while, I'd like to be quiet for some time..." Sit down, forget yourself and all love stories and koans and books about Zen and just listen to the creek. In that moment, true love will explode through all corners of the universe.

There is no room for love in Zen, but there is room for nature in its original form. I think it is possible to find something a bit deeper than human stories in the nature when it is revealed to us in its original form.

It is very difficult to find freedom and liberation from human delusions in the middle of a romantic relationship. But if you let go for a while, it is possible. There is plenty of room for true love when we dare to let go of everything. True love has no name. It is not a category. It is the original state of things. Nobody has grasped it yet. Nobody has caught and maintaned it. It will always escape. It is perfectly free. No teaching has ever defined it clearly.  Yet, beyond definitions and philosophy, it likes human beings and all creatures and mountains and clouds. It is always ready to dance with you.

1 comment:

Rory O'Moore said...

I once went to help a blind man cross the road in Notting Hill many years ago and received a stream of verbal abuse. He didn’t want any help. I don’t bother any more. If they need help they can ask.