Today’s readings are John 15:9-17 and “Hae Cho Asks About Buddha”, #130 in The Whole World Is A Single Flower.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Dwell in my love. If you heed my commands, you will dwell in my love, as I have heeded my Father’s commands and dwell in his love. ‘I have spoken thus to you, so that my joy may be in you, and your joy complete. This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this, that someone should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is about. I have called you friends, because I have disclosed to you everything that I heard from my Father. You did not choose me:I chose you. I appointed you to go on and bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that the Father may give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my commandment to you: love one another.
“Hae Cho Asks About Buddha” (from The Whole World Is A Single Flower)
Hae Cho asked Zen Master Poep An, “What is Buddha?”
“That is Buddha,” Poep An said.
1. What is Buddha?
2. Poep An said, “Hae Cho! ” What does this mean?
3. Hae Cho replied, “Yes?” and Poep An said, “That is Buddha. ” What does this mean?
In this week’s gospel I am taken with the word “dwell.” In other translations (see the New Revised Standard Version and the King James) this word is translated as “abide.” Merriam-Webster online defines “dwell” as “to live in a particular place” but also “to remain for a time,” “to live as a resident” or “to keep attention directed (when used with upon).” The same dictionary gives us the following for “abide” – “to accept or bear,” “to stay or live somewhere,” or even “to endure without yielding.” There are many different shades of meaning, many options to consider.
What about “dwelling upon” Jesus’ love? I might be able to dwell or ruminate upon it, but do I understand that love? Have I experienced or, as a Zen teacher might say, attained that love? One way we can learn about Jesus’ love is by looking at his actions in his community. Sometimes this love was manifested by presence to and healing of those sick with leprosy. I don’t know anyone with leprosy, and that disease does not strike terror in my community as it did in Jesus’ time. But what about someone with Ebola? I can honestly say I would not want to remain in an abode with the Ebola virus present, and would be terrified to visit an isolated patient with this illness in the hospital. But if I dwell upon Jesus’ love (or abide in it), might I have my own direct experience of it? Then what would my response be to a hospital patient fighting Ebola?
The object of a Zen teacher is to help their students attain Buddha nature, to experience it directly. They bring their students back to the present moment again and again and point to Buddha. In this week’s kong-an Hae Cho directly challenges his teacher by asking him “what is Buddha?” Poep An rises to the challenge with an object lesson in Buddha nature, bringing his student’s attention back to the moment and demonstrating he has clearly attained this point. We don’t know from the story if Hae Cho understood what Poep An taught him. Given the absence of a sentence like “and then the monk attained his true nature,” I am inclined to believe that Hae Cho might not have attained his true nature in that moment.
In a similar way, in this week’s gospel we witness Jesus attempting to get his disciples (and us!) to attain a direct experience of God’s love. He tries again and again to break through their conditioned hearts and attain God’s love. If my hunch is right that Hae Cho missed his teacher’s point that day, my guess is Jesus’ disciples also missed the mark and Jesus had to keep on teaching. I know that I miss the mark every day. Jesus and Poep An can teach me, but it’s my responsibility to find a direct experience and manifest these teachings in my life. How do I attain “dwelling upon God’s love?” How do I have an experience of “abiding in Jesus’ love?” There are no easy answers. If I have no words, what can I do?
1. Where do you dwell in Jesus’ love?
2. How can you abide in Jesus’ love?
3. What does it mean to love one another?