“All great religions postulate love as one of the greatest accomplishments,” said humanist philosopher Erich Fromm in a rare 1958 interview. “If it were that easy, or as easy as most people think, certainly, the great religious leaders would have been rather naive.”
Have you ever truly loved? More often than not, what we love is the idea we have of someone. It’s our own concept — our own selves — that we love. Two people say “I love you” or think it or feel it, and each has in mind a different idea, a different life, perhaps even a different color or fragrance, in the abstract sum of impressions that constitute the soul’s activity. The relations between one soul and another, expressed through such uncertain and variable things as spoken words and professed gestures, are deceptively complex. Or are they? This imperceptible ying-yang of complexity and simplicity comes vividly alive in a Zen story titled “If You Love, Love Openly” included in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings (paperback | audiobook). Narrated here by the hypnotic voice of Freda Cooper. Please enjoy!
IF YOU LOVE, LOVE OPENLY
from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master.
Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love a letter, insisting upon a private meeting.
Eshun did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written to her, she said, “If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.”
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is vitally necessary in its infinite totality. Complement with an in-depth video study of The Kiss where James Payne at one point asks the question, “Could The Kiss, long thought to be the most romantic painting in history, be a depiction of a platonic relationship?”