A great Zen master's koan about love

spiritedStarred Page By spirited, 14th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

A tale about a great Zen master whose composed koans always involved love in them. His successor did the same.

Note that this story has loosely used the well-known koan of the same name, "If You Love, Love Openly" as its inspiration. See link in second section.

Zen masters, and their koans

The great Zen master of the 18th century, "Go Hunad Sozan" once said something like this,

"Do not stop to seek the truth. Do not stop loving. When you love fully, truth is revealed. There is no need to look for truth, it will find you when you love like this."

"Go", as he was affectionately called, was known to be a master of detachment, but on the other hand this was never a cold detachment. People always felt his connection to them. They always felt warm and loved in his presence. They felt at one with him.

Every koan that he wrote had the word love in it, this was how important loving others was to him.

A Zen koan is a short paradoxical statement that Zen monks use to meditate upon.

The idea of one is for it to suddenly cause a stopped mind, a cessation of thinking. For a brief moment of time, time stops.

Nearly every koan is an anecdotal quote from one of the great masters.

In this moment of awareness, you can momentarily see through your usual darkness to the shining light that exists on the other side. You can become enlightened in a flash.

Your mind is unblocked, and never again will it create this darkness as a blind for you ever again. It usually only does this because you are holding onto a fear of some sort, rather than being completely loving.

You are in short afraid to love fully for some reason that is being held onto by your mind. This reason is always based on some type of fear that is being held by you somewhere in your conscious, or in your subconscious mind.

There is a well-known koan that has been attributed to Zen master Go. It is about loving openly and fully. Love that is not open, has fear embedded in it somewhere.

This koan was written about him.

Perhaps this wasn't really a koan at all though. Maybe this really happened in his life.

Zen master, Go Hunad Sozan's last lecture

If You Love, Love Openly

There was a large group of monks practicing meditation in the Buddhist temple.

All were men except for one, the nun called, Gashelle.

They all practiced under Go's tuition.

The men were all jealous of Gashelle, who seemed to have earnt a certain favoured status from the great master himself. Perhaps he liked her, they thought to themselves.

Gashelle shined with a certain outer beauty despite also sporting a bald shaved scalp, and dressing in the rather drab tunic that the men also wore. She also shined with an inner beauty, but only the master could see this in her right now.

Many of the monks fell in love with her but they all kept this to themselves, except for one monk. He was at least brave enough to write her a letter. He asked here if he could meet her alone behind the temple compound later that very night.

He had something that he wanted to say to her, the letter had said.

Gashelle did not give any sign of response to this monk that she had even received, or read his letter. She of course did not turn up at the chosen meeting place that night.

The following day the head monk, Go, gave his usual morning talk to the group gathered all together in the meeting hall. When he had finished speaking, he asked if the group members had any questions.

Gashelle immediately stood up.

She addressed the whole group. She knew that the man who had written the letter to her would know that what she was saying was mainly directed at him. She was too polite to point him out to the group though.

"If any of you really do love me, come here, and embrace me now," she said.

The head monk knew that the young monks were being affected by this beautiful looking lone nun, but that was exactly why he had allowed her to join his group.

Go had done this because he knew that at first these men would only love her from their minds. This was desire. He wanted them to love far more deeply than this. He wanted them to move past desire, and to be able to love openly from their hearts, as he knew that his niece Gashelle always did. She would be their teacher in this, not him.

He knew that she could do this for him.

At the end of the lecture, the group had all dispersed, except for the master and Gashelle.

He had something important that he wanted to say to her.

"This was my last lecture," he told her. "Tomorrow, it is you who will give the lecture."

Tomorrow came around soon enough, and the monks again gathered for the lecture from their renowned master, Go.

Go was sitting in his usual place in the centre of the group, and Gashelle was also sitting on the floor next to one on the men. Nothing seemed to be any different than it ever was before.

The men were all shocked though when suddenly Gashelle got up to speak.

Here is what she said.

"The wise man loves openly. The fool is always tying himself up with desire."

"Love lives deeply in the heart that is pure. It also lives in your mind. In fact love lives everywhere except where you do not allow it to live. Stop desiring truth, even this distracts you from loving. Love purely, and love openly. Never hide love behind fear, or anything else for that matter, even behind your searching for truth."

The very next day Zen master Go died.

Gashelle was now the new head monk. Go had known this would be so right from the start. She became the greatest woman monk of that time.

She was a very worthy successor to Go indeed!

Why were there not more woman Zen masters?

"The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"

This is a saying by that old-time Chinese philosopher, Confucius.

Why were there not more women prophets, spiritual masters, Zen masters, or religious leaders?

The woman does not need to lead to lead. She leads by example, rather than from head teachings. She lives more from a practicalised level of love than does a man.

She innately already knows what the man is still thinking about. The man thinks he knows, the woman knows she knows. Men get big-headed from being leaders, women stay level headed when they love from their hearts.

There is a Zen koan that answers this question.

Here it is, re-written slightly by myself:

It is entitled: A Mother's advice.

Juino was once a scholar. He studied the ancient Sanskrit language.

He later became a great teacher, and a real Zen master, in his own era though, but only after he had heeded some timely advice from his mother!

Maybe this was foreshadowed in a way, because when he was young, he used to even lecture his fellow students.

He had to learn first though, what the difference was though, between what was real learning, and what was just factual information.

His mother wrote to him because she had heard about his having such a great pride in his learning, or in his own scholarship.

"My son, did you only become a follower of Zen to later turn yourself into only being a walking dictionary for other people."

"There is no end to such information, book knowledge, false glory, or worldly honours."

"Stop this foolish posturing around through your lecturing. Go up into the mountains. Enter a much smaller and remote temple there. Become real to yourself, not to others first."

"Devote all of your spare time there to meditation, and so attain true realization, not just learn about what it might be from all of your book learning."

Photo credits: All photos used in this article have been freely taken from the free media site, Wikimedia Commons.


Buddhism, Koan, Love, Short Stories, Short Story, Zen, Zen Master, Zen Story

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author avatar spirited
I have been interested in the spiritual fields for over thirty five years now. My writing is mostly in this area.

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