Sharon Salzberg

‘In reality,  love is fluid; it’s a verb, not a noun. Love is a living capacity within us that is always present, even when we don’t sense it. And there are many kinds of love. Sanskrit has different words to describe love for a brother or sister, love for a teacher, love for a partner, love for one’s friends, love of nature, and so on. English only has one word, which leads to never-ending confusion.’ (Real Love)

I noticed, when I typed out the title, that I thought of what might be a typical zen rejoinder to the point she is making: which of these many kinds of love is real love? And of course the answer is: all of them. The working of my mind there was part of an inner voice asking, well, what has this to do with zen practice? It is true that you can scour a lot of zen texts looking for words about love and find them thin on the ground, but I think it is also true that an experienced practitioner (I am not going to say an enlightened practitioner because I think that would add a sense for people that they are excluded from that category) loves everybody, because they see exactly who they are. Suzuki Roshi might not have mentioned love, but people who talk about him felt loved by him because he saw them fully.
I was also remembering, as I typed, one of the few sermons that I sat through in my early life that has stayed with me. One of my headmasters spoke of the Greek words philia, eros and agape, and spoke eloquently of what each of them meant to us as humans; it inspired me to explore more, not God’s love, necessarily, but the idea of a bigger, selfless love.

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