Abundance and retribution: parashat Ekev
Oy vey, indeed.

Interreligious harmony

My friend Soen Joon ("Helpful Zen" -- that's her new name; I still think of her as Andi, of Ditch the Raft) sent me a letter from South Korea where she's beginning the long road to Buddhist ordination. As much as I love email's immediacy, there's something special about a paper letter, especially one that's travelled so far.

On the back page of her letter, she transcribed some quotes from Venerable Song-Chol (renowned Zen master and patriarch in the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the tradition in which she's hoping to be ordained.) Here's my favorite one:

The world is a single home, and all of mankind is one. Forget such useless discriminations as "self" and "others," and forget national, racial, and other barriers. Treat those of other religions as members of your own, and those of other nations as your compatriots.

To harm others is to harm yourself, and to help others is to help yourself. Treat the sick as if they were yourself, and serve the anguished in every way you can.

...With a pure heart, let's all help one another and trust one another. Let's respect one another and love one another, and let's harmonize as one.

        -- Venerable Song-Chol, from Echoes from Mt. Kaya

His ecumenism is pretty remarkable. From the first line of the passage, he's teaching a planetary worldview. It's the polar opposite of the kind of insularity that so often troubles me in religious communities; in his exhortation to forget national and racial barriers, venerable Song-Chol reminds us of our common ground. I understand that common ground Jewishly as our common Ground of Being, the Source from Which we all come and of Whom we are all reflections -- but I think he would agree that our commonality is a truth that transcends the metaphors we use to describe it.

His words about working with the sick will serve me well when I begin my CPE rotation in a few weeks, I think -- and they neatly circumvent a natural human impulse where suffering is concerned. It's easier to face illness if I reinforce the boundary between the sufferer and me, but that's not what he advises.

Indeed, this whole passage urges the opposite: that we break down boundaries, that we resist the temptation to make anyone  into an "other." Instead we should help and respect, trust and love one another, that our many musics might blend into one song. Man, the world needs more religious leaders cut from this cloth.

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