One of master Gasan's monks visited the university in Tokyo. When he returned, he asked the master if he had ever read the Christian Bible. "No," Gasan replied, "Please read some of it to me." The monk opened the Bible to the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew, and began reading. After reading Christ's words about the lilies in the field, he paused. Master Gasan was silent for a long time. "Yes," he finally said, "Whoever uttered these words is an enlightened being. What you have read to me is the essence of everything I have been trying to teach you here!"
(In another version of this story, it is a Christian who reads the Bible passage to Gasan.)
People's reactions to this story:"It's so sad that wars are fought over differences in "religion," when in reality all the world's religions are saying the same essential things. If nations really took religion to heart, so many lives would be saved."
"If what is true for you is true, and what is true for me is true, than really nothing is true. If there are no absolutes in the universe higher than our own opinions or experiences, than we live on an ever shifting sand. True truth is true whether we know it, or believe it. It is absolute, unchanging, and independent of our reactions to it. God is God and we are not him. I believe this story is an attempt to dilute the hard division line that the Bible deliberately draws. Our culture trys to offer solutions that do not offend anyone. I wonder how Master Gasan would react to Christ's words "no one may come to the Father but by me." Or "the kingdom of heaven advances violently, and violent men lay hold of it."?
"I think this is saying that a great lesson can come out of one short story. Something that someone is searching for desperately can be revealed in one simple story."
"This story held no interest for me. I don't believe in the existence of God and therefore believe that the Bible is a bunch of bologna!"
"Universalism is an extremely faulty world view. All the worlds religions do not teach the same thing. Religion is not about being good to your fellow man, or doing nice things to other people. So many of these comments seem to think that because most religions teach that, in general, you should'nt kill people, and you should'nt steal, and that you should feed the poor, etc., that its all the same thing. That misses the point entirely, and trivializes a vast amount of the most deeply held beliefs of the world's populace. Religion is about what you are, or at least the part of you that is you and not just molecules combined together in unique ways. The most important question that religion tries to answer are "How should we act towards other people?" but "How should we act towards God?" How we act towards others is a by-product of our relationship to the Divine." "There is only One God!"
"Master Gasan found a pleasant verse. How would he have responded to less beautiful Revelations or Oholibah in Ezekial 23:10."
"Every religion has an awareness of the basic ethical principles that govern humanity. Anything else that a religion teaches is not about the human but about the divine."
"There is nothing even slightly Zen about this 'story.' It is an embarrassing, childish attempting to usurp the notion of Zen to endorse an unenlightened acceptance of Christian dogma without study, introspection, or question. Sad you published it. I admire both Christ and Buddah greatly, but this is catechism, rote dogma, not enlightenment."
"I think Gasan was so relieved that he finally got his point across to the monks!"
"This situation is similar to thinking about different races. People may look different on the outside, but when you look on the inside, everyone is basically the same."
"This story gives me a feeling of unity with everyone - I like that."
"This story is BORING! It begins nowhere and ends the same way. Shouldn't the essence of his teachings be understandable so we all can be enlightened as well? Master Gasan sounds like a fake or a very poor teacher"
"It sounds like Master Gasan has no idea of what he is talking about."
"Different people may be trying to convey the same message to others, but are going about it in different ways. I think that's good - diversity is good."
"We should always be learning. No one knows everything."
"Anyone can be a teacher."
"Gasan realizes that the monk's might become interested in what the Bible says, so he tries to act like he understands and believes in the Bible. He is trying to get the monks to respect him and think that these words and thoughts were also his."
"Cultural prejudices prevent us from seeing the Universals. It is irrational to think that a different truth applies to everyone."
"All races across the world are teaching the same ideas through religion, but one person's way of teaching may differ from another."
"I think the story is trying to say that we can ALL be right - or that sometimes a person needs to leave their usual surroundings in order to see and understand what's in front of their face."
"How could Master Gasan never have read the Bible? Maybe that's the point of the story - even a Zen master can be illiterate."
"I read this story twice and didn't like it. I felt like I needed more, but I wasn't sure what."
"This story seems choppy and unfinished."
"'Lillies of the field' is a rather zen story, encouraging naturalness acceptance of being."
"It is interesting that when presented with the Bible, the Master was open to listening. I don't find the same to be true when the situation is reversed,
. It feels very comfortable to me to be Buddhist and still feel at peace with others who do not share my views."
"Maybe the point is that we don't need Bibles OR Zen teachers to find enlightenment. We already have it within ourselves."
"This comment is not about the story but about the other comments: Taken collectively, they illustrate Martin Luther's observation, 'A book is like a mirror -- if an ape looks in, no saint will look out!'"
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John Suler, Ph.D. © 1997 All rights reserved.