For Buddhists, the world is a web. Everything is connected, and everyone as well. Long before I knew there was a word for this — interconnectedness — I believed in it. What I did, I knew even as a child, had consequences. For me, certainly. But also for everyone and everything around me. Facebook is a good example of this. Even if you aren’t a Buddhist, if you’re on FB, you know that you’re connected. And that one Web is much like the other, in oddly parallel ways.
Today a former student sent me a message that said a book had made him think of me. He asked if I’d read it, because he thought I’d like it. So, because I like him, and I respect his taste, I downloaded a sample to my Kindle. And then I took my Kindle out to the deck and sat in the gold light of the afternoon.
It was a book on Jesus and his teachings, Love Wins, not a book I’d usually read, I confess. But I began, wanting to be able to say truthfully that I’d tried it. And (of course) it was something I needed to hear. Right then. My students — all of them, each of them — are always giving me gifts, teaching me lessons. The book — a short read — argues what I recall of Christianity from my childhood: that Jesus is all about love, not exclusivity. A doorway not to a members-only club, but an entry to a better, more loving life. The author, Rob Bell, is a universalist – meaning that he believes all people will, eventually, be ‘reconciled’ with God. That hell is what we make. That redemption is guaranteed. It will just take some of us longer than others. All of which I too believed, as a child, but lost sight of.
Buddhism doesn’t preclude a belief in Christian theology. Famous Christians have also been Buddhist; Thomas Merton comes to mind. Thích Nhất Hạnh did a wonderful book, Living Buddha, Living Christ, that draws connections between the two belief systems. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that so much of this book spoke to me. That a message (basically) of infinite compassion should find in me an avid listener. But I was.
And once again, here I am, thinking (for the umpteenth time!) of what a magic web the world is. Of the interconnectedness that Buddhism teaches — non-separation. How this student from a few years back sent me a book I needed to read now, today. How it connected pieces of what sometimes feels like a fragmented life. And how grateful I am for the Web…