What does it mean to pledge our heart to another “always and forever?” What does it mean to love openly without shame or self consciousness?

There is an old story about a Zen nun named Eshun, who was training with a Master and twenty male monks.

Eshun was known to be very beautiful even with her shaved head and dressed in her plain black robes. A number of the male monks secretly fell in love with her.

One of them wrote her a private letter asking to meet with her in secret but Eshun did not reply. The next day, when the entire sangha was gathered to hear the Master deliver his teisho, Eshun stood up at the conclusion of his talk and addressing the monk who had written the private letter said, “If you really love me, come and embrace me now.”

Eshun wasn’t interested in some secret love affair behind close doors. She was looking for a public declaration of love without conditions. Although this story never specifies what happened next, one is left with the impression that Eshun’s admirer froze when called upon by Eshun to freely demonstrate his love for her – right here, right now.

What caused the monk to freeze? Why was he unable to express his supposed love for Eshun in the moment? What held him back?

The other day the following lyric of a love song appeared on the radio:

“Always and forever
Each moment with you
Is just like a dream to me
That somehow came true

And I know tomorrow
Will still be the same
Cause we’ve got a life of love
That won’t ever change … ”

The term “always and forever” implies an experience of time that stretches forward into the future. But how can love exist in a future that has not yet arrived?

Some say that true love is timeless. That is to say that love is not found in the past or future but only in this present moment.

Love must live now if it lives at all.

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