Dharma Talk: September 4, 2016

Ven. Charama gave this Dharma talk at this evening’s service – September 4, 2016.

“What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

Several years ago, I began to ponder the phrase from the Dhammapada “Only love dispels hate.” What I concluded led to the creation of our sangha – the Only Love Zen Sangha.

Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about that phrase again.

“Only love dispels hate.”

What caused me to return to that phrase is the news of the world. The disasters. The terrorist attacks. The angry, sometimes violent, politics here and around the world.

One of the criticisms people level against “only love dispels hate” goes something like this: “How does love stop radical Islam?”

Or: “How does love stop someone from robbing you?”

Or: “How does love stop a spouse from walking out on you and your family?”

As I pondered those questions, and allowed the phrase “Only love dispels hate” to repeat in my head, I suddenly had an epiphany:

“Only love dispels hate” is not intended to be an outward directive.

As I pondered “Only love dispels hate” I distinctly remember this phrase popping into my head: “This is directed inward. This is for internal use.”

I didn’t know what that meant. “This is for internal use.” But I knew it was important.

“This is for internal use,” kept rolling around in my head.

So I took another look at Chapter 1 of the Dhammapada:

The Dhammapada – Chapter 1

We are what we think.

All that we are arises with our thoughts.

With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind

And trouble will follow you

As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.

All that we are arises with our thoughts.

With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind

And happiness will follow you

As your shadow, unshakable.

“Look how he abused me and hurt me,
How he threw me down and robbed me.”

Live with such thoughts and you live in hate.
 [How? Why?]

“Look how he abused me and hurt me,
How he threw me down and robbed me.”

Abandon such thoughts, and live in love.

In this world

Hate never yet dispelled hate.

Only love dispels hate.

This is the law,

Ancient and inexhaustible.


Years ago, when I first started to ponder “Only love dispels hate” I phrased it in terms of a question, “How does love dispel hate?”

My questions were broad-based, as in, “How does love dispel hate in the whole world?” Or, to put it more bluntly, “How does love dispel hate in other people?”

The other day, it hit me: That’s not what the verse in the Dhammapada says. Or means. It’s for internal use.

When I started down that path of thinking, I revised my question: What – or, better yet, who – is the focus of the phrase “Only love dispels hate”?

Not “radical Islam.”

Not a robber about to take your purse/wallet.

Not bullies at school.

Not a spouse who left.

Not the guy who cut you off on the highway.

Not the person who laid into you on Facebook.

I am the focus of the phrase “Only love dispels hate.” My own heart. My own love. My own hate.

This seemed to be a new way of looking at the verses. So I wanted to try out my theory on one of the world’s most famous passages on love : 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible.

The Bible – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends…

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


I used to think those qualities would be wonderful to embody, to show the world.

But I suddenly saw that passage in a different light. I looked at the qualities of love:

Not envious
Not boastful
Not arrogant
Not rude
Not selfish
Not irritable
Not resentful
Bears all things
Believes all things
Hopes all things
Endures all things

To whom are those qualities directed?


“For internal use.”

They are telling me how to keep my own heart from becoming the opposite of those qualities. Just as the Dhammapada is telling me how to dispel hate in my life. The verses from the Bible show me what it takes to not let the world make me angry, bitter, hateful, murderous.

Why is that important?

Because hate in the world begins with hate in ourselves. When we “dispel” the hate in ourselves, it doesn’t get into the world to affect it. (The Dhammapada tells us: “With our thoughts we make the world.”

What does knowing that mean for Only Love Zen Sangha?


It reveals the purpose for Only Love Zen Sangha, which is:

Only Love Zen Sangha exists to help people dispel the hate within themselves so that they don’t allow it to affect others – those closest to them first, but to the world as a whole radiating outward from there.

What will knowing that help me do?

1. Practice hard – as if the world depends on it. Practice as if my own heart depends on it. Practice with the thought in mind that I must dispel the hate in my own heart before I can dispel it in the world. That makes my practice of crucial importance.

2. It helps me answer the question often posed, “How does love dispel hate in the world?” Answer: It doesn’t. Not until it dispels hate in me.

3. Gives me insight regarding why the world has exploded in anger, violence, and polarization – even among Zen practitioners. Or Christians. They haven’t dealt with their own hate. Love hasn’t dispelled it yet. Few recognize the hate in their own hearts. So it manifests in myriad external ways.

4. Shows me how to help someone who hates him/her self. This is the ultimate inward turning of the verse. Think of all the people with hate inside. Think how it manifests itself. Self punishment. Anger on social media. Violence on the road. War.

The first chapter of the Dhammapada and 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible are incredibly important. They are essential reading, essential to our practice.

But now they’ve taken on new meaning for me. They are not a blueprint for social action, or a definition of how our love should look played out in the world. They are the prescription for keeping my heart from becoming hateful.

Only love WILL dispel hate in the world.

But only AFTER it dispels the hate in my own heart.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *