Slobodan Škerović

Hope, Faith, Love – Bodhisattva – Poet

Autumn fog and rain.
And though Fuji can’t be seen,
it brings joy into heart.



Christianity established one idol – hope, although it declared itself as a faith which has for a model return to the creator’s source – love. Hope is essentially a passive principle, it appears with those who wait for miracle to happen, while they themselves do nothing, but endure this life.

I was always distrustful about hope, hope appeared in me only when I was in crisis and unable to see a way out, when I was unable to make a decision. But I never experienced hope as my propellant, it appeared to me as an expression of feebleness. So, why did then great Christian philosophers/theologians, insist that hope, by some certain quality of its, align with faith and love? And could I, in my own personal experience, assign the same place to it?

To put the thing as it should be, I will quote St. John of the Ladder: “And now at last, after all that has been said, there remains that triad, faith, hope, and love, binding and securing the union of all. "But the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13), since that is the very name of God Himself (cf. 1 John 4:8). To me they appear, one as a ray, one as light, and one as a disk, and all as a single radiance and a single splendor.”

“The power of love is in hope. By hoping we expect reward for love.” (1)

It is interesting how John of the Ladder connects hope with love. He claims that hope is “treasury before treasury”, i.e. that hope is the anticipation of reward, of hope which is the basic characteristic of love as immediate experience of God. Hope appears before love has been experienced. “It is the rest from troubles… it kills desperation, it is the image of future goods… Monk who is filled with it, uses it as a knife to slaughter obstructions. Hope is given birth by gifts from God…”

Why do I say that hope is an idol? It appears as if in connection with love only when love has already be achieved, and then from that point of view hope can be seen as the light towards which, still invisible, we incline. But before that, from the darkness, it is the pure expression of suffering, a cry – hope is in those moments the same as hopelessness. But even as such, it is the seed of a possibility, possibility of cessation of suffering.

On the other hand, suffering can last a long time, whole life, and hope alone may serve as an excuse, if it is considered sufficient for salvation, for this suffering to continue. I believe that this is because it appears that in hope there is no force which may affect man to move from the dead point. I know from experience that the moment in which I myself moved was the moment in which I gave up hoping that a miracle will happen, instead I consciously, despite the suffering, made an effort to overcome it. And where was the hope then? It appeared to me that I have disowned it at that moment.

The effort to change something was based on faith, on the ability to, despite everything, do something free, to move along the one direction, which is not external, because in such movement hope would still be present, projected onto some possible outside circumstances of the presumed higher quality, but the movement was inner: I was trying to find support within myself and also the way which could preserve me focused, irrelevant to whether there was or wasn’t hope to accomplish that. And the miracle was exactly in that.

For John of the Ladder „faith is a ray“. But the effect of faith is reflected even in the blackest dark. When I decided to overcome suffering with my own forces, I didn’t need hope any more. I wasn’t suffering because there was no light. I had faith, and it was the ray – of a force which presented to me as something totally abstract, accessible only as knowledge, not as something sensual, as light. Maybe hope still existed, but only as a sign after which followed faith. The problem is that it wasn’t there even on the level of the abstract, active. Hope was only there where bane ruled. That is, in the past.

In present moment, everything overlaps. Man sees everything, what was and what is now. The point is that now everything is resolved, and if it is not, a man again projects himself in time, because there is still something that has to be done, and that is not finished – this is how hope returns and is projected into the future – but it doesn’t exist as the decisive moment, as faith, which only exists now.

Anyone who dealt with himself knows what is the active principle and how it resolves situations which demand explanation, that is, understanding – active principle will not allow prolonged, delayed effects. By understanding some phenomena it’s effect terminates, it is quitted. Faith helps even without awareness to stop the effect of karma – the action-reaction principle, because faith amortizes any effect by the strength it draws from inexhaustible source of the beyond, of the metaphysical, of the force. The very act of faith actually represents the knowledge of how things really stand – in faith is the knowledge that things by no means exist on their own, but they are created by force. So it becomes clear that instead of fixating on things, by fixating on force, and that is the way of faith, one overcomes the effect of things, they are simply deprived of the power ascribed to them by ignorance.

Here it is clear that hope was really just a sign, a designation of one unchecked possibility, and the active principle appeared the moment when hope was surpassed, faith took its place – the heat death did not occur. If the crisis is experienced as a constant sinking, it now appears as if its bottom is actually this decadent movement itself, and not some absolute immobility within grasp, which we usually call entropy. The principle of entropy as the opposite of the active principle, at one moment shows itself as impermanent, it can not support and sustain itself. At the moment when this becomes clear, the movement stops, the crisis stops. The cause of that movement has been removed – the hope, which invoked the possibility of it to happen.

What would happen if there was no hope? Would there be the awareness of suffering at all? Would there be suffering? If hope is (divine) light, then the subject which is passive but is not suffering, which has none of such light in itself, would stop being a subject. It would be some thing, machine, something dead. So, hope is that spark which we call life, not more than that, and no less than that. Not simply a possibility, except if a possibility is understood as a potential to make difference between the dead and living matter.

Therefore, hope is not immanent to dead things, but it also doesn’t exist there where the awareness of death has been overcome, ceded. It only exists in one projection where there is no activity which distinguishes dead from alive. It is as in some impossible gap, where things which can never possibly be together mix. This can not be understood as a projection in time, from spark moves ray the same moment when the spark appears. This connection between hope, faith and love is the trinity, it is wrong to understand them as if in a sequence. It is impossible to understand them so – and this is being revealed as early as at the point of faith. From faith to love, no matter how much we project that difference on our own life, which envelops in time and space, there is actually no distance. In faith love has already been reached, but it does not necessarily express itself in that projection, life. For that a special effort is needed, or to say – the force. Understanding of force as limitless, immeasurable, not just as a spark, or a seed of possibility. But as almighty – which makes possible to overcome life itself.


if you could sing
you’d already be in cage.

As I was reading Bashoo’s poems, unexpectedly a question arose: and what if hope shines a little stronger? This in regards to human lot – let’s say, dares a poet attract too much attention? Would not the firemen immediately dash to put out the fire?
Can hope alone burn so strongly and leaping over the abstractness of faith, take love into the grim world and so resolve all dilemmas? Can that gap usually bridged by philosophy, from the necessity to clearly present thing in the reason before the existence could be reached, be bridged without mastering this innate human ability? Had not Bashoo done that, as well as many others?

In man there is a fear that he will disperse, waste, disappear if he doesn’t guard his possessions, including the one most valuable possession – knowledge? There also exists in him great unclearness in regards to his abilities and powers to influence and help others, namely: where is the measure there? It is true that love is that measure, but love is limitless and inexhaustible, and it is not in everyone. If love expresses itself too much within human world, what will happen?

How can a man live lonely, and even if at some moment it appears quite possible, and not feel the connection with others, the essential, the inner one, through the same force that makes him? Because love doesn’t act from the outside on people, but from inside. From inside it melts passions and defenses.

Still, in human world, it is as if this force is almost totally disabled.
In Mahayana Buddhism there exists an idea, idea that during life awakened man does not elevate himself into the abstract nirvana, but keeps living on this Earth and do everything to help beings who suffer, so they would also overcome suffering. Such man is called bodhisattva. Of course, any Christian who experienced divine love, does not differ from such “awakened” Buddhist – the future Buddha.

This idea, however, provokes lots of skepticism due to the fact that everyone must make his own effort to overcome the suffering, and someone who had already overcome can only show the way to the others, not more than that. So what sense does it make to delay change of habitat, if there is no real motivation for that? And in an awakened man there really exists no motivation, a man alighted with knowledge, i.e. love, has no more business with dualities such as good-evil or life-death.
But, maybe this is a false dilemma, maybe there is a motivation, but in those who still suffer, maybe their very hope is that motivation which moves bodhisattva? Maybe those who suffer borrow motivation to those who are already free? It seems that there exists some invisible interaction.

And it seems that this is so. Because the one who knows and possesses love has no more fear for himself, and understands that the difference between him and the others is nonessential. The veil of individual life melted before the force of love and revealed others as one and the same existence, so Christian in every man sees Christ, the common essence.

Friend, do not forget
hidden in grove
plum blossom!

They say for Bashoo that he was a loner, dominant feeling in his poetry is exactly that „sorrow of loneliness“. He lived as a monk, although among people, surrounded with his students. He would hit the road alone, write, and then return. His poetry radiates so much love that this discussion of mine slowly nears the solution – if we are looking for a way by which someone can help others to overcome their prejudice, then it is clear that poetry is by all means one of those ways. And the source of poetry is poet who unselfishly radiates it.

How much can to the one engulfed in hope mean the light which falls on him from Bashoo’s poetry? How this hope is enlarged when touched by love and how this way (towards) love is alighted!

Now it is clear that hope, faith and love cannot be seen as separated. No matter how hope, when seen separately, looks lonely and weak, hidden in grove, it marks the beginning of the road, it does see its end.

1. The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John of the Ladder (Climacus), step XXX.


Text was published in "Književne novine", Belgrade, June 2007.

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