Volume 5 - Issue 10
LEARNING TO LOVE…
By Mr. Viswanath Das
Understanding True Love
Everywhere in the world people are in search of love, for everyone is convinced that love alone can save the world, love alone can make life meaningful and worth living. When we are in love we find ourselves looking at everyone with new eyes; we become generous, forgiving, kind hearted, where before we might have been hard and mean.
But how very few understand what love really is, and how it arises in human hearts. It is so frequently equated with good feelings towards others, with benevolence, or with non-violence, or service.
What is love? Take a look at a rose. Is it possible for the rose to say, “I shall offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from wrong?”; or can we imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks to walk in its light? It could only do that by ceasing to be a lamp. Love brings and enriches love.
Love does not rest content with merely loving, but flows out in acts of service. Love is delightful only when it freely gives itself. Love must be revealed in service; otherwise love has no value; it is not love. Love cheerfully sacrifices. Love willingly suffers. Such a love illumines and blesses life.
“The man who is filled with love has great peace of mind, is pure at heart and is unruffled by any adverse circumstances, failure or losses. This fortitude is derived from love of the Lord, which endows him with self-confidence. Self-confidence generates an immense internal power. Everyone has to develop this power. Everyone has to develop this self-confidence so that Atma-Ananda (bliss of the Self) may be experienced. Love should be free from feelings of expectation of any return or reward, love which arises out of desire for something in return is not true love. Utterly selfless and motiveless love should be developed,” Swami says.
“He who loves not, knows not God”, said Saint John. “For, God is Love”. Swami, the very personification of this True Love Himself, says, “God is Love. Love is God. Live in Love.”
Learning to love is the most difficult, the most demanding, the most delightful, and the most daring of disciplines. It does not mean loving two or three members of our family; that can often be a kind of ego-annex. It does not mean loving only those who share your views, or read the same newspaper, or play the same sports. Love, as God puts it, means blessing those who curse you, doing good to those whom you don’t know; these are the real measures of love.
Our modern civilization is so physically oriented that when we hear the word hunger, we immediately think in terms of vitamins and minerals and amino acids. It seldom occurs to us that just as the body develops problems when it does not get adequate food, the person who is deprived of love - or worse who finds it impossible to love - becomes subject to problems every bit as serious. Absence of love takes away our humanity and makes us blind to others around us.
More and more evidence indicates that lack of love not only leads to loneliness, despair and resentment but eventually may even lead to deterioration of the vital organs. In the book entitled ‘The Broken Heart: the Medical Consequences of Loneliness’, James J Lynch of the University of Maryland Medical School, makes a good case connecting cardiovascular accidents with selfishness, isolation, alienation, and bereavement, all of which can be traced to lack of love. It is said that a man is not born a terrorist from the womb of his mother. It is a lack of love that destroys his humanity.
More than intelligence, love quickens talent and genius. Without love, intelligence can do much harm. Such a person then hardly thinks of the aftermath of a bombing. The ears cease to hear the cry of pain, agony of a mother mourning over the body of her young daughter. The mind ceases to see that no purpose can be achieved by killing innocent lives.
More than logic, love recognises the dignity of an unerring thought. Without love, logic can be dangerous.
When Bhagavan talks about our need to love and be loved, the need is not metaphorical. Bhagavan is not talking about spirituality alone; He is talking about a nutritional need too. Resentment, hostility, alienation and selfishness are the deficiency diseases of society. You can have nourishing food and all the essential supplements, but if we cannot love, we are not likely to remain in good health. This bad health would be like any other epidemic disorder, spreading in the community, crippling society’s very foundation stones of Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa.
Usually a good physician will not write a prescription without some accompanying instructions like plenty of rest, lots of fluids, and so on. Similarly if love is prescribed as the remedy for our condition, to perfect pure love we need to follow five principles –
Nurturing Love – Five Principal Ways
An obsession with time has so worked into our social system that we scarcely notice we have left no time to love. Everywhere the slogan is ‘Hurry, Hurry, and Hurry’. To be aware of the need of the other, to spend time with others, to speak and act with patience and consideration, we must make time.
Mother Teresa drew a beautiful unexpected connection between time and love:
“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush,” she observed, “anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.”
Slowing ourselves down is closely connected with increasing our one-pointed attention. When we are in a hurry, the problem is not only one of speed. Our attention is riveted on ourselves - our needs and desires - so there is no attention to give to those around us, who probably have needs and desires very much like our own.
People are not boring; we get bored because our attention wanders. Giving someone our full attention says clearly: “You matter to me. You have my respect.” Almost every disruption in human relationships - between parents and child, friend and friend, worker and co-worker - can be prevented by learning control over attention, for, with mutual attention between people comes loyalty, interest and trust.
To love we have to be able to do things for others, even if it is inconvenient, or when we have no energy. For example, when we know we should help one of our classmates with his homework but have only enough energy to drop into a beanbag chair with a soft drink in hand, how can we be of service. Our minds are great repositories of energy – when healthily used - but we go through life trying to punch as many as holes in it as possible, multiplying our desires, our possessions, our anxieties, our frustrations, until by the end of the day we have scarcely any energy left at all. The biggest of these holes is selfish desire. The more we want for ourselves, the less energy we shall have, and therefore the less capacity to love. Swami says, “God’s love fills you with energy. It is God only who gives us this energy. Therefore, love God and love all people who are verily the children of God.”
The capacity to discriminate between right and wrong desires is the fourth essential safeguard of love. Right desires benefit everyone - including of course, ourselves. Wrong desires may be pleasing, but they benefit no one - again, not even us. The problem that arises is that wrong desires can be very skillful impersonators. They put on a three piece suit and a false mustache and present themselves as suavely as Mr. Right. To love we need to be able to recognize right desires and yield to them, which creates a healthy and happy life - a somewhat rare condition in today's world. But much more importantly, we need to be able to recognize wrong desires and resist them, which is very difficult. Whenever we defy a powerful, selfish desire, immense power is released into our hands and this is the secret of all spiritual work and transformations.
Our desires are not our business alone; they are everybody’s business. Whenever we resist a selfish desire, even if we do so for no one in particular, that is an act of love. The reason is simple: everything we do affects others, whether directly, through the environment, or by our own example. To love is to be responsible in everything: the work we do, the things we buy, the people we look up to, the words we use, every choice we make from morning till night. That is the real measure of love: it is a wonderful demanding responsibility.
Discrimination then leads us to the last quality of love - the awareness that life is one individual whole. This is the very basis of love. Any violation of the unity of life, whether it is between individuals, between nations, between us and the environment, is a failure of love. Everything that separates diminishes love; everything that unifies increases it. Lack of love divides; wealth of love heals.
Beneath the thinnest shell of differences, every one of us is very much the same, whether we live in Asia, Africa, or Antarctica. In times of nationalism and international tensions we forget this; had we remembered, no nation would have ever gone to war. “Vasudaiva Kutumbhakam” (the world is one family) is the fruit of pure love. Once we realize the unity of life, we see the whole world as a single family, whose welfare is indivisible.
Most of us would not dream of tearing up our front yard, filling the garage with garbage, spraying noxious chemicals around the house and then telling our siblings, “We are moving out. You can have whatever is left.” That is exactly how we are behaving towards the Earth. When we love all life as our family, it will be impossible for us to waste anything, be it money, food, water, energy, resources, and time. We will want to share everything which we have. Bhagavan says, “Mamai Vamso Jiva Loka Jiva Bhuta Sanathana" (I am the One who became many) - when He is present in bit of every atom, why would we then want to waste anything.
God is love, and therefore, religion ceases to be religion if it is not a religion of love. Love understands, knows, illuminates, conquers and makes life eternal. Love purifies and liberates. Love is to be known and experienced by love. Love of God is the soul of religion. It annihilates all limitation and differentiations. It frees human perception from errors, the human heart from its mistakes, and human life from its imperfections. Pure love is an irresistible force.
Becoming Embodiments of Love…
Learning to love is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity - especially when the whole world today is threatened with violence on every side, and is striving for love and unity. “In the home”, Mother Teresa said, “begins the disruption of peace of the world.” Similarly, it is in the home that the peace of the world is preserved. In nourishing our family, our community and finally our world with love, in bending over backwards when necessary, to give what the world so desperately needs, we become in the words of Bhagavan, instruments of peace, embodiments of love and ‘Ideal Sai Youth: The Messengers of Sai Love.’
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Vol 5 Issue 10 - OCTOBER 2007
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