Love is perhaps the greatest driving force for all of us. We are all motivated and compelled to seek out someone to love and to be loved by. But what is love?
The poets, song-writers, and film-makers all make love a central theme which they write about over and over again. People are drawn to a good love story and an emotional love song.
Even in the tough world of rock and roll you see it displayed. One of the old rock anthems is, ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is’. These heavy rockers go off, singing, “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is. I know you can show me.” This is an actual cry of the soul. It is the desire of the living being, the spiritual being, to have this experience of love.
The very reason that we desire this experience is because it is inseparable from us. It is part of our eternal, spiritual nature to want to both love and be loved.
When we are overwhelmed by material consciousness and consider the body I am using to be “me”, we go out and search for love in this world, chasing this experience through the vehicle of our body and seeking fulfillment of it with the bodies of others.
We can experience some level of love here, some level of affection, but the experience we desire within our heart cannot be fulfilled in this world with other material personalities.
Nobody enters into a marriage thinking that this is all going to come to an end; people declare undying love to each other, in the hope that this is really what they have been looking for.
Even when marriages don’t end, what’s the normal cycle? It starts off with great excitement and a fluttering heart, and then as it progresses, people fall into habits of how they relate to each other and begin wishing the relationship was giving more. They are not completely fulfilled in the relationship and yet still hold onto the idea of finding perfect love. This is because it is part of our eternal spiritual nature to exist in the condition of spiritual love.
There are so many lonely people in the world. There are all these dating websites, people going to bars, people trying to meet each other. Everybody brings their own baggage, their own ideas of what it is that they want, and what they expect of someone else.
As a Hindu priest, at weddings I will sometimes advise people, much to the shock of the parents and other people there, that you should expect that, at some point in this marriage, you’re going to be dissatisfied with each other and that is normal. Another person, another material personality, or another ordinary living being, is not going to be able to provide the complete fulfillment of the need that you have to both love and be loved. One of the things I advise people is, “Do not place unrealistic expectations on each other.” This is the worst thing that you can do for a marriage.
We can experience a relationship founded on a “less than perfect” love with each other, but our real need lies in the re-establishment of a connection with the Supreme Soul, the actual Lord of our heart. If we are not going to re-establish this natural propensity to love the Lord of our heart, then we’ll find ourselves looking elsewhere.
Over the last many years, we have seen the promotion of the idea that the greatest love is to be found “inside of you,” meaning, the idea of love for oneself. But it’s impossible for you to find the love and fulfillment that you actually seek by directing it towards one’s own self. This idea of self-love usually means expressing affection for or pampering the physical body or our minds, neither of which are actually us. We are not these material bodies.
Love is inseparable from a relationship. I cannot have a “relationship” with myself. Nor can I have a relationship with my body – which is actually inanimate by nature. It is “I”, the spiritual person within, which animates my body.
You cannot love an inanimate object the way in which you love another living being; you can’t have a relationship with a car; you can’t have a relationship with an iPhone; you can’t have a relationship with a thing; you can only have a relationship with another person. Therefore, self-love is an illusion.
If you were to have a relationship scale, at one end of it you would have selfishness, and on the other end selflessness. Selfishness means a relationship is always one-sided. It’s about what I expect and what I want to get, and it’s all about me. Selflessness is about being concerned about the happiness of someone else. This, in its purest form, is a completely spiritual expression. Selfishness has no spiritual component. In fact, it is the epitome of the material condition.
Love is inseparable from relationship. The word ‘yoga’ actually describes a union, a relationship. The practice of yoga is about awakening our deepest spiritual nature. The great saint and spiritual teacher, who was also regarded as an incarnation of God, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, appeared in India 500 years ago. He was the father of the kirtan movement. He spoke often about this natural or spiritual condition of love. He describes how actual love for the Supreme Soul resides eternally within the heart of all living beings. It is not acquired from any external source. It’s not something that you learn or you pick up or you get from some other place.
Through the process of the hearing and the chanting of spiritual sound (mantras), there is a gradual purification of the mind and heart, and this natural condition of love that has been covered up begins to bloom – blossoming and awakening within our own heart.
The cultivation of this spiritual relationship of love is most perfect when it is experienced in relation to the Supreme Soul (Supreme Lord within each person’s heart). In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna says:
I am the Supreme Soul, O Arjuna, seated in the hearts of all living entities.
In order to become intimately connected with the Lord who is residing within our own heart, it is necessary for us to undergo a transformative process. The material condition is where we live separately from the Lord who resides within our own heart; we become completely focused on what we consider “our life” and “our self”. We chase after things in this world thinking that we will find some perfection here. We chase here, we chase there, we try this, we try that, and we always come up empty-handed.
The yoga process involves learning to curb that tendency and to redirect our search for happiness.
The Bhagavad-Gita says:
Being freed from attachment, fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me—and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.
In this world we’re all refugees. We’re all looking for a safe place, we’re all looking for a home, and we’re all looking for that relationship in which we can take shelter. We don’t want to be alone, we don’t want to be lonely, we don’t want to be sad, and we don’t want to be unfulfilled, so we take refuge in so many things. The shelter offered by this world is described in Sanskrit as “dur-ashraya”, meaning false shelter. We think this person, or this experience, relationship, or object, will give me shelter, but we always find that it will not.
When a person refocuses their life, taking refuge in the Supreme Soul, then as Lord Krishna says, in that state:
… many, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me—and thus they all attained transcendental love for me.
This is the result of full spiritual awakening. If a person has a partial spiritual awakening, they may not come to experience this actual condition of transcendental love. But when a person is able to unite in love with the Supreme Soul, they will be able to experience the condition of true spiritual love.
In this condition, not only will I love the Supreme Soul, but I will also experience genuine love for all others, seeing them as His children, His parts and parcels – individual living beings who are all intensely loved by the Supreme Soul.
In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna says:
And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are but part of Me—and that they are in Me, and are Mine.
One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal in both happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me—he is very dear to Me.
This exact same message was also taught by Jesus Christ:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
The development of true spiritual love not only completely satisfies the living being, it is also the antithesis of party spirit – where I see differences with others because of some belief they have, or a racial difference, a cultural difference, or a religious difference. This love is the cure for all our ills.
March 27, 2018