By Dada Vasvani
April 2013 In this powerful and inspiring article, Dada J P Vaswani, head of the Pune-based Sadhu Vaswani Mission, traces the contours of true love
Someone asked me once, “What is love?” My reply was, “You will know when you become love!” I believe in the strength and sustaining power of love, not love that demands, expects, and negotiates for something in exchange – but unconditional love that offers itself in understanding, sympathy, and compassion. Any other kind of love can only be what the English call ‘cupboard love,’ which may be a transaction, a bargain, but not the real thing. Love is the most powerful healing force we have. My regret is that we do not use it enough.
What is love?
It is difficult to define love or to describe it in words. Yet you can know it when you feel it. The first love we feel is the love of the mother. What is it that a mother will not do for her children? There is the story of a young man who has fallen madly in love with a prostitute, who tells him that she will meet him only when he brings the heart of his mother on a platter. And the young man actually kills his mother and takes her heart to the prostitute. It is late at night. On the way, there is a pothole. The young man gets a jolt, and the platter falls on the ground. The heart is thrown away. Immediately the heart cries, “My child, I hope you are not hurt!” That is unconditional love. In the words of Shakespeare:
‘I love thee, I love but thee
With a love that shall not die
Till the sun grows cold
And the stars grow old.’
What is love? was the question put to Mansur, when he was about to mount the scaffold. He answered: “Love is not love until it renounces ‘I,’ the ego.” Renouncing the ego, you must move on and on until you have found what you seek – the beloved within the heart. “For thy sake,” sang Mansur. “I haste over land and water. Over the plain I pass and the mountain I cleave, and from everything I meet I turn my face, until the time when I reach that place where I am alone with thee.”
Love is selfless
The way of love is selflessness. It is the way of sacrifice. Love has no place for ego or selfishness. Love is an ever-expanding positive energy. It was Rabindranath Tagore who said, “Love is an endless mystery, for it has nothing else to explain it.” The greatest happiness in life is to love, and be loved as we are. Love is not possession. Love is not attachment. Love comes without any strings attached to it. Love is unconditional. Love is divine. Love is pure energy. It is a flood of sublime thoughts.
Let me make it clear, when I talk about love, I do not refer to physical sensation or sexual attraction. One of the most admired women of the modern age, Helen Keller, said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”
True love is a feeling that touches mind, heart, and soul. It is perhaps the feeling which is the highest that any human being is capable of. For I believe that love is of God. Love is not just an attribute of God – love is God and God is love. That is why I urge my young friends not to fall in love – but rise in true love – the love that helps and heals. The more you offer love to the world, and the people in it, the more it will come back to you. Indeed, it was a wise man who asserted, “Love grows by giving. The love we give away is the only love we keep. The only way to retain love is to give it away.”
Photo: Thinkstock Love, they say, is a many-splendoured thing. Love cannot be confined to romantic love, erotic love, or indeed passionate love. What would life be like without parental love, family love, love for your siblings and children, love for nature and above all, love for God? I do not wish to disparage romantic love or marital love. It is undoubtedly one of the finest aspects of love. When I hear people talking of ‘love-at-first-sight,’ I express the silent wish that this would include, insight and foresight, as well as hindsight. “Love happened in a flash,” young lovers often claim. If you do not want it to be just a flash-in-a-pan, you must grow in understanding and knowledge of each other.
Love is never blind – for love sees not only with the eyes, but also the mind, the heart, and the spirit. Love goes about with wide-open eyes, looking for opportunities to be of service to those in need.
Of a holy man, it is said that he was pained to see suffering and misery wherever he turned. In deep despair, he cried out to God: “O Lord! They call you the God of love and mercy. How can you bear to see so much suffering and yet do nothing about it?” From the depth of his consciousness, he heard God’s voice tell him: “I did do something. I created you.” God has created us and poured love into our hearts so that we may alleviate the pain and suffering we see around us.
Kindle the light of love
Let us not curse the darkness. Let us kindle the light of love in our hearts. God loves you. He wants nothing but the best for you. If you ever doubt it, you have not yet realized the meaning of true love.
People who are overwhelmed by their problems often say to me, “If this is God’s way of showing his love for me, well, thanks, but no thanks. He can keep it.” Let me share with you a parable that tells us another way to look at problems.
When God decided to send human beings as his children down to this earth, He gave each of them a carefully selected package of problems. He said to each child, with a smile, “These are yours, and yours alone. These problems bring with them very special blessings – and only you have the special talents and abilities to make these problems your servants.”
God added softly, “Now go down to earth. Know that I love you beyond measure. The problems I give you are a symbol of that love. The monument you make of your life with the help of your problems will be a symbol of your love for me, your Heavenly Father. Go in peace – and be blessed!”
Seek God – not for material profit, but solely for His love!
Our hearts need to be saturated with love, for love is the light, which will illumine the world. For this, developed brains are not needed. We need enlightened hearts that can behold the vision of fellowship, unity, and brotherhood. Love is what we need to build a new humanity, a new world of brotherhood and peace. We must eliminate the dark forces of greed, selfishness, prejudice, and mistrust – and cultivate the power of love, which is the secret power of a peaceful life and a peace-filled world.
The shortcut to world peace is through love, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing, and service. It is also the shortest and quickest route to God. The way of service is closely allied to the way of brotherhood – for we need to assert, again and again, “I am my brother’s keeper!”
Love fellow humans
All saints ask us a simple question, “How can we claim our love to God, if we do not love our fellow human beings? How can we call ourselves human beings if we watch our brothers and sisters suffering and struggling?” Jesus said; “If a man says, I love God and hateth his brother, he is a liar, for if he loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how he can love God whom he hath not seen?”
Love and humility go together. Wherever there is love, there is humility. They are but two sides of the same coin. Today science is marching on. Phenomenal advances have been made in medicine and electronic media. Spectacular strides have been made in exploring the moon and outer space. However, we have not learnt how to live together in amity and peace.
There is an amusing incident in the life of the great Russian leader, Maxim Gorky. One day, he addressed a huge rally of peasants. He said to them: “Think of what science has done for you. Science has taught man how to fly in the air like a bird and science has taught man how to swim in the ocean like a fish.” Then it is that a simple peasant says to the great leader, “Sir, what you say is true. Science has taught man how to fly in the air like a bird and how to swim in the ocean like a fish, but science has not taught man how to live on the earth in peace and amity with his fellow men.” The opposite of love is not hate but indifference, or apathy to the needs of those around you. We need to contribute our share, our mite to the welfare of the world, to what Sri Krishna called lokasangraha.
I will tell you what I think is the price we must pay – we must love one another. I will go a step further: We must love each other or perish.
The first note on the musical scale of peace is love – love as in the Commandment – Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. It is this spirit of love that is expressed in the universal bond of friendship. If we pick and choose and reject, universal friendship does not have a chance! As Mother Teresa put it, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Make no mistake about this: To an Indian, “Love thy neighbor,” means loving the people of Pakistan, to an Israeli, “Love thy neighbor” means loving the Palestinians; to Christians, it means loving the Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs.
Let me remind you therefore, of the words of Jesus Christ: “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Matt V, 27-29) Can we, as human beings, do it? If we could, we are asserting the Divinity in us, and we are helping to spread God’s peace in the world.
Grow in the spirit of true love
How can we grow in the spirit of such true love? Let me offer you a few suggestions:
1. People often talk of ‘falling’ in love. You must rise in love – in love with God, and in love with your fellow human beings, as also with brother birds and animals.
Therefore, establish a firm and loving relationship with God, first and foremost. Make God your father or mother, your friend or brother or the beloved of your heart. Let everything you do strengthen this relationship with God.
When you have established such a relationship, you will find it natural to offer the love of your heart to everything and everyone around you.
2. Speak softly, speak gently, and speak with loving kindness. Treat everyone with love and respect. Greet God in everyone you meet.
3. Stop judging others, for true love is non-judgmental. Do not see the faults of others. When you find fault with others and criticize them harshly, you are drawing negative forces to yourself.
4. Love your family, love your friends and neighbors; but love those who hate you and criticize you as well! Breathe out love to those who ill-treat you and speak harshly to you. For every blow you receive, give back a blessing. This is not an impossible, impractical precept I am preaching to you: it is a sound, wholesome approach to life that will bring lasting peace and happiness to you! “Love thine enemy,” said Sadhu Vaswani, “ and even though he hate thee as a thorn, thou shalt blossom as a rose.”
5. Whatever you do, whatever you say, whatever you think, whatever you give – do it for the pure love of God. When you live life as an act of love and devotion to God, you will find that you can never do anything, which will displease God. Your life will become the life beautiful, the life of love and purity.
There are a hundred and one ways of doing the same thing. Are you a professor teaching in a classroom? Are you a lawyer arguing a case in a court of law? Are you a doctor attending to patients? There are many ways of doing the same thing. Some are right, some are wrong. But, only one is the best. And because you are doing everything for the love of God, because you are doing everything as an offering unto the Lord, you must do your work in the best way possible.
6. Learn to forgive others who have harmed you or hurt you in any way. Forgive before they even ask for your forgiveness. The ‘F’ of forgiveness is Freedom – freedom from negative emotions, grudges, resentment, and bitterness. When these ‘blockages’ are cleared from your emotional arteries, love flows through your life effortlessly and freely!
7. True love is not attachment or possessiveness. Attachment of any kind, as the Gita tells us, leads to suffering. Raga or abhinivesha (clinging and attachment) as it is called, is an impediment – not only on the path of liberation, but also in the attainment of personal happiness. On the other hand, detachment is one of life’s greatest lessons for those who seek the true joy of life. In the words of the inspired poet, “If you love someone very dearly, give him wings, let him fly!”
8. The law of love is the law of service and sacrifice. Therefore, go out of your way to help others. Moreover, rejoice in everything that the will of God brings to you.
Love blesses the one who offers it and the one who receives it. Love can keep you healthy and happy, and help you face the problems of daily life in the right spirit.
Learn to love the good qualities that you are capable of manifesting – learn to love truth, purity, humility, sacrifice, service, honesty and gratitude. Choose one quality each day and focus your loving attention on it. Love other people who express that quality and learn from them.
Above all, keep on smiling. Smile all the while. Smile at each other, smile at your spouse, smile at your siblings, smile at your children, smile at your friends and friends-to-be – there are no strangers, there are only friends-to-be – and that will help you to grow in love for each other. And never forget that paradise is where love dwells and people keep on smiling at each other.
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