The language of the soul begins with love. In the modern era, many of us have forgotten this. We do need to go back to re-learning this law that is the primary law of our being complete wholesome human and humane beings.
We need to learn how to love everyone unconditionally -- including our own self. This law can enable us to find the hidden strength and splendour within us and others. Unfortunately, we have never been taught how to love unconditionally. Almost all of our loving has been motivated by emotional desires programmed into us at an early age.
The most natural love that we all experience is that of a mother for her child. Miracles are created through this love. Later, we spend most of our lives trying to define and find ‘love’ in all our relationships.
Most of our love experiences have taught us we must earn or deserve love before we can have it and that others must deserve our love. This is conditional love. This is not love but a business transaction.
This is why our well-meaning but unskilled attempts to love usually end up in separation and alienation.
Even in the area of parenting, many parents have forgotten that what is required from them is just pure love and not proving a point to anyone. My friend, Anita’s (name changed) son was told endlessly that he should aim to become a doctor as there were successful doctors on both sides of his family. He tried his best but could not succeed. They kept pushing and prodding him. His self-esteem plummeted to the lowest level as he was just not being able to relate to the subject itself. When his lecturers said he would be rusticated, he took the awful plunge of committing suicide. In a different context, in the movie “Three Idiots”, the protagonist tells the principal that it was ‘murder’ and not ‘suicide’ when a student committed suicide due to academic pressure.
The above is of course an extreme case but depression and stress seems to be the name of the game in a world that is craving for love, true love.
We must remember that the most important thing is life is love, being loving to all and loving ourselves too. Miracles are created through this love. Unfortunately we spend most of our lives trying to define and find ‘love’ in all our relationships. The main issue is we do not know what love is and therefore keep grappling with issues that are detrimental to what we are searching for. Many people suffer here, particularly the ones who form relationships with each other out of choice.
What really is love?
There is no phrase as badly interpreted as "unconditional love." People use it as an excuse to stay in bad relationships or to shame someone into staying in one. They use it for some ideal they chase when they are not even sure what it means.
In my own life, the one couple who showed true in action are Promila and Atul Gurtu and later, Atul and his new wife Suhasini Mulay.
I was a close friend of his Atul’s first wife, Promila. She was my first mentor and guru who taught me and a group of students all about the theory of chakras and led a complete life without ever mentioning that she was grappling with an illness. In fact, none of us ever thought there was anything seriously wrong with her. Atul too was a good friend of mine. After she passed away, I asked Atul to share his experience in handling the situation so wonderfully. He did do this and the article was published in Life Positive. After Promila’s demise, he married Suhasini Muley, the well known actress. I did go for their wedding as he earnestly asked me to attend. When I went for their wedding, I was thrilled to know Life Positive did play a role in bringing them together as Suhasini said, ‘Atul had written in the article about how he discovered Promila had cancer. After the initial period of depression, rather than sitting and crying over it, he decided to make his wife as happy as he could. So, for the next four-five years they did everything they ever wanted to do. Learning this endeared him to me.’When they realized that they really enjoyed being together and were unattached, they took the plunge into matrimony, Atul for the second time and Suhasini for the first time.
I am sure Promila would be happy and blessing them from above, as this is what she had wished for her husband, even when she was facing the last journey of her life. Indeed, their love was indeed love at the pinnacle as both truly cared for each other in all seasons of life.
Climbing the ladder of love
Ancient cultures seem to know more about this virtue than modern ones. Hinduism has a beautiful myth about the origins of love. In the beginning, there was a being called Purusha. This being was without desire, craving, fear, or indeed the impulse to do anything at all—since the universe was already perfect and complete. After this, Brahma took out his divine sword and split Purusha in two. Sky became separate from earth, darkness from light, life from death, male from female. Each of these set off passionately to reunite with its severed half.
We don’t live on the summit of universal love. We climb the mountain, and then we descend it in order to share what we’ve found with others.
The sages of ancient India did not view the five stages on love’s journey as mutually exclusive. They averred that we do not need to renounce sex and romance in pursuit of a “higher” love. All the forms coexist in the heart that is mature.
Now, we seem to be obsessed with ‘falling’ in love. The ancient thinkers of India, however devoted a great deal of attention to this issue , recognised the power of sex and romance to jump-start our flagging emotions. But the important question for them was, where do we go from there? How do we harness the intoxicating power of falling in love to create a happiness that endures even after the initial flame dies away?
They taught that love consists of a series of stages through which an individual can climb. The lower stages on love’s journey aren’t necessarily supposed to go away as one gets more enlightened, however, remaining stuck at the lowest rung can cause a lot of frustration and sadness.
The types of love that Hinduism defines are
1. “Kama,” or sensory craving
In ancient India, sex was not associated with shame but a joyous aspect of human existence and a topic worthy of serious investigation. In fact, though the Kama Sutra is about this kind of love, the majority of the text is a philosophy of love dealing with questions such as what sparks desire, what maintains it, and how it can be wisely cultivated. Now though this is considered legitimate Hinduism is also clear that one can never achieve wholeness through the act of sex alone.
Philosophers of India focused on the emotional content of the romantic experience called shringara, and they developed an especially rich vocabulary to express the myriad moods and emotions associated with it.
This imaginative play of love is symbolized by the relationship of the divine couple, Radha and Krishna, whose romantic adventures are celebrated in Indian dance, music, theatre, and poetry.
Yet the ancients were realistic about what a mixed bag romance is. They did not imagine that finding our “soul mate” would solve our problems, relieve our sense of unworthiness and self-doubt, or satisfy all of our emotional needs.
So, Indian philosophy teaches we need to move towards something even greater.
“The simplest acts of kindness,” said Mahatma Gandhi, “are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”
Compassion resembles the uncomplicated love that we naturally feel toward children and pets. It is also associated with “matru-prema,” the Sanskrit term for motherly love, which is said to be love’s most giving and least selfish form. This comes naturally in some cases but .
Compassion for strangers, however, does not always come naturally. So in Hindu and Buddhist practice, there are loving-kindness meditations in which practitioners develop the ability to wish others well. The idea is that compassion is like a muscle that can become stronger if we use it regularly.
Here, many principles like forgiveness is essential to truly remain compassionate. I once heard an interview with former President Bill Clinton in which he was talking about Nelson Mandela. Clinton was recalling the time in which he asked Mandela how he had forgiven those who had unjustly deprived him of his freedom for so long. Mandela had answered, “I didn’t want to be in prison anymore.” Truly, not forgiving is a prison only we can release ourselves from. Kia Scherr did realise this and has indeed shown this to us in her own life. Kia and her family were part of a spiritual movement and led a quiet life in a meditation centre in Virginia, USA. She came to India with her husband and daughter on a spiritual mission and experienced the most horrific event any human being may encounter as she lost her daughter and husband in the 26/11 terror strike at The Trident in Mumbai.
Despite her loss, she turned to meditation to handle her grief and put her life back together. Not just this, she became a peace entrepreneur. Her peace initiatives led her to form the One Life Alliance Trust with many people who wish to bring in peace by understanding others. The One Life Alliance is working with schools in Mumbai and some schools are willing to take the pledge to honour the “sacredness of life.”
“We have to learn to live in peace, compassion and love and we have to slow down our lives. It’s important to listen to other people and your own inner voice. Forgiveness is a bridge to peace,” she points out and has even made a movie Letter to a Terrorist
”If I hadn’t forgiven, it would not have freed me up to do the things I want,” she says. After thinking about this further, she continues, “Forgiveness is not about condoning anyone’s action but coming to terms with acceptance and choosing to live with compassion”.
Now, these people have recreated their lives only because they recognised the power of the forgiveness. Now, we may not have to face such challenges but everywhere, the less we forgive, the more wounded we remain. As they wish to continue on the path of love, they ‘chose’ to forgive.
While compassion is a wonderful quality, it is not quite the final word. Beyond interpersonal love, the Indian tradition envisioned an impersonal form in which our sympathies gradually expand to embrace the whole of creation.
As a bridge to this, the sages came up with a path called “bhakti yoga,” which can be translated as the cultivation of the self through the love of God. God here is not just about a particular religion t can be directed toward whatever higher ideal speaks to us most powerfully, be that kindness, truth, or social justice.
Leaders like Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and countless others have a love for the world that is passionate and powerful as any romance. This of course can happen only when we realise the world is one and we all are part of it.
This Bhakti bhava can bring in the tonic of love even in sorrow, like it happened like in the case of Sheela (name changed on request). Sheela’s son Aseem died suddenly in a car accident in 2013. She and her husband were devastated. “When Aseem left us suddenly, the earth opened up and swallowed us whole, the volcano and holocaust that followed left only shrapnel and debris all around. For many months we could not breathe eat or sleep, and performing simple functions of daily living seemed impossible, “ she says. After a while, they picked themselves together and wondered what to do next. “There was only one thing we wanted: to keep him with us at any cost. Of course this was the one thing we could not do. So the next best thing was to keep alive books, which he loved next only to life. “
They went to several schools but found that most children have graduated to computers and the internet.
In the meantime, they had begun to offer food in Aseem’s name to children of an orphanage nearby -Ummeed Aman Ghar, at Mehrauli, where street children were given shelter, food, clothing, medical help and education. There, they saw that the children did have some books, but these were torn, dusty, dilapidated and lying in disarray. Suddenly, it struck them as the perfect place to give books.
They sought and got permission from Aman Biradari , the NGO that runs the place to start a library. They agreed but they offered no financial support with some of them even a little sceptical on how it would succeed. They were even discouraged by some to give books here as the children were not really literate. The debate about whether a library should come first or literacy should come first, the chicken -or- the- egg story baffled Sheela and her husband, but they were determined and hence, started with the chicken!
“On 17th October 2011, about six months after we had lost everything in our life, we started Aseem’s Library with 300 books and a bookshelf, “ says Sheela, with pride.
She would spend hours hiding here, with the boys, crowding around new books, making lists, reading to them, telling them stories, of how books can be a friend, and fun too. “All I wanted was to be with books and hence, with my son,” she says.
This did take off in a surprising manner, “The boys surprised me with their reception and respect and love for the books, they made lists, cleaned the place, protected and read the books, and wanted more,“ says Sheela. Sheela and her team soon developed their own Honeycomb Methodology to connect children with a book. Multiple activities of literary nature, art and craft, brain teasers, games and sports, dramas and debates, helped to crack different children in different manners. Outings and competitions built a sense of equality in them, keeping them engaged with a productive book or game or puzzle kept them away from fighting and non -productive occupations like drugs and reduced negativity and anger. Being appreciated for the largest number of books read or maximum attendance every month , or seeing their art display decorating the corridors, built a sense of belonging and pride and confidence in them. It soon became a matter of pride to be called a member of Aseem’s library.
There were no funds or support as such but the universe did help them all along. When people came to know the benefits, the demand did increase. “We had no time or money to meet the demands, but friends and family came forward and we found great librarians. The children everywhere, boys and girls, in homes and custodial centres, all loved and welcomed the books,” she says.
Now the library is treated as a place of first intervention for healing a traumatized child when he enters the facility. It grows to be a source of recreation, it inspires learning, imparts general knowledge, and life skills and supports academic progress.
In August 2012, Sheela produced a book of stories written and illustrated by the boys, based on their own experiences and fictional stories they wrote. The book Ummeed-Hope was launched in the Book Fair in front of 60 other mainstream schools and libraries. This was an hour of pride, the children had arrived and the library was here to stay.
Sheela has indeed epitomised what one of the authors in her books, young Ramzan says, “As I struggle hard every day to shape my destiny, I wait for the answers and if I don’t get them, I pledge to make them myself”. Incidentally, Ramzan lost his father when he was in the second grade, because of which the financial condition at home deteriorated and he started doing odd jobs. Now, with the help of Umeed, an NGO for helping the underprivileged, he started schooling again and has never given up on studies or life.
Sheela truly symbolises what is meant by bhakti or love for the world. She after all, combatted her sorrow only by cultivating this love.
Up until this point, each stage of love has been directed outward into the world. But at its apex it comes full circle back to the self. Atma-prema can be translated as “self-love.” This is not the self as we usually think of it, but the essential self, the self that exists at the center of all of us.
This is indeed the ultimate state of being for all of us.
Some people, like Louise Hayes, have indeed shown this to us. She grappled with abuse as a child and teen, went on to became a model, and then had a broken marriage with a businessman. Although it may appear to many that her life had skydived, it was at that time that her healing really began. She became a Religious Science practitioner and led people through spoken affirmations, which she believed would cure their illnesses, and became popular as a workshop leader. She also studied Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa. In 1976, Hay wrote her first book, Heal Your Body, which began as a small pamphlet containing a list of different bodily ailments and their “probable” metaphysical causes.
When she got diagnosed with cancer in 1978, she did not despair but put her philosophies into practice. She rejected surgery and drugs, and instead developed an intensive programme of affirmations, visualisation, nutritional cleansing, and psychotherapy. Within six months, she was completely healed of cancer.
Today, she can indeed be called the goddess of love. She has opened a publishing house, still conducts workshops and has inspired many to heal themselves with just the tonic of loving their own selves. For it is only when we love ourselves that we are able to share holistic love with everyone around us.
What this means in practice is that we see ourselves in others and see others in ourselves. “The river that flows in you,” says the Indian mystical poet Kabir, “also flows in me.”
When we achieve atma-prema, we recognize that—when stripped of the accidents of our genetic heritage and upbringing—we are all expressions of the one life, the life that the Indian creation myth represented as Purusha.
Atma-prema arises from the realization that beyond our personal faults and foibles, beyond even our name and personal history, we are all children of the highest. When we love ourselves and others in this profound yet impersonal way, our love loses its boundaries and becomes unconditional.
The great Sufi visionary Rumi gave voice to this paradoxical experience by saying,
I, you, he, she, we—
in the garden of mystic lovers,
these are not true distinctions.
By realising this, we all can indeed remain lovingly wholesome and holistic.
How to become embodiments of love
Love everyone and everything, without attaching strings and without judging them.
Judgement is the one thing that hampers our viewing others as human beings who have their own journeys in life with their own stories.
Have personal regard and respect for the people you meet. Treat them as equals and not inferior or superior in any way.
Work on the principle that everyone is, at heart, good. Assume that although they may do questionable things, the person underneath is fundamentally pure.
Accept others as they are with no conditions attached
None of us are perfect. We should aim to accept people as they are even if we consider some traits to be flawed.
Forgive everyone as this is bound to hamper our ability to love.
In the journey of life, we need to understand others and forgive them for the wounds they may have inflicted on us. For, we are human and do err, both knowingly and many times, unknowingly as well.
Learn to love all beings including your own self
Love is a tonic we need to share with others and give it to ourselves as well. The wonderful thing about love is the more we share, the more we get and in the process, start becoming embodiments of love ourselves, slowly but steadily.
By Jamuna Rangachari
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