The subject of love has been misinterpreted for centuries. European poets talked about love in the sense of romance and the relationship between a man and woman. Even in India the general interpretation for love has always been romantic. The love of Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal led to the making of the Taj Mahal.
Another classical interpretation of love, was love for one’s parents or children. And then came the saints who spoke about love for your fellow men, for all human beings, animals, elements, the love of abundance.
I believe that love is devoid of emotion and therefore cannot be a positive feeling. I remember a poem that I studied in school. It was Shakespeare’s sonnet, ‘love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove’.
Love is also not a quid pro quo or return present. Love is not something that you direct towards a specific person or a specific set of people. It is an attitude that you have which can be directed to one, many and as many people you come into contact with. It needs to be an underlying theme, where you believe that you need to love all forms of Supreme Consciousness outside you, so that you can love that same spark of Supreme Consciousness inside you.
Love needs to be a reflection from the inside to the outside. Your love for yourself can never be true, unless it is available for you to share with the outside world too.
The water in the coffee may have the ability to love the water of other cups of coffee, even though the other cups may have different shapes, sizes, and colours. That will come naturally, it’s like one Punjabi loving another, isn’t it? The challenge is that the water in the cup of coffee should be able to love the liquidity in a glass of mango juice, in a cup of tea, and in all other forms of liquid as well.
The Lowest Common Denominator (LCM) of all liquids is water. So why should water only know how to love itself in the pure form. The ability to feel the oneness with itself in a cup of coffee or a bottle of tomato ketchup shows the ability to love.
We get bound by concentric circles. We are proud to be Indians, we are proud to be Punjabis, we are proud to be Khannas, we are proud to be from the same village and the same caste, and even better, the same family. To top it up, we are also proud to be practicing the same religion, and for the microscopically advanced, we are happy to be from the same sub-sect. And we love people from our own fraternity within all these circles. This love that we have just spoken about stems from acceptable norms or homogeneity. This is not love without an agenda, this is not love for the sake of love itself; this is love of cult.
The very phrase ‘your loved ones’ has within its brackets an element of selfish love. Love for family or extended family is still love with an emotional tint. The lesson that I learned from Gurudev and put to practice gave me a completely different definition of love.
He wanted us to do away with attachments and so I practiced not being attached to anyone and it worked for me. I wondered whether at the end of this I had become a careless father, a loveless husband, an indifferent son, and a non-indulgent brother? The emotion had gone out of most of these relationships. But the sense of duty had not, and besides this, there was a superimposition of role play. I knew the 17 things I needed to do, to qualify as a good brother, the 14 ingredients of playing the role of a responsible son etc. A good father and a great husband are two relationships that have still eluded me.
Hopefully my newly adopted Sindhi philosophy will help me get there (Sindhis are a community who are probably one of the best in the world in the art of diplomacy and negotiation).
My children could sense the change of attitude and wondered whether my advent into spiritualism had made me distant. And, of course, whose wife does not think that he’s not caring enough?
However something new has happened. I have suddenly started looking at other people’s children as much closer to myself than I would earlier. I found an underlying connectivity to most human beings known or unknown, Indian or foreign, rich or poor, surprisingly the good guys and even the bad guys. The kind of love that I had entertained earlier, had an emotional tint, it was replaced by a sort of indifferent caring for a much larger audience.
Let me once again throw Patanjali into the frey. I believe it is easier to believe someone in history than to believe another in geography. I quote “Human love is the highest emotion most of us know. It frees us to some extent from our egotism in our relation to one or more individuals. But human love is still possessive and exclusive. Love for the Atman is neither. What people “really are” is the Atman, nothing less. To love the Atman in ourselves is to love it everywhere. And to love the Atman in ourselves is to love it everywhere. And to love the Atman everywhere is to go beyond any manifestation of Nature to the Reality within Nature. Such a love is too vast to be understood by ordinary minds, and yet it is simply an infinite deepening and expansion of the little limited love we all experience”
I can sort of feel what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes. Though this might be a cliché, it has become an important aspect of my life. I realise that I will never be a popular friend or family man, nor will I be a social success, but I am happy to have seen this emotional love charged with agenda, replaced by a cool, not-so-warm (intense) connectivity to others (unfortunately, that is not the description for a cool dude!).
I do not feel thrilled when a younger friend has a baby, I just feel nice for them and when I hear of someone losing their parent or family member, I do not feel distressed either. I find it difficult to mourn for anybody’s loss. In fact when people lose their adult parents of over 65 or 70 years, I tell them, I feel happy that they went without suffering and hopefully having lived a good life.
Many of my wife’s family members have appreciated my letters, sharing not my sorrow, but my satisfaction as their elders died true to their destiny. I wished their spirits would do well in the after life. I find this cold, dispassionate feeling of wanting others lives to improve, a much more productive form of love than I have known for the first 50 years of my life. I know that when I’m dead and gone my family members will give examples to others of their father’s love of balance and dependability.
An excerpt of a few lines from the words by Adi Shankaracharya, add ‘tadka’ (spice) to the above sentences. ‘I have no separation from my true self, no doubt about my existence, nor have I discrimination on the basis of birth. I have no father or mother, nor did I have a birth. I am not the relative, nor the friend, nor the guru, nor the disciple, I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.’
The reason I share these thoughts with you, is because I know that once you put the strategies of this text into action, you will reach a similar position on the dartboard. A recipe if made exactly as in the book, tastes almost the same every time.
Learn to love yourself without emotion. Do love yourself mathematically, if I can put it in jest!