Do we really love? Or are we simply attached to, identified with, or dependent on someone? Is our love free, unconditional or mixed with various conditions and demands? What is unconditional love? Is it possible for us to cultivate it? What is the difference between love and attachment? How can we recognize whether what we feel is love or attachment? How can we purify our love, and thus move into a higher level of consciousness offering greater happiness to all, including ourselves?
These are some of the many questions which we will be discussing and analyzing in this chapter.
WHAT IS LOVE?
Love is a very difficult word to define. Perhaps because the reality of love approaches the spiritual dimensions which are beyond time and space and thus comprehension by the human mind. Love like all other highly spiritual realities are more easily described by what they are not. Love is not fear, not hurt, pain, jealousy, bitterness, hate, separateness, lust, attachment, aggressiveness, ego-centeredness, indifference, possessiveness, suppression – the list goes on .
Love, like God, peace and other spiritual realities can be perceived more easily through the effects which it creates. We cannot see the wind but we can see the effects of the wind, such as the leaves and papers moving, branches swaying, or the sound of air rushing. We know there is wind by its various side effects. We know there is a primal cause (God) for creation, because we perceive its effect: creation itself.
What then are the effects of love? Love creates feelings of unity. We feel towards others as we feel towards ourselves. We are interested in their welfare, happiness, success, health and spiritual growth, as much as we are concerned about our own. Loving someone means wanting him to be happy, no matter what that is which makes him really happy. It breeds understanding, compassion, forgiveness, happiness, excitement, peace, joy and a desire to be helpful in anyway that we can to the other.
Love is expansion beyond our ego limitations. It is the ability to identify with the other. The ability to let go enough of our self interest and personal needs so as to be able to really hear and understand the other’s needs and interests. It means caring enough to be able to sacrifice, when necessary, our own pleasures and desires when the other’s needs are obviously more important.
Love is the force which brings about unity and harmony. It is the “glue” of the universe. It helps persons with different egos, desires, programmings and needs overcome all those potentially repelling forces and unite. Some concentrate on experiencing that unity only on the physical level through sexual interaction. This is one of many levels of unification which can also take place on the emotional, mental and spiritual levels.
Love is the force of unity which will enable our already internally existing spiritual unity and harmony to manifest itself on the mental, emotional, physical, family, social, economic, political and international levels. We are moving towards unity (even if it seems the opposite sometimes) and the main forces are love and wisdom.
Thus, love is the greatest, the highest human quality, and it needs to be given priority over all other needs and concerns. Only in this way will we have peace, happiness and wellbeing on the earth.
Love needs not so much to be learned or cultivated but rather released or brought up to the surface if you like. We are love. Our basic nature is love. But ignorance, fear and attachment have buried it so deep within us that it is sometimes not easily brought to the surface or maintained. Loving others steadily independent of their behavior, is not an easy achievement.
LOVE VERSUS NEED
The power of attraction which we call love is expressed at many levels and in countless ways. The most basic level is that of need. We often use the word love when we really mean “need”. We say I love you, but if we analyze more deeply what we are really saying is “I need you”. This is the basic message of most love songs. They are lament with sadness, pain, agony. They cry out “you left me. I cannot live without you. I need you”.
This is not love. It is need, attachment, addiction. If it were love and the other was happier by leaving us or even happier with someone else, then we would be happy for him, not full of sadness for ourselves. Loving others means wanting them to be happy, healthy, successful in the ways that they are guided to be. Love does not create the pain we feel when someone leaves us, or rejects us. That pain is is generated by our dependency on that person for our security, pleasure or affirmation.
Love creates happiness. Needs and attachment create fear, pain and suffering.
Our love is still mixed with a considerable amount of need. Love wants to give. Need wants to take. Sometimes what we are seeking to take is very subtle and requires deep inner inquiry. Whenever we feel pain in our relationships it is because our needs are in danger of not being satisfied. When this happens our “love” turns to hurt, disappointment, fear, loneliness, inferiority, or injustice and sometimes, anger, hate, rage and revenge.
How can love become all these negative emotions? It cannot. The simple truth is that it never was pure love. It was love (or attraction would be a better word) based on need. This does not mean that we should reject ourselves because we have seldom really loved. As we are not yet enlightened spiritual beings, how could we? It would be like rejecting ourselves because we do not yet have a university diploma when we are still in the first grade. It is only natural that we cannot love unconditionally yet. That is our stage of evolution.
FREEING OUR LOVE FROM NEED
The first step towards opening our hearts to real love is to accept and love ourselves exactly as we are with all our weakness and faults. Only then can we proceed effectively.
The second step is to begin observing the feelings which are stimulated in our relationships. Through objective self-observation we can determine in which situations we are loving unconditionally and in which we are feeling attached and loving with specific conditions. Following are some examples which will help.
NEEDING THOSE WHO MAKE US FEEL SECURE
We look to others for security. Children look to parents, spouses to spouses, parents to children, employees to employers, friends to friends, spiritual aspirants to their spiritual teachers, and sometimes all of these in reverse.
We feel love towards these people, but often that love is based on the fact that they offer that feeling of security. If they start behaving in a way which obstructs our feeling of security; if they decide to leave us and live on their own or be with someone else, will we still love them? If our employer fires us will we still love him? If our parents throw us out onto the street; will we still love them? Or is our love tightly woven with the need for security?
If as parents we dream that our child will become an economically well off and socially accepted professionally, will we love the child the same if he or she becomes a street artist, a beggar, or an anarchist? Some parents will be able to; others will not.
The basic question is whether or not our feelings of love are steady and unchanging regardless of the various changing behaviors of those we “love”. In each case where we perceive our heart closing, we can look to discover what we are fearing in that situation. What might we loose in this situation?
Only when we have realized total inner security perhaps based on an inner spiritual awakening or on our faith in God, will we be able to love without security attachments. Only when know that we can live without others, can we really love them steadily.
Society has helped us to completely confuse this matter. We believe that if we love others, we must be totally dependent on them and fear that our world will fall apart if something happens to them. This is insecurity. This is a lack of faith in God. It is a lack of faith in our own spiritual nature and our ability to deal with life. It has nothing to do with love.
Perhaps this is why the Apostle John wrote, “where there is perfect love, there can be no fear”.
NEEDING FOR PLEASURE AND AFFIRMATION
Let us look at how our needs for pleasure and affirmation can limit our experience of love. We create relationships which give us pleasure and affirmation, as well as security. We may be dependent on the other for money, travel, clothing, sex, encouragement, compliments, humor, tasty food, a clean house, comforts, or even his or her beauty.
But if he or she stops providing these for us, or decides to provide them for someone else, or to split whatever it is between us and someone else, do we continue loving that person or do we feel hurt, disillusioned, overcome with feelings of injustice, anger and perhaps revenge? The condition here is that “I love you because you provide me pleasure, happiness or excitement; if you stop, my feelings change”. It is conditional love.
Or we may depend on someone for affirmation. This may take various forms. One is that, “you listen to me and do what I say. I can control you. That makes me feel powerful and worthy. If, however, you stop doing whatever I say, I will stop feeling love and unity with you?” This problem often develops between parents and children, when the child moves into adolescence. It also occurs between spouses. Frequently the wife is very suppressed in the beginning, and the husband feels powerful and affirmed. If however, she begins to think and act for herself, he begins to panic and becomes angry and sometimes aggressive. The roles may also be changed; and it is the woman who is controlling and feeling affirmed.
We also feel affirmation when someone needs us, when someone is dependent upon us. This could occur between parent and child, teacher and student, friends, or even between the “savior” and the “needy”. In these cases the needed feels worthy, or perhaps superior. This is one aspect of codependency. We also might find meaning in life, because someone needs us, depends on us. If however, the other doesn’t want to be the child, the student or the needy one any more, do we feel the same attraction and love? If not, our love mixed with our need to be needed. Our need is to give, offer, sacrifice in order to feel useful, worthy or boost our self image. If this is the case, then all that we offer in these situations, all our sacrifices were actually for ourselves and not for the others. We need to do it for ourselves not for them.
That does not negate the fact that they too may have need, or that we also have feelings of altruistic love mixed with our need to be needed. We are often motivated by two or three motives simultaneously
A third aspect of this attraction for affirmation is the situation in which we “love” those who affirm our rightness, either verbally by telling us that we are right, or simply by belonging to the same group or to the same belief system, such as social, political, religious, spiritual group etc.
“I love you because you agree with me, you are like me, you affirm me”. If they change beliefs and convert to another political party, religion, or spiritual group, will we feel the same closeness and “love”? Perhaps yes, perhaps no.
A fourth aspect of this affirmation principle is called “Erotas” (eros) or falling in love. In this case there is a mutual (occasionally only one-sided) infatuation on the physical, sexual, emotional and sometimes spiritual level. There is a special attraction between two persons who excite, bring joy to and stimulate each other positively. This positive stimulation usually has to do with the needs for security, pleasure and affirmation.
This intensity of feeling seldom lasts more than a few years. The couple has then the possibility of transforming their “Erotas” into a steady form of unconditional love, or face the sadness of conflict or separation. Sooner or later we will come face to face with the others’ various negative aspects; and if we cannot love them as they are, the relationship dissolves.
Until we are able to love unconditionally, we will be unhappy, insecure and frequently in conflict with those around us. We will be able to do this only when we have matured sufficiently so as to experience inner security, inner satisfaction, and a steady feeling of self-worth. In other words, we can love purely only those we do not need. When we need others we cannot love them unconditionally. This might be difficult to comprehend at first. But if you think deeply about it and test it out in your life, you will see that it is true.
Being able to love without conditions is a basic prerequisite both for spiritual growth and for a happy life.
SELFLESS LOVE FOR A SPECIFIC PERSON
The next stage in the evolution of love, is being able to love others regardless of their behavior. Probably the closest most of us have come to experiencing this love is our love for our children. There are some parents who have totally selfless love for their children. Even if the child decides to live a completely different type of lifestyle from that which the parents have programmed, even if the child rejects and abuses the parents, even if he or she becomes a dangerous criminal; they are able to maintain the same level of love for that being because he or she is “their child”.
This love is not in any way universal and it is not totally unconditional, because there is one condition, that the other is “my child” and not someone else’s child. We might also experience this type of selfless love for a specific being when that being is “our student” or under “our care or responsibility”. This type of love has to do with the role of protector or feeling responsibility for someone. It enables us to accept all types of behavior from others and continue accepting and loving them with understanding and compassion.
In some rare cases we may also feel such love for persons who belong to the same grouping i.e. nationality, religion or social class.
In these cases we do not gain something tangible from these individuals. We do not ask them for anything. Our love is not dependent on their abiding by a certain type of behavior or even reciprocating our love. Our love is more selfless but still specific and not universal.
UNIVERSAL SELFLESS LOVE
We are then ready to expand our feelings of unconditional love and acceptance to more and more people and eventually to all beings, including animals and plants and insects.
This love, however, is still directed towards form. We are still focused on the form of these beings. Thus we feel a sense of sadness when they experience suffering or unhappiness.
We perceive the form as reality. We feel love, acceptance and unity with that other form, but we are still living in the illusion that the form is real. We are still forgetting that behind that form there is an immortal ever blissful consciousness, which is just temporarily projecting that form towards the earth plane level. That universal consciousness is never in pain, never suffers, is never unhappy. That is the ultimate reality of the being or beings whom we love.
Those who experience this universal selfless love often choose careers or lifestyles which allow them to benefit the whole in some way. They may join service groups such as the Peace Corps or other voluntary service organizations. They feel a need to express that love through actions which better the quality of life for those around them, especially for those who are suffering, lonely or unhappy.
Their interest expands beyond the limits of themselves and their immediate family. They begin to realize that all beings are brothers and sisters in one spiritual family of all humanity. As their awareness grows, they see even animals and plants and insects as belonging to “their family”. They want to express this love through acts of service, acts of caring, acts of love.
SPIRITUAL UNIVERSAL LOVE
The next stage in the development of spiritual universal love. Wisdom or spiritual discrimination is now added to our love. We now see all forms as various manifestations of one unchanging, ever blissful, divine consciousness.
Thus although we continue to help and serve wherever we can, we do not feel unhappy about the pain, suffering or unhappiness that we see, for we realize that the real being behind that form has chosen to pass through that experience because it is exactly the next stimulus which he or she needs for his or her spiritual growth process. We realize now that we are all passing through exactly the experiences, pleasant and unpleasant, which we need in order to wake up from our dream of this illusory material reality.
Although we are not affected by the suffering we see, we are even more wholly dedicated towards eliminating it. Thus, we love and accept all beings as they are as we direct our energies towards facilitating this process of our mutual spiritual unfoldment. Each of us moves forward this in his or her own unique way.
Before, we may have tried to solve people’s problems for them. Now we realize that the most effective forms of help we can offer are unconditional love and education concerning the true spiritual nature of our being.
We now realize that main solution for the world’s economic and political and social problems is education concerning the spiritual truths of our immortal nature and our inherent oneness with all beings. When people understand and believe this totally, they will be healthy, happy and in harmony with all those around them.
We have experienced such “wise love” or “loving wisdom” from the highest spiritual teachers. It is sometimes difficult to understand their love and caring which, at times, to the beginner, may seem like indifference, especially when we are passing through tests and expect sympathy and emotional reactions. It is difficult for some to realize that it is sometimes more loving to allow someone, at times, to suffer a little more so that he or she can find the solution him or her self and grow stronger and freer from ignorance. Only a realized being can know, however, when to “not help” externally because this would be the most loving act for a specific person.
Many parents would do well to learn this form of discrimination. They would help their children much more if they refrained from solving their problems every time they are in trouble. No one should, however, misconceive that this text is indicating that we should not help those who are in need. We must help, but we must also ask ourselves what the most appropriate help would be in this situation.
The greatest gift, the most precious help that we can offer to those we love is to help them get in touch with the power and wisdom which exist within them. This at times means helping, and at others means letting them struggle by themselves, while we mentally send them light.
For an awakened spiritual being, seeing someone cry about some unhappy event in his life, or fear some future possibility, might be like our watching a small child crying about a toy that has broken, or fear the “boogie man”. We sympathize with the child, we love and we want to help him or her, but we cannot really be worried.
When we have reached the stage of spiritual understanding that all this creation is a temporary stage where souls come to play their parts and then leave, we will seldom worry about something. When we are watching a theater performance, we might get caught up at moments and feel tension about what is going on, but we can never get so lost in it so as to believe that it is real, and jump down onto the stage and start crying or fighting etc.
Those who experience this level of love sometimes do not exhibit all that emotional display which others may be used to interpreting as love. As we grow spiritually we begin to understand, however, that real love is a love for the soul within the other, which is trying to free itself from ignorance and the myth of weakness and fear.
These spiritually awakened beings often offer help on other levels, through their positive thought forms, prayers or sometimes direct contact on the astral level, usually in dreams. In this way help is given without undermining the others’ self confidence.
LOVING THE WAVE OR THE OCEAN
When we limit our love to a specific person, it is then difficult to experience love in its highest expression. We love this person and not others (we are not talking about the sexual level, but rather the emotional, mental and spiritual). We often focus on a specific persons, loving them because they offer us security, pleasure or affirmation; or because they are “ours”. They might be our children, spouse, parent, friend, countryman, or from our religion, political party, social group or intellectual level. They are like us. We feel secure with them. We feel affirmed.
Pure love is universal. It can express itself towards any particular being. But it cannot limit itself to that being or group of beings. If it does, then it is love mixed with conditions. Each individual is one of the countless waves on an ocean of consciousness. The ocean is God, the Universal Consciousness which is temporarily taking the form of those specific waves, and then disappearing into the formlessness of the ocean again, and then reappearing as billions of others. All waves are expressions of the one ocean.
When we single one specific wave out the ocean of beings, and limit our love to that, we are in essence living an illusion. That being which we are loving is just a temporary manifestation of the one Universal Being which is manifesting as all the other beings simultaneously. That form on which we are focused is a temporary physical, emotional, mental manifestation which will dissolve back into the ocean. When we love the water in that wave, that is, its spiritual essence, the spirit within him, then we begin to love all waves. The same water is in all the waves. The same spiritual essence is in all beings.
Then we love the spiritual essence in others and not only their form or the specific benefits which we are receiving from them. We love the spirit within. Our love is now becoming both unconditional and universal. It is unconditional because it does not depend on what others do or do not do. Universal because we start to love more and more people independent of their appearance, character and other superficial factors. We love the spirit within them. We as spirit are one with the spirit which is within them.
So we can love the wave or we can love the ocean and thus all the waves. This is our choice.
Thus love is like the gold ore which is brought up from the earth; it is mixed with other metals (emotions, needs). Our job is to purify that gold through our efforts to love unconditionally in all of our relationships, no matter what the other does or does not do. We will then be happy.