Often I have had conversations in the last year or more with young friends struggling with the whole issue of ‘marriage’ and love. I see many unmarried youngsters grappling with it today (thankfully!). It is a big question. And needs careful attention. A related question which is more fundamental is about relationships. Is that not the central thing that we all grapple with- relationship with each other, and relationship with a lot else – money and sex being the two in which we humans are the most confused.
And then of course the relationship with all that is ‘material’ – food, body, home, career, and more. Above all our relationship with our selves and with life itself! Some call it the divine. And at the heart of it all is the four letter word- love.
The word ‘love’ has become a cliché. And yet, it is a journey which is so completely human and so utterly divine. The society and human beings have classified ‘love’ and defined its appropriateness. And whether we are navigating our relationship with the one who is most precious to us or ‘The One’ (differently labeled as Awareness, The Divine, Universe, Existence, Being, Essence etc), it would help to appreciate what is possible. All our human relationships are an expression of our relationship.
While there is a validity in us humans categorizing love as romantic, parental, platonic, friendship etc., it may be worthwhile to really look and see .. does this defining result in a confining. And can true love ever be confined? I love the Shubha Mudgal song, ‘Pyaar toh musafir hai marzi se aaye jaaye’ (Love is a traveller, it comes and goes by its own will).
A few years back, I had read this piece by Swami Vivekananda in a booklet on ‘Bhakti Yoga’ which touched me deeply. The summary is..
“The lowest form in which this (divine) love is apprehended is.. peaceful – the Shanta. The next higher type is that of Dasya i.e servant ship; The next type of love is Sakhya, friendship. (Then) Vatsalya, loving god not as our Father but as our child… to detach all ideas of power from the concept of God… (The next) is known as Madhura, sweet, and is the highest of all such representations… where God is our husband… The true spiritual lover does not rest even there…” – Swami Vivekananda
What is the path of the true spiritual lover of the divine and its manifestation in human form- read on to discover
HUMAN REPRESENTATIONS OF THE DIVINE IDEAL OF LOVE
– Swami Vivekananda
It is impossible to express the nature of this supreme and absolute ideal of love in human language. Even the highest flight of human imagination is incapable of comprehending it in all its infinite perfection and beauty. The whole universe is to us a writing of the infinite in the language of the common terms associated with the common love of humanity in relation to God and His worship through love.
Some of the great writers on Para – Bhakti have tried to understand and experience this divine love in so many different ways. The lowest form in which this love is apprehended is what they call the peaceful – the Shanta– When a man worships God without the fire of love in him without its madness in his brain, when his love is just the calm commonplace love. The Shanta- Bhakta is calm, peaceful, gentle.
The next higher type is that of Dasya i.e servant ship; it comes when a man thinks he is the servant of the Lord. The attachment of the faithful servant unto the master is his ideal.
The next type of love is Sakhya, friendship – “Thou, art our beloved friend.” Just as a friend will never chide him for his faults but will always try to help him, just as there is the idea of equality between him and his friend, so equal love flows in and out between the worshipper and his friendly God. Thus God become our friend, the friend who is near, the friend to whom we may freely tell all the tales of our lives. The innermost secrets of our hearts we may place before Him with the great assurance of safety and support. God is viewed here as our playmate. We may well say that we are all playing in this universe. Just as children play their games … so is the Beloved Lord himself in sport with this universe.
It is all really in sport; the universe is His play going on. The whole universe must after all be a big piece of pleasing fun to Him. If you are poor, enjoy that as fun; if you are rich, enjoy the fun of being rich; if dangers come, it is also good fun; if happiness comes, there is more good fun. How beautifully He is playing! The play is finished when the cycle comes to an end. There is rest for a shorter or longer time; again all come out and play. It is only when you forget that it is all play and that you are also helping in the play, it is only then that misery and sorrows come.
Then the heart becomes heavy, then the world weighs upon you with tremendous power. But as soon as you give up the serious idea of reality as the characteristic of the changing incidents of the three minutes of life and know it to be but a stage on which we are playing, helping Him to play, at once misery ceases for you. He plays in every atom; He is playing when He is building up earths, and suns, and moons; he is playing with the human heart, with animals with plants.
The next is what is known as Vatsalya, loving god not as our Father but as our child. This may look peculiar, but it is a discipline to enable us to detach all ideas of power from the concept of God. The idea of power brings with it awe. There should be no awe in love. The ideas of reverence and obedience are necessary for the formation of character, but when character is formed, when the lover has tasted the calm, peaceful love, and tasted also a little of its intense madness, then he need talk no more of ethics and discipline. To conceive God as mighty, majestic, and glorious as the Lord of the universe, or as the God of gods, the lover says he does not care. It is to avoid this association with god of the fear –creating sense of power that he worships God as his own child. The mother and the father are not moved by any reverence to the child; they cannot think of asking any favor from the child.
The child’s position is always that of the receiver, and out of love for the child the parents will give up their bodies a hundred times over. The Christian and the Hindu can realize it easily, because they have the baby Jesus and the baby Krishna. The superstitions of awe and reverence in relation to God are deeply rooted in the heart of our hearts, and it takes long years to sink entirely in love.
There is one more human representation of the divine ideal of love. It is known as Madhura, sweet, and is the highest of all such representations. It is indeed based on the highest manifestation of love in this world, and this love is also the strongest known to man. What love shakes the whole nature of man, what love runs through every atom of his being- makes him mad, makes him forget his own nature, transforms him, makes him either a God or a demon – as the love between man and woman? In this sweet representation of divine love God is our husband. We are all women; there are no men in this world; there is but one man, that is He, our Beloved.
All the different kinds of love which we see in the world, and with which we are more or less playing merely, have God as the one goal; but unfortunately, man does not know the infinite ocean into which this mighty river of love, is constantly flowing, and so, foolishly, he often tries to direct it to little dolls of human beings. The tremendous love for the child that is in human nature is not for the little doll of child; if you bestow it blindly and exclusively on the child, you will suffer in consequence. But through such suffering will come the awakening by which you are sure to find out that the love which is in you, if it is given to any human being, will sooner or later bring pain and sorrow as the result; our love must, therefore, be given to the Highest One who never dies and never changes, to Him in the ocean of whose love there is neither ebb nor flow. Love must get to its right destination; it must go unto Him who is really the infinite ocean of love. All rivers flow into the ocean. Even the drop of water coming down from the mountainside cannot stop its course after reaching a brook or a river, however big it may be; at last even that drop somehow does find its way to the ocean.
God is the one goal of all our passions and emotions. If you want to be angry, be angry with him. Chide your Beloved, Chide you Friend. Whom else can you safely chide? Mortal man will not patiently put up with your anger; there will be a reaction. If you are angry with me I am sure quickly to react, because I cannot patiently put up with your anger. Say unto the Beloved, “Why do you not come to me; why do You leave me thus alone?” Where is there any enjoyment but in him? What enjoyment can there be in little clods of earth? It is the crystallized essence of infinite enjoyment that we have to seek, and that it is in God. Let all our passions and emotions go up unto him. They are meant for Him, for if they miss their mark and go lower, they become vile; and when they go straight to the mark. to the Lord, even the lowest of them becomes transfigured. All the energies of the human body and mind, howsoever they may express themselves, have the Lord as their one goal, as their Ekayana. All loves and all passions of the human heart must go to God. He is the Beloved, Whom else can this heart must go to God. He is the Beloved. Whom else can this heart love? He is the most beautiful, the most sublime; He is beauty itself, sublimity itself. Who in this universe is more beautiful than he? Who in this universe is more beautiful that He? Who in this universe is fit to become the husband than He? Who in this universe is fitter to be loved than He? So let Him be the husband, let Him be the Beloved.
Often it so happens that divine lovers who sing of this divine love accept the language of human love in all its aspects as adequate to describe it. Fools do not understand this; they never will. They look at it only with the physical eye. They do not understand the mad throes of this spiritual love. How can they? “For one kiss of thy lips, o Beloved! One who has been kissed by Thee, has his thirst of Thee increasing for ever, all his sorrows vanish and he forgets all things except Thee alone.” Aspire after that kiss of the beloved, that touch of His lips which makes the Bhakta mad, which makes of man a god. To him, who has been blessed with such a kiss, the whole of nature changes, world s vanish, suns and moons die out, and the universe itself melts away into that one infinite ocean of love. That is the perfection of the madness of love.
Ay, the true spiritual lover does not rest even there; even the love of husband and wife is not mad enough for him. The Bhaktas take up also the idea of illegitimate love, because it is so strong; the impropriety of it is not at all the thing they have in view. The nature of this love is such that the more obstructions there are for its free play, the more passionate it becomes, the love between husband and wife is smooth; there are no obstructions there. So the Bhaktas take up the idea of a girl who is in love with her own beloved, and her mother or father or husband objects to such love; and the more anybody obstructs the course of her love, so much the more is her love tending to grow in strength. Human language cannot describe how Krishna in the groves of Vrinda was madly loved, how at the sound of his voice the ever-blessed Gopis rushed out to meet him, forgetting everything, forgetting this world and its ties, its duties, its joys and its sorrows. Man, O man, you speak of divine love and at the same time are able to attend to all the vanities of this world – are you sincere? “Where desire is, there is no room for Rama; these never coexist- like light and darkness they are never together.
When the highest ideal of love is reached, philosophy is thrown away, who will then care for it? Freedom, Salvation, Nirvana- all are thrown away; who cares to become free while in the enjoyment of divine love? “Lord, I do not want wealth, nor friends, nor beauty, nor learning, nor even freedom; let me be born again and again, and be Thou ever my Love. Be Thou ever and ever my Love.” “Who cares to become sugar? Says the Bhakta. “I want to taste sugar.” Who will then desire to become free and one with God? “ I may know that I am He, yet will I. Take myself away form Him and become different, so that I may enjoy the Beloved.” That is what the Bhakta says.
Love for love’s sake is his highest enjoyment. Who will not be bound hand and foot a thousand times over to enjoy the Beloved? No Bhakta cares for anything except love, except to love and to be loved. His unworldly love is like the tide rushing up the river; this lover goes up the river against the current. The world calls him mad. I know one whom the world used to call mad, and this was his answer; “My friends, the whole world is a lunatic asylum. Some are mad after worldly love, some after name, some after fame, some after money, some after salvation and going to heaven. In this big lunatic asylum I am also mad, I am mad after God. If you are mad after money, I am mad after God. You are mad; so am I. I think my madness is after all the best.” The true Bhakta’s love is this burning madness, before which everything else vanishes for him. The whole universe is to him full of love and the love alone; that is how it seems to the lover. So when a man has his love in him, he becomes eternally blessed, eternally happy. This blessed madness of divine love alone can cure forever the disease of the world that is in us. With desire, selfishness has vanished. He has drawn near to God, he has thrown off all those vain desires of which he was full before.
We all have to begin as dualists in the religion of love. God is to us a separate Being, and we feel over selves to be separate beings also. Love then comes in the middle, and man begins to approach God, and God also comes nearer and nearer to man. Man takes up all the various relationships of life, as father, as mother, as son, as friend, as mater, as lover and projects them on his ideal of love, on his God. To him God exists as all these, and the last point of his progress is reached when he feels that he has become absolutely merged in the object of his worship. We all begin with love for ourselves, and the unfair claims of the little self make even love selfish. At last, however, comes the full blaze of light, in which this little self is seen to have become one with the Infinite. Man himself is transfigured in the presence of this Light of Love, and he realizes at last the beautiful and inspiring truth that love, the Lover, and the Beloved are One.
Lets not misunderstand the word ‘illegitimate love’ … the true spiritual seeker.. the seeker of truth- (which like J. Krishnamurti says, is a pathless land) must necessarily question all that society calls right and wrong. Only then might we transcend polarity, duality and reside in oneness with what is.
There are no easy answers to the question of marriage. Or love, for that matter. What matters is are we asking the right questions.
Recently I put a status message in facebook a quote that touched me:
Love is an ideal thing, marriage is a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
It seemed it touched a chord in people also as is revealed from this conversation on Facebook:
The only question is:
Are we engaging with an honesty and an openness the questions that really matter.. .. as the world is profoundly shifting in consciousness. In this engagement, it would be useful to discover love, to negate what it is not..
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just ‘being in love’ which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left when being in love is burned away…
– Louis de Berniers, Corelli’s Mandolin
The whole challenge and opportunity of Commitment requires a deep understanding of how Deep Commitment and Real Freedom are two sides of the same coin. Human beings may have required a legal ritual to ‘ensure’ commitment. But as we evolve to higher levels of consciousness, we may discover that true commitment is free of any bindings and yet there is an honoring of truth. Moment to moment. Just like love, beauty, truth, even commitment and freedom can be understood by being willing to ‘not know’ what it truly is. It may be discovered by constantly seeing what it is not. And hence making it a living, pulsating reality rather than a dried, stale idea, ideal, concept or a ‘should’.