|G.S. Srirangarajan with Sri Sathya Sai - Kodaikanal (1994)|
Divine Love cannot be described in words or encapsulated in definitions. God is Love. Love is God. Therefore just as God transcends mental comprehension, Divine Love too transcends worldly understanding. All the same, attempts are made by various persons to describe Divine Love in different ways. Some say, Love is a Divine quality, others call it a visible manifestation of God, yet others refer to it as a manifestation of Divinity.
Bhagavan Baba is known to His devotees as Love walking on two legs. He is the very embodiment of Divine Love. Let us see what He says about Love. Bhagavan says, “I separated Myself from Myself to Love Myself”. What does this mean? Love is the Cosmic Glue that manifests in this process of Self separation, to ensure ultimate union. If God is like the Super Magnet, Divine Love is like the magnetic force that does not allow the magnet to get separated.
Bhagavan says, “There is only one Religion, the Religion of Love”. What is the meaning of Religion? The word Religion is sourced from the Latin root word ‘Religare’. Religare means to go back to the Source. It also means ‘To Unite’, ‘To Bind’. This reinforces the ‘Cosmic Glue’ concept of Divine Love. Further Bhagavan says that Love is the striving to realize the falsity of the diversity and the reality of the One. Love transposes the self on to another and the two begin to think, speak, and act as one.
Love is but a reflection of the God who is residing in our heart. Without that spring of love that bubbles in our heart, we will not be prompted to love at all. There is no living being without the spark of love even a mad man loves something or somebody intensely. Surprisingly, one person we love most is our own self. Bhagavan narrates the anecdote of the man and a calf to drive home this point.
Once a young man, watching a calf fallen into a lake and drowning, jumped into the water to save the calf. He tried desperately to bring the calf onto the bank. Watching this act, a passerby laughed and asked the young man, “O foolish man, why are you risking your own life to save the life of that calf?” The young man replied, “Sir, I am not saving the calf for its sake. I am saving the calf to put an end to the misery that I am experiencing in my heart while watching the calf in pain. Therefore, I am saving it for my sake”. Strange as it may sound, deep inside, every act has this enlightened self interest in it. We do everything ultimately for self-satisfaction, self-joy. Even charity, selfless as it may seem, is done for the sake of self-satisfaction. Our love for our own self drives us to undertake any activity.
Hence our entire life and all our activities are rooted in this aspect of Love. Bhagavan says, “Life itself is Love. They are not two, but one. Love is the very nature of life, as burning is the nature of fire, or wetness of water, or sweetness of sugar. Love is the fruit of life.” In Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “Where there is Love there is Life.” Victor Hugo puts it as, “Life is the flower for which love is the honey.” Whereas oil makes a lamp burn, Love illumines life itself.
Characteristics of Divine Love
Having had some idea of what Divine Love is all about, let us now get into the tough job of listing some of the characteristics of Divine Love. To name a few, Divine Love is all pervasive, changeless, absolutely pure and selfless, full of Bliss, free from fear and pride. It makes no distinction between mine and thine. Love sustains and strengthens. Love begets Love. Divine Love is unconditional and motiveless. It is unaffected by joy or sorrow, praise or blame. Above all it unites the whole world as one family.
All religions speak of Divine Love in the same wavelength. For example, the Bible says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres”. The Koran, in chapter 85, verse 14, refers to Allah as ‘Al Buruj’, which means, “He is truly forgiving, all embracing in His Love”. It also refers to the Almighty as ‘Al Wadud’ which means that God Himself is infinite Love and Compassion.
Love in Operation - Pitfalls
Well, all this is fine. Let us now come to the operational level. Let us talk of love as we understand and experience it in our day to day to life. If we were to pause for a while and ponder over the process of love, we will find that it follows the following pattern. When we love somebody or something, the immediate reaction is that we want to own it, possess it. Why does this happen? Because, we consider the other person or the object which we love, as something different from us. Our love for it drives us to possess it with the understanding that by possessing it we will become one with it. Here we see the ‘Cosmic Glue’ aspect of Love operating at the gross level to establish unity. The intention is genuine but the understanding is faulty. By possessing or owning people or objects, instead of attaining oneness with it, we only get attached to it. What does this attachment lead to? It leads to sorrow alternating with joy. The end result is that we do not find fulfillment in such love and a sense of hollowness prevails.
Love to be true must be the same towards all. But we know that our love depends on our likes and dislikes. Such love can at best be described as attachment. It is either attachment to the body or to the mind. Bhagavan explains the futility in promoting such love. Love when directed towards the body ends in vain as the body has to perish one day. Love when directed towards the mind leads to bondage; bondage towards the worldly objects. Love when directed towards the intellect, results in endless enquiry while love focused on the Antah Karna – the inner instruments of perception, leads to ego. Swami Vivekananda also reiterates, “Love is not attachment”, but cautions that detachment does not mean indifference. Rabindranath Tagore says, “Love does not claim possession, but gives freedom.”
The following writing of Kahlil Gibran describes beautifully the need to differentiate between love and attachment.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
True Love must be straight from heart to heart. It must be unconditional. No terms and conditions.
Worldly Manifestations and Distortions
Pure Divine Love manifests itself through the body-mind complex as 'Vatsalya', 'Moha', 'Sakhya', 'Anuraga', 'Bhakti' and so on, depending upon the target of our love, the relationship and the feelings.
Whereas Divine Love is changeless, worldly love keeps on changing. When a child is born, the only love it understands is that of the mother. Later, as the child grows up and starts its schooling, the focus shifts to the teacher. Then comes the friend circle. As he grows up further, the attention shifts to studies and then a job. Next, he enters into the family life and all his love now gets directed towards his wife, and later to his children. Subsequently, his mind dwells on wealth and money to sustain his family. Finally, if he is lucky enough, exhausted with all worldly attachments, his mind turns Godwards. Such perpetual alteration of attachment & separation can never be called real love which is spiritual and enduring.
Let us now focus our attention on the various worldly manifestations of Divine Love and let us also understand the distortions that arise in them. The love of an individual towards an object or towards a member of his family is called 'Moha' or attachment. Talking of the love of an individual towards an object, let us consider the example of the love of a child for its toys or that of a housewife towards a beautiful sari. What happens in this process of love? First there is a keen interest for the object. Then overpowered by love for the same, there arises a desire to possess the object. But this is where the flaw occurs. Once Bhagavan, while speaking to a student on the aspect of attachment said, “Why is it that when you like something in the market, you immediately want to buy it? Let it be there. Feel happy looking at it there. Why should you possess it?” Bhagavan says that this is the crux of all problems. We wish to seek possession because, we feel that by doing so, the apparent difference between the object and us will get eliminated and we will be able to experience unity. This in fact is the inherent urge of Love to unite all perceptions of differences. But merely seeking possession of an object cannot solve this problem. The difference lies not between the object and the individual but in the mind of the individual. Therefore, the solution lies not in seeking possession of the same but in giving up possession of the delusion that envelopes the mind. Over a period of time, the interest in this object wanes away and our attention gets shifted to some other object. Thus at the end of it, we are not able to enjoy a sense of fulfillment. This is the nature of worldly love.
Well, if this is the case, then what is the way out? Does it mean, one should never enter into such relationships? No, that is not the solution. The world and all its relationships are also the creation of God. There is nothing wrong in developing love towards all our family members. But we must not stagnate at this level. These relationships and this worldly love should be just the beginning point. Using this as a launching pad, we must strive to transcend the attachment towards the body and the mind and seek to realize Divine Love. This is what Pundalika illustrated through his example. He revered his mother and father as God. Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava. Lord Vithala was immensely pleased with this love of Pundalika that transcended the worldly bonds. The same was the case with Bharata. When it came to choosing between the Lord and his mother, he gave up his bond towards his mother and followed Lord Rama.
This is the true purpose of all worldly love. Apart from being a source of temporary happiness, it must serve as a means to realize Divine Love and the ultimate bliss that comes from realization of the unity in all diversity.
The love of a mother towards her children is termed as Vatsalya. The love of a mother is very sacred and closest to Divine Love. In fact the Mother Cow yields milk, when its dead calf is stuffed and taken near its udder. This is the extent of a Mother’s love. However, here too, the same problem presents itself. 'Vatsalya' when bound by bodily feelings leads to attachment. We have examples of several cases where 'Vatsalyam' has been lifted to great heights, transcending the body and mind domain. We all know of the story of the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s mother. On the eve of his execution, the mother had come to see her son. There were profuse tears in her eyes. When people around tried to console her, she smiled and said that she was not crying because of the sorrow of losing her son. She was shedding tears out of sorrow that she did not have a second son who could also be offered at the altar of the Nation. That was the greatness of her motherly love.
The love of a friend towards a friend is called 'Sakhyam'. This love too can be raised to noble heights or can become a cause for attachment leading to sorrow and pain, when associated with bondage to the body and the mind. The infamous story of Karna and Duryodhana is ample proof of this truth.
The love between a husband and wife is termed 'Anuragam'. We have examples of husband-wife relationships that have transcended the lower domains of 'Anuraga' and reached the higher realms of Divine Love? History is replete with many such examples; one famous example being that of Bhakta Tulasidas and his wife. In the early years after his marriage, Tulasidas was literally glued to his wife. He could not stay without her for even a day. He was just crazy for her. The wife was sickened with this excessive attachment. On one occasion when his wife had gone to her mother’s house, Tulasidas was unable to bear the separation for even a day. At night, he came to the house of his mother-in-law and tried to enter the home. The door was locked and it was raining heavily. Using a cloth as a rope, he climbed up to the room of his wife in the first floor and entered through a window. Seeing him, the wife was disgusted. She shouted at him, “O fool, if you had shown even a fraction of this same craze, this same love, for God; you would have attained Divine realization by now!” These words struck him like a thunderbolt and transformed him for good. Rest is history. This was the power of a noble wife that enabled her husband to transcend the worldly domain of 'Anuragam'.
Just as love towards an object is called Moha, love between a mother and child is called 'Vatsalya' so too the love between God and devotee is called 'Bhakti'. This is the most sacred form of love which enables one to transcend the limitations of the body and the mind and experience true 'Prema'. We have innumerable examples of great devotees who have set themselves as icons of 'Bhakti' and have demonstrated this sacred Love for God and its consequences to the whole world. Be it Meerabai, Kabir, Surdas, Chaitanya, Tyagaraja or Annamacharya, each one was an inspiring example to humanity.
A devotee channelizes all his love exclusively towards God. Once, Mother Teresa was cleaning the wound of a leper. A foreigner on seeing this was shocked and he approached her saying, “Mother, I wouldn’t do this even for 1000 pounds”. Pat came the reply from Mother Teresa, “I too would not do it for 1000 pounds. I am doing it for the Love of God”. That is Bhakti. However, Bhagavan places the love of the Gopikas towards Lord Krishna at the highest pedestal and calls it 'Parama Prema' – Supreme Love or 'Para Bhakti'. He compares the love of the Gopikas towards Lord Krishna with the urge of the drop of water to merge in the ocean.
|G.S. Srirangarajan with Sri Sathya Sai - Sai Sruthi Mandir, Kodaikanal (1994)|
Need to Transform Worldly Love to Divine Love
Having gained some understanding about Divine Love and about the flaws associated with worldly love, we now come to the crux of the whole matter. How do we transform our worldly love into Divine Love? Mother Teresa says, “Today, there is more hunger in the world for love than for bread. The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” A very important manifestation of love is service. There can be no true love that does not manifest as service and similarly there can be no true service that does not manifest as love. Love is born in the womb of service. Love expresses itself as service and Love grows through service. Bhagavan says, “Wherever you see a disconsolate, diseased person, there is your field of service. Every nerve must tingle with Love, with eagerness to share that Love with the forlorn.”
If we were to filter all our actions in life and the essence of all these actions was to be just love; only then would we be freed from the bondage of coming again and again to this earth. Bhagavan says if we expand our love we may be able to love more people, but still there is a limit. Instead, He says, become Love itself and the whole world will become ours!
The Ultimate Fulfillment
The ultimate fulfillment comes as the merger of the river with the sea. God began this process of Love when He separated Himself from Himself to love Himself. Now each one of us must realize and experience true 'Prema' so that we can ultimately claim, “I united Myself with Myself to be Myself”.
- G.S. Srirangarajan
Student (1990-1992), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Controller of Examinations, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning