Much of what I say today will completely challenge the way that many of you perceive the concept of love.
I would like to begin with several quotes from some truly great masters of love – children:
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” – Chrissy, age 6
“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” – Karen, age 7
“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” – Terri, age 4
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” – Billy, age 4
“I love you.” When I say these three words, every single person has a different reaction. Each reaction is different because the connotation of this phrase is different to each and every person. In modern Western society, love is a concept that is usually reserved for use in relation to people with whom we have particular personal relationships; i.e. I love my husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister, boyfriend or girlfriend. We love them because they are our husband or wife, mother or father, etc… We only care about them because in some way we feel that they belong to us, in some way we feel that we possess a part of them. This type of love is possessive by its very nature and, in fact, isn’t really a form of love at all. What our society often perceives to be love is, in fact, attachment. We think we love someone or something but we don’t love them for who they are, we love them because of what they do for us. We are, actually, simply attached to the way that they make us feel.
Often the words ‘I love you’ are related to a romantic type of love that implies exclusivity. When you say ‘I love you’ to your girlfriend or boyfriend, husband or wife, you are saying that you love them and them only. This type of love is very, very dangerous and is not love at all, it is in fact desire. The majority, if not all, of human suffering has its roots in desire, whether the desires are fulfilled or unfulfilled. The real problem with the aforementioned type of love is the exclusivity of it.
Eros was the Greek god of love, particularly that of romantic love. The English word “erotic” is derived from the Greek God Eros. Eros was said to have the power of making people so-called ‘fall in love’ with others. He often used this power to exact punishment or revenge. He used this power in wrathful ways and what he did was he made these people strongly desire others, thus leading them to the highest form of suffering. This type of desire is endless, it is ceaseless, it is similar to drinking salt water in that the more salt water you drink the more you want to drink until you have killed yourself by drinking too much of this salt water. Cupid is the Roman equivalent of Eros. He, too, was said to make people so-called ‘fall in love’ and strongly desire others in order to exact punishment, wrath or revenge. So, remember, the next time Valentine’s Day comes around please pray that Cupid’s arrows do not pierce you, for great suffering is sure to ensue.
What is Love? Dictionary.com defines love as: a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. The key here is that we love the other person. We do not love them for what they can do for us but rather, we love them for who they, themselves, are. Unconditional love then means that we love someone or something no matter what the circumstances and we love them for their true nature and nothing else. We love them and want them to be happy no matter what the circumstances. Let us imagine that your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend called you later tonight and said, “I no longer want to be with you, I have found someone else who makes me happier.” What would be your reaction? Most people would have a response that would be one of either great anger or sadness. This is because they did not love the other person in the relationship at all, they only loved themselves and how the other person made them feel. If you truly loved the other person, then the natural response would be one of happiness. You would say something like, “That is wonderful my dear, my heart is overflowing with joy, I am glad that you have found someone else who makes you happy.” Love is free and it is without attachment.
I do not share the preceding anecdote in order to advocate adultery, infidelity, or even sexual promiscuity. Rather, I share it in order to demonstrate the state of being that is required of one who loves. What is the best way to love a bird? Is it to keep it locked in a cage or, perhaps, would it be to leave the cage door open so that the bird could leave but also could fly back in if it felt like it? Richard Bach, the author of the best seller Jonathan Livingston Seagull said that “If you love something, set it free; if it comes back it’s yours, if it doesn’t, it never was.” Developing unconditional love is not easy, it requires a certain refuge of inner strength, and it requires a certain confidence and trust in the love that is present in one’s own heart. This unconditional love is a desire that we must extend to all beings. For only when we really love all beings are we truly free and able to love any single other person. This type of love also requires great courage.
The following excerpt is from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran:
“But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, ‘God is in my heart,’ but rather, ’I am in the heart of God.’
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.”
There is a short story by Leo Tolstoy that I like so much that I actually wrote my own adaptation of the story a while back. In this story the central character explains that there are three principles by which he lives his life, (1) the most important time is now, it is always the present moment, (2) the most important person in his life is always the person that he is with in the present moment, and (3) the most important action for him to take is to love the person or people that he is with in the present moment. When these three principles are followed then unconditional love follows, unconditional love follows because this great big love has now been extended to encompass every being that one is with in every moment.
Before I was leaving New Zealand, after living there for nearly a year, one of my best friends said to me, “Sameer, I am going to miss you a lot.” I looked him right in the eyes and said to him, “I will not miss you… but I love you right now with all of my heart.” So often we have this misconception that we must miss people in order to love them; rather, we should focus on loving those that we are with in the present moment, and when we are alone, on loving ourselves. However, when we do think of people and remember them it is essential that we remember them well. This is the best way to love someone who is no longer with you: to remember them well.
A friend of mine sent a wonderful story in an email a little while back and I want to share it with you today:
‘The Sand and the Stone’
“Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey, they had an argument; and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:
“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”
They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone:
“Today my best friend saved my life.”
The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?”
The friend replied, “When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand, where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
For love to be present there must be an understanding of the unity of all things. Love and unity go together like the in-breath and the out-breath. For as long as one sees the things of the world as separate from one another then one is not able to directly experience true love. As long as there is separation, then this division yields to a sense of ‘mineness’. This sense of ‘mineness’, by its very nature requires attachment, and it requires us to only care for things in relation to ourselves. But when unity is perceived then universal love is born, when interconnectedness is seen in all things, when the sky and the sea are but one’s reflection, then love is born. Love is born through the realization that if I hurt another then I am hurting myself also. This sense of unity is necessary in order for love to be present. Duality and separation cannot exist with love. For love is beyond any sense of duality or separation. There is a wonderful passage from the Tao Te Ching that expresses this well: “When Beauty is recognised in the World, Ugliness has been learned; When Good is recognised in the World Evil has been learned.”
We must love people no matter what the circumstance. Jesus of Nazareth said “Love thy enemy”. We must, also, be able to love and have compassion for those who hurt us or who cause us harm. This is true love, and this is universal love, to be able to extend our love and compassion to those who have caused us the greatest hurt and the greatest suffering. This is highly imperative. The Chinese persecution of Tibet has been, sadly, happening for some time now. However, the Buddhist community in Tibet understands that their greatest enemy is not the Chinese government and militia that are persecuting them. Rather, it is the anger that is generated in their hearts. It is for this reason that they regularly practice loving kindness towards the Chinese and have compassion for them. We must love even those who have harmed or hurt us the most. We must love them openly and joyfully, with a boundless heart.
I will conclude with a wonderful passage from Mother Teresa, “People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.” – Mother Teresa
Dear friends, thank you for joining us here today and remember to walk the sacred path of love with courage, joy, and enthusiasm.
This lecture has been presented on the Youtube at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ktD7-tNNVE