The Infinite Power of Love
An address given by the Warden of Shanti Sadan
Let us begin with some lines from the Christian classic, The Imitation of Christ, on the glory of the love supreme:
Love is an excellent thing, a great and complete good. It makes every difficulty easy, and bears all wrongs with equanimity. For it bears a burden without being weighted, and renders sweet all that is bitter…
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger or higher or wider; nothing is more pleasant, nothing fuller, and nothing better in heaven or on earth, for love is born of God and cannot rest except in God, Who is above all created things.
One who is in love flies, runs, and rejoices; he is free, not bound. He gives all for all and possesses all in all, because he rests in the one sovereign Good, Who is above all things, and from Whom every good flows and proceeds.
One of the fundamental facts of our human existence is the urge to love and be loved. Love makes us feel special and really valued. But love has many stages. Like education, love begins with the kindergarten stage. Such love is always based on conditions. There is a hidden contract, never openly expressed, which requires a certain kind of reciprocation from the Beloved. But if this is withheld, then the love is withdrawn, for it had no real root in the stability of our character.
To overcome this smallness of mind, love needs to be ever-widening in its range, until we feel that ‘the whole humanity is one family’. In that short classic on Bhakti Yoga (the Yoga of Devotion), the Narada Sutras, we are taught that our happiness depends on the nature of the object on which we set our heart. It is not just people that we can love. We can love a subject, a science, art, music, a country, an ideal. These things can claim our love in the sense that our mind is always thinking about them with positive and growing interest.
On the path of love, then, there is no room for any narrowness or exclusiveness. In religious matters, the love of one’s own creed and one’s fellow believers has no special merit if we look on those who follow other creeds—or none at all—as outsiders. There is a verse by the Sufi master, Jalaluddin Rumi:
The religion of love is free from creeds and ceremonies.
God is the religion decreed in the society of lovers.
The poet Hafiz makes the point even more directly:
O Hafiz, if union with God is thy motive
Then be a friend to all.
Say to Moslems ‘Allah, Allah’
And to Hindus: ‘Rama, Rama’.
What is the widest and deepest object which can claim human love and lead it beyond itself? Is there an ideal form of love which knows no boundary and whose power to satisfy the soul is infinite? It is that manifestation of love which knows that the Allah of the Moslems and Rama of the Hindus are one in essence, though seemingly different in manifestation. The Divine is a perfect unity, at the core of all religions, and, more important, running through all hearts.
Union with God means realisation of our own essence, our innermost Self. And this is the awakening in us of a pure and perfect understanding, hitherto dormant, but now made manifest through following the way of higher love. This knowledge confirms that at the heart of our human nature there is an infinite nature which nothing can touch or harm, and which confers bliss, security and fearlessness.
What is necessary to bring about this inner transformation? Our love needs to be constant and enduring. The practice of divine love, and its fulfilment, requires nothing external. We carry the object of love in our own heart, and the growth of love is brought about by redirecting our thoughts and feelings.
Who can learn to practise divine love? Everyone. We need no earthly skill. Such love is a higher potentiality in all of us, and it is a natural expression of the human spirit, when the mists of selfishness have been cleared away. Divine love is natural, but it is suppressed by our devotion to worldly values. It is revived when our attention is captured by the beauty and purity of the spiritual ideal.
One last point is that divine love is free from all finite barriers, and pierces beyond appearances. Great art is wonderful and may point a finger to the infinite. But it is still a creation in the realm of the finite, and depends on our senses for its appreciation. Divine love transcends the preoccupation with finite forms. Narada states in Sutra 54:
The love of the Lord is without attributes, based on no desire, increasing every moment, unconditioned, highly subtle and in the form of experience.
How do we establish our link with the Infinite? It is by prayer, by meditation, by spiritual living, and by keeping the Lord in mind as often as possible. Why are we taught in the Bhagavad Gita and elsewhere to offer our actions and their results to the Supreme? This principle of offering the results to the Highest is a vehicle of inner progress. It will lead to a vast reduction in useless mental activity. Our mind will become clearer, less burdened, and more in a position to undertake the positive practice of remembrance. For Love means remembrance—a constant consciousness of the object of our love. It is through the power of remembrance that the mind comes to appreciate the essential nature of what is remembered.
What then is the essential nature of the Supreme Being? The essential nature of the Supreme is not being an object at all. This being so, only one possibility remains. It is our very Self. As the Ashtavakra Gita teaches:
How can the one supreme consciousness, which without effort rules the universe, and is all-pervasive, be other than I?’
Love abolishes the duality between the lover and beloved, leading to the recognition of their perfect and eternal oneness.
Equipped with the non-dual interpretation of love, and our daily practices, each of us is in a position to fathom this secret and realise absolute freedom.