“The discovery of love is more understanding what it is and what it is not. Once you know that it is, it can be guarded and nursed.”
I am very happy to see in print the series of talks I gave in Chennai under different titles for meaningful ‘Living’. I enjoyed my reading these manuscripts inasmuch as the material therein was an outcome of my open thinking. In fact in some places I was amused as well as surprised. Anyone who reads this book, I am sure, will find it refreshingly useful. I congratulate the dedicated people at the Arsha Vidya Research and Publication Trust, for this thoughtful publication.
Love is a very ancient topic. The Vedic sages, playwrights, musicians and poets have glorified the word love, and its meaning. Love is not an emotion that is on par with the others. It is not that there are many emotions of which one is love, which is precisely why you need to discover love. Love is the only emotion which in certain forms is called compassion, empathy and sympathy. It is the same, love that accommodates another person. It is love which also provides you the space to understand another person. It is love that really turns into hatred, turns into your dislike, anger and so on. Love appears to stifle, strangulate, and is more painful than ennobling. Poets and artists often speak or express love as pain and anguish, the anguish of unrequited love, lost love, missing love, and love that cannot be found, Love appears to defy all reason and logic inasmuch as it induces people to even destroy themselves and others. It is one emotion which has these various positive and negative expressions. Love is not something to be swallowed, like you have swallowed many things. Love has to be discovered.
You know very well, emotions have neither nationality, provenance, culture, history, gender nor age. Such factors do not inhibit the nature of a given emotion in any way. For instance if we take anger, be it royal or plebeian, be it in a child or in an adult, its nature and vision do not differ; it is anger. Emotions such as anger, hatred, compassion, sympathy and love, in their simple forms, have always been there. A cat is always affectionate and so is a dog. They express their emotions, express how much they missed you and so on. If animals can express emotions, how much more can a human being? A human being is the most self-conscious of life forms. Naturally, in a human heart emotions are very well pronounced.
When you encounter the world, you do not remain a mute witness; you actively respond to persons, objects and situations. The response is not always dispassionate or totally objective, like a computer. The emotional person that you are, always inhibits the response. Emotions, therefore, form the basic theme of an individual's biography. They drive you to accomplish, no doubt, but they also subject you to a sense of failure and depression. There are times when you just want to quit. In short, emotions drive you crazy. To have a complete mastery over your emotions always remains a dream. Emotions make the person, much more than even cognition does. In fact, they sweep aside the cognitive person and take over. Emotions are what you are, what you have. The emotional person is the core person and it is this core person who feels that he or she is useless. It is also the very same person who complicates his or her life as well as the life of others.
DURYODHANA - A CASE STUDY OF A CHILD DEPRNED OF LOVE
If you look into the Mahabharata, you will find that the individuals' behaviour, the causes of war were all emotional.
Duryodhana, for instance, did not have a father who could see him, who could applaud and make him feel good about him. His father was blind.
A child is born helpless, totally helpless, and so it is endowed with this great capacity to trust totally. Total trust implies that the trusted person, in the eyes of the child, is infallible, almighty. Infallible means the person cannot fail and cannot fall ill. It is this infallibility that a child sees in the person it trusts. It cannot totally trust a person who has limitations, who fails. The child starts its life with absolute helplessness. It cannot survive without help. It needs to be held by loving hands and brought up for years. Therefore, the child cannot afford to distrust, if it has to survive. This total helplessness is compensated properly in the setup that we call the jagat, the world.
The human child is self-conscious. Self-consciousness naturally results in self-judgement. From the child's standpoint, everyone around is bigger, more capable and therefore, better. With its limited knowledge, it judges itself to be insignificant and useless. This is how the human child starts his or her life, that he or she is useless. The child may be a prince or an average citizen, but this is the starting point. However, this sense of inadequacy is neutralised to a large extent by the parents, who are Gods for the child. Their approval, their welcoming the child as a blessing, as a gift, enables the child to handle this feeling of being useless.
Further, the parents, as creators, participate in and share the joy of creation. Their joy is expressed in their approval, their care and concern, although the expression is often inhibited by their anxieties and ambitions for the future of the child. But their approval and care are not actualised in a manner that the child can understand. In their anxiety for the child's future, the parents are often so busy that they have little or no time for the child. It is not a surprise, then, if the child grows into a Duryodhana. The child needs the express approval of its parents. The father has to look into the child's eyes and make it feel that it has brought joy to the home; that it has enriched their life. It is this approval, to a large extent, offsets the child's sense of inadequacy. If a child jumps from a ledge or a table, no matter how low, it has a sense of achievement. It looks to its parents for approval. In their approval and applause the child's sense of inadequacy decreases and it visibly flowers. As a result, perhaps, society gains a sane member. We contribute to the increasing neurosis in society by neglecting these basic principles.
Unlike the professional world, there is no specific training to be a parent. You learn on the job, a time tested trial and error method. In a joint-family system, you observe and learn by the law of osmosis as it were. You watch many family members, their interactions and so on, and replicate these in your life. Unfortunately, contemporary society has lost the traditional family support system. What was valid in a joint family is no longer valid in a nuclear family situation. There are no aunts or grandparents either for the child or for the parents to seek help, advice or comfort. The young parents are forced to turn on themselves to find solutions to the problems they face. By trial and error, they figure out how to bring up an emotionally healthy, confident child; a child that has a sense of being wanted, of contributing to the joy of the parents and of the home. Parents must pay attention to this aspect of a child's upbringing if they want their child to be self-accepting, self-confident.
Duryodhana was deprived of such parental care and approval. Even if his father was not available, his mother could have stepped in. Unfortunately for him, she did not. A misguided sense of loyalty made her blindfold herself. Some people praise her. Perhaps there was some good in it but as a result, poor Duryodhana was denied a mother's appreciation. She was a good wife; it is true. In fact her husband approved, "I cannot see and now you too cannot. I am very happy." What kind of man was he? He should have said, "Be my eyes." She should have been his eyes and ears. Blindfolding herself was a mistake, a mistake born of emotions. The entire Mahabharata is a tragedy because it is a series of mistakes that people committed out of emotions. Kama is a case in point.
I have looked into the original Mohabharata and found that Karna is a character to study. He was an abandoned child even though he was a born prince with the blessings of lord sun. Circumstances were such that he was brought up as a suta-putra, son of charioteer. However, Kama never felt at ease with his foster family. He knew that there was something different; he just did not belong. He always felt different. He felt that he was better than any of the ksatriua around. He could not bear to be called a suia-putra; his very being rebelled against it. When others around him addressed him or referred to him as suia-putra, he felt it was unjust and seethed with suppressed anger. So he desperately wanted to make a mark to achieve and be better than anybody, so that he could overcome this feeling. He said in one place, 'I give because I want people to tell that no one can give like Kama.' It became an ideal for him. Like compulsive eaters, he became a compulsive giver. The reason was the pressure within to prove himself to be different, entirely different from others. The inner pressure that compelled him to give, also made him singularly responsible for the war. Even if Duryodhana wanted to listen to the elders' advice, it was Kama who refused to yield. He made sure that Duryodhana did not heed their advice.
So, I find in the Mahabharata, each character has a particular emotional problem. In fact, the epic is a treasure trove of psychological study, a veritable gold mine. The variety of characters enacting their roles on the epic's vast canvas, reflect the depth of Vyasa's knowledge of psychology. Each character is an archetype. You can understand from a study of these characters that history was made of emotions. Emotions make your life, and your family's life. Hence you cannot afford to be ignorant of the dynamics of emotional life.
EVERY PERSON IS AN EMOTIONAL BEING
It is unfortunate to hear people say that you should have emotions but not be emotional, that emotions are good but emotionalism is bad and so on. It is not a question of good or bad. People say that emotions are good but not emotionalism. Who is to decide? Everyone is emotional. Who is not emotional? You can turn on anybody.
Suppose someone says, "I am not emotional. I am a rational person," I can make him emotional in just three minutes. In fact, three minutes is too long.
I tell him or her, "No, no, you are emotional. I tell you, you are emotional."
"No, I am very dispassionate. Ask anybody."
"No, believe me, I know. Your father was emotional and so was your grandfather. In fact, your gotra, lineage, is emotional. It is not the non-emotional type at all."
Suppose I carryon with a few more lines, he will become emotional and say, "Don't bring my father into this."
Every person is an emotional being. Life is made of emotions. Emotions make marriages; they also break them. Emotions create sane people and insane ones too. Therefore, it is very important to understand the nature of the emotional person in you. It is this emotional person who makes or mars your life. When you look into the various forms of emotions, you find that they are merely different cuts of the same cloth; diverse manifestations of one single emotion which we call love.
LOVE IS THE BASIC EMOTION
Love is a dominant theme in music, particularly modern music. In our classical tradition, the Lord was the altar at which saints like Meera, Tyagaraja and others offered their devotion in various ways. In modern music, where rhythm is more predominant than musical content, the lyric is only about love, reciprocated love, rejected love or dejected love. A line typical of today's songs is "I love you this time, truly." Every lyric is about love, a love that is lost, that is hurt, that you yearn for. However, I cannot accept that this is how love is going to be because I am always going to talk of the thing I crave for. From the days of Adam, if that story is true, the problem has persisted. I want to be loved. The reason for this want is not far to seek. It is because I have no love for myself. It is the same reason why I feel ten feet tall when someone tells me that he or she loves me, that he or she accepts me as I am. It surprises me because how can anyone love me when I have no love for myself? Lack of self-love makes me turn away from myself. I cannot even stand a moment of loneliness. Even while waiting on the phone, I doodle to pass the time, to take my mind away from myself. The telephone service providers have understood this point so well that I now have music on hold. I cannot bear those few minutes, waiting for the other person to answer the phone, hence the music. I also misinterpret situations to validate my lack of self-love and as a result I suffer emotionally.
When somebody expresses love for me, I must have the nucleus, the emotional infrastructure to absorb that love. Similarly, in knowledge, I must have the intellectual framework, the cognitive ability to absorb knowledge, otherwise I am not going to understand what is being said or spoken. I should know in order to know. I should have in order to receive. If there is no self-love and self-acceptance, I cannot absorb love even if it is lavished on me. Consequently, when someone professes love for me, I constantly question and doubt the person. "Do you really love me? Why do you love me? How much do you love me?" The person has to invent stories to reply to my questions. What else can he or she do? If I continue, "Why do you love me?" The best I can expect is, "Because I am an idiot, that is why." There is no other answer, because there is no calculated love. Love is blind; it does not measure, demand or set agenda. Love is reckless; it gives all the way helplessly because it is the nature of love.
Lack of love for myself also makes me misunderstand love as control. I love the beautiful flower and at once my hands stretch out to pluck it. No one really knows what love is. So, love becomes control; at least for most of us it does. Most often the love of our parents is only control. It starts when the child is barely one month old. Since we only know to control, we cannot enjoy what we love because it is not possible to control situations. They do not always go the way we want and we find ourselves cheated. The story of love turns into a story of woes.
Every tragedy is unassimilated love, misunderstood love or obsessive love, be it Hamlet or Othello. You cannot afford to be ignorant of what love is. If you do not have an image of yourself, if you do not have love for yourself, love translates into control and consequently obsession. When someone accepts you for what you are, and declares his or her love for you, because it is the truth, that person becomes an object of your obsession, which is not healthy either. You need not change or control the person you love.
LOVE IS A PROFOUND WORD TO BE UNDERSTOOD
Love is not an ordinary topic that we understand. It is not what we read in magazines and novels. Love has become a commonplace and a much bandied about word. Some religions also profusely use this word, particularly the Televangelists in America who repeat in varying tones, "God loves you." What do they mean by this? God loves you and yet makes you suffer? Is God a sadist? What is this love? The God who loves you creates many viruses and continues to create newer and newer strains. Is it a sign of his love? It is more cruelty than love.
Another expression that is not understood is, God is love. If God is love, then what about hatred? Is that not God? If it is not, then poor God becomes completely inhibited and paralysed by hatred, anger and so on. We then call him almighty. There is no thinking, no understanding. Sometimes sentences can be misleadingly simple; we need to understand them properly. Such sentences are in fact very profound. There is prasannaia, simplicity, and more the prasannata more the gambhirya, profundity. So what appears simple is really very profound if it is from a person who knows. It is the prerogative of the well informed to be simple. Often, people hide behind big words to confuse others, because if the words are understood, their 'intellectual emptiness' will be exposed. Simple sentences are not to be taken lightly. 'God is love' or 'God loves you' need to be carefully studied and understood.
I thought the word 'love' should not be ignored and should be discussed thoroughly. It is not a prepared speech that I am going to unravel. I am going to explore along with you this great topic, a topic that makes your life meaningful. Life becomes wasted if this topic is not understood correctly. You seek something that is hard to find, and when you find it, you become secure and happy. Love is something that is hard to find.
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