All physical relationships are about ‘give and take’.
Whether its parents and children or husband and wife or siblings or friends or lovers or teacher and student or the Church and the church-goer or the society / city / country and the individual / citizen, there is a mutual give and take involved. This give and take could be physical /material or emotional or spiritual.
As long as the mutual give and take continues to be balanced, i.e., we get what we feel we deserve in view of what we are putting into the relationship, the relationship flourishes. As soon we start thinking there is an imbalance between our ‘give’ and our ‘take’, things start going down-hill.
Then comes a time when, if matters are not, or cannot be, sorted out, all or one of the parties starts moving away. They’ve had their fill and now its time to move on to so-called ‘greener pastures’, other more nourishing relationships. It is natural. At different ages, we have different needs. No single person or thing can fulfil all of our life’s needs.
A child who has grown up starts spending more time out of the house and finally vanishes.
A couple starts spending more of alone time than together time.
Lovers start finding each other less interesting than before and start moving away.
A son or daughter has his / her own family and cannot give the same amount of time to parents.
One of the friends acquires a new set of friends and cannot find time for the older friends.
Most of us have experienced at least one or more of these situations. There is disappointment or a heart gets heavy or broken. Eyes get tearful. We long for that time again when things were so beautiful. The past continues to have its hold on us. We keep living in the hope that things will get better.
This hope seems better than facing the truth.
Even when we know that something has already died, we continue to hold on to the dead body of the relationship, unable to let go of it, unable to bury it. The attachment is too strong. And the fear of what we will do in the absence of the dead body is too strong. We cling to it for our life, praying that things will be back to normal.
We, human beings, are collectors and hoarders. We hate letting go of things and people. Why? Fear of death. We think this life is the only life we have and once we die then that’s it. This fear makes us want to become bigger and stronger and to have a longer life and ‘leave behind a legacy’ and to find eternal life in the hereafter. That is the reason for having all the attachments. And the reason for being unable to let go.
Relationships are part of this whole scheme. We think that these relationships will make us stronger and will keep us alive even after death, i.e., leaving behind a good reputation and our kids and our legacy. Even when these relationships have started drying up, we hold on to them. Empty shells of relationships.
If we take a good look at our lives, we will find a lot of such empty relationship shells around us. We hold on to these relationships because of past emotional remembrances and imprints. We still feel the memory of a warmth that is long gone. There is now just that memory, which is an image. That image seems to be alive and creates the illusion of a living, growing relationship. Actually, its not.
From a deeper and more spiritual point of view, the most important relationship we have is with ourselves and that is the one we neglect most. We do not spend any time trying to understand ourself, to look at ourself. We spend time looking at others, trying to understand others. The only true parent, the only true friend, the only true lover, the only true beloved is inside. If we have not discovered it yet, then we have not understood anything in depth. Our understanding, whether about everyday life or whether scientific, philosophical, academic or scholarly, is superficial, skin deep. We are utterly lost and confused and that confusion makes us run around trying to find the ideal relationship outside. And we never do find that. The relationships that we do find outside are all fake, all illusions. But they feel real because we haven’t dug deep enough as yet. We find fake relationships and, in our desperation, we get attached to them. And the attachment is such that it becomes impossible even to think of letting go of them.
There is an old mystical tale of a beggar who used to sit outside a small town, asking for money from everyone entering or leaving the town. He did that all his life. When he died, the people of the town came to gather all of his stuff and to clean up the place. In the process of cleaning up, they dug up the whole area where he used to sit and they found a huge treasure. The beggar spent decades begging for money, not knowing that he was sitting on top of the huge treasure.
This tale is about discovering the inner treasure that we sit on top of. We spend our whole lives seeking for fulfilment from outside when the only real fulfilment is already inside.
Relationships arise in division.
We divide the world into two parts, i.e., ‘I’ on the one hand and ‘you’ / ‘they’ / ‘the others’ / ‘the world’ on the other hand. Once there is division, then arise relationships, how these two parts relate to each other, how ‘I’ relates to everyone else, how ‘I’ relates to the world.
And there are three ways in which these two relate:
(i) greed / acquisition: whatever helps me grow, I must acquire, including money, property and other things and control over people;
(ii) hatred / anger / violence: whatever prevents me from growing must be eliminated / removed from the picture; and
(iii) apathy / indifference: that which neither helps me grow nor prevents me from growing, I am not interested in and I am not bothered by.
All of our relationships, without exception, are governed by these three emotional states.
Dr. Deepak Chopra wrote the book, ‘Unconditional Love’, which I read many years ago and it changed me forever. He is one of the great teachers alive right now. I would suggest everyone interested in understanding themselves and in growing spiritually to read his books, find and listen to him on YouTube or Instagram or wherever and devour every word he says. He, along with Jiddu Krishnamurti, Osho Bhagwan Rajneesh, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and Ramana Maharishi, for me, are some of the greatest modern teachers I have come across. Make full use of them. They will take you to the door through which you enter the beyond / the eternal / the divine, just like Jesus, Mohammad, Guru Nanak, Mahavir, Lao Tzu and other great ancient masters will. You will have to walk the path and once you reach the door, you will have to open it and enter alone, but they can show you the direction.
So, back to unconditional love. What is it?
Unconditional love is what you feel towards yourself. Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself”. What was he saying? You love yourself dearly and you don’t need a reason to love yourself. You don’t tell yourself that if you are able to achieve this thing or that thing, then you will love yourself. No, you just love yourself. Jesus is saying that that’s how you have to love others. Without a reason, unconditionally.
How is that possible? That is possible only and only when you let go of the division between ‘I’ and ‘You’. There is no division. Once you realise that there is no division and that you and the other or you and the whole world are one, then, as a natural consequence, there will be love. No effort will be needed, no spiritual training will be needed. It will not be you loving the world, it will be just you loving yourself. Because, there is no one but you. Only You.
Can you see that? The moment you even begin to see the possibility of this, you have taken the first step towards Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven, Buddha’s nirvana and Mahavira’s moksha.
The three kinds of relationships mentioned above (firstly, greed / acquisition; secondly, hatred / anger / violence; thirdly, apathy / indifference) are empty and fake relationships arising from the illusion of division. Unconditional love is only real kind of relationship (if it may be called that) and it arises from oneness and absence of division.
By now, if you have been reading my earlier Posts, you know that I have started with a special focus on Jesus. I think he was, like Buddha, Lao Tzu, Lord Krishna and others, a great wisdom teacher. He said so many things which we still don’t understand, including in respect of relationships. The reason for starting with him is not that I am trying to propagate Christian religion through these posts. No, for me, every teacher who has managed to say something which has helped others down the ages in understanding themselves and their relationship to the Whole, is a great wisdom teacher. I intend to devote my life reading and writing about all of these great teachers.
I have found Jesus to be one of the most misunderstood figures and his words to have been the most misunderstood words. The more I read the Jesus quotes, especially with my own mystical eyes, the more I begin to see a hidden message, which makes much more sense than the ordinary understanding of Christianity coming from the present day Church.
The scope and beauty of (what appears to be) the real message of Jesus, and its hidden nature, were so substantial and magnetic for me that I could not keep myself from reading the quotes again and again and from starting to write about them. I am planning to write three books based on the teachings of Jesus, the first of which is now in the process of being self- published.
Going back to relationships, I would like to present a few quotes of Jesus.
The first one is from the Book of Luke, one of the first four books in the New Testament (also called the Gospels). In Luke Chapter 9, Jesus meets a man on the road and says to him, “Follow me”.
Jesus was a very perceptive guy. He could look at someone and see their spiritual aura and know immediately whether the person had any spiritual tendencies. And whenever he used to come across such people, he used to invite them to join him as a disciple.
Now, this guy that Jesus met, his father had just died and he was apparently busy with the burial rituals. He wanted to follow Jesus, but he also wanted to go through the burial ceremony. So he says to Jesus, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
But isn’t that preposterous? How could Jesus tell a guy whose father has died, “Let the dead bury their dead”?
Lets go deeper into it. It seems to have two meanings:
Firstly, he is referring to people who have not understood the meaning and significance of life, which is 99.9999999% of us. We think that life begins when we are physically born and life ends when we die physically. The essence of Jesus’ message was that we come from the eternal / the divine and we return to it after sometime. We are eternal. There is no question of birth and death. What we consider as our birth and our death are illusions arising from the world of ego and images that we live in.
When Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their dead”, he is also telling us that if we believe that physical death is actual death, then we are dead too. We have not yet woken up to the reality of eternal life. We are the living dead. Whereas, those that have realised the eternal reality, those who understand what life actually is are those who have entered what he calls the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. And those are the only ones who are actually alive and they shall never die.
So, in a way, Jesus is telling the guy: wake up, your father is not dead. None of us ever dies. Come out of this illusion and follow me. You’ll see what i mean.
Secondly, lets think about this for a while. What could be more important for a person than to attend his own father’s funeral? Nothing, right? Yet, here is Jesus, telling the man to move on. It seems like he is telling him something very very important. Maybe he saw something in that man, a potential to understand something beyond the immediately visible. And he saw that he had in fact appeared in the man’s life at a very very critical moment, i.e., his father’s funeral. And that if he could deliver the right message in the right way at this right time, then the man would have a huge opportunity to move beyond, to attain instant enlightenment, to open the door to the kingdom of heaven and just enter.
Just as the man’s dead father is lying there and (we can assume) everyone is probably crying and women are wailing, Jesus comes along and he is telling the man to ignore all this and to go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
It is almost as if he is trying to shock the man into awareness. He is telling the man that these relationships are not the most important thing in the world. There are other things you should be focusing on.
In Matthew 12 (Bible), it happens that while Jesus is talking to people, his mother and brothers come to meet him. Jesus’ disciples come and tell him that his family has come to meet him. Jesus says, “Who are my mother and brothers?” And then he points to his disciples and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother and brother and sister.”
That is Jesus’ definition of family. When you do God’s will, you are Jesus’ family. So, then, what is God’s will?
In Matthew 22 (Bible), when someone asked Jesus about the greatest commandment in the law (meaning Jewish scriptures), Jesus replied that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart and soul and mind. And that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbour as ourself. So, basically, love God and love everyone. To put it in one word… love. That is the greatest commandment. Jesus is saying that whoever loves, is his (Jesus’) family. It’s not about who is related to who and from which side and how many generations back and related in what way. No, none of that.
Essentially, if we can learn to love, then everyone is family. And if we fail to learn what love is, then no one is family.
And I could not follow Jesus more than in this respect. Love is the only true relationship.
Now, what is actually happening in our own lives? We need a reason to hate. We are all haters. There are very few in this world who have the ability to love someone without any reason.
We need a very good reason to love someone, a very strong reason; there has to be something very special in it for us. Only then can we love. Otherwise, we are not interested.
But when it comes to hate, we don’t take a second to conclude that someone is bad and worthy of our hatred. Quicker than the speed of light.
Why? The same fear of death, which (as we saw in Part 1 of this Post) makes us love, also makes us hate. It is a double edged sword. We love others because of fear and we hate others because of fear.
Instead of love (as Jesus was telling us), we have made fear the basic relationship. Fear is the lens through which we see people and decide to either love or hate. And mostly it is hate.
Now, lets talk about love. What is this love that Jesus was talking about? Is it the love we have in our present day lives? Or is it something else? No, the love in our current lives is nothing but give and take. It is a set of commercial transactions. I need something from you, you need something from me, we come together, hold hands and tell each other, “I love you”.
No, that’s not Jesus’ love. That is not Kabir’s love. That is not Rumi’s love.
Jesus’ love and Kabir’s love and Rumi’s love is when we are not. ‘We’ cannot love. Because we are just the ego. And ego cannot love. Ego is a set of images which divides, me from you, you from him, him from them and so on. The only function of the ego is to divide. That’s how ego functions. As long as ‘I’ exist, I cannot love. When ‘I’ die (not the physical death, but the death of the ego), love is. When ‘I’ die, ‘You’ also die and both merge into a loving oneness. The lover meets the beloved and the two become one. That is Jesus’ love.
I cannot love and you cannot love in the way Jesus is talking about love. And no one else can love in the way Jesus is talking about love. Love is not an action to be carried out. It is a state of being which is as yet unfathomable and undefinable by us as we are. It comes about when all divisions cease to exist and when I and you and everything melts and merges and returns to the eternal flow of oneness, wholeness and nothingness. The only time we come close to feeling it is when we accidentally pop out of our ego for a moment and feel an affinity for something or someone which or who has nothing to give to us.
Observe your life closely in the coming days and be alert to moments when you smile at something or someone from whom you want nothing!
That is love and that is the only relationship worth having! All the rest is commercial transactions! Give and take! And you can carry out as many of these commercial transactions as you want. I have nothing against them. If that’s what you need in your life right now, go for it by all means!
We are talking about something else here. We are talking about another kind of love, another kind of life, another kind of existence, another kind of consciousness, wherein love is not an action. It is not something that can be brought into existence by practice or effort. It cannot be bought or sold. It cannot be forced. Fake love, yes… but not true love.
True love comes about effortlessly, on its own.
There is a famous Zen saying which I like very much: Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and grass grows by itself.
In the case of love, I would say, sitting quietly, doing nothing, the ego disappears and love grows by itself.
That’s how love happens. On its own, not through the machinations of the mind. Not through efforts to make someone love us or our own efforts to love someone.
It is like the fragrance of a flower, which needs no effort and flows by itself.
Just sitting quietly, doing nothing, you can undertake an inner journey and reach a place which is so silent and so still that time stops. Time is movement. When there is utter silence and stillness, time stops.
Also, in utter silence and stillness, the ego disappears, the ‘I’ and the ‘You’ disappear. And when ‘I’ and ‘You’ disappear, all the problems, all the issues, all the divisions disappear.
And in that state, when there is no movement, no time, no division, what is left behind is what was there at the beginning. The eternal, ever flowing nothingness and bliss. Life comes full circle.
From nothingness to nothingness.
From bliss to bliss.
From love to love.
Some call it meditation. Others call it nirvana. Jesus calls it the Kingdom of Heaven.
When a child is born, it knows nothing but love. It has nothing but a blissfulness. That love and that blissfulness comes back when we reach that place of utter silence and stillness.
That is exactly why Jesus said that to go to his “Father’s Kingdom”, we will have to become like children.
A child does not look at you with love only when it wants something from you. It will also look at you with love even when it is seeing you for the first time and when it does not need anything from you. That is the definition of true love. A child is the personification of love.
The day you can look at someone with love like a child does, without wanting anything from that person, you have gone back to what you were once. You have gotten back the eyes you had once. You have gotten back the heart and mind you had once. You have travelled back to the age of innocence.
That is the re-birth Jesus was talking about when he said, “no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again”. (John 3)
That is the repentance he was talking about in Matthew 4: 17 – “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near”.
He was telling us to return to our age of innocence. Be like children. Love like children. Be blissful like children.
When we can love like children, when we can be kind and gentle to others, like children, then we are capable of true relationships, relationships which are not about the fake love which tries to possess and control people, but about real love which sets people free and empowers and enables them to set others free. And, most importantly, when we become capable of true love, we set ourselves free. The empty and fake relationships fall away, we become detached and unchained and we start flowing in the eternal flow of that true, childlike love.
Then, the meaning of ‘family’ changes. The whole world is our family.
And also, at another level, the whole concept of ‘charity’ and ‘helping others’ becomes redundant. I cannot give charity, I cannot help ‘others’. Because there is no one but me. There is no ‘other’. And I can only help myself.
That is true love. That is the only real relationship. It is my relationship with myself, if that makes sense. Or, if the word, ‘relationship’ does not make sense for you in that way, then we can say, that it is the state of being when the let-go that Jesus was talking about has taken place in our life.
So, if you are trying to understand love or if you are trying to find love or if you are trying to give love, stop. ‘You’ will not understand it, ‘you’ will not find it, ‘you’ cannot give it. ‘You’ / the ‘I’ / the ego is the biggest hurdle in the way of love, the biggest hurdle in the way of true relationship. Just remove that hurdle and love will be.
Start peeling away the layers of ‘I’ / the ego, like peeling away the layers of an onion. That is the path of the disciple / the seeker. And actually you don’t have to do anything. If you just stop doing everything, if there is just silence and stillness, then in that silence and stillness, the layers start getting peeled away on their own.
And one day, if you keep walking on the path of silence and stillness, when the last layer has been peeled away, you will disappear. You will cease to be and when you cease to be, love will be. The love that doesn’t need to be returned and doesn’t need to be proclaimed. No words are needed.
It is a love that is found only in utter stillness.