To associate love with sacrifice is sublime. To mix love with pleasure is human. And to make business out of love is American.
According to the Greeting Card Association of America 25% of all cards sent are valentines. Of course, now cards have replaced diamonds.
Well, love is in the air. In India it is the Spring season which has been traditionally associated with harvests, festivals, flowering, conception, and romance. Then of course, like every global trend, we in India have caught up fast with this international tradition of celebrating the legacy of St. Valentine.
At this age I cannot join the the young enthusiastic valentine brigade. I cannot ‘beat’ them either by joining the moral brigade in India who are suddenly on a Swadeshi hype. I am still a fence sitter. Maybe, there is no harm in just ruminating a bit on various aspects of love.
Flavours of Love
Love is something that everyone experiences in some form or other. No amount of talk or preaching about love can transfer one’s experience of love to another.
Spiritual Master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Love is that glue that holds everything together”. Going by this definition, everything is love, expressed in its various flavors or distortions. No one is devoid of love. Even the so called loner loves his loneliness, disregarding the love poured on him by nature from all sides.
He also says that the negative emotions like anger, lust etc are distortions of love. Love for the objects becomes greed, love for perfection becomes anger, love for one’s own supremacy becomes jealousy. Taken to extreme, coupled with a sense insecurity, one’s love for one’s religion, race, language etc. breeds chauvinism, bigotry, extremism and so on.
Transcending Relative Love
When love is relative, all these flavors and distortions are experienced. Love for parents, love for one’s own children, love for siblings, romantic love etc. are all different flavors of love. Then there is love of the highest order, when all these relative flavors are transcended. That is what Maharshi Narada, in his Bhakti Sutras, calls parama prema rupa or the ultimate love or the absolute love or bhakti. Bhakti may start as a love for the divine in form or formless. But it flowers to its ultimate state when love remains without its distortions. Then one becomes love and one’s being permeates love.
The Legend of St. Valentine
Somewhat similar to the eastern concept of Bhakti is the Christian concept of ‘Agape’. Four kinds of love are described in the Bible. The lowest being the erotic love (Eros) and the highest being the Agape, exemplified by the love of Jesus Christ to humanity and God. In between are Storge (family love) and Philia (brotherhood or love between co-followers of Jesus) .
Many scholars trace the origin of Valentine’s Day to the ancient pagan ‘fertility’ festival of Rome celebrated on 15 Feb. Later on, along with the people of Rome, the festival too was Christianized and renamed as Valentine’s Day, to commemorate agape. Towards 14th century the term came to be associated with romantic love. Fourteenth Century English Poet Chaucer extended Valentine’s Day beyond human beings, when he wrote:
“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”
By the way, nothing is known for sure about the St. Valentine who is assumed to be the inspiration for the Valentine’s Day. There are many versions of the legend of St. Valentine. However, according to the majority of scholars and theologians, this day is associated with the St. Valentine who, performed secret marriages in 3rd century Rome against the dictates of the emperor to debar young men from marrying so that they became better soldiers.
The English Church removed the feast Day associated with St. Valentine in 1969 citing his questionable origin.
P.S. – I Love You
As we know, P.S is abbreviations of ” Post Script”, written at the end of a letter when someone remembers to have forgotten to write something in the main script. A romantic movie has been made by this name.
I wonder what kind of love it is that comes as a post script. P.S. is something that comes as some kind of an afterthought. If there is love, it is there at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. It is a continuum. If you love something, you do not make it a side issue or forget it.