The Paradox of Love

In an earlier post Love is in the Air,  I attempted to explore various flavours of love. In any kind of relationship,  one or  more of the flavours would be involved to sustain it.In a broader sense, as prominent spiritual master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Love is that glue that holds everything together”. Hence love unites, integrates.

Yet, it should not stifle. Even though some kind of interdependence is inherent in Love, it is not true love if it stifles, if it encroaches upon the freedom of another beyond a healthy limit.

Of course we have to consider what kind of love are we talking about? Freedom is inherent in true love. Once you have faith and confidence why would you impose any condition?

Once there is curtailment of freedom, that is the end of love. If one of the parties feels suffocated, then it is not love, but bondage. Bondage and freedom cannot go together.

So, if ever you feel stifled in love, or feel your freedom curtailed, examine. Was it really love?  Or, was it bondage, manipulation or an attempt to control masquerading as love?

From a different perspective, let us consider the following. Love is the process of uniting, merging. Two become one. It is true in the case of romantic love, divine love or any other kind of love. A feeling of oneness comes with love. Where does it leave space for freedom. One feels surrendered in love. In another sense, sacrifice becomes natural. In the land of love, freedom is an absolute stranger. A true lover does not seek to free itself of the beloved, neither does he/she would like to possess the other one and bring the other into submission.

Or rather, in a state of love, one simply does not bother about freedom. Love takes care of everything.

As Rumi says:

“Ride on love and don’t worry about the road!

Because the steed of love has the smoothest ride.
It will take you home in a single thrust.

Even though the road is rough.”

Still, if the question of freedom pops up, let us remember with Kahllil Gibran:

“Love possesses not, nor will it be possessed”.

That is the paradox of the state of love – one does not have the apparent freedom, yet it is love that brings the ultimate freedom.

 

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 Indian Bloggers

Love is in the Air

love
American Bald Eagles during mating season

To associate love with sacrifice is divine. 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 it is a global trend.

Well, love is in the air. In India it is the Spring season which has been traditionally associated with harvests, festivals, flowering and romance. Then of course, now a days we 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.

Gurudev 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.

Gurudev 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.  may make one a chauvinist, bigot or extremist depending on one’s intensity and stupidity.

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 calls in His Bhakti Sutras 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- 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 dictate 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

This expression is commonly used to express love, particularly in western countries and the westernized in other countries. Even a romantic movie has been made by this name. 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.

I wonder what kind of love it is that comes as a post script, 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.

Some say, the expression is used to remind the other how much one loves the other. It is like saying – “By the way, do not forget that I love you”. Do real lovers keep on reminding expressly how much they love each  other? Like everything else, as we progress in the name of civilization, is love also becoming formal, superficial?

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The lunatic, the lover and the poet, are of imagination all compact

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“The lunatic, the lover and the poet, are of imagination all compact.”

The statement appears in Shakespear’s play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Somebody who does not confirm to our logical mind, we call him/her mad. Love is beyond logic. So is poetry. Love is so much beyond logic, some say love is blind. So one factor common among premi, paagal and kavi is that none can be understood or judged by our logical minds.

Take the example of the Bauls of Bengal – a group of wandering mystical singers. Baul has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Vaatul’ which means the mad person. They are some of the greatest lovers – lovers of life, lovers of human values and lovers of divinity in us, which are expressed through their enchanting songs.

One thing common in all three is their wild imagination. They may see things that do not exist and may create something out of nothing.

According to some versions of the stories about Laila and Majnu, Laila was so ugly people wondered what made Majnu maddeningly fall in love with Laila. May be, he saw things in her that others missed.

It seems these type of people do not care for the world. To the contrary, these are the people who make the world a beautiful place to live in. Take the example of the Bauls. They never accumulated wealth for themselves or their family. They incessantly travel from place to place to sing the song of humanity, urging people to rise above petty differences of religion, caste, creed and other man made divisions. So have been the great poets. In fact another name give for the ancient seers (rishis) of India is kavi – the poet. And what beautiful poetry they created in the form of Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas. In fact these are the people who laid the foundation of Indian Civilization.

Of course there are also mad people without any love or poetry in them. They are filled with hatred, fanaticism. The world has much to fear from these kind of mad people, who do not have any iota of love in their hearts. Or, their love for a particular imaginary cause has been distorted into hatred for those whom they consider not belonging to them.

These fringe elements are killing the poets and the lovers. The Sufis, who like Bauls can be said to be lunatics, lover and poets at the same time, continue to face prosecution and extinction in Pakistan and elsewhere by the radical elements. In recent times even the Bauls in India have been targets of fanatic Hindu and Muslim Groups in Indian and Bangladesh.

Now coming to the dialogue of Theseus from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, scene I, here it is:

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,

Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend

More than cool reason ever comprehends.

The lunatic, the lover and the poet

Are of imagination all compact:

One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,

That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,

Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:

The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,

Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;

And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.