TRUTH IS LOVE

                                                                       TRUTH IS LOVE

                                            (In the light of Christ’s philosophy)

                                                 (Interactive session on 21.2.2015)

Keynote address by Ms. Meriel Michael

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, Dr. Santosh Ganguly,                     Mr. Arun Sahu, Mr. Ramesh Chanda, Mr. P.C. Jha, Mr. Ranjit Ghosh & Mr. R. K.                   Gupta)

[Devotional song by Ms. Jayanti Dasgupta]

Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

Truth in philosophical parlance denotes a thing, concept or existence that is non-transient, immutable and ever-lasting, or in other words, a permanent reality. Since God is the only existence that is believed to be permenent and non-transient, Truth is held as synonymous with God. Now, going by the caption of our topic, the question is whether God can be equated with love.

Theists firmly believe that God has created this universe which inter alia includes human beings. Since it is but natural that one would love one’s creation, the proposition that God loves all would stand to logic. However, following rider or caveat is often introduced by pedantists that God loves all those who listen to God’s command and do what God wishes. Adam and Eve fell from God’s grace as they flouted God’s command by tasting forbidden fruit. Some pedantists, however, subscribe to the view that irrespective of the sin committed by Adam and Eve, God continued to love them. It is also propagated by priests and philosophers that the ultimate purpose of life is to love God. Thus we have following two propositions before us: God loves all, and we must love god.

The caption of our topic, however, goes beyond the above two propositions. If God is love, can we say that we love / worship God by loving someone, some community, or for that matter, all beings. Or the word ‘love’ should be strictly restricted to God only and not to any lesser beings, thereby making a distinction between God, the Creator and His creation so far as dispensation of love is concerned. Obviously, in the above context, the meaning of the word ‘love’ needs to be explored.

Since our topic has a reference to Christ’s philosophy, let us first dwell upon Jesus and his thoughts relating to God and love, before we deal with the question whether Truth can be equated with love.

Does God exist?

Is there a creator? The scientists are the ones who delve into nature and can answer such questions. In the words of Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Genome Research Institute, “The scientific method can really only answer questions about HOW things work. It can’t answer questions about WHY – and those are in fact the most important ones. Why is there something instead of nothing? Why does mathematics work so beautifully to describe nature? Why is the universe so precisely tuned to make life possible? Why do we humans have a universal sense of right and wrong, and an urge to do right – even though we disagree on how to interpret that calling?”

“Confronted with these revelations, one may reasonably infer that the proposition that faith is the opposite of reason — is incorrect. Scripture defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Evidence! Theists argue, not unreasonably, that atheism is, in fact, the least rational of all choices. As Chesterton wrote, “Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas … for it is the assertion of a universal negative.” How could we have had the arrogance to make such an assertion? It will be more rational to accept the plausibility of a powerful force, a creative Mind,  that exists outside of Nature.”

The following observation of Stephen Hawking, though known by now to be a sceptic, if not an atheist, published in The Times, 6th September, 1993, is pertinent to the core issue: does God exist?

‘If the density of the Universe one second after the Big Bang had been greater by one part in a thousand billion, the Universe would have re-collapsed after ten years. On the other hand, if the density of the the Universe at that time had been less by the same amount, the Universe would have been essentially empty since it was about ten years old. How was it that the initial density of the universe was chosen so carefully? May be there’s some reason why the universe should have precisely the critical density.’

Dr. John Polkinghorne, a well-known quantum physicist and former President of Queen’s College, Cambridge, is apparently stuck by the astounding configuration of energy and matters to bring in existence the universes and lives. In his words:

“In the early expansion of the universe there has to be a close balance between the expansive energy (driving things apart) and the force of gravity (pulling things together). If expansion dominated then matter would fly apart too rapidly for condensation into galaxies and stars to take place. Nothing interesting could happen in so thinly spread a world. On the other hand, if gravity dominated, the world would collapse in on itself again before there was time for the processes of life to get going. For us to be possible requires a balance between the effects of expansion and contraction which at a very early epoch in the universe’s history (the Planck time) has to differ from equality by not more than 1 in 1060. The numerate will marvel at such a degree of accuracy. For the non-numerate I will borrow an illustration from Paul Davis of what that accuracy means. He points out that it is the same as aiming at a target an inch wide on the other side of the observable universe, twenty thousand million light years away and hitting the mark!”

From the above citations, one may find it logical to infer that the orderly, well designed and accurately crafted laws of nature leading to the formation of the universes and lives have an underlying purpose, obviously of the creator who is called God. Let us now take our discussion to the next level – the purpose of the creation.

Does creation and life have a purpose?

 

Why am I here and what is life for?  what is my purpose in life? Am I of any value? Those are the refrains of a questioning mind.

To put it clearly, do I have time to discover why I was born before I die? Why do I have to know this answer? Because I am unable to believe creation was only an accident, and if it wasn’t one, it must have some meaning.   Is there any meaning in my life that will not be annihilated by the inevitability of death which awaits me? All these fundamental questions are answered by Jesus.

Given a Creator, I believe that  there has been an intelligent purpose to the entire creation. What is that purpose? Christians know that all humans were created to live in a loving relationship with God. He did not need us, but we need Him. Without the relationship with God there will always be a hunger, an emptiness, a feeling that something is missing.

Sometime people say that it does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.  But it is possible to be sincerely wrong. Adolf Hitler believed he was right and killed millions of people, as did Pol Pot in Cambodia. One’s belief affects one’s behaviour. Thus it matters a great deal what we believe, because that dictates how we shall live.

Jesus said “ I am the way, the TRUTH and the life. He who believes in Me shall not perish, but have everlasting life”

The proof that Jesus existed?

Jesus was a historical person. There are contemporary writings which mentioned Him. The Jewish historian Josephus born in AD 35 mentions Jesus as a wise man and his followers  as coming from both Jews and Gentiles. Two Romans, Tacitus and Suetonius have mentioned him in their writings.

The second proof is the existence of documents mentioning Him. There exist actual copies of full manuscripts of the New Testament (which applies to the life of Jesus) from as early as AD 350. There is a fragment of the gospels carbon dated to around AD 125, papyri in existence from the 3rd century containing most of the New Testament.  We can compare the position of other historical works authored by scholars like Herodotus (428 BC), Thucydides (400 BC), Tacitus (100 AD), Julius Caesar’s Gallic wars (58-50 BC), Livy’s Roman History (59 BC – 17 AD) etc. with that of New Testament written in AD 40 – 100, the full manuscript of which was available in AD 300 – 350 only. It is important to note that the number of copies of those ancient works available at the material time or after about a few centuries did not exceed a few hundreds. Just as the historicity of the narratives of those ancient scholars or personalities is not in doubt, by the same logic historicity of the New Testament or its central character, viz. Jesus, cannot be in doubt.

From the above facts it is clear that He existed and that the Gospels on which our knowledge of Him is based are eyewitness accounts of his life.

Some people call Him a great teacher or a prophet but no more than that. His disciples and followers do not accept such categorisation. The Christian contention is that He was the Son of God and at the same time, fully human.

He had a human body (Matthew 4.2) He could be tired and hungry. He had emotions like anger, love and sadness. He experienced poverty, temptation work and obedience. All this proves that he was a genuine human being. How do we say that He is the Son of God, if not God?

His teaching centred on Himself. Some of the things he said about himself are incoceivable as coming forth from a person who does not have God-consciousness. He said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6.35); “I am the light of the world”( John 8.12); “I am the Resurrection and the life” (John 11,25) ;  “ I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14.6); ”To have seen me is to have seen God” (John 14.9) “Receive me, receive God” (Matthew 10.40),” Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8.58). This statement refers to the Jewish idea that the creator was too great to be called by name, He was referred to as the Great “I AM”.  To any Jewish person of the time, it meant he was claiming to be God Himself.

He claimed to forgive sins—all sins against other people (Mark 2.5)  His followers insist that the only person who can forgive all sins is God. Jesus was either a liar, deluded or actually God when He said this.

He claimed to judge the world (Matt 25.31).

Further, He did many miracles for all people. His character was perfect. He conquered death.

What is the evidence of the resurrection? He was definitely dead when the soldiers took him down from the cross and even thrust a spear into his side from which flowed a clot and serum only seen in dead bodies.  The absence of His body from the tomb, is a further proof. It cannot be argued that he could have escaped death and come out of the tomb himself. The tomb was guarded around the clock by Roman soldiers. Neither the authorities nor the Jews would have had any reason to steal the body and create a problem for themselves. Some have suggested that the disciples stole the body. This is improbable as they were depressed and disillusioned at the time of the crucifixion, but soon after they became powerful preachers. When you consider how much they had to suffer for their beliefs, it is inconceivable that they would have gone through with it if they knew it to be untrue.  Over 500 people saw the risen Jesus at different times and different places. He cooked, ate with them  and touched them, all things not possible if he was a ghost or hallucination. Finally, the effect of his rising from the dead changed a handful of uneducated, poor fishermen and labourers, into powerful evangelists; and swept the whole known world in the next 300 years. This is a peaceful revolution that has no parallel in history.

In the Greek language, there is a concept of AGAPE, self sacrificing love that expects nothing in return. This is the love of God for humanity and all His creation.

Taking all the evidence seen above there is little doubt that Jesus existed, He was believed to be the Son of God, and by some followers, even as God himself, and He declared that He was the Truth. Also, his death in agony to save us, show that God is Love. Jesus came to earth to sacrifice himself as a lamb to the slaughter to free us from our guilt, our sins.

Love in Christian philosophy

\No human is perfect, we all are less than what we could be, our punishment is lifted because Jesus suffered and died in our place. Jesus came to reveal the truth about God’s intent in creating us.

You cannot say that it is fine for other people but it doesn’t apply to me. If Christ is the Truth it is applicable to all humans. If not, Christians are deluded people. It is not possible to hold Him as a great teacher and deny His Godhood or deny the things he taught.

When Christians say, in relation to their faith, that I know that Jesus is the Truth, it isn’t just an intellectual knowledge, it is a deep connection, a personal friendship, an emotional and soulful tie.

When Jesus was being questioned by Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, he was asked what he was.  In reply, Jesus said I was born and came into the world for one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth, listens to me. Pilate asked  “What is truth” (John 18 28- 38) when Jesus replied that He was the Truth, the Life and the Way.

People are made in the image of God and there is nobility about every human being. We are all loved.  God is truth and our purpose is to love him as He loves us. Jesus reveals the truth of God’s love and purpose in the world.

Why do we need Jesus and why are we the way we are? In the Bible, which is the inspired word of God, there is the story of the Garden of Eden where Man and Woman lived in perfect harmony with God and nature and talked to God daily. But because of their disobedience, both Truth and love of God were withdrawn and humans were banished. This act of our progenitors is what separated us from the love of God and is in our fundamental nature to yearn for return to the presence of God.

The truth of God is called the Holy Spirit, and it is only by the intervention of this part of God which allows us to have faith.  A Christian can only witness to the good news to others. It is not possible to force or induce someone to believe in Christ, any attempt to do so is a mere sham. To be a Christian means to have a personal relationship with God, and to believe that He is the Truth and that He is love. To love God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself are two cardinal messages of the New Testament which were in conformity with the commandment of the Jewish Torah. The Christian apostles delineated the above concept of love in various ways. In the words of Apostle John: “Let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4: 7-8, NIV). According to Saint Augustine, God is the only one who can love you truly and fully. Love between humans is flawed with jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger and contention. To love God is “to attain the peace which is yours” (refer St. Augustine’s confessions).

Love in non-christian traditions

 

Judaism that preceded Chritianity and belonged to the same Abrahamic tradition uses the word ‘Ahava’ to connote love between the humans as also between humans and God. The commandment “Love your neighbour as yourself” was incorporated in the Tohra (Leviticus 19:18) long before Jesus said it. The Tohra also included the commandment: “Love God with all your heart, soul and might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). The ‘Song of Solomon’ in fact goes beyond the metaphoric love between God and His chosen people and stands out for its romantic character.

Hinduism made a distinction between ‘Kama’ or sexual love and ‘Prema’ or non-sexual mental attachment. ‘Bhakti’ or devotion to God has been distinguished from ‘Prema’, even though the concept of ‘Bhagavat Prem’ or Divine Love is prevalent in Hinduism. Love for God has been classified into several forms such as ‘Dashya’ (Master-servant relationship), ‘Sakhya’ (friendly relationship), ‘Vatsalya’ (father-son or mother-child relationship) and ‘Madhur’ (blissful union with God).

Buddhism, like Hinduism, made a clear distinction between ‘Kama’ or sexual love and ‘Advesa’ or ‘Metta’ which implied benevolent and unconditional love. Buddhist concept of ‘Karuna’ or compassion is founded on this benevolent and unconditional love for self-seeking humanity.

The Greeks used following five words for love of different sorts: ‘Philia’ (dispassionate, virtuous love), ‘Eros’ (passionate love), ‘Agape’ (pure, ideal love), ‘Storge’ (natural love such as paternal/maternal or fraternal love) and ‘Xenia’ (friendly love like the one between the host and his guests). The words ‘Agape’ and ‘Philia’ have been used in contemporary Christian writings while other three words viz. ‘Eros’, ‘Storge’ and ‘Xenia’ are found to be missing.

The Chinese concept of love was influenced by the Confucian tradition that used the word ‘Ren’ for love in the sense of being benevolent love focusing on action, like the action of a parent to his or her child and vice versa, loyalty to the king, etc. In the 4th century BC, the Chinese philosopher Mozi developed the concept of ‘Ai’ in the sense of universal and unconditional love not bound within any relationship, in reaction to the Confucian concept of benevolent love. Later the Chinese Buddhists interpreted the term ‘Ai’ both as passionate love driven as also selfless love.

The Persians used the word ‘eshgh’ (most likely derived from the Arabic word ‘Ishq’) for love. In the hands of Rumi, Hafiz and Sa’di, the word ‘eshgh’ took passionate form to begin with and later was used in the sense of Divine Love as well.

In Islam, God or Allah is described in the Quran as ‘Ar-Rahman’ and ‘Ar-Rahim’ meaning the ‘Most Compassionate’ and the ‘Most Meciful’, and full of love. The word ‘Birr’ is used in the Quran to mean love and kindness that children must show to their parents. In the hands of Sufi saints, the word ‘Ishq’ took the form of Divine Love. Sufism as a sect of Islam developed into the Religion of Love.

The Turkish word for love is ‘Ask’ and the state of beiing in love is ‘Asik’ which is used in romantic sense only.

In modern time, writers and poets have romanticized the concept of love in a secular sense, emphasizing inter-personal or to be more precise, man-woman relationship, rather than Divine Love. The following lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 are a case in point:

“Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom,

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

Tagore, however, romanticized love between man and God and took it to a new level when he wrote:

“Thou have come down

As Thy joy is upon me.

If I were not,

O the Lord of the Three worlds,

Thy love would have been meaningless”.

(Free translation)

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

 

The question that we posed in the Introduction was whether Truth or God could be equated with love. That God is all love is the standard refrain of Saints and sages of all ages. At the same time, we have also been warned from the time immemorial that if we defy God or commit sin we will be punished by God and consequently will be deprived of His love. We have also been told by those wise persons that the prime objective in our life is to love God. The question may arise how do we love someone we do not know and cannot see with our naked eye, merely in the belief that He exists, He has created us, and He loves us unconditionally. Undoubtedly, the love that does not arise spontaneously is a strained, forced and artifical love. But that is besides the point as the question confronting us is whether Truth is love. As we have already defined Truth as a phenomenon that is ever-lasting and non-transient, the question that falls for determination is whether love can be non-transient and ever-lasting in order to be equated with Truth. Without quibbling in sophistry, one can of course conclude that the emotion or feeling that is transient and not ever-lasting is not love. The contra proposition that since man himself is not ever-lasting, his love cannot also be ever-lasting is equally valid. However, our proposition is not that man is Truth. It is precisely the reason why Christian philosophers have held that inter-personal love cannot be Divine or the Truth as such love cannot be ever-lasting and unconditional. The Divine love is essentially what emanates from God and, therefore, Divine love is Truth.

The Vedanta, notably the Brihadaranyaka Upanishada, has gone to the root of the phenomenon called love, primarily to settle the issue whether love can be equted with Truth. Sage Yajnavalkya while explaining the mystery of love to his wife Maitreyee (ref. Chapter 2, Brahmana 4, Brihadaranyaka Upanishada) states that we love our relations, friends and aquaintances, not because of our present worldly relationship, but because we love the Soul that pervades the whole world. That soul is me, you and all of us. That soul gives us the sense of unity and draws us toward others. That soul is the root of our existence and also the root cause of our love for one another, which in reality is love for ourselves, sans any duality of existence. Only a man with Divine perception envisions this eternal Truth. And love is this eternal Truth.

If that all pervasive soul of the Upanishada is called Biblical God, the ever-lasting love as a phenomenon can be reasonably sourced to IT, thereby validating the proposition that Truth is Love.

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5 Responses to TRUTH IS LOVE

  1. RKGupta says:

    LOVE

    The Path of Love
    Is like a Bridge of Hair
    Across a Chasm of Fire
    -A Christian mystic

    Congrats to Miss Michael for an excellent talk on “Truth and Love’ from Christian perspective, in particular and in the process exposing the gathering to the Christian traditions. She gave a good account of the Christian beliefs and importance of love in Christianity. She quoted extensively from the Bible, which is as much a holy scripture as the other scriptures like the Qur’an and the Gita. The essence of the Holy Scriptures is the same; they exhort people to spread love and not hatred, as Mr. Raha aptly pointed out in his summing up remarks. The scriptures lay stress on love for God but then what is meant by love for God needs to be understood. In its true sense love for God is expressed in love for His creation and this is not attachment but selfless love. The holy scriptures are full of wisdom. The real meaning of the scriptures, however, needs to be understood since if one is not able to appreciate the real message, it is no different than idolatry.
    The true meaning of Jesus’s saying ‘I am the way’ needs to be understood in its real sense. The way followed by Jesus in a few words can be summarized as his unfettered love and firm faith in the Divine and this divine love expressed in Jesus’s unconditional love for the poor and down-trodden. So the ‘way’ is this unfettered love and firm faith. Unless one attains this way, one cannot realize the Truth.
    The topic ‘Truth is love’ needs one to first understand what ‘love’ is? Once the real meaning of love is understood, it is not difficult to appreciate that there is no difference in the Truth and love.
    Love can be expressed as the desire to become perfect, to remove all imperfection. This is true of the love at the physical plane as well as at the spiritual plane. At the physical plane, the eyes love to see a beautiful thing, the ears love to listen melodious songs, the nose loves to smell fragrant flowers and so on. It is this lacking in the sensual perceptions, which is desired to be fulfilled and is called love for that thing.
    At the spiritual plane, one desires to remove imperfection of his conduct. The love for the saints of God is explained because of their perfection in conduct. The love for God is also explained similarly, as the God is the most Perfect One. He has created the universe and He runs it perfectly. One, who does not understand it lives in the world with anguish, pain, suffering and sorrow; he lives miserably. One, who has this knowledge, also lives like an ordinary person in the world, but he lives with the understanding that the world has been created by the God, the Lord of the universe, who is running it perfectly. This understanding makes him live happily in the world in accordance with His desire and it results in love for God, reflecting in a universal love.
    All the religions lay stress on love of God, but it is difficult to understand what is really meant by love of God. For most religions the love of God is expressed in obedience and worship. The true nature of love, however, needs to be understood. One loves oneself the most; it is a fact of life experienced by everyone some time or the other. One loves oneself the most because of his identification with one’s own self. If one loves some body else, it is because of the reason that he starts identifying himself with that other person. For example, the mother loves her child because she identifies herself with the child, so much so that the child becomes a part of her own existence. On the contrary, the child has no identity of his own, for his ego has not yet grown up; he knows nothing except the mother, he is completely dependent on her, which explains his love for her. As they both grow, the child starts acquiring his individuality and the mother also starts recognizing his independent existence. The degree of love starts getting affected.
    When one talks of the love of God the sequence is reversed. One could consider God as the mother of all mothers and the seeker as the child, who has to traverse the path from a state of grown up ego to the state of complete dependence on God i.e. surrender unto Him. With the complete surrender of the ego one acquires the spiritual knowledge that his essence is the essence of God i.e. cessation of the duality and that his reality is nothing but the Reflection of God. With this realisation one reaches the state of Unity i.e. the state of Oneness. In this state there is no difference between the love, faith and enlightenment. This is the true knowledge. When this realisation dawns one’s self exists no more.
    The love for God has, therefore, to be understood as the complete Unity with the God. But then the God is Absolute and for most people it is difficult to surrender, to love something so abstract. Most people, therefore, need the help of a spiritual Master. The Master has a physical body and is like them. The disciple can perceive Master’s existence through his own senses. It is easy for him to surrender his ego at the feet of his Master. The love for the Master gradually leads the disciple to the realisation that there is no duality between the Master and the God. The face of the Master is only a mask under which lies the Reality.
    One can consider the Master like the river that is continuously flowing towards and merging in the ocean. At the point of merger there is no difference between the river and the ocean. On merger with the ocean the river loses its identity, its independent existence. It becomes one with the ocean. The disciples who are like small watercourses by merging themselves with this river i.e. the Master can reach the ocean i.e. the God. On their own it is not only difficult but almost impossible for the small watercourses to travel through all this distance without the fear of being lost on the way. Their merger with the river paves the way for them to merge with the ocean. This is the easiest and the nearest path for the seekers to reach their destination. It is for this reason that the Sufis lay stress on the love for their Master.
    In unity with the God what exists is only the Reality of the God and one sees the existence of the God alone in all beings. His love takes the form of Divine love for all beings. The love for God does not mean hatred towards the world; rather it results in the understanding that the others need to be treated in the same manner as one would himself like to be treated. One cannot be saying that he loves God by neglecting his duty towards the others. The mother cannot be justified in neglecting her child for the sake of performing her pooja and similarly a king cannot be said to love God if he spends all his time in worship and refuses to protect his people from the enemy. The real love for God is to do one’s duty with utmost care and attention, while at the same time remaining in His Presence i.e. taking it to be a Divine order to discharge his obligations most faithfully.
    The great Sufi Master Bayazid-al-Bistami established supremacy of love by saying that ‘the Almighty can be approached only through love.’ The love for the beloved reveals his secrets in the heart of the lover and conversely the knowledge of the beloved produces in his heart the love for the beloved. The knowledge of the true beloved i.e. the God is a source of tremendous happiness. As in the case of worldly knowledge, the more complicated an issue is, the more pleasure one gets in understanding and resolving it. Similarly in the spiritual world, the knowledge of the God being the highest, one, who seeks to acquire His knowledge moves on the path of bliss.
    In regard to supremacy of love, the great Sufi Master Mahatma Ramchandraji has also said that ‘love is such a thing which can cross the limits of the Seven Skies.’ His dear disciple Thakur Ram Singhji also used to say, ‘Love is all encompassing. The Almighty can be realized only through love. The illiterate Gopis had won the love of Lord Sri Krishna only due to their unfettered love.’ The true love brings in enlightenment. In fact there is no difference between Love and Enlightenment. Love is God and the purpose of acquiring knowledge is to know the God. Love is the culmination of knowledge and the height of enlightenment.
    The true meaning of love thus is ‘ekatmata’ (oneness) i.e. complete merger with the beloved and cessation of the duality. There is no scope in love for the separate existence of the lover and the beloved. As soon as the feeling of duality between the Master and the disciple vanishes, one starts seeing His manifestation everywhere in the entire universe. Selfless love gradually turns into devotion, which makes one identical to one’s beloved. The disciple (the lover), however, is imperfect, and, therefore, it is the Master (the beloved), who being perfect, merges with the disciple and takes him on the path of love. We have references in the mystic literature:
    ‘Jab mein tha tab Hari nahi, ab Hari hai mein nay
    Prem gali ati saankri, ya mein do na samay’
    (Till I existed, God was not there. Now only He exists and I am not there. The path of love is so narrow that it has no place for the two.)
    Sufis believe that Love is God. It is the gift of the God. It cannot be learnt from the human beings. It can be acquired only through His grace. For the Sufis love is the only way to realise the God. They consider the entire creation to be His manifestation and, therefore, unless one loves all the creatures, one cannot claim true love for God. Someone has said, ‘there can be as many ways to realise the God as are there the number of atoms. But the simplest and the fastest way to realise Him is to serve His creation.’ Thus, the Sufi, on the one hand endeavors to clear his inner-self, and on the other he renders selfless service and derives happiness in comforting others.
    Sufis consider Uns (selfless love) for God as the shortest way to reach Him. The mother loves her son with no self-interest; she does not look at his vices or his goodness, nor does she live on any hopes from him. Even if she has any expectations, which are belied, her love for the son does not become any less. It is possible that at times the mother may get annoyed with the son but it does not mean that her heart would not melt seeing him in any difficulty. If one loves God in the same manner then there is no veil left in between. The only veil is that of self-interest, if that is not there, all the distance is travelled and one reaches his destiny immediately. Mahatma Ram Chandraji (Janab lalaji Maharaj of Fatehgarh, UP) has stated in his book ‘Mazhab Aur Tahqiqat’ on the basis of his personal experience that there have been such great persons, who in their lives never engaged themselves in any spiritual practices, no jikr, no meditation, no contemplation, no worry of crossing spiritual stages, no desire of achieving salvation, peace or any such thing nor even to realise the Truth, but because of their intense love for their Master in their hearts and following his order to the hilt without caring for the result or their own interest in it, they have become one with their Master. Mahatma Ram Chandraji has further stated that he would not have believed it if in his own case his experience was not something similar. He, however, has cautioned against exhibition of superficial love to cover up for ones lethargy, which would lead him, nowhere.
    Prophet Muhammad was asked once to which religion did he belong and it is said that Jesus Christ was also asked the same question. The fact is that all saints, all prophets belong to the same Religion, the Religion of the Lovers of God.
    The story of Sheikh Sanan in the book Mantiqu’t Tayr (or Birds’ Conference) written by the great Sufi Master Fariduddin Attar, of whom Maulana Rumi said; ‘Attar traversed the seven worlds of Love while we are standing only at the corner of one street’, reflects the idea of the supremacy of love in a very touching manner.
    Sheikh Sanan had devoted his life to serving God and His creation. He had four hundred faithful disciples living with him. One night, Sanan had a dream in which he saw himself bowing to an idol in the city of Rum. He ignored the dream initially but when it recurred, he decided to visit Rum. His disciples also insisted on accompanying him. All of them left for Rum and after some days they arrived at the outskirts of Rum, near a temple. At the temple Sheikh Sanan heard a heart-touching female voice singing a sad love song. On following the voice, Sheikh Sanan saw a young beautiful Christian girl singing that sad song. Her charming beauty overpowered Sheikh Sanan’s heart. In a moment his heart slipped away from his hands. He was dumbfounded and felt as if he had no existence of his own left any more. He could stand on his feet no longer. He sat down with tremors rocking his body. The fire of love made him forget all about himself.
    The fire of love incapacitated Sheikh Sanan so much that he forgot that he was a Sheikh of so many disciples, who were witnessing his strange condition. Nothing was important to him anymore except seeing the face of that young girl again. The young girl had left the temple without noticing the Sheikh but Sheikh Sanan decided to stay there through the night in the hope of seeing her again the next morning. His disciples tried to persuade him to go to the city with them but it was of no avail. The pain of love was growing stronger and stronger in Sanan’s heart. He was crying in this agony. His disciples were confused, unable to understand how their Sheikh could behave like that.
    Sheikh Sanan was possessed by the love for the Christian girl. Nothing existed for him except his beloved. The next day came and then the night, the Sheikh could not have a glimpse of the girl again. He became exceedingly restless. His disciples tried to take him out of this obsession. They asked him to perform ablution for clearing his soul, offer prayers (Namaz), and to repent for his sin. The Sheikh answered that they knew nothing of his condition and that he had done his ablution with the blood of his heart for his beloved. He was repentant not of his love but of his Sheikhood. He regretted that he did not fall in love earlier and said that his prayer now was only for her.
    Not understanding what their Sheikh had said the disciples requested him to forget everything that had happened and to go back with them to Mecca and its Kaaba. Sanan replied that his Mecca now was that temple where he found his love and its Kaaba was his beloved, the Christian girl. His disciples asked him whether he had no shame uttering these words and what face would he show to the God? The Sheikh replied, ‘The God himself has made me to fall in love. How can I act against His will?’
    The helpless disciples left their Sheikh at the temple in the hope that time will heal the heart of their Sheikh and they found a nearby place for themselves. They thought that perhaps their Master might change his mind and return back to Mecca with them. Days passed in waiting both for the Sheikh and the disciples. Sanan started living on the path opposite the temple from where he could see the girl crossing him in the hope that one day she would notice him. He started addressing her with an imaginary name in his poetry, which he started composing as a result of pain of love in his heart and he would sing the same in sad melodies.
    At last, one day the girl noticed him and asked him why was he living there on a street, without home, in the company of dogs. Sanan replied that he had fallen in love with her and would stay there until she responded. The girl was astonished looking to his old age enough to be her grandfather and asked him retortingly whether he was not ashamed of himself to fall in love with a young girl.
    Sheikh Sanan was unperturbed. He replied eloquently that love knows no age. Whether young or old, love pierces the heart of the lover the same way. Not knowing what to say, the girl asked him to abandon his Shakhhood, convert to Christianity, drink wine and renounce his faith in his holy book and all obligations hereunder to be eligible to deserve her favour.
    For Sanan, his only faith was his love. He did what the girl had demanded of him gladly. He sang and danced with rejoice proclaiming that he had become nothing for love; he had lost his honour in love and asked the young girl what more he could do for her? She was more than amused. She asked him to buy her gold and jewellery and if he had no money, not to waste his time on her. The Sheikh replied that he had nothing left with him except his heart that too he had already given away to her. He could not live in separation and would do anything she desired of him. The girl put her condition to be his wife that he should look after her pigs for one year. If he tends the pigs to her satisfaction, she would be ready to become his wife on completion of one year. The Sheikh gladly accepted her wish and took up his residence in the pigsty and started tending the pigs with love and care.
    Sheikh Sanan’s disciples were utterly disappointed. Their faith in their Sheikh was completely shattered and their hearts were broken. They were confused and they did not know what should they do now? Should they stay in Rum or should they return to Mecca. They asked Sheikh Sanan what should they do? Did he want them also to convert to Christianity as well? They will stay with him, if he asked them to do so. Sheikh Sanan, however, told them to do whatever they wanted and that he wanted nothing from them. If any one asked them about him, they should tell the truth.
    The disciples returned to Mecca. They had no courage to tell anything about their Sheikh to anyone. However, one of their colleagues who could not go to Rum, being on journey, on return to Mecca and not seeing their Master, asked his colleagues about him. They told him the entire story from the beginning to the end.
    On listening to what had transpired, he asked his colleagues how dare they judge their Sheikh as having done something wrong? He cried for his Sheikh from the depth of his heart. He told his colleagues that they did not know the etiquettes of the path of love. If they truly loved their Sheikh, they should have remained with him and followed him. If the Sheikh had torn off his Sufi robe and put on a cincture, they should have done the same. They should have stayed with him in the pigsty. He said this is what the true love demands.
    This faithful disciple remembered and cried inconsolably for his Sheikh day and night. On the fortieth day he had a vision. He saw his Master Sheikh Sanan standing in the presence of God with a dark cloud of dust from the temple hanging between Sheikh Sanan and God. Suddenly, the dust blew off and the Divine Light embraced the Sheikh. Then he heard an eternal voice saying: ‘When the fire of Love burns one of all his possessions, only then he becomes worthy of seeing the Eternal Beloved. Nothing has any value in the creed of Love except the selfless love. Until the mirror of the soul is cleared of the dust of existence one can not see the reflection of the True Beloved in it.’
    When he told of his vision to his colleagues, all of them decided to proceed to Rum, where they found their Sheikh with his forehead on the ground in salutation to the God. Sheikh Sanan had travelled beyond religion and was liberated from all bondage. He had truly become nothing in the love of his True Beloved. The Sheikh had become one with his true Beloved. He was silent but filled with bliss. The disciples gathered around him and all of them started back for Mecca.
    Meanwhile, the young girl also had a dream. She saw a glimpse of the Almighty in her dream. She had realised that it was He who was the true Lover. It aroused an intense desire in her heart to be united with that Eternal Beauty. The pain of love and separation had also captured her heart. It was now revealed to her that it was only the Sheikh, who could show her the way to the Eternal Beloved.
    She rushed to meet the Sheikh and on learning that he had left for Mecca, ran into the desert in order to catch up with the Master. The pain of love had melted her heart, which was pouring down in the form of tears from her eyes. For days together she ran barefooted in the desert, calling to her Master with love and devotion. The fire of love had reduced everything in her to ashes leaving nothing behind.
    Sheikh Sanan had known in his heart that she was running in the desert to see him. He sent his disciples to look for her. On seeing the great Master, the young woman threw herself at his feet. Holding his feet firmly, she said, ‘My Master, I am burning with love. I am dying to see my Beloved, who has disappeared after showing a glimpse and arousing this fire of love in my heart. I cannot see Him anymore. Help me to see my Beloved again.’ The Sheikh took her hands gently and looked into her eyes deeply as if he was peeping into her soul, conducting it to her Beloved through his own soul. The young girl met her destiny. She screamed, ‘O Beloved, I cannot bear Your separation any more’ and with these words she united with her Beloved leaving her mortal remains behind.
    Sheikh Sanan stood still for a while and then said, ‘They are fortunate, who reach their destiny and meet with their Beloved. They live eternally in union with Him.’ He then paused for a moment and added, ‘But those who are left behind to guide others to their goal must sacrifice their bliss of communion for the sake of His pleasure!’

  2. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, your depth on the subject is indeed astounding. You have very correctly distinguished duality in Divine Love from the non-dual aspect of self-realization where a realized soul can proclaim “I am the Truth”.

    As for Jesus, God as Father has recurred in his speeches and sermons frequently. This may suggest duality in Divine Love. On a few occasions, Jesus has also stated that “I am the Truth” or “I and my Father are One”, which smacks of non-duality in his God-consciousness. However, for those utterances he was eventually sentenced to death on the charge of heresy / blasphemy, as the contemporary Jews failed to understand him. Saint Mansur, the famous Sufi saint, also met with the same fate for saying “Anal Haq” or I am the Truth. Thus it would appear that in Christian and Islamic philosophy, non-duality you have spoken of, is not acceptable, even though there could be some stray instances where non-duality may have been obliquely hinted or indirectly suggested by Sufi saints like Shams Tabriez.

    It is perhaps in Hindu philosophy of the Vedanta only that such expressions as “Sohahm’ (I am He), ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ (I am Brahman) or Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That) are not found as offensive or blasphemous. On the contrary such realized sages are honoured and their revelation is taken as the Ultimate Truth.

    Now the question is whether there can be any love in non-duality. To be more precise, is love relevant to a realized soul who finds self as one with God? If he loves God or if God loves him, non-duality ceases and duality surfaces. The other concept of one loving one’s own self may also admit of duality inasmuch as in that case the former one detaches himself from the latter one. In a perfect union of the self with God, there is no duality, and, therefore, love becomes irrelevant.

    In that non-dual state, the realized soul may, however, feel intense love for all others who have been suffering owing to their ignorance. Such love cum compassion can be called Divine as the realized soul has become one with the Divine. There is yet another angle to our perspective. A realized soul who finds all others as Brahman or God in human form cannot but love all others as if loving God. In that state, however, duality creeps in.

    An Advaita Vedantist (non-dualist) explains duality as “Maya” or delusion and non-duality as Truth. From his perspective, love itself may be a delusion. A Dvaita Vedantist (dualist), however, finds unconditional and selfless love as the binder that unites us with the Divine. Therefore, such love can be equated with Truth.

    We now come to the last poser – can inter-personal love be Truth? If inter-personal love is selfless and unconditional, I have no hesitation in stating that such love is Divine, given the fact that all of us have originated from God and shall also return to our source. All of us are, therefore, potentially Divine.

  3. RKGupta says:

    Sir, the only short comment I would like to make is that the state of ‘non-duality’ is ‘love personified’, it is an ocean of love, which has no beginning or end.

  4. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, I couldn’t have agreed more. This explains why even after attainment of liberation, the realized souls continue to live in mortal body to serve, guide and help the people in distress. Even an Advaita Vedantist like Sri Shankara, an exponent of the ‘Maya’, is no exception.

  5. Kushal Shah says:

    Many thanks to Ms. Meriel for the interesting talk! I am however not very satisfied with this statement, “What is that purpose? Christians know that all humans were created to live in a loving relationship with God. He did not need us, but we need Him.”

    Humans did not exist before creation. So, it is not clear what it means to say that God created us so that we could live in a loving relationship with Him.

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