Author: Beloo Mehra (2020). Published in Sraddha, Vol. 11 (4), April 2020, pp. 82-99
CONTINUED FROM PART 2
Love, Sacrifice and Ego
While it is the ego, a formation of Prakriti, which gives an individual a sense of separate existence, it must be understood that an ego is in reality not and can neither be independent nor separate. It cannot live to itself even if it were able to, because in truth all beings are linked together by a secret Oneness. An individual’s growth happens only when he or she moves away from the separate existence and interacts, relates, cooperates, and unites with other beings. And this is where the play of ego comes in. A relation of love between two human beings demands, rather necessitates a spirit of self-giving and sacrifice. But, most often, this sacrifice is done unconsciously, egoistically and without knowledge or acceptance of the true meaning of the self-giving. The vast majority of people experience love in this way – limited and tortured by the smallness and suffering of the ego.
The strong need that human beings have for love, an irresistible push and seeking for it – all these are essentially an impulse given by the force of Divine love which acts behind the human longing and seeking. This divine force touches millions of instruments, trying always, always failing. But this constant touch prepares these instruments till one day the capacity of true self-giving, the capacity of true love awakes in them.
“Not for the sake of the wife,” says Yajnavalkya in the Upanishad, “but for the sake of the Self is the wife dear to us.” This in the lower sense of the individual self is the hard fact behind the coloured and passionate professions of egoistic love; but in a higher sense it is the inner significance of that same love too which is not egoistic but divine. All true love and all sacrifice are in their essence Nature’s contradiction of the primary egoism and its separative error; it is her attempt to turn from a necessary first fragmentation towards a recovered oneness. … The law of sacrifice travels in Nature towards its culmination in this complete and unreserved self-giving; it awakens the consciousness of one common self in the giver and the object of the sacrifice. This culmination of sacrifice is the height even of human love and devotion when it tries to become divine; for there too the highest peak of love points into a heaven of complete mutual self-giving, its summit is the rapturous fusing of two souls into one.” (Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 23, pp. 107-108)
NATURE OF HUMAN LOVE
Human love, says the Mother, “is not a need of the soul, but rather a concession it makes for a time to the ego.” (CWM, Vol. 14, p. 120). This sounds startling to our ordinary intelligence, given that our ideas about love are almost entirely shaped by what our popular culture and popular romantic literature and films tell us about it. We throw the word ‘soulmate’ so casually, without even realising that we don’t know what is this thing called soul. It is perhaps the false soul of desire in us which creates this illusion.
Ego, an instrument of nature, which gives us a sense of separate existence, also seeks its own separate love, exclusively for itself. This love is coloured by all the different forms in which ego expresses itself, which may be understood as egoism. However, since all love is indeed a universal force, there is not only a similarity but rather an identity between human love and Divine love. At the same time there is much deformity or degradation that love goes through as it manifests in the ordinary human instruments.
The Mother gives a good explanation for how a narrow and personal human love becomes far removed from a wide, universal Divine love. Often, the need for human love is simply in obedience to a vital attraction for another, emerging as a natural instinct. But to the extent that it is not that, human love “is the need to have a Divine for oneself alone, at one’s entire and exclusive disposal, a Divine who is one’s personal property and to whom one gives oneself totally only if the gift is reciprocated. Instead of enlarging oneself to the size of the Divine and having a love as vast as the universe, one tries to reduce the Divine to one’s own size and have His love for oneself alone” (CWM, Vol. 14, p. 120).
True love, says the Mother, is something very deep and calm in its intensity. It is not a passion of the ordinary emotive heart, but a psychic quality. More importantly, true love finds its delight and satisfaction in itself. It does not need to manifest itself in any exterior ‘acts of love’, sensational or affectionate.
Most human love is far removed from this true love. Most human beings in ordinary relations speak of their right to be loved, but love’s only right, if at all it has one, is the right of self-giving, says the Mother. Without self-giving there is no love. But an honest self-reflection and observation around us will tell us how rare is true self-giving in human love, which is in actuality full of selfishness and demands.
True love simply is! It doesn’t impose itself or demands love in return. It is sufficient by itself. It is a source of immutable happiness. Very rarely does one experience this true love in ordinary life. But here again it is important to remember a note of caution that the Mother adds –
“It is not the love that someone feels for you that can make you happy, it is the love you feel for others that makes you happy: for you receive the love that you give from the Divine, who loves eternally and unfailingly” (p. 122).
In other words, it is the love that one simply feels for others, love that one gives to others which can be purified and refined to the status of becoming true, pure love. Because it is only the love that one gives which brings joy and calmness. Love that insists that it needs reciprocation can never be true love.
Human Nature Deforms Love
An important point to understand about love is that the distortions and deformations that we see in the apparent workings of the divine force of Love actually belong to its instruments through which it manifests. These limitations of the human instrument range from obscurity and ignorance to selfishness and egoism.
Our sages and seers help us see that all love is essentially a seeking for the union of the self with the Divine. In its purity, love asks for nothing and is only about giving. The initial movement of love in human beings may carry some sense of purity and divinity, an idea of self-forgetfulness and self-giving may be prominent for some time, but over time the persistent and limited human nature that is full of desires and attachments distort that initial pure movement of love.
This last point is a very common experience with people, almost a universal experience one can say. But the question to ask here is this – why does it happen like this? The vital part in us, the life-force in us is the seat of all desires, passions, impulses and instincts. When we primarily live in vital consciousness, especially the lower vital, or in other words, when we are primarily ruled by the movements of this vital part in us, we find ourselves getting more attached to our desires and passions, our emotions and feelings. We are more clinging and lot less generous in our feelings. Our ego is primarily identified with the vital and it is this vital ego that dictates our responses, behaviour patterns and attitudes toward love. Even our love and liking are egoistic if they are mostly driven by the lower vital which is concerned with small ego-movements such as lust, greed, jealousy, envy, vanity, pride etc.
Love is a thing of the heart, it is often said. In ordinary parlance, what people generally refer to as the heart is simply an emotive heart, full of emotions more or less similar to the animal’s, but more variously developed. It is important to understand the nature of these emotions because that will help us see how the movement of love whose origin lies in the Supreme Force of Divine Love gets degraded so much when it comes to the level of ordinary human love. Sri Aurobindo helps us with these words:
“Its emotions are governed by egoistic passion, blind instinctive affections and all the play of the life-impulses with their imperfections, perversions, often sordid degradations, — a heart besieged and given over to the lusts, desires, wraths, intense or fierce demands or little greeds and mean pettinesses of an obscure and fallen life force and debased by its slavery to any and every impulse. This mixture of the emotive heart and the sensational hungering vital creates in man a false soul of desire…” (CWSA, Vol. 23, p. 150)
This false soul of desire colours the movement of love with its petty instincts of clinging to its object of desire, which it sees as its object of love. And when there is desire, there is bound to be expectation; in this instance, expectation of being loved in return for loving the other. This is often the beginning of much degradation in love.