Author: Beloo Mehra (2020). Published in Sraddha, Vol. 11 (4), April 2020, pp. 82-99
CONTINUED FROM PART 3
LOVE GROWS AND PURIFIES ITSELF
“Love of man, love of woman, love of things, love of thy neighbour, love of thy country, love of animals, love of humanity are all the love of God reflected in these living images. So love and grow mighty to enjoy all, to help all and to love for ever.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 12, p. 491)
All love is only one Love, pure and true in its essential nature. It is the imperfection of the human nature that degrades and deforms it by bringing in all sorts of petty vital instincts of possession, jealousy, attachment, lust etc. But as we walk on the path of purifying our vital nature, the love in us also gets purified and grows more and more to its true nature.
“At first one loves only when one is loved.
“Next, one loves spontaneously, but one wants to be loved in return.
“Then one loves even if one is not loved, but one still wants one’s love to be accepted.
“And finally, one loves purely and simply, without any other need or joy than that of loving.” (The Mother, CWM, Vol. 14, p. 122)
There is a progressive nature to our inner growth, but it requires sincere effort and an intense aspiration for self-purification. It can be said that all human love, even in all its deformations is a practice ground for us. Human love also widens and expands as we expand our circle of care and affection – from one single object of love to love for more people, from love for our immediate family to love for the wider community, from love for our community to love for the nation, and from there to love for the humanity and all creatures, love for nature and mother earth.
By such widening we slowly begin to break away from the confines of our limited ego, our separate existence. It is also important to recognize that even when it is not really a feeling of love for all, the widening of one’s self through sympathy, goodwill, universal benevolence and beneficence, one begins to mentally and emotionally escape from the first limits of one’s ego. This becomes a good preparation for the human instrument in its capacity to love. This is what is meant by gradually becoming more open and receptive to the universal force of love.
Because of the present imperfections of human nature, there are bound to be innumerable sorrows, troubles, regrets, difficulties along the path of love. There is bound to be much pain and agony, much heartache and despair. But if instead of allowing these to cause disappointment in us if we somehow learn to see these as ‘learnings’ on the path of love, we continue to make progress with our work of self-purification and inner growth. All human love is thus a preparation to experience the divine love.
HUMAN LOVE AND RELATIONS
Love between human beings expresses itself through various relations – parent-child, siblings, married couple, lover and beloved, friendship, extended family, etc. Then there is also the relation between humans and animals. What is the nature of love across some of these relations, and how it may be raised to a higher movement? It is important to explore this question and its related aspects.
Love of Parents for Children
So many stories and books have been written, movies have been made about the love of parents for their children, especially the love of a mother. Maternal love is often considered the most unconditional love. But is it really so? Is any human love unconditional in the truest sense? What about the role of the mother as a disciplinarian for the child? As an adult responsible for teaching the child the right values and give a positive start in life, doesn’t a parent also expect the child to behave in a certain way? How does such expectation or desire change the nature of the parental love? And what about the case where there is more than child? Does a mother love all her children equally?
Most of the instinctive answers to such questions, in our ordinary experience are shaped by the stories of motherhood we have heard in our lives, the books we have read, the films we have watched. Each culture has created its own myths and stories, its own ideals of motherhood. In India, we have the countless stories of Yashoda’s love for Krishna and Kaushalya’s love for Rama. Stories of father’s love for their children are also not wanting. We have Dashratha who even gives up his life when separated from his first-born son, Rama.
The Mahabharata presents to us many different examples of parental love, some of which actually compel us to dig deeper into the nature of parental love. For instance, on one side we have Dhritrashtra who is so attached to his sons that he is even unable to stop them from doing all kinds of wrong and adharmic actions. On the other side, we also have Kunti who finally admits to Karna that he is in fact her first-born son whom she had given away because she was unmarried at the time. But she chooses to tell him about this truth only when she finds out that Karna would be fighting against her other five sons and has also taken a vow to kill Arjuna. There are many such stories that throw light on different aspects of parental love and in particular the love of a mother, helping us to move beyond the unthinking idea that a mother’s love is unconditional in all cases.
The Mother was once asked the question – “what kind of love do parents have for their children?” Let us read her response and reflect carefully on it.
“What kind? A human love, don’t they? Like all human loves: frightfully mixed, with all sorts of things. The need of possession, a formidable egoism. At first, I must tell you that a wonderful picture has been painted… many books written, wonderful things said about a mother’s love for her children. I assure you that except for the capacity of speaking about the subject in flowery phrases, the love of the higher animals like the… well, the mammals for their children is exactly of the same nature: the same devotion, the same self-forgetfulness, the same self-denial, the same care for education, the same patience, the same… I have seen absolutely marvellous things, and if they had been written down and applied to a woman instead of to a cat, superb novels would have been made, people would have said: “What a person! How marvellously devoted are these women in their maternal love!” Exactly the same thing. Only, cats could not use flowery language. That’s all. They could not write books and make speeches, that is the only difference. But I have seen absolutely astonishing things. And that kind of self-giving and self-oblivion—as soon as there is the beginning of love, it comes. But men… I sincerely believe, from all that I have studied, that there is perhaps a greater purity in animals for they do not think, while human beings with their mental power, their capacity of reflecting, reasoning, analysing, studying, all that, oh! They spoil the most lovely movement. They begin to calculate, reason, doubt, organise.
“Take, for instance, parents. At the risk of removing many illusions in your consciousness, I must tell you something about the source of a mother’s love for her child. It is because this child is made of her very own substance, and for quite a long time, relatively long, the material link, the link of substance, between mother and child is extremely close—it is as though a bit of her flesh had been taken out and put apart at a distance—and it is only much later that the tie between the two is completely cut. There is a kind of tie, of subtle sensation, such that the mother feels exactly what the child feels, as she would feel it in herself. That then is the material basis of the mother’s attachment for the child. It is a basis of material identity, nothing else but that. Feeling comes much later (it may come earlier, that depends on people), but I am speaking of the majority: feeling comes only long afterwards, and it is conditioned. There are all kinds of things…. I could speak to you for hours on the subject. But still this must not be mixed up with love. It is a material identification which makes the mother feel intimately, feel quite concretely and tangibly what the child is feeling: if the child receives a shock, well, the mother feels it. This lasts at least for two months.
“This is the basis. The rest comes from people’s nature, their state of development, their consciousness, education and capacity for feeling. This is added to the first. And then there are all the collective suggestions that make up all sorts of stories—for people are wonderful at constructing stories. They write novels about everything. They have used their minds to build up their imaginations which go round in the atmosphere and then are caught just like that. So some catch a certain type of these, others another kind, and then, as imagination is a force of propulsion, with it one begins to act, and then finally one makes a novel of one’s life, if he is in the least imaginative…. This has absolutely nothing to do with the true consciousness, with the psychic being, nothing at all, but people come and talk to you in flowery language and tell you stories—all these are wandering imaginations. If one could see, that is, if you could see this mental atmosphere, that of the physical mind, which is circulating everywhere, making you move, making you feel, making you think, making you act, oh, good heavens! You would lose many of your illusions about your personality. But indeed it is like that. Whether one knows it or not, it is like that” (CWM, Vol. 6, pp 106-108).
Now doesn’t this radically alter our view of paternal and maternal love for the child?