Author: Beloo Mehra (2020). Published in Sraddha, Vol. 11 (4), April 2020, pp. 82-99
CONTINUED FROM PART 4
Duties toward Family
Having briefly explored the nature of parental love let us now look at the children’s duty toward their parents. The notion of family duties is an important one for people in the grihastha stage of their life. Dharmashastra-s and also our itihāsa-s have spoken much about this.
Service to parents is part of family and social duty. But here again, one’s attitude toward such duty is important to consider. The psychic element of love and the quality of self-giving will not be there if one does it only as a social obligation, or even for the sake of attachment to the parents.
The important thing to remember is that even when living in the family and fulfilling one’s social duties, one can prepare oneself for higher goal in life of spiritual release. This can be done by consciously remembering the Divine in all and by doing all one’s duties as a sacrifice for the sake of the Divine. This will not only help the person evolve inwardly, but also free oneself from the chains of attachment which only bring misery and suffering. This is how love for parents can purify itself and grow more toward its true psychic quality.
Even the earning of money and looking after family affairs can be and be done in a spirit of entire detachment if one truly wants to evolve in one’s consciousness through family life.
Love between Friends
In ordinary life, friendships are generally founded upon shared interests, similar views toward life and its goals, regular association such as being school or college mates or work colleagues, etc. In some rare cases, there is a natural genuine mutual affection, even when there may not be much commonality on the surface. We find one of the most wonderful examples of such true friendship in the story of Krishna and Sudama. In the Mahabharata we also find the story of friendship between Duryodhana and Karna which can be a good subject of study for the dilemma between one’s duty toward a friend and one’s duty toward dharma, the right and the true.
The play of human egoism is active in relation between friends just like in all human relationships. This is what also gives them a fleeting character, as we commonly hear people speak of friends who change with time.
It is important that more and more people begin to see friendship, brotherhood, love to be sacred things, rooted in the soul, and not as things “broken at every moment by the movements of the ego, soiled and spoiled and destroyed by the passions, jealousies, treacheries to which the vital is prone” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 31, p. 295). For that to happen, much purification of the vital is necessary. All clinging, all insistence for possession, petty emotions, sentimentalism, feeling of hurt, pride, envy etc. have to fall away if one wants to experience true affection. Love and affection have to be re-based on a deeper and higher consciousness.
FROM LOVE HUMAN TO LOVE DIVINE
We all crave for affection and love, it is one of the basic human needs. We try to satisfy this need through all our loves – love for the family, love for the beloved, love for friends, etc. And somehow or the other, at some point in time we go through much pain and struggle on account of love. We have seen why that is so. Thus, despite all our loves, something in us remains dissatisfied, our thirst for love remains unquenched.
“The thirst for affection and love is a human need, but it can be quenched only if it turns towards the Divine. As long as it seeks satisfaction in human beings, it will always be disappointed or wounded.” (The Mother, CWM, Vol. 14, p. 121)
Sri Aurobindo gives a solution to overcome such disappointment, such disillusionment. In many cases this is often the start of seeking for something deeper, something more lasting in nature, something eternal. Out of a disenchantment with imperfect and impermanent human love comes a new beginning for some, beginning of a seeking for love divine, love that is true.
Establishing the consciousness on a psychic level instead of vital ego, on a purer and higher mental, vital and physical consciousness essentially means that all relations based on human love should be gradually centred in and around the Divine. All relations should pass from the vital to the spiritual basis. This means that jealousy, strife, hatred, aversion, rancour and all other evil vital feelings should be altogether abandoned. All egoistic love and attachment will have to disappear also. There must be a real living and lasting unity behind the love.
The way to this ideal of spiritually rooted love and relationships is different for different people. For some the way is to leave everything else to follow the Divine alone, the way of the ascetic. However, this doesn’t really mean an aversion for anybody any more than it means aversion for the world and life.
“It only means absorption in one’s central aim, with the idea that once that is attained it will be easy to found all relations on the true basis, to become truly united with others in the heart and the spirit and the life, united in the spiritual truth and in the Divine.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 31, p. 289).
But there is also another way, the path of purification and transformation of the vital.
“The other way is to go forward from where one is, seeking the Divine centrally and subordinating all else to that, but not putting everything else aside, rather seeking to transform gradually and progressively whatever is capable of such transformation. All the things that are not wanted in the relation, – impurity, jealousy, anger, egoistic demand, – drop away as the inner being grows purer and is replaced by the unity of soul with soul and the binding together of the social life in the hoop of the Divine.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 31, p. 289)
This is the path toward an integral perfection. This is the path that leads the individual and the collective to a greater Harmony – within and without, and to a deeper Love, love that heals, love that quenches the deepest thirst.
KABIR ON LOVE
No discussion on the nature of love will not be complete without a mention of Sant Kabir. A mystic poet and saint of the 15-16th century, Kabir has had an immense influence on Indian philosophy as well as on Indian poetry. He was one of the most prominent figures of the Bhakti movement in North India. The name ‘Kabir’ comes from the Arabic word ‘al-Kabir’ which means “The Great”, and it is also the 37th name of God in Islam.
Though there is debate on his parentage, Kabir was known to have been brought up in a family of poor Muslim weavers in Kashi. Though Kabir did not receive any formal education and was initiated into the trade of weaving, it is believed that the Vaishnava saint Swami Ramananda was his guru. Kabir is credited with having authored a considerable amount of poetical work in the form of songs and couplets (which are called doha-s). Kabir’s poems were termed as “bāņīs” (utterances) by his followers, because these were first envisioned by Kabir and uttered in a heightened state of consciousness. His poems were uttered in Hindi, with influences of the vernacular dialects of Awadhi, Brij, and Bhojpuri.
Although Kabir wrote no systematic treatise on his poetic works, some of these were written down by two of his disciples, Bhāgodās and Dharmadās. Some were recorded by Guru Arjun Dev (the fifth Guru of Sikhs) in the Guru Granth Sahib, the key religious text of Sikhism, in their undistorted form. Much of it however was passed on as oral tradition with certain modifications and distortions across the centuries. Kabir’s legacy is still carried forward by ‘Kabir Panth’, a community that attributes him as its founder.
Many of this couplets, dohas, on Love speak of the highest truths about love – human and divine, and compel us to reflect on the depth of the truth hidden in the few simple words. Let us conclude by presenting a selection of his dohas on love.
आगि आंचि सहना सुगम, सुगम खडग की धार
नेह निबाहन ऐक रास, महा कठिन ब्यबहार।
Bearing heat of fire is easy, the blade of sword is easy
Maintaining love in the same way is a very difficult practise.
प्रेम पियाला सो पिये शीश दक्षिना देय
लोभी शीश ना दे सके, नाम प्रेम का लेय।
Only he can drink the cup of love who can donate his head
A greedy can never sacrifice his head he can only howl the name of love.
प्रीति बहुत संसार मे, नाना बिधि की सोय
उत्तम प्रीति सो जानिय, राम नाम से जो होय।
There are various types of love in the world
The best type of love is that which is with the name of Ram.
प्रेम प्रेम सब कोई कहै, प्रेम ना चिन्है कोई
जा मारग हरि जी मिलै, प्रेम कहाये सोई।
Everyone says he is in love, but no one knows true love
The road on which the God meets, is that true love.
यह तो घर है प्रेम का, उंचा अधिक ऐकांत
सीस काटि पग तर धरै, तब पैठे कोई संत।
This is the home of love, very high and lonely
One who cuts his head and keeps under his feet, only then saint can enter into this house.
सबै रसायन हम किया, प्रेम समान ना कोये
रंचक तन मे संचरै, सब तन कंचन होये।
I took all medicines but nothing is like love
Even if a little amount of it runs in the heart, the whole body turns gold.
पीया चाहै प्रेम रस, राखा चाहै मान
दोय खड्ग ऐक म्यान मे, देखा सुना ना कान।
Either you drink the juice of love, or keep the pride
Two swords can never adjust in one sheath, it has never been seen or heard.
Sri Aurobindo, Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo (CWSA). Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. Volumes 1, 12, 23, 31
The Mother, Complete Works of the Mother (CWM). Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. Volumes 3, 6, 14
Author’s note: An earlier version of this was published in the proceedings of the ‘National Seminar on Prenatal Education: Ancient Indian Perspectives (April 11-12, 2019).