The Lord of the Universe
wants to come and live in your house
if you accept
He will see through your eyes
He will hear through your ears
He will speak with your tongue
if you accept
You will have nothing
but the knowing
that He is in you
– to follow my Instagram poetry account click here: @shruti.heartwords
Is love an emotion? Is devotion attachment? Is surrender servitude? Exploring the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad for some answers.
In the previous newsletter, I explored a little of the quest for what is unchanging, unending and immortal (see, Akshaya Trittiya: The Unending and Immortal). I felt however not quite done with exploring the beautiful commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda. I feel something more could be said on love, surrender and devotion.
Love beyond emotion
The topic of love, at least as we commonly understand it, is not much discussed in the Upanishads. Maybe because the love we commonly understand is an emotion which like all emotions, is subject to change and the Upanishads and other similar texts are here to point us to the unchanging.
As most things have become objectified in our minds, devotion or bhakti is also primarily understood as an emotional attachment. So as jnana can become intellectual, bhakti can become emotional.
I recall a really touching scene in the Ramanand Sagar Ramayana series when Bharat follows Rama into the forest to beg him to return. In his anguish he is in tears and tries to remind Rama of his deep love for him saying, if you love me, why won’t you return? Rama smiles and says that if Bharat loves him, why does he not want what Rama wants? And then this beautiful line – “Pyaar kiya hai to bin mol bik jao” (if you come from love, then don’t name your price).
“Psychologically, as well as metaphysically and philosophically, there seems to be an error in our notion that anything can be loved at all. The word ‘love’ becomes a misnomer when we investigate into its essence. If by love we mean affectionately clinging to something that is other than our own self, then love does not exist in this world. If love means asking for something other than one’s own self, clinging to something other than one’s self, feeling happy with that which is not one’s self – if that is the definition of love, then love is hypocrisy; it does not exist.”
Surrender and devotion
We might think then that love implies some servile attitude towards another person. Blindly agreeing to their every wish ‘in the name of love’. But this kind of surrender can arise more from fear than love and unless one is convinced that one is surrendering to God incarnate itself, deception can enter the game. The surrender therefore is actually about devotion to one’s own Self or Atman.
I like how Swami Krishnananda explains quite clinically, the mechanics of human love – not saying that it is wrong or futile, but that we are deluded about what the object of our love actually is!
“…everything in the world has a pure subjectivity in itself. It is not true that things are objects of perception. They are also subjects, from their own point of view….When I see you, I am a subject perceiving you as an object of my perception. So, you are an object and I am a subject. But when you perceive me, you are a subject and I am an object. Now tell me: Who is the subject and who is the object? Is there anything that we can permanently call an object? […] All perception is an obvious demonstration of the non-finite character of consciousness. It is not merely inside, it is also outside; that is to say, it is everywhere. It is infinite; this is the point.
Yajnavalkya tells us that when we love somebody, some thing, some object, whatever it be, that which pulls us in the direction of the so-called object is not the object by itself, because this object is a subject in its own status. Its essence is not objectivity; its essence is as much a centre of consciousness as our own subjectivity is a centre of consciousness. In all love, in all affections, in all attractions, the Self pulls the Self. It is as if one part of consciousness collides with another part of consciousness in perception. The Universal that is hidden in the so-called object outside pulls the Universal that is present in the subject, as it were, in its own direction, and towards whichever side action is taking place.
[…] due to the delusion – you go to the object thinking that it is beautiful, that it is necessary, that it is meaningful. There is no meaning in anything in this world except the meaning of the Selfhood of that object. If the Self is absent in that object, it is a non-entity, and a non-entity cannot attract you. So if the Self it is that pulls you, it is yourself only that is pulling you.
[…] Even when you are asking for the silliest joys of life, you are actually asking for this infinite Bliss – asking unknowingly, not knowing what is happening to you.”
The Love that passeth understanding
Perhaps the seekers of Truth in the Vedic times didn’t include ‘love’ much in their contemplations because the orientation of the society was more directly towards the search for Truth, liberation or moksha. In our modern societies influenced by consumerism and Hollywood though, love and money are what we are primarily geared towards seeking for.
But, same thing.
Knowledge and love both collapse into the same Self by removing the false identity that practices it.
Bhakti: To Fall in Love Like Meera
Jnana and Bhakti in the Context of the Ancient Schools of AdvaitaShare your thoughts in the comments section below.
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