Divine Love as Virtue

By Rudra Shivananda

The tyranny of words and our lack of discrimination have limited our development of true Love

Emotions by practical experience are evanescent and cannot be constant because they are continually affected by our thoughts. We are unable to keep an emotion for any length of time without it exhausting us and boring us.

pexels-photo-755028.jpegThe emotion of love is no exception in that our feelings are changing all the time with new experiences. A couple can fall in and out of love in a matter of weeks or even days. However, most mothers will love their children in spite of a myriad of reasons not to – it has been said that there are some people whom only their mothers can love!

It seems that humanity has taken something of high value and trashed it by applying it to an emotion that comes and goes like a passing cloud or a rain shower. The tyranny of words and our lack of discrimination have limited our development of true Love. Of course, I do not dispute that there is great value in even the emotion that we call love, although it should be more appropriately called liking or attraction. However, the danger is when we confuse this emotion with true Love, it can lead to all sorts of illusions and suffering.

If we think that the Divine Love is like our emotional love, then we will project all sorts of conditions on Divine Love. Our emotional love requires a quid-pro-quo: if we love someone then we require them to love us back or show some appreciation, and if they don’t, then we may rescind our love or even feel emotionally hurt, leading to a feeling of hatred for the former object of love. Does God only Love those who love Him back and hate those that don’t? In our confusion, that is exactly what we have projected and that has been written in many a holy book – that we must love Her for Her to love us back.

In reality, Love is a divine attribute and not an emotion. It is constant and unchanging in its all-encompassing and time-demolishing power. Even a mother’s love is but an shadow of this Love. In yoga, we are striving to develop this Love.
The quality of this Love is illustrated by the following story:

There was once an old yogi who lived in a cave near a village. He would come into the village and sit under a tree to tell inspirational stories. The villagers would bring him leftover food. They would also occasionally bring those who were sick to him and he would whisper a few words, touch them gently and they would be miraculously healed. The yogi sometimes fell asleep and would start snoring while sitting under the tree. In the village was a gang of rowdy kids whose leader was an especially naughty boy who was the terror of the village, as he loved to play pranks on the grown-ups. The victims could not punish him because he was the village chief’s son. The gang took great pleasure in tormenting the old yogi – they would throw stones at him when he fell asleep and sometimes he would be bruised all over when he woke up.

One day, as was their usual custom, the boys were throwing stones at the sleeping yogi and as he opened his eyes, the leader threw a big stone that struck his left eye and blinded the old man. In spite of the blood and pain, the yogi merely smiled at the boy, shook his head, hobbled up and went back to his cave. A few days later, the old yogi came back to the village with his left eye heavily bandaged, but smiling as usual. Immediately, the village chief came and prostrated himself at the feet of the yogi and begged for his mercy and help. The yogi gently inquired what service he could do for him and the chief tearfully replied that this son, the gang leader who had blinded the yogi had fallen sick and the village doctor had proclaimed that it was an incurable plague and they had taken the boy to the forest to die. The yogi gave the chief his blessing and assured him that the boy would recover. The yogi asked for a pitcher of water which he blessed and then told the father to give the boy to drink. Within an hour of drinking the water, the boy’s fever, pain and sores had subsided and he was able to open his eyes. The whole village marvelled at the yogi’s compassion, for they felt sure that the sickness was some sort of punishment, but it was the karmic wheel of justice, not the yogi who had delivered the punishment. It was the yogi filled with Love that delivered the cure.

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