If there is a word that has been used, misused, corrupted, disrespected and misunderstood, this word is LOVE.
No doubt we can only love till the extent of our maturity permits us to do it. No doubt we´ll do our best but only till that extent. But can we really call “love” to the affection we give, that always expects to be returned? The more maturily we love, the less we will expect from others, but the more we will receive. They say a mother´s love is the most similar to the Real Love, because it is the one with less expectations. And it is true. But generally still there are “some” expectations, unless the mother is an enlightened being.
Or is it love this attachment called “romantic love”? What is this yearned melting with the beloved when we fall in love?
Let´s go a bit deeper: whom am I loving when I love someone? For long since I was a child I had a satisfying sensation of loving myself through the love I used to give to others. I was not able to love myself directly so I was feeling love as an spiral energy that resulted in me filling my own heart through the love I used to give. Now I can understand it better: there were no “others” and “me”, this was only my childish experience of the Oneness of the Self in all. When we pour out our love for X person or persons to whom we address, it is the Self the object of our love. That search of melting in the romantic love is an extreme desperate searching of the Ultimate through “the other”, whether we know it or not. While the identification with the Self is one of the highest goals in Vedanta and it may take many lifetimes to realise it, I have found that we keep doing plenty or rehearsals and abortive attempts along most of our lives by “trying” loving “others”.
There is a subtle line and many nuances to understand the “love thyself” classical injunction. We, born and brought up in the judeo-christian mentality that scarres us for life as sinners, find it difficult to love ourselves, so imperfect beings. So we run from the lowest self-esteem to the highest apparent self-esteem in the form of arrogance when we strive to escape from this self inflicted suffering of lack of esteem. But that is only the other side of the coin of the same ignorance on our real SHARED inner nature among all the creatures in the Universe. We need balance. Balance comes from the truth of ourselves, from discovering WHO WE ARE. Sitting in the throne of our inner heart, we should still ourselves and just BE. If we really are, without any addenda (no personality), in that “being” we´ll find ourselves. We will see that in purity, deep inside, we are attributeless, formless and infinite. Sitting still we will see that we are that quality of Being itself….and what is this but discovering that we are the Atman, the Brahman embodied in this body-mind-senses complex? Only then love will flow without expectations, because Love with capital letter is what we are. That Infinite constant Love that we are searching for.
In times of yore it is said that rishis and rishikas, for their elevated spiritual condition, they used to relate from that core who is the unique Self, so the outer feminine or masculine wrappings were not important. But with the passage of time and the decline of the human condition, certain measures were needed to be taken to preserve the purity in the mind of the jivas. And to me that the first steps in this direction have been perfectly set up by the hindu tradition of considering all (except for own´s husband or wife) like brothers or sisters, uncles or aunties, or mothers and fathers depending on their age and relation in regard with us. It is a beautiful way of purifying the feeling. In the West everything is mixed up because too much closeness between the sexes brings out our inner instincts, may be not always, but undoubtedly it paves the way for developing further and lower attachments. The West as a society doesn´t care at all for spirituality. Clearly as everybody knows, it is a society (or many) created for the extol and squeezing of materialism till the last drop of the blood of all its individuals and whoever other society enters into contact with it or tries to ape it. Logically some individuals cannot tolerate so much material pressure and emptiness and fortunately start their inner spiritual evolution.
But if we keep in mind that everything in the Hindu Dharma is set to be conducive to help us evolve spiritually, in my view, one of the reasons why traditionally the mixing of sexes with too much closeness has not been encouraged it was for finding the real Love instead of what we call love. Constant close contact creates attachment, and the physical contact as well. Namaste or Pranams instead of shaking of hands, or kisses on the cheeks that spaniards and other westerners give to each other whenever they meet, has like everything a subtle energetic weight. Not encouraging physical touch among youngsters and adults of different sexes has a deep meaning: preventing us up to certain extent from attachment and avoiding the exchange of subtle energies not always so desirable . Because attachment is not Love. Attachment drags us down to the wheel of Samsara. Love liberates. If you want to know someday what really Love is, here there is a hint: start giving more than asking. Find the reasons for contentment in your life and believe that when you Love, you are moving in THAT Love ONE. And soon you will find that the more you give, the more filled your heart is. And expectations will drop by themselves because when you are in the Fulfilling Love, what else you may need? This path itself will take you further and higher. Sit down with yourSelf, and Be the all-embracing Love that you are. Then you will be ready to know what Love with capital letter is, and able to expand it to all creatures, animals, plants, stars, rivers, mountains and rocks, by just diving in the same vibrant Loving Self that permeates all.