Language of Love
Our topic today is love. Love is such a short word, easy to say and yet impossible to describe fully. In the present times we’ve forgotten the real meaning and true depth of this word. Just as oil is present in every part of an olive, similarly love is present in every part of the creation. Words cannot fully describe the flavour of an orange; you have to taste the fruit to know its flavour.
Many of us wouldn’t think it necessary to analyze what love is. We commonly recognize love as a feeling we have for our family, relatives, friends, and others to whom we are strongly attached, but there is much more to real love than that.
The Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, Anthony de Mello, says in his book, The Way to Love:
Love springs from awareness. It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is, here and now … that you can truly love them. … the most painful act the human being can perform, the act that he dreads the most, is the act of seeing. It is in that act of seeing that love is born, or rather more accurately, that act of seeing is love.1
I once read a beautiful article on learning the language of love. In it, a man narrates the following story: “When I was in university, I took a class in linguistics, the study of language. One day the professor asked, ‘What is the most important element that determines success, in learning of a foreign language?’” This is a question we might ask ourselves also, since in our spiritual quest, we too are trying to learn a foreign language: the language of love.
However, the language of love is not a foreign language. It’s our “mother tongue,” but we’ve completely forgotten it. Instead, we’ve become fluent in the language of the mind. The greatest struggle of our lives is to relearn our mother tongue and become fluent again. Now, we may ask what are the similarities between relearning the language of love and learning a foreign language?
In the linguistics class some students offered several opinions. “Finding a good teacher,” one student suggested. “Total immersion: living where the language is spoken,” said another. “Being born with natural language skills,” the next student suggested. The professor responded: “A good teacher, although this is very important, is not the most important factor.” Similarly, Masters often reminds us that having a spiritual master will not do us any good unless we follow – and practice – the lessons he gives us.
The professor also agreed that living in a place where one can be immersed in the language we are trying to learn does help. This is similar to when we return from a visit to Dera; many of us think that if we could just live there and spend time with our Master, in a place saturated in love, maybe then we could become proficient in the language. Living in place may help, but it’s not everything.
What about having a natural ability? Some are born with a talent for learning languages easily. Do some people have an instinct for love, a special talent for it, which others do not? Masters say we all have the capacity to love. It’s only that we’ve lost touch with this pure instinct, due to living in the land of the mind. Love isn’t something we lack; it’s something that is our very essence. The professor then said that natural ability also is not the most important factor.
Since none of the first guesses were correct, another student asked, “How about practicing regularly and persistently? Is that the key?” The professor now smiled and said, “Yes, learning and practice.” Just by listening to lectures or reading books, we will not learn; we learn by doing. As disciples, in order to learn the language of love, we must practice; we must meditate regularly.
Now we may think, so what is it that makes us do the practice? The most important element that determines our success is motivation. Mother Teresa says in her book Where There is Love, There is God: “It is not how much you have given, but how much love you put in the doing…”2 Maybe you only know how to peel potatoes, but you must peel potatoes beautifully. That is your “love for God in action.”3
As normal human beings we have no control over love. When we fall in love, we truly fall. We plunge deeply, head over heels, with such intensity and velocity, that we push aside all obstacles in our way.
One of Albert Einstein’s best-known quotes is: “Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.”4 Love is another force – a force more powerful than gravity – that tugs at our soul from deep within. Falling in love is so simple that it just happens to us. In that state of intoxication, we often make promises of lifelong commitments to our lovers. In such a state, many of us have promised our beloved Master that we will meditate for two and a half hours every day. How are we to cope when the love that once fuelled us starts to feel like a distant emotion? When falling in love was effortless, why is staying in love such a challenge? The truth is that falling in love was a divine gift, whereas staying in love requires sincere effort and hard work on our part.
This brings us back to the learning of a new language, in our case the language of love. The best news is that learning the language of love is very different from learning a worldly language; we’re not judged by the results. Master constantly reminds us that it doesn’t matter what the results are – we’re judged solely by our obedience and our attendance. He only sees our effort, however weak, however minute it may be. Are we present or are we absent in our daily meditation? He never asks us for perfection. All he says is – just do it; just do it.
We read in The Book of Mirdad: “Love is not a virtue. Love is a necessity; more so than bread and water; more so than light and air.”5 We are taught that air, light, water and food are essential for survival, but only for the body. What about food for the soul? Well, the food for the soul is love. The only way to feed the soul is through prayer and meditation. We have all heard the expression “love in action.” As disciples who are initiated by a true Master, there is only one form of love, which is doing our meditation. That is the only gift we can give our Master; that is our “love in action.”
As we grow on the spiritual path, many of us have the desire to serve the Master. Wanting to serve the Master sincerely means living in obedience to his will. It is when we carry this attitude to please him at all times that we show him the depth of our commitment to the path. Masters constantly remind us that meditation is the medication; it is our life-support system. It is through meditation that we earn the Lord’s grace to burn the load of karmas that stand in the way between him and us. A story is told to illustrate this:
Two birds were sitting on top of a tree, observing a baby turtle. The turtle struggled to climb up to a branch and then jumped off, flapping its four little feet madly and crashing to the ground. Once again, the poor turtle struggled to climb up the tree, then jumped off and crashed to the ground.
The birds saw the turtle do this a third time and a fourth time. Finally the one bird turned to the other and said, “I think we need to tell him that he’s not a bird.” What can we learn from this story? The first point is that we do not know our true nature. We try to find happiness in this world, we try to fit in, we leap into the mire of lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride. We make the same mistakes over and over.
The second point is that saints are sent by the Lord to adopt us as their own, to make us aware of our true divine nature. They tell us we are spiritual beings and take us into their spiritual family.6
In a letter to a disciple, Maharaj Charan Singh wrote: “Initiation is not just some ceremony. The Lord has made you his own. He has chosen you for eternal liberation and wishes you to come back to him… now it is time to show your gratitude to him, by doing your bhajan and simran every day, with love and devotion.” So here Hazur tells us that the Lord has made us as his own self! He has adopted us. Are we taking this great gift lightly? Do we understand the responsibility the Master has taken for us? Are we in return grateful and aware of this precious opportunity?
Hazur Maharaj Ji is quoted in the book Legacy of Love:
Love means obedience. Love means submission. Love means losing your identity to become another being. That is love.7
What do we understand from this quote? Love means merging into the beloved and becoming one with him. Our attention directs itself solely on the Beloved – not out of force but out of helplessness. Love entails living our lives for him and making choices that will lead us to him. It is consciously being with him throughout the day, while doing our daily activities and then looking forward to being with him alone in solitude. It is yearning for him, longing for him so much that the soul loses itself in him.
A few lines from Amir Khusrau, the beloved 13th–14th century Sufi saint, will inspire us:
I have become you, and you me,
I am the body, you soul;
So that no one can say hereafter
That you are someone, and me someone else.
O Khusrau, the river of love
Runs in strange directions.
One who jumps into it drowns,
And one who drowns, gets across.8
- Anthony De Mello, The Way to Love, Meditations for Life, New York: Crown Publishing, 1992, pp. 97, 99
- Mother Teresa, Where There is Love, There is God, ed. Brian Kolodiejchuk, New York: Doubleday, 2010, p. 26
- Albert Einstein, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, ed. Alice Calaprice, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011, p. 440
- Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad, Great Britain: Element Books Unlimited, 1992, p. 62
- Story retold in satsang “I Love You”; www.rssb.org, Satsangs & Essays #42
- Legacy of Love, Beas: RSSB, 2000, p. 525
- Amir Khusrau, The Writings Of Amir Khusrau: 700 years after the prophet: a 13th–14th century legend of Indian-Subcontinent, ed. Habibuddin Ahmed; Islamic Thought and Science Institute, 2007, Forest Park, Ill. (no p.#). See also: Amir Khusrau, In the Bazaar of Love, tr. P. Losensky & Sunil Sharma, Penguin, 2011