by Swami Rama
Those who are aware only of their birth and life on this platform of existence always remain afraid of so-called death. Yet it has been proclaimed by the great sages of all times and climes that death has no power to change anything except the body. There is only one power that can change the deeper aspects of one's being, and that is called the power of love. Love is the only center that radiates life and light, but we have not yet learned to understand what it is. If there is any universal religion, if there will be one religion in the future for humankind, it will be love, because love is the most ancient traveler of all. When we examine the entire process of life, we can see that when a child is born, its first love is for its mother's bosom; then it feels love for dolls; perhaps later there is love for gaudy colors or certain styles. Then, as one matures, one develops love for honors and certificates from schools and universities, love for a particular man or woman, love for self-respect, and so on. We think that these loves are very necessary, but when we examine them we find that many times we are just feeding our individual egos. Finally when a couple in old age examine the whole process of life, they find that they have not known anything. They wonder, "What is next?" So love is that something which we feel and understand, but cannot explain. The first commitment in yoga science and philosophy is called "ahimsa." "A" means "no," "himsa" means "killing, injuring, hurting"; so ahimsa is an expression of love. Those who do not understand this commitment cannot love. If you feel that you love somebody but hurt him or disregard him, then certainly you are not loving him. To practice love, you have to practice ahimsa with your mind, action, and speech. We are often bewildered in our search for the definition of truth, and there could be millions of definitions of truth, but the great scriptures and sages say, "Why are you worried? Why do you not apply this great law in your daily life?" Ahimsa is so practical that we can easily apply it to cross this mire of delusion. We can go to the other side and enjoy that perennial center which is called love. By expressing non-killing, non-harming, and non-injuring, we are practicing ahimsa. Do it with your mind, action, and speech according to your capacity, and know that the highest of all powers is the power of love. I have examined this for myself. Once, I meditated for ten hours and nothing happened. I prayed, still feeling I was different from the Lord. But then I completely surrendered and said, "Lord, I am Thine and Thou art mine. I am a drop and You are the ocean. There is no place for me anywhere." Then there came some courage from within, and that cloud of disappointment was dispelled. LOVE AND FEARLESSNESS I would like to share another experience that I had. In India, you'll find that there are many cobras in the jungles (though not in the cities, as you may have been told). I had gradually developed a phobia about these snakes. Whenever I sat down, I would look everywhere to see if there were any cobras; I even used to put my hands in my pockets to check there. How fear develops and becomes an obstacle to growth! I used to lecture on the Brahma Sutras, the highest of all philosophies, and my students always thought that their teacher was very fearless. But all the time my mind was going toward the groove of fear for cobras. I did not even speak to my master about it, and it developed in my heart for six years. One day I said, "It is of no use to live like this, talking of the highest philosophies and teaching meditation, but being controlled by the fear of cobras." And I started flowing tears, I was outside our cave monastery in the Himalayas, and my master came out and smiled at me, He said, "Look, tomorrow we have to go somewhere." So, the next day I went with him into the wilderness. After a while he stopped and said, "You have to perform a ritual here." I thought to myself, "He does not believe in rituals. What is he trying o do?" But I gathered some flowers anyway, and he said, "You have to repeat a mantra ten thousand times and offer these flowers," I asked him, "What is going to happen?" He said, "First do it, and then you will see what happens."
Early the next morning he said, "Pick up that heap of flowers that we used yesterday." I went and picked up the flowers, and can you believe that a snake was sitting on that heap? My Lord! My whole body shivered. My master said, "Don't be afraid. This poor creature has no power to hurt you. Why are you afraid? You are hurting yourself by thinking like this, and your fear is attracting him also. He might hurt you if you are afraid of him, don’t be afraid. Bring him to me." So I was carrying that death in my arms, and he said, "Look, catch hold of him." My God! I closed my eyes and caught hold of the cobra, and he said, "Look at it, Have you ever seen such a clean creature before? The cleanest creature in the world is the snake. And it never bites except in self-defense. Kiss it." I said, "Sir, I'm sorry, I don't have the power to do that, Can you kiss it?" He replied, "Of course. Give it to me." I gave it to him, and he said, "Look, now I want to tell you something, Sit down here. When you are in deep sleep, why do your teeth not bite your tongue? Why do your fingers not poke your eyeballs? Why do your fists not hurt you?" I answered, "Perhaps our limbs are constantly aware that they all belong to only one body." He said, "That's right. And if you are aware that we all belong to only one proprietor because we are all breathing the same vital force, there can never be violence in the world. Anyone who is possessed by violence will have to surrender before the person who understands this." Because I had been afraid of cobras, I had started hating them out of fear. Slowly, I started loving that snake. Now I know that there is a very fine distinction between hatred and love--a very fine distinction. This was a practical lesson for me that cannot be found in books. That's why I always say that a person's conscience is the finest of all mirrors and that direct experience is the highest of all teachers. Without understanding these two points, no matter how many scriptures you study or how many university degrees you acquire, nothing is going to happen; you'll not find any transformation. LOVE MEANS BEING SELFLESS When we study the history of various great religions of the world, we come across an enlightened one called Buddha. In his time, there was a fierce tantric villain who was chopping off people's fingers. He wanted to use the fingers to perform a ceremony to attain special powers. When he had collected nine hundred ninety-nine fingers, he told his mother, "I need only one more and I can't find anyone else, so get ready, tomorrow I need your finger!”The next morning his poor mother left home and ran away, and on the way she met Buddha. He said, "What's the problem with you? Why are you running with fear?" She told him the story and he said, "Come on. Let me go with you." So they went back and Buddha asked the woman's son, "Do you need a finger?" The son said, "Yes, and now I'll easily get yours. I won't have to kill my mother and take her finger." He lifted his sword, but he could not strike Buddha. Such is the power of compassion. Though we all claim to love each other, a human being is very poor and weak as far as his claims are concerned. "I love you. O sweetheart, I could die for you. O sweetheart, you are a beautiful angel between the sun and moon." A man can compose a beautiful poem to seduce a beautiful girl, but upon examination you will find that such a person is selfish; he is using the word "love" for his own sake. Love is not selfish. Selfishness has built a boundary around us and made us captive. This problem is very serious; there is no remedy for the problem of selfishness. When we become selfish we start expecting something; a wife expects from her husband, and a husband expects from his wife. They call this love, but actually it is expectation, and expectation is the mother of all misery. Expectation mingled with attachment brings all the miseries of the world. I have found that with all the great people of the world, though they have trodden various paths, there is a quality they all have in common, and that is selflessness. Christ was so selfless that when he was crucified he never said, "I beg your mercy; please release me." Moses, Buddha, and the other great sages of ancient and modern times have all been very selfless. When you are selfish you reinforce the boundaries that limit you and separate you from others. "I exist, I exist, I exist"--by this feedback you are strengthening the barriers around you, thinking you will thereby be protected. But that kind of protection chokes human life; it does not allow us to attain the next step of civilization. The easiest principle to follow in life is the philosophy of non-violence and love. It's very simple. No matter how angry you are at the moment, later on you will come to know that while you were angry you were unreasonable and irrational. And this same truth applies to all people who destroy and hurt humanity. Love should not be understood as a selfish gesture. Love means being selfless, completely selfless. You can examine this. When you become very selfish, you will find your personality being contracted. Be completely selfless to cope with your fears, and you will find yourself in a state of tremendous power. So there are two laws, the law of contraction and the law of expansion. To become selfish is to follow the law of contraction, and to become selfless is to expand your consciousness. Constant awareness of that center called love is meditation in action. The highest of all therapies is the therapy of love. LEARNING TO LOVE I always say that the institution of the family has been made by women only, but that they have forgotten their power. Unless women are awakened, unless they arise, humanity cannot help itself. The home is the first institute for learning, and that institute of learning is crumbling. So the first thing we should learn is to protect the institution of the family. It is where we get our first education; it is where we learn to understand. The child who receives love understands how to love. One who has never received love can never love no matter how many methods of acting he learns. Most psychological problems are sown in childhood, and the main defect lies in the education one receives. We should become aware of this, and we should ask mothers to protect this institution. We should learn to respect motherhood. The finest of all symbols of love in the world is the mother. See the tremendous power that women have! If you put a stone on a man's stomach and say, "Carry it for a few days," he cannot do it. Yet a woman carries a child for many months. Then she is pleased to go through that death called labor. The center of her strength is the center of love. Physical pain has no value once you know the body is going toward change, death, and decay. The body doesn't matter to a real sage or swami. Even someone who understands this just a little can say, "Come on, I don't care about physical pain. I have many other higher problems to solve." If we are wasting too much time in eliminating physical pain, how can we get freedom from mental and spiritual pain? We have to learn to be strong, and true strength comes from within. We have corrupted our motherhood by cheapening it everywhere in the external world. That's why we do not get that love which no one else can give us the love of our mother. We have to return to that institution called family life. If we really want to learn and grow and understand, we have to go back. To be loved means to love. A husband may ask his wife, "Do you love me?" and his wife may reply, "Do you love me?" They may have lived together for forty years, yet they are still asking this question! In an Urdu poem it is said, "On the ladder of love, the first step is reverence toward the person you love." If you do not have reverence for the person you love, then you don't love enough. You cannot separate love from reverence. Most people have lost their love for life and for the center of consciousness. LOVE MEANS GIVING Love means giving, giving, giving, where there is no thought of reward. To give wholeheartedly and willingly is called love. Those who have practiced this understand this law. Love means to renounce. It's like swimming. When you swim, you push water away from you and that is how you move forward. But what are we doing? We are trying to swim, but we are pulling the water toward us. This is not the way to swim; this is the way to drown. The principle of renunciation applies whenever we want to go anywhere. To get to that place we want to be, we have to leave where we are now. To progress, we have to learn to renounce. When we go on renouncing, we will attain that state which we long for. Love actually means renunciation for the sake of others. The highest of all states is selfless love for others. After doing many, many experiments in life, finally one comes to know, "Why am I doing this thing for myself? It should be done for others. Let them be happy." And then enjoyment comes because others are happy. If you study the life of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, you will find that when he was suffering from throat cancer, Vivekananda and all his other disciples gathered together and said, "Sir, you are not eating and you are in pain." He smiled and said, "But you are eating. I'm very happy that you are enjoying." Similarly, when Christ was crucified, I think he was the happiest person in the world because he was crucified for the sake of humanity. When you have developed that sensitivity, then you cannot stop loving people and helping them. Great are those who help and serve others, for in serving others they express their love. Once, when I was nineteen, an old swami suddenly came from the mountains to our cave as I was about to eat. There would be nothing to eat until the next day. We could not cook twice a day in the cave, and I had only a piece of bread and some vegetables. My master said, "This old swami is here; you have to give your food to him." I replied, "Look, I am not going to do that." He asked me, "Don't you have any feelings for him?" I said, "I'm hungry! I don't have any feelings for anyone." He stood and said, "I order you to give." When the swami started saying his meal prayer--"I am eating for the Lord"--suddenly my consciousness lifted upward, and later on I understood that in giving my meal to the swami I had really done something great. I started practicing such behavior again and again and again. Now, I assure you, if I am hungry and someone else is also hungry, I am pleased to offer my food to that person. We can practice this same thing in our daily lives. Let us become selfless and examine what happens during that time. Love can be practiced fearlessly, faithfully, and honestly; and love alone can lead us to the highest state of consciousness. You are in eternal samadhi if you are selflessly doing your work. Fully do your work, live in the world, and yet remain above. When geographical boundaries have no meaning, when the world has become a small thing, when individuals interact every day in counsel with many others, which religion will we follow? I say that all the great religions are given by the same center of love. When we understand the essential points of all great religions, we will know that they are all one and the same. They all say be loving, be kind, be gentle, be truthful. Where is the difference? The difference lies in non-essentials. We can change the eggs, but the basket remains the same. When we understand this truth, we will finally come back to the center of love and try to practice it. When we understand the highest of all yogas, we will know that it is called the yoga of self-surrender. Exactly as a drop meets the ocean, the individual meets the highest Being and expands his consciousness. We should look to that world religion and world government that will be guided by the love which is not merely animal or human, but which is divine. With such guidance, we will all love each other--including all and excluding none.