5. Power of love
An eye for eye makes the entire world blind.
How can a man love unseen God but hates a seen neighbour?
Usually we consider love as relationship between persons of opposite sexes, but love is more than that. Love encompasses a range of positive emotional and mental states associated with strong feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth, and respect for another person. For example, a person might love his or her dog, an object, God or even a place such as home town or nation.
Love is the quality of the strong, not that of the weak. Love is what motivates a mother to run into flames to save her child. It is love that gives strength to endure hardships and suffering. We know that darkness cannot end darkness but only light can end darkness. Similarly hatred cannot end hatred but only love can do that. Gandhiji’s non-violent way of protest with love even changed the hearts of many British christians who later became his close supporters.
If we turn our eyes to the time of which history has any record down to our time, we shall find that man has been steadily progressing towards ahimsa. Our remote ancestors were cannibals, where the strong gorged on the weak. Then came a time when they were fed up with cannibalism and began to live on hunting.
Next came a stage when man took to agriculture and depended on mother earth for his food. Thus from being a nomad, he settled down to a civilized stable life, founded villages and towns, and from being member of a family he became member of a community and a nation.
All these are signs of progressive non-violence and diminishing violence. Had it been otherwise, the human species should have been extinct by now even as many of the lower species have disappeared. Man as an animal is violent but as spirit he is non-violent. The moment he awakes to the spirit within, he cannot remain violent. Either he progresses towards non-violence or rushes to his doom. —Gandhiji
During the partition riots of India, Gandhiji was touring to pacify maddened crowds. He was weakened by weeks of fasting, and lying on a bed.
A Hindu man whose son had been killed by Muslims, burst into the room where Gandhiji was staying.
The man threw food on Gandhiji and shouted, “Eat! I’m going to hell but not with your death on my soul.”
Gandhiji responded calmly “Only God decides who goes to hell”.
The man yelled “I killed a child. I smashed his head against a wall!”
Gandhiji asked “Why?”
With tears in eyes, the man replied “They killed my son, my boy. The Muslims killed my son.”
Gandhiji said “I know a way out of hell. Find a child. A child whose mother and father have been killed. A little boy about your’s son’s age; raise him as your own. Only be sure that he is a Muslim and that you raise him as one.”
The man backed away slowly, with a crazed look on his face. He stopped, turned around and fell at the Gandhiji’s feet, sobbing like a child.
An eye for eye makes the entire world blind. If a man says “I love God”, but hates his neighbour, he is a liar. How can he claim to love an unseen God when he hates a seen neighbour?
But how can we cultivate and preserve love? How can we love corrupt and insulting officials, envious co-workers, and backstabbing friends? That can be achieved only through expanding our sphere of love. Love can be cultivated in the below ways.
1.The first step in cultivating love or the path of ahimsa (non-violence) is shedding all hatred in any shape or form and abstaining from hurting any living being in thought, word and deed.
It is no love if we merely love those that love us. It is love only when we love those that hate us. I know how difficult it is to follow this grand law of love. But are not all great and good things difficult to do? Love of the hater is the most difficult of all. But by the grace of God even this most difficult thing becomes easy to accomplish if we want to do it. – Gandhiji
Gandhiji did not expect those who came to him, to make this transformation immediately, or reverse overnight the conditioning of years of evolution and love their enemies more than they love themselves. He himself had failed countless times in his attempts to reach that highest state.
“Start where you are. If you can’t love the viceroy or prime minister, start with your wife, or your husband, or your children. Try to put their welfare first and yours last every minute of the day, and let the circle of your love expand from there. As long as you are trying your very best, there can be no question of failure.
The path of Truth is as narrow as it is straight. Even so is that of Ahimsa. It is like balancing oneself on the edge of a sword. By concentration an acrobat can walk on a rope. But the concentration required to tread the path of Truth and Ahimsa is far greater. The slightest inattention brings one tumbling to the ground.
One can realize Truth and Ahimsa only by ceaseless striving. Ahimsa is not the crude thing it has been made to appear. Not to hurt any living things is no doubt a part of Ahimsa. But it is its least expression. The principle of Ahimsa is hurt by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by hatred, by wishing ill to anybody. It is also violated by our holding on to what the world needs. But the world needs even what we eat day by day. In the place where we stand there are millions of micro-organisms to whom the place belongs, and who are hurt by our presence there. What should we do then? Should we commit suicide? Even that is no solution, if we believe, as we do, that so long as the spirit is attached to the flesh, on every destruction of body it weaves for itself another.
The body will cease to be only when we give up all attachment to it. This freedom from all attachment is the realization of God as Truth. Such realization cannot be attained in a hurry. The body does not belong to us. While it lasts we must use it as a trust handed over to our charge. Treating in this way the things of the flesh, we may one day expect to become free from the burden of the body. Realizing the limitations of the flesh, we must strive day by day towards the ideal with what strength we have in us. It is perhaps clear from the foregoing, that without Ahimsa it is not possible to seek and find Truth. Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. They are like the two sides of a coin. -Gandhiji
2. The spirit of love further connotes that work is worship. Work is not for building up ego or to get any reward out of it. Work is done in the spirit of selfless service because the only way to find God is to see him in His creation and be one with it. A seeker understands that his talents and capacity are God’s gifts and to be used for the lesser privileged. He is thankful to the lesser privileged for giving him an opportunity to serve them as an instrument of God. Gandhiji specially emphasized the service of ‘Daridra Narayana’(God appearing in the form of the poor, the underprivileged and the oppressed).
“There is no worship purer or more pleasing to God than selfless service of the poor. The rich in their arrogance and intellectual pride, often forget God, or even question His existence. But God dwells among the poor, as they cling to Him as their sole Refuge and Shelter. To serve the poor, is therefore to serve God. If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics today encircles us like the coils of a snake from which we cannot get out no matter how we try. I wish to wrestle with the snake”. -Gandhiji
3. Love and indifference to the miseries of fellow beings do not go together. The principles of Asteya (non-stealing) and Aparigraha (non-possession) are derived from the holistic approach that God is the Creator of everything, and therefore, everything belongs to God. Since all human beings are the manifestations of the same God, all things in this universe are to be shared equally by all. No individual has the right to consume or possess more than his proportionate share. Thus, one who has taken more than one’s due share is guilty of committing ‘theft’. A seeker of God cannot steal and simultaneously claim to follow God or cherish love. Hence the wise say that a horde of elephants may hide in the throat of a mosquito (as Pandavas were hiding in exile in Virata’s kingdom), but a rich man cannot enter God’s kingdom.
Deliberate and voluntary restriction of wants is significantly different from forced poverty, or limitation of wants though budgeting. Voluntary restriction of wants is not a negative activity but a positive expression of love for fellow beings. Voluntary simplicity or non-possession does not mean that human labour, talents and capabilities are to be underutilized or wasted in any way. They are to be exercised to the maximum extent, in the right direction. Each will work according to his natural talents and capabilities to the maximum potential, but will take the minimum according to his real needs. If there is extra wealth in one‘s possession, one will act as a trustee of the same and use it in the best interests of the society.
4. Love does not mean a passive state of being defenseless or giving up fight and tolerating injustices. Gandhiji once said “even though I love a snake, I should kill it, if it comes to bite you”. Hence there is no contradiction in the Bhagavad Gita, where Bhakti Yoga teaches Arjuna to love all, and Karma Yoga requires him to fight the evil and protect the good. Sages declared that suicide or killing another person is the worst of all sins, called Brahma hatya pathakam, which means killing God, the in dweller. But it was Arjuna’s duty as a soldier to protect people and Krishna was explaining how to perform his duty without violating dharma and getting entangled by the law of karma.
In its most active form, ahimsa (non-violence) becomes Sathyagraha, which was Gandhiji’s Bramhastra, ‘Weapon of Brahman’. ‘Sathya’ means Truth, Brahman. ‘Agraha’ means ‘firmness’. Being firm in Truth is Satyagraha. It is soul-force in action. According to Gandhiji, Sathyagraha is the firm and fearless adherence to Truth, even in the face of death, without bearing any ill will towards the evil doer. Sathyagraha is an attempt to awaken the Truth in the heart of the wrong doer through persuasion, self-sacrifice and self-suffering.
The Sathyagrahi does not try to suppress or harm his opponent through the exertion of force of any kind. The evil doer is looked at as an extension of one’s own self. There can be no attempt to harm him in any way, except a sincere and fearless action to enlighten to Truth in him through self-sacrifice. Sathyagraha is thus elevating both for the Sathyagrahi as well as the evil doer.
It is never the intention of a Sathyagrahi to embarrass the wrong doer. The appeal is never to his fear, but must always be to his heart. The Sathyagrahi’s object is not to convert the wrong doers to his way, but help them to become a better person. Sathyagraha can be practiced by any individual or groups of individuals in order to bring about any desired change in the family, society, and nation and so on.
Whether humanity will consciously follow the law of love, I do not know. But that need not disturb me. The law will work just as the law of gravitation works, whether we accept it or not. The person who discovered the law of love was a far greater scientist than any of our modern scientists. Only our explorations have not gone far enough and so it is not possible for everyone to see all its workings. – Gandhiji
Bhakti yoga also called Bhakti marga is a spiritual path or practice focused on loving devotion towards a personal god. Bhakti is intense love to God, Who is present as Atman in all beings. God can be found in a caring father, a loving mother, teacher, a compassionate friend, beloved spouse, a customer, or even in a mischievous child as illustrated by infant Krishna. Loving a neighbour is as important as loving God. While this chapter is focused on loving human beings, loving God is covered in detail in a later chapter on Bhakti yoga.