I am pretty sure that many of us have asked others this one crucial question at least once in our lives. The inevitable ‘Do you love me?’ question. Wait you’ve never asked anyone? Go on! Go annoy the person next to you and ask them right now. Come back. I was joking:)
But humor aside, how many of us have dared to ask the deeper question of: ‘Why do you love me?’? I read something the other day which led me to realise why people love us. No, I don’t mean specific people, but the world in general. For the purposes of this post, let’s give God some rest for a bit, knowing that the Divine loves us unconditionally and without reason(How blissful!).
But what about our fellow humans? We often feel overjoyed with compliments, attention, gifts, praise, ‘love’ and affection. And when we receive any of these or all of them (You lucky person!) we undoubtedly feel loved. But do they truly love us?
Truth is, people mostly love us or display kindness towards us depending on their needs and often solely due to our labels. It was quite a liberating experience when it dawned upon me that the world’s acceptance of us is perhaps conditional and transient. Although it may seem pessimistic, the realisation that the love we receive is only dependent on what we can offer people, brings about great humility in us. When someone fulfils our spiritual, emotional, material or physical needs, we develop great attachment towards them, but sometimes a short while later, we may find greater fulfilment elsewhere, leading us to move on. Where is the love gone then? People often feel the need to respect and show love and care towards us due to our labels. Yes, many come to care about us eventually, but sometimes their love is conditional based on whether we fit into their definitions of certain labels, fulfil their needs or may have an impact on certain circumstances in their lives.
When given attention, praise and shown care, I always remember to not take it personally. This takes me back to 2015-16, when I started lecturing. I have taught numerous University students. Even as a lecturer, I do enjoy being humorous and as a laid-back person, I would treat everyone in an equally friendly manner. During my first ever teaching semester, as I would walk down the Uni corridors or have a stroll around town, I would get tired of endlessly greeting clusters of smiling students. Sometimes I would even ‘pray’ not to come across any student whilst shopping (No, no. I didn’t bother SwamiG for this:)). But I made sure to remain kind and friendly. Alongside teaching them, I even befriended a few and listened to their joys, heartbreaks or life problems and counselled a few. I am still good friends with a couple of students till-date.
However, gradually, as more and more students graduated, something amazing dawn upon me: The kindness, friendly nature, warmth and even care which students, old colleagues or the world show us is very conditional. As soon as students would graduate or move on to the next year, they no longer had any need to greet previous lecturers (me and others). These people no longer had an impact on their lives and the need for a façade disappeared. But by no means am I saying that it’s a bad thing. It is absolute human nature, probably due to the fluctuations of the mind. And totally normal too. Secretly I was glad about it, otherwise I would end up looking like ‘The Joker’ with a permanent smile pasted across my face.
I shared this little story as it so aptly describes the conditional nature of the world, and perhaps it applies to everyone around us. We love others because they have certain labels which fulfil our needs. We may love certain musicians as their work brings us peace and joy, but if we find out that they have been arrested for a crime, our love for them may vanish. We love people associated with the same beliefs as us as it gives us a sense of comfort. Or we may even show more love and praise towards those who have been accepted by our family; be it by birth or spiritual. The point is, if we seek deep within, we will very often find conditions attached to love.
And that’s how the world operates. Is it a bad thing? No, because it teaches us to be detached, to see things as they are, and we stop taking things personally. Why? Because we become aware of the fluctuations of the outer world. The only constant is our inner ability to remain at peace. I realised that knowing about the impermanence of the world, remaining even in all circumstances, be it praise or no praise, keeps our ego in check.
And let me add, I believe that everything applied to both parties: We love the world conditionally and the world loves us back with imposed conditions too (Swami G speaks about it from 1.30 to 3mins) . But no matter how we operate and how the world treats us, as conveyed by our kind and loving Om Swami’s teachings, we can grow spiritually by never letting go of our compassionate nature. As He beautifully expounds here in the first four minutes with the story of the scorpion and the saint. But our principle could be kindness, compassion or truth. The trick is to abide just like saints do. Don’t get me wrong, other than making a saintly puppy face when I am guilty, I am no saint. Nevertheless, I make sure to follow this teaching whenever I remember it.
Whether the world loves us at their convenience or genuinely, if we keep loving everyone without allowing our egos to be inflated in the process and remaining compassionate, then inner peace, joy and a lovely flow will automatically find way into our lives. And no more arguments over ‘You said you love me but…’ I am sure you can finish the sentence, in your mind!:)