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Living Dharma

Reflection on Love

Love is more than an emotion; it is the most powerful energy in the universe - the only power that really matters. Love is the common thread that runs through the teaching of every religion and philosophy which has played a part in the spiritual evolution of the human race.

Statue of Boddhisattva Chenresig

Whenever love abounds and is spontaneous, and the energy with which it is projecting conveys, not merely consistency, but also the essence of innocence, sincerity and honesty that has been stripped of any hidden condition or motive driven by self-centeredness or selfishness, miracles manifest themselves into existence with a singular habit of regularity. It transforms, with ease, even the most mundane, the most uncreative endeavour into a pursuit of higher purpose; taking on a whole new spiritual identity of its own; of being in harmony with oneself, one's work, one's relationship with others and of being at peace with the world.

Any action which has come about through a labour of unconditional love and acceptance will always raise the consciousness of all those who come before its path. The receiver concerned may appear to adopt a passive posture of unwillingness to openly acknowledge its existence; but it does not necessarily mean that they are not subconsciously affected. On one level, they may resort to scepticism, suspecting all the while the integrity they witness may merely be a performance of convenience, speculating and making cynical judgement on the 'real' intention behind the goodness of their benefactors in accordance with whatever set of values they have been subscribing to and living by since childhood.

On another level, the amplification of this endless pattern of anxiety leads to a manifestation of a chaotic state - one that is choked up by a mega-confusion and enormous fear. Confusion comes about because the scenario with which they were presented bears no familiarity to their past experiences or to the existing programme of their core beliefs. And fear is simply the unholy offspring born out of the wedlock of dysfunctional behaviour when one is so deprived of real love and acceptance in one's life, that one builds boundaries of walls around one's emotion, causing one to regress further and further into a state of ever-increasing isolation, steeped in the belief that one needs to become a separate independent finity just to survive and prosper amidst the competitive climate of a modern society.

When one's philosophy of how to love is based on a single premise of what one can get in return - I am willing to love you but only if you guarantee you will reciprocate my affection - one has in reality cast oneself further away in the opposite direction of real love. What you have succeeded in doing is inviting fear and misery into your life: the fear of belonging, of not belonging; the fear of being unhappy, or worse still, being too happy, worrying it might not last for long; the fear of not being physically attractive enough or of appearing too clever which might elicit unsolicited attention; the fear of being too forward, too caring which may inadvertently cause us to lose ourselves over another person; the fear that no one would care to love us if we drop our emotional boundaries and show our real selves; the fear of possible humiliation if we dare to raise an opinion which differs from those of our peers, and so on.

Other fears may include such telling obsessions as: 'I don't deserve to be successful'; 'I will never be good in whatever I do'; 'the person I love will sooner or later leave me'; 'it is my lot to suffer in this life'; 'don't ever trust another man/woman because they will let you down'. The list is endless and peppered with hurt, anger, exhaustion, unhappiness and an enormous built up inferiority complex - the classic personification of low self-esteem and self-worth.

Any unhealthy attitude towards love is inevitably the result of a dysfunctional childhood whereby the emotional well-being of the child has never been suitably supported nor nurtured. Their perception of the world is often one-dimensional and distorted to suit the fantasy of their mind's eye. There is often a lack of spontaneous positive response whenever emotional interaction is required. In spite of an outward display of cordial demeanour and friendliness, they are almost always a complete cynic, forever jealously guarding their innermost feelings, not at all trustful, adopting a very cautious and almost business-like attitude in their dealing with people, always pining to get a bigger return for their investment of effort, may it be professional, personal or otherwise. Their every action is driven by more of a 'what advantage can I get out of it?' attitude. They do not, by nature, volunteer their love or service easily to anyone or any project until they have been reassured by their own logic of questioning that they have an adequate understanding on the matter, and furthermore, if they so choose to exercise their option of involvement, there has to be some immediate profit or advantage to be gained. The irony is: true understanding comes from a process of unconditional love, and not the other way round! Where there is no love, no trust, there could be no possibility of real understanding, and so no possibility of true advancement.

A healthy attitude towards love is also very much determined by the conditioning one received during childhood. The view of their world is positively closer to that of reality. The loving relationship they enjoyed with their parents is the outcome of having been encouraged to develop a good relationship with themselves through self-appreciation and self-acceptance from an early age. They are inevitably well mannered and friendly towards others. They accept people as what they are with minimum of fuss or prejudice. They feel comfortable to communicate their true feelings to people beyond their family and their friends. They are always ready to listen and find it quite easy to give others the benefit of the doubt, even though the impression they perceived at the time, may not appear all that convincing in their favour. Their positive attitude and firm commitment in whatever they do, brings out the best of whomever they encounter. They adapt easily to the ups and downs of life with little qualm, always ready to expand their capacity for more understanding and compassion. Their every action is one of sincerity and consistency, a spontaneous extension of their true self with little embellishment or self-conceit. They understand inner peace, self-love, love of our partners, our families, our work, our life lessons, our joys, our pleasures, and our love for others are governed by the same fundamental phenomenon - a reciprocal process of extending oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own and another’s spiritual growth, and to galvanise in all those who come before our paths the heightened awareness of betterment and well-being, whereby the more you give unconditionally, the more of the same you receive in return.

So what is love? Love is the motive, the will, and the power source that propels every single human desire into reality. There are many different categories of love: parental love, patriarchal love, sympathetic love, fraternal love, platonic love, unconditional love, transitory love, romantic love, sexual love, passive dependent love, sadomasochistic love, obsessive love, unrequited love and so on.

Venerable Lama Dondrup Dorje with students in Greece

It is important to distinguish the differences between real love and false love. Often what we perceive as an act of love may not have been motivated by love but by some other unconscious purpose in the mind of the purveyor. For example, a mother may insist her daughter should take up dance classes because she herself used to enjoy the experience as a child, or she might dress her daughter in a certain way because it reminds her so much of her own childhood. In both instances, the wishes and the feelings of the daughter have not been taken into account. It has merely been an exercise in gratification for the mother.

Real love is a mutual evolutionary process even when the purpose of the nurturing is for the improvement of someone else's growth. One could not begin to love another person unless we are capable of loving ourselves as what we are, accepting both our past and present without regret or resentment, and, most important, cease to project guilt and condemnation on anyone else for your current state. They may have been responsible for your present mental disposition when you were a child, but you are now an adult and are capable of taking control of your own destiny, and it is feasible for you to change your perception if and when you so choose. It is impossible to expect others to follow one's example as in the case of someone trying to give tuition in dance unless he/she is already an expert in dance. One cannot substitute or repress one's evolutionary growth by focusing on the learning of someone else's lessons. Such a plot of diversion may become so sophisticated that you may end up becoming a champion for the causes of others without ever once considering or taking care of your own lesson. Without first learning our own lesson, there can be no advancement in our spiritual growth, and without spiritual evolution, there can never be true happiness nor peace of mind.

Ultimately, the result of the interaction of the teacher and the student, the parents and the child, the husband and the wife, the giver and the receiver, is one of the very same. By extending our love to the nurturing of someone else other than ourselves without any condition or strings atached, our capacity to love as a human being expands further and elevates us to a higher level of infinite consciousness.

However, the desire to love is not necessarily the same as love. Love that requires little effort, nor the execution of one's will, is but a fragment of imagination, a fallacy of the mind. Love is an act of both will and choice. We love because we choose to love and not because we have to. Otherwise, we cannot be blessed with an honest harmonious relationship - the virtual oneness of real love in unison.

Falling in love, however, cannot be viewed, in essence, as a real love. It is basically a sexually motivated biological phenomenon, triggered off by our innate propensity to seize any opportunity that may lead to the possibility of procreation for the sake of preserving posterity. It usually starts off as a romantic infatuation, which then progressively fades out after a period of intense passion, which could range from between a few days to a few years, during which time a child is likely to have been conceived and born. Could it be a casual coincidence that the same identical picture has emerged, from numerous surveys over the years, involving studies of different cultures that span the centuries, that the average time, for a couple to grow apart, leading to their first divorce is four years, which in days bygone was the minimum time for an infant to grow hardy enough to be cared for by a single parent?

The actual process of falling in love involves the temporary collapse of our emotional boundaries, which allows us to merge one's individual entity, both our physical and psychological selves, with that of another person. This merging permits us to recapture the subconscious ecstatic belonging we share with our mother during infancy, when we and our mother are one and the same within the same body, totally without boundaries, separation or ego. Our cultural heritage of romantic fairy tales urges us to have our faith vested in the uniqueness of our beloved, the one, the most perfect one, the only person in the world who can bring happiness to our life. We do not see them in the light of needing further spiritual development, they are already perfect, otherwise, why would we choose to marry them?

With such high expectations waiting in the wings, and the magic of romantic myth instilled in our subconscious mind since childhood, could there be any surprise, after vast amounts of effort and commitment have been invested in a relationship just so it would live up to the illusion of romantic love, why we feel so disappointed with the harsh truths of reality once the passion of romance begins to subside?

Real love must commence with first having a loving relationship with yourself. To create the illusion that you must forge a relationship with others before you have completed the purification process of your past, which involves your willingness to forgive without condemnation those who have caused you most pain and grief, and permitting yourself to let go of all the guilt and regret that have been freezing up your emotional core, you can only end up lading yourself and the relationship with an unreasonable amount of untold burden, exposing your vulnerability to damaging implications.

The typical romantic relationship may start off smoothly while the identity of your true ego is still in concealment. During the early period of any courtship, one unconsciously tunes in to the likes and dislikes of our potential mate, trying to look our best and say the right things so as to gain their approval and acceptance. This usually involves very superficial interaction and expectation, centred around physical attraction, sexual flirtation, erotic fantasy, general socialising and endless orchestrated small talk. But as you get further involved, and your emotional boundaries begin to relax, the energy that it releases can detonate an awesome landslide of hidden emotions that have been building up and brewing away dangerously since your childhood. No wonder people change partners so fast as though it is going out of fashion.

People often claim they listen to their inner voices and act in accordance with their instincts. This is something we all do. But the effectiveness of following the directive of our intuition is very much pre-determined by the quality of the programs we have instilled in our subconscious since childhood. The memories may have long elapsed, but the binding fear and the emptiness and the hurts one experienced from past episodes remain, thus repressing our emotion from ever being able to express in a manner free of destructive dysfunctional influences. As a result, the same pattern of behaviour and experiences, which cause us most pain and despondency, repeat themselves in an ever-increasing intense cycle, taking no account of where we are, whom we are with, and what we do. No amount of change of location, profession, hobby, social circle or partner can effectuate any difference.

One need not struggle through life in the shade of a separate individual finity trundling along through valleys of fear. We are all fellow voyagers on the greatest single adventure of the human race - the evolutionary journey of our spiritual growth. The only source of propulsion we need is our willingness to accept the power of real love, and the only compass that can keep us in the right direction towards our ultimate goal is our commitment to permit unconditional love full access into our life. The power of transformation is within us. The oneness of true reality can only be experienced through the surrender of our emotional boundaries. With the demise of the boundaries, true harmony transcends all barriers to lead us into the realm of true happiness and inner peace, the province of unconditional love - the place we call Home!

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