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How to truly love others? || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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ज्ञेय: स नित्यसंन्यासी यो न द्वेष्टि न काङ् क्षति ।

निर्द्वन्द्वो हि महाबाहो सुखं बन्धात्प्रमुच्यते ।। 3 ।।

jñeyaḥ sa nitya-sannyāsī yo na dveṣhṭi na kāṅkṣhati

nirdvandvo hi mahā-bāho sukhaṁ bandhāt pramuchyate

He who neither hates nor desires and is beyond the pair of opposites (duality) is to be understood as an ever-renouncer. Hence, he is easily set free from bondage, O Arjuna.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 5, Verse 3

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Question: After seeing the fakeness in people and in my own actions, it gets very difficult to love someone. There comes the feeling of hatred; the feeling of compassion does not remain constant. The mind gets affected. How can one go beyond these pairs of opposites and truly love the other and the self, while on this journey?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, ‘love’ has to be understood.

We want something, right? We want the Ultimate. There’s nobody who wants to stop at something small. We want something as big as possible, right? That’s the nature of desire, correct? It doesn’t want to stop anywhere. Probably it can stop only when it gets something immeasurable, infinite. That’s what we want. And that thing that we all want is sometimes referred to as Truth, or the Ultimate; colloquially it has also been called as ‘God’. That’s what we want. That’s our shared and deepest and real desire.

So, there are these two.

That which you want, which is very difficult to describe, because it is immeasurable. If it is immeasurable, then it becomes difficult to name it or talk of it, or tell its story. Correct? It’s infinite—how do we really talk of the infinite? So, there is That; That which we all want.

And then there is us; the ‘I’ that wants. There are these two, correct? You want, and there is That, which is the object of your want. There’s you and there is That which you want.

Fine. You want something. But why do you make efforts to achieve it? You make efforts to get what you want, because you love yourself. If you do not love yourself, why will you want to do good to yourself? And isn’t it an act of the greatest good to gift to yourself that which you really want? Correct?

So, there are two kinds of ‘love’ here. Love for That which you want. The effect and result of that love is, that you move towards That, and your love towards yourself. The result of that love is that you allow yourself to move towards That, you put your energies in moving towards That. The love that you have for that ultimate destination can be called as ‘higher love’. And the love that you have towards yourself, can be called as ‘lower love’.

Now, you look at yourself, and you find yourself suffering, and you want to rid yourself of that suffering. Correct? That’s lower love. It is this lower love that expresses itself in your relationships with other people. This lower love, remember, is the highest kind of love that you can have on the planet.

Are you getting it?

So, if you go to, for example, a truly loving person—for sake of tradition, let’s call him a Saint; that Saint exhibits two kinds of love. One is the Saint's love for God, and the other is the Saint's love for fellow human beings. And both these loves are very evident in the Saint’s life. At some point, obviously, these two types are really one, but it can be seen that the Saint loves both — God, and the people around him. Both these loves differ to an extent; the difference we have already explained.

You love Him because He is your destination, and you love the other because you love yourself, and the other is so much like you.

Therefore, real carnal love, real worldly love, is not about trying to gain something from the other or trying to bring happiness to the other, trying to exchange pleasures with the other. But it is about seeing that the other is so much like you.

It’s a bit intricate. Please understand.

You see that the other is so much like you. And who are you? You are the suffering one. Why are you suffering? Because you want That, and you do not have That. The other too is just like you; he too wants That, and he does not have That. He too is suffering. This realization of commonness between you and the other is - love.

Now, you are suffering, so what is it that you gift to yourself? Liberation from suffering. And if you see that the other is just like you and he too is suffering, then what do you give the other as well?

Questioner(Q): Liberation.

AP: Liberation from suffering. That’s called 'loving the other'. Are you getting it?

Loving the other is in no way the same as loving God. Loving God is like loving health; loving the other is like loving a fellow patient. These two are different.

Loving God is like loving health. Who are you? A patient. So, loving God is like loving...?

Q: Health.

AP: Health. And loving someone else is like loving...?

Q: The patient.

AP: The patient on the adjacent bed. And why do you love the patient on the adjacent bed? Because you realize that his condition is similar to yours. His condition is similar to yours, then you are compelled to wish the same for him as you wish for yourself. Getting it?

Once more. You’re a patient. Loving God is like loving...?

Q: Health.

AP: Health. And loving somebody in the world is like loving...?

Q: A fellow patient.

AP: Your fellow patient. Now, this fellow patient obviously cannot become a substitute for Health. But that’s what often happens in misplaced love. Your love for your beloved becomes a terrible substitute for God. In fact, you start saying, “My lover is my God.” That’s terrible!

Your lover cannot be your God; you have to take your lover to God. If you love someone, then your responsibility is to take that person to God. That’s Real Love.

Now the questioner is saying, “When I look at people, I find fakeness in them and then I hate them.” The whole thing should be totally opposite.

When you look at people, what do you find? Fakeness. Alright, well done. What do you find when you look at yourself?

Q: Fakeness.

AP: Fakeness. So, the other is...?

Q: You.

AP: You. The other is just the same as you. What do you want for yourself despite all your fakeness? Knowing fully well that you too are fake, what is it that you want for yourself? You want all the good things for yourself, right? You want the best for yourself.

So, just as you want the best for yourself knowing fully well that you are fake, want the best for the other knowing fully well that the other is fake. In fact, want the best for the other, because the other is fake. Had he not been fake, had he been real, you don’t have to want anything for him; then he will take care of himself. He has already taken care of himself, if he’s real.

So who deserves to be loved, in that sense? The one who is fake. If I ask him: Who deserves to be treated? The one who is sick. If you can do so much for yourself in spite of your established fakeness, why can’t you do a bit for the other if he has been exposed to be fake? Why?

Now you realize why the Saints say, * "Jo man dekhya aapna, mujhse bura naa koi.” *

(When I looked at myself, I did not find anybody worse than me.)

The moment you see this, it becomes very difficult for you to hate somebody. Do you get the psychology? "If I am as bad as, or worse than the other people, and I still want good things to happen to me......." Is there anybody who wants bad things to happen to him? No. You might be someone who is to be hanged tomorrow, but you still want to retain the hope that your sentence might be adjourned, or that you might be pardoned, right? You might be the worst offender or criminal in the world, but you still want good things to happen to you. Correct?

So, if you want good things to happen to you irrespective of your merit, then why do you want bad things to happen to the other? If the other is bad, he’s only as bad as you are. Or let’s say the other is worse than you. But still, the difference is only in degree. Maybe on a scale of perversion you stand at 5 on 10 and he stands at 7 on 10, but 5 and 7 are not too far apart, or are they? Even if you stand at 2 on 10, and he stands at 9 on 10, still the difference is only of degree, not dimension. Standing at 2, you want the best. Or you want at least something good. Please! The other is so much like you.

So, then worldly love can come only when you see that at the level of Prakriti (nature) we are all united. And most of us are hardly anything above Prakriti.

(Pointing at various listeners sitting in the audience)

He gets angry, so do you; maybe the objects of anger are different, maybe the intensity is different.

He’s lustful, so is he; maybe the objects are different, maybe the intensity.

She’s possessive, so is she.

He is suspicious, so is he.

He is ignorant, so is he; maybe the degree is different.

That’s all.

Aren’t we all the same?

When the fundamental ‘I’-tendency is the same, how are we all different? And if I see the same ‘I’-tendency operating in you as operates in me. How will I be able to hate you? You are me now; you are my mirror image. The differences are only peripheral. I go a little deeper, and I find that you and me are the same. Now, how can I hate you? Hating you becomes?

Q: Hating myself.

AP: Hating myself. In fact, now I can’t hate even an animal because the same ‘I’-tendency operates there also. And this same realization is manifested in stories like the one associated with Ramakrishna Paramahansa. The story might not have factual correctness, but the story is great.

So, it is said that one day Ramakrishna was near the river Ganges, and suddenly he cried out in pain, and his disciples found marks of whiplashes on his back. And they ask him, and he says, “Somebody is being beaten very badly.” And the story says that the disciples found out that some fellow was being whipped just a little distance away. And such was Ramakrishna’s sense of unity with all existence that the blows raining on the other were showing up on his own back. Medically it is not possible, obviously, but do get the symbol. Please see what he is saying.

“Peer saban ki ek si, jo jaane so peer.”

(The one who realizes that the suffering of all is the same, he can be called as the Sage).

“Peer saban ki ek si, jo jaane so peer.”

Are you getting it?

In Prakriti there is a lot of suffering, because the ‘I’ remains attached with Prakriti and keeps feeling suffocated. Getting it? That’s the real meaning of love.

To love is to see that the other is in trouble; to love is to extend a helping hand. Love is not about admiring somebody’s physicality, or using someone for some means. Love has to be an exercise in compassion.

So, I often say, when you relate to the other, relate either to uplift, or to be uplifted.

Only two kinds of associations are right in this world. If you associate with someone who is at a higher level of consciousness, then hold his hand so that he can uplift you. And if you associate with someone who is at a lower level of consciousness, then hold his hand to uplift him.

Any other kind of relationship, is junk.


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