Asha Praver

Letters from Asha

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ask Asha: Love vs. Attachment

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

what exactly is the difference between love and attachment...is it a subtle one?...please elaborate on this...

vamshi
From india

Answer

Dear Vamshi:

Love is one of the “Eight Manifestations of God.” The Infinite Spirit beyond creation expresses in this world, the Indian scriptures tell us, in eight ways: love, peace, joy, calmness, wisdom, light, sound, and power. When people say, “God is Love,” it is more than mere sentiment; it is a specific metaphysical fact.

The Eight Manifestations of God is a fascinating discussion in itself, but here we’ll talk only about love.

Love is a fundamental aspect of our own consciousness. It is the way we are made, the spontaneous expression of God within. Love is not something we learn; it is what we are.

This inherent divine love has certain characteristics, however, that are different from the ego-based love we most often express, and most often receive from others.

Divine love is unconditional. Whatever or whoever comes before the divine consciousness — whether ugly, beautiful, cruel, or kind — receives the same selfless, whole-hearted love.

As Master said to one of his disciples, “God loves you just as much as He loves me. He is our common Father.” God has no favorites. The apparent differences in our experience of God’s love reflect our varying ability to receive that love, not God’s willingness or unwillingness to give it to us. God loves equally the saint and the sinner.

Love based in ego is conditional. To most people, these conditions seem only natural. It doesn’t even occur to most people that they should be — or even could be — overcome.

“I love you because you are beautiful.”

“I love you because you are kind.”

“I love you because you love me.”

“I love you because you are the baby that grew inside my tummy.”

Obviously, none of these reasons for loving someone are, in themselves, dark or wrong. But they are different from loving because it is your divine nature to love.

Once we set conditions on our loving, the next thing that happens is we become identified with (or attached to) those conditions. If the beautiful person you married becomes overweight and ugly, insofar as your love was based on physical beauty, that love is now diminished or gone.

If someone you loved betrays you, then to the extent that your love was based on that person’s kindness to you, then that love ceases to exist.

Of course, this is not an “either-or situation.” It is not a question of “love or attachment.” For us, as ego-identified creatures, it is directional.

It is not easy to love as God loves. So God helps us to learn. First he awakens love by endowing the object of our affections with a variety of attractive conditions. Then, often, He modifies those conditions, or even withdraws them completely, to see if we can go deep within ourselves to find the place where divine love dwells.

Don’t misunderstand, however. To love unconditionally does not mean that you have to be a sap or a doormat. Attachment is what makes us behave in ways that are not appropriate.

Unconditional love is fearless. It has nothing to protect because it is not dependent on any specific conditions being fulfilled.

Unconditional love is selfless. It wants only what is best for the loved one. That means unconditional love is not always nice! A mother who can’t bear to hear her children cry does them no favors by never disciplining them. In fact, she ruins them.

Sometimes a stern response is appropriate. Just see how God treats us! Otherwise we become, as they call it these days, an “enabler” of wrong actions. This is not love. This is cowardice.

Is unconditional love a high ideal to aspire toward? Of course! Is it attainable? Of course! But it takes continuous, often heroic, disciplined self-effort.

How do we get there? Step-by-step. We learn by doing. Pain, unfortunately, is often the main teacher, so it takes courage to embark on the road to unconditional love.

But what choice do we have? Love is our nature and it must be fulfilled. Better to embrace the process than be dragged kicking and screaming to where we will eventually have to go anyway!

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! I've been using this chant: God is Love, I am love for years now. I breathe in God is love and breathe out I am love. I especially like to say this when I'm out walking as it has a very nice, flowing rhythm. Reading your essay is such an affirmation for something I've been doing. Makes me smile when I read "How do we get there? Ste-by-step." Guess I'll go take a walk!

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