Always wondering about the answer to life’s big question, what’s it all about? People oftentimes think that spiritual teachings are about some secret wisdom. The truth however is no great mystery – and we certainly don’t need to be big time philosophers to easily tune into it. It’s the most natural thing in the world – we want to love and be loved.
The real question then, is why is that love so elusive? When the famous actor Marlon Brando was at the peak of his fame in the 1950s – he was asked by a reporter, ‘What do you want from life’? His simple reply was that – ‘I want to be in love’. He obviously wasn’t talking about a sexual relationship, because this was a man who had as many of those as he wanted – and more. And yet still he was hungry for love. Were the women he had not beautiful enough, and that’s why he couldn’t truly love them? No. Like him, they were the cream of the crop – Hollywood’s finest (superficially speaking at least).
Sometimes people idealize love as something that is beyond the superficialities of beauty, money, power, fame and any other material opulences a person may have – as in ‘I just love my husband for who he is’. Of course this is correct, and it must have been something like this that Brando was alluding to, even though it remained beyond his reach – and not just him – all of us. We all long for ‘true love’ – and any so called love that is dependent on one’s physical features, the state of their bank balance, or their social status etc… is surely a shallow imitation of the ‘real thing’.
And yet, even though we want to love someone for their inner good qualities such as truthfulness, kindness and compassion, isn’t it also true that we would prefer the beautiful woman over the plain one, or the wealthy and powerful man in preference to the poor weakling. In other words, deep down within ourselves, we want the whole package – and the important thing to appreciate here, is that it’s not wrong to want that. It’s perfectly natural.
Now the questions come. Is there really such a thing as the whole package? Why do I naturally desire it? After all – I’m a puny, ugly, poor, dumb person, and to top it off, I don’t have any good qualities either. I’m so self-centered, that when it comes right down to it, I don’t really care about other people at all. What right do I have, to desire a loving relationship with the most beautiful, wise, wealthy and kind hearted etc …person in existence? Surely I’m not qualified for that – not even in the slightest way.
Yes, materially speaking this is true, but spiritually speaking it’s not true at all – we are all naturally and perfectly qualified, and so our desire for the whole package is not something to be hidden away like some kind of bad smell that shouldn’t be there. We are all children of the Supreme Spiritual Person, in whom all good qualities and opulences reside in full – and so just as a child has the natural right to live in the house of their parents, we have the natural right to enter into the world of loving relationships with that Supreme Person – the world of perfect, spiritual love.
Unfortunately, many people reject this appreciation of the true love that is rightfully ours for the taking. Instead, they take to one or other of two inferior paths.
The first unhappy path is the one we have already briefly mentioned – where we try to satisfy our desire for love in the superficialities of material life. Rejecting what we truly need – we settle for something less – we go for the best deal we can. Yes, it’s all a bit cold hearted and distasteful to speak in these terms but that’s the way this world is. Apart from those noble souls who can see beyond the superficial, people in general actually talk like that – as in ‘he’s a good catch’ or ‘oh you could have done better than him’ etc, etc… And if they don’t actually talk like that, then they surely think like that.
Unsatisfied by these inferior deals however, people sometimes give up on the idea of love altogether, maybe by becoming a Buddhist monk or some other kind of renounced person. Whether people have grown up with this cultural heritage, or whether they have sought true love and been disappointed – either way, they want to go away and meditate and forget the whole frustrating business of elusive love altogether.
This doesn’t work however, because their desire doesn’t go away so easily. In fact it doesn’t ever go away at all, because it’s an integral part of our true spiritual nature. We may suppress it for a while, but sooner or later it’ll find a way to come out into the open once again. Then what? Then we binge once more on the very same things that we once renounced.
And so these two unsatisfying paths become the basis of a type of syndrome. Frustrated in their desire to find any real and unconditional love in this world, and giving up on any hope of ever finding it, sometimes a person tries to renounce the world. They may find a little peace in this kind of life, but sooner or later, desire comes again, and they go back to material enjoyment. Yes, there’s a little enjoyment in that, but inevitably they get frustrated once again, so they again renounce…on and on, round and round. It’s like a person who has been burned in a relationship and they swear they’ll never do it again. It’s just a matter of time however, before they do indeed, do it again, or at least they try to do it again. Why? Because, no matter how much we may try to suppress or ignore it, the desire of the soul to love and be loved is, like the soul itself, eternal.
The way beyond this futile cycle, is not to try to renounce desire, nor to try to satisfy it materially. The answer is to satisfy our desire with what we naturally, truly need and long for. Just like children naturally need the love of their parents, we all naturally need to love and be loved by the all attractive Divine Person, the original source of all children, the ultimate whole package, the most beautiful, kind, wise, powerful, compassionate, wealthy Supreme Person. Anything less than this Divine love will never truly satisfy the deep and natural needs of the spiritual soul.
‘And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshipping me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga, and is the highest of all’ Bhagavad Gita 6:47
‘Love the Lord with all your heart, all your mind, and all your being, this the foremost of all teachings’ Matthew 22:37
For more on the nature of spiritual love, I invite you to watch this enlightening video series called True Love.