The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: love (page 1 of 6)

For my Wise, Young, Beautiful Cousin who Loves the Woods

She was happy to leave New York (does that happen to anyone at all?)
she loves animals
and mountains
And the land her father grew up on
where she tramped days as a child
quiet and alone and tanned
tall trees laden with jack fruit and cashews and peppercorns and mangoes
dark homes with cool floors and pillars
she left the noise and dust of our home in Mumbai
went North
found a hillside town
(I thought it romantic)
she worked long and hard
made a name for herself, met friendly folks and ate homely dinners
met dynamic men, fiery and passionate
loved, lived, left

came back to Colorado, the hills beckoned again
friendliness, passion, compassion and desire
to learn and grow
and preserve and protect
to drink in the beauty
sip away the sunrise

and tramp all over the hills again

finally to gaze at the land her father built a home on.

 

A Ripe Love

It was a love like none other I had ever experienced.

It began with stories of love itself, longing embedded within. Longing for a sense of purpose, a deeper meaning to life, direction. Stories of intense sorrow and pain, alleviated by a look, a touch, a word. Stories of miracles, large and small, inexplicable phenomena, familiar figures, comforting and loving. Stories of death averted, life transformed, birth and rebirth.

I longed for a story myself. I thought that if I wanted it bad enough, it would happen to me.

Did it? Perhaps it did.

Finally the day came, and I had the opportunity for a meeting. It left me miserable. All those beautiful stories dissolved into nothingness. There was no chemistry, no meeting of eyes, no significant glances or words.

Wasn’t I worthy enough? Why others, why not me?

I languished in self-inflicted misery a short while, then resolved I’d do better. I’d prove my mettle. I wouldn’t give up. I’d stick to my promise. I’d prove my love, devotion and sincerity.

I wish I could tell you that it worked. It really didn’t. I tried, then tried again. Finally I mustered up the courage to ask a question, hoping for a life-transforming answer, the word of God, just for me. Sure enough, the answer came but I was unimpressed. It did nothing for me! Was this a joke? Were all the stories mere fabrication? Was I missing something? Was I a fool?

Give me full marks for persistence because I did persist. I stuck along, confident that things would change. I would be deemed worthy to join the ranks of those who got special time. I would be soon sharing my own stories of miracles and supernatural phenomena.

And thus the saga continued. On and on, year after year.

I dropped my hankerings eventually. It was too darned exhausting. My fevered cravings morphed into a resigned acceptance. I started to experience a sweet kind of love, a puppy-like devotion and adoration. Somehow it seemed enough because my life actually felt sweeter, more melodious. There was a sense of dynamism, purpose and meaning. I was going somewhere, maybe not where I’d imagined. But somewhere… No, I wasn’t among the elite few who exchanged knowing glances and shared secret stories. But I was there, trudging along amid the masses, occasionally feeling both lost and found.

Then one day, it all began to change. The flavor of my love changed. It felt like it’d matured, gained in ripeness and understanding. Looks didn’t matter any more, neither did glances or words. Distance ceased to make a difference. Physical presence felt unimportant.

What was happening to me? Had I gotten completely lost? Where had I landed up? Why was I alone? Where were the elite, special ones?

I wondered long and hard. About what I’d lost, what I’d given up, if I had gained anything in the process.

The Sun needs no illumination. It is self-illumined. Perhaps I had become the Sun? Or a sun?

For years, I had watched from a distance, learning and growing. Over time, my inner wanderings finally led me to an orbit of my own, far away from the teeming masses, large and small planets, shining stars and dust. Finally I was on my own, lit from within, growing in light, brilliance and confidence.

Perhaps he would be proud of me today.

(Thank you, Gurudev, for setting this heart ablaze.)

Love and Neutrality

Love isn’t generally associated with neutrality.

Love is associated with all sorts of positive experiences — joy, cheer, generosity, good wishes, hugs, support. Neutrality seems very cold in contrast. Like a noble gas or a non-reactive element. We want the people we love to respond to us. We don’t want them to be cold or aloof. Or so we understood what it means to be neutral.

When we love someone, we are pretty much in their business openly. When we cannot stand someone, we are in their business too. In our heads, that is. We cannot stop thinking about them. But when we love someone, it is well understood (and expected) that we are connected to them in many ways. This includes providing them with physical/mental/emotional support, wishing them the best, giving them the gift of time and presence, being available to them. Or so the popular understanding of love goes.

Love isn’t meant to be neutral or empty. It is meant to be filled with positive vibes and generosity and blessings.

There is no space in love. We keep wanting to close the space, end the distance. Sometimes, it is impossible to close the distance physically, so we do it mentally. And we project our best hopes and wishes on to the people we love. Isn’t that expected? How else do we love the people we do, if not by wishing them the best? “May you live long, prosper, be healthy.” And so on.

Of course, we also claim that we want space in our loving relationships. Space is a neutral element. Yes, we appreciate space but we don’t much care for its neutral nature.

If we are to stay neutral, what is the differentiation between us and a stranger? None, or so we think.

Imagine a parent remaining neutral towards their offspring. It is impossible! We are so emotionally close to them; there can be no space in question. And if that space exists, it isn’t empty. It is filled with hopes, dreams, and expectations.

All these positive vibes begin to exert subtle control on the loved ones in question. It hovers over their lives like a cloud. Not a grey, ominous one necessarily. Maybe a white, fluffy one. But it persists. It follows them around. And of course, we shrug it off, thank it even. We are happy to be the beneficiaries, the receivers of such largesse. We are grateful for the support, the encouragement. We regard these as the hallmarks of true love and support. When we don’t see them, we think that love has passed. That it no longer exists.

We could never recognize true neutrality for the immense freedom it provides. Indeed, we are incapable of appreciating the gift of neutrality. We crave connection, and we think neutrality is its opposite.

I remember a talk by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar titled “Guru Shishya Sambandh,” translated as “Guru Disciple Relationship.” In it, he explains that the relationship between a Guru and disciple is like none other. It cannot even be called a relationship because it lacks all markers of typical relationships. He issues a gentle warning, do not make this into a relationship like the others. Because that is the perfect trap to fall into, leading to unmet expectations and drama.

Of course, we like to put a spin on this relationship as well. We imagine that the Guru wants the best for us, s/he wants us to grow and progress and move forward.

What if we came to realize that the Guru has an attitude of complete neutrality towards us? That s/he wants neither the best nor the worst for us, not happiness or sorrow or health or wealth or sickness, whatever. That s/he simply lets us be. That s/he isn’t really looking out for our so-called improvement, progress, whatever.

Our tender hearts would be broken. We’d feel let down, all hopes dashed. “You are the one I trusted completely, I thought you’d take care of me.” How can the Master be neutral?

I wonder if we can even begin to comprehend the immense freedom granted to us by neutrality. Freedom to be (or not) whoever or whatever. Freedom from love and projection, support and bonding, ties and expectations.

Really, do we even want such freedom? Ahh, I think not.

We like to be supported. We want blessings from loved ones. We rely on their best wishes and positive projections, laden as they may be with subtle expectations. We cherish those connections. We cannot bear to hurt the ones who love us. We don’t want freedom. In fact, I doubt we can handle it.