Insight Newsletter Feature: “Love”

Extended Article
“Love: A Noun and A Verb and Reality” by Ahamed Muhaiyaddeen

Love is the truth, light, way, goal, and experience of awakening. It has names but all its names only suggest its majesty. Forget it and life is merely form bounded by time. Remember it and life does not just fly; it soars.

The world today faces numerous problems that are caused by human conduct, institutional organized intentional conduct, which impacts every individual life. The powers of modern man over the natural world dwarfs that of previous generations.  The reach of human aspirations far outstrips our moral vision and any sense of wise restraint.  Too many people live in fear and harden their hearts, blaming others for their inner unrest. While many are living in extreme poverty the world’s governments expend over $1.7 trillion per year on weaponry. We can do much better.

We have developed ways and means for melting the polar ice cap. We must quickly use ways and means which can melt the heart.

Love is a natural technology gifted by God to humanity to melt the heart so that the luminous light of the soul can be known. It is a process of awakening that level of consciousness which understands the Self, knows the Good, and brings the qualities of God that are the deepest part of being human into action. Love alone opens that door but it cannot take second seat to selfishness or fear.

The path is moving from love of self to selfless love. Moving on this path attracts the gift of wisdom.

When this wisdom is awakened it reveals the purposes of our human birth and makes us profoundly grateful for the Mystery that creates and sustains all lives. This gratitude opens us up to authentic learning. When we make this open capacity to love the central dynamic in our lives and institutions then politics and religion stop being a cause of conflict. Politics becomes a means of seeking and achieving the common good, and religion a guide to the caring for all others as one cares for oneself.

The great teachers all understood that the human being lives in God and God lives in every human being. Their lives were witnesses to this insight and they treated all lives as indivisible from the singular Creator. Their conduct and explanations of how to become fully human are needed now in every nation, and every religion can benefit from their examples of living without the differences of race, religion, or status. Like the sun, their love blesses us all.

Today science is reaffirming the admonition of the wise to live in unity, peace and harmony with the natural world. For example, we all depend on the health of the ocean’s phytoplankton, which provides over 50% of our oxygen. All nations and peoples must learn now very quickly to protect this common resource if the simple breath of life is to continue.

Minimizing the reality of our shared interests in protecting our common resources, upon which we all depend, our shared interests in living in stable secure peace and expressing our highest values, ending the threats posed by modern weaponry, especially nuclear, nations and peoples forget the guidance of the wise and accept living in conflict and fear. You and I must become witnesses to all others that love is real, available, and, when brought into action, powerful. It overcomes fear with clarity, forgiveness, and hope, and, when applied in action, success.

There are always those who perceive the world as a place divided by religions and nations, and the distinctions of race, class and caste. But again, science and technology inform a better perspective–the picture of our planet home from outer space, a magnificent orb, throbbing with life, without borders, and possibly the only place in the vast universe where love exists and can be known. Are we blind to the signs God shows us of His wonders? (Quran 27:93) Can we not learn from the natural world? It is not just a resource for producing consumer goods, it is also a sacred scripture gifted directly by the Almighty to teach us.

Whether saint or fool, sage or sinner, we each pass through this small miracle we know as Earth, our days gifted to us by a Source which dwarfs all the enormous powers of modern man. And this Source has revealed again and again that our hearts, like that vision of earth from outer space, should be open and without borders, for the human being without an open heart is a very dangerous creature. For this reason, the universal teaching of living love is so important in today’s world. It produces human beings who know the unity of the human family–who know love without fear, and act accordingly.

The Sufi Saint Bawa Muhaiyadeen stated a clear way to its attainment:

“Oh Man! You think you can know all things solely by your investigation. There is, however, a Truth that governs such knowing. That Truth is this: The State of Silence will be invaluable to you. Let the form of Divine Luminous Wisdom grow from this inner Silence. See yourself as the consciousness within the form of Divine Luminous Wisdom. It will appear as One. That form is That. And That is you. That State is One. It is That which is the All-pervading Radiant Effulgence” (From Resonance of Allah).

Modern man has forgotten this elevated state, always focusing on the bottom line–and then, all too often, hitting rock bottom.  We go where we are looking, and that, for every individual, is their intention. For any endeavor–whether that of our individual lives or the conduct of a state–intention and purpose become the guiding compass.

For human beings, the capacity of determining direction is a gift the value of which is rarely appreciated. From the human capacity of choice of purpose and intention arise two immeasurably precious words: “no” and “yes.” How we travel using these metrics determines the fulfillment of “why.” How can we ever travel meaningfully without a purposeful destination? Only when we know its value will we never forget why.

The why of being human cannot be divided from the why of our Creator. First as a hidden treasure wanting to be known, He made us in His image. Yet, He, like our true self, has no form or image. This Power often described as He could just well be described as She and is described in various traditions as love and compassion and mercy. How could we ever expect to know Reality without cultivating these majestic qualities? Let us never forget this kind of knowing.

Every seed contains the blueprint for its purposeful expression as its ultimate manifestation. Every natural manifestation is part of a larger purposeful expression. Within all such expressions are ineffable aspects. How can the beauty of the rose be found in the genetic code of a rose seed? Similarly, there is an ineffable and most wonderful dimension in the seed of our personal and collective humanity. Can the majesty of being fully human be understood by only studying our biology? Can our personal humanity be divided from our collective human unity or, indeed, from the very web of life of which we are each a part?

The rose has no choice as to whether it will live and grow in harmony with the purpose secreted in its seed. Human beings do have choice. And, if the rose seed was burned to give off heat and light, it would be reasonable to describe the purpose of the rose seed was to give off heat and light and then become carbon. But would that be sufficient?

As human beings, we can choose how we will fulfill our purpose. We can affirm the values of love and justice and peace. Or reject them. We can express our inherent dignity and create beautiful lives, communities and nations. Or we can destroy them. And ourselves. The direction we take is largely dependent on honestly investigating our real purposes and intentions.

The purpose of our individual lives and our collective endeavors constitutes our “why.” And the core of that “why” must certainly be the spiritual dimension.

If we forget these values, we can easily become lost in the “how” of our activities and ultimately end up with improved means to unimproved ends. For example, cunning economic systems that destroy the ecology of the planet, complex religious dogmas that lead to divisiveness and violence, and sophisticated weaponry that inspires enemies and reduces security. We can end up with institutions that do not truly serve us and individual lives unworthy of our core humanity.

When individuals operate based on fear and ignorance, suffering follows. When nations operate thusly, destruction can easily follow.

We are the first generation of human beings with the power to be the last. Whether or not to exercise that power is the great choice before us, but instead of facing it, we are passing this burden to the next generation. Our educational institutions have not yet sufficiently prepared them to reign in the capacities for destruction gifted by science and technology. The core values of Sufism can help remedy this situation.

Creating a curriculum for a sustainable future is a great work that needs to start here and now. The foundation of values is what builds strong character in children and the courage to act with wisdom in adults. These values are not by any means culturally relative. Let me propose as a minimum step that every secondary school child should be given a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the simple assignment of first learning their importance and then imagining ways in which they can be implemented.

This wonderful document is consistent with the great teachings for it affirms the inherent dignity of every person. Understanding and living by this value can help overcome the ignorance of religious bigotry and fanaticism, foundations of much of today’s terrorist activities.

It is important that society and states ensure the bottom line of minimal human security, such as food, health, education, safety, and shelter. But this is not enough to fulfill the human journey. No war has ever been fought without invocation of high values–love of country, of family and way of life, for example–or of justice and righteousness. Yet, when those of us who strive for sustainable peace speak of and invoke values such as love and compassion as the bedrock for security, we are subject to the ad hominem slur of being unrealistic. May God save us from the insane realism of those who claim violence and war as acceptable and normal! As the Nobel Peace Laureates so aptly stated in their Charter for a World Without Violence: “Violence is a preventable disease.”

There is a Power of unlimited immeasurable duration, breadth, depth, width, and height which is omniscient and omnipresent. It creates, sustains, and absorbs every human life without regard to creed, religion, gender, race, nation, status, or belief. It guides us from violence to peace.

This Power is without form but can be known and realized as wisdom within wisdom, love within love, compassion within compassion. Human beings live within this Power and It lives within all human beings. It remains a hidden mystery for those with closed hearts, but it resonates as a luminous, radiant, grace-awakened reality for all those whose hearts are fully open. It brings peace, bliss, and an endless enthusiasm to serve.

It cannot be fully comprehended by the intellect and is beyond philosophical speculation and even language itself. It is called Allah, God, Yahwey, Andavan, and many other names, and described as the Ultimate Beloved. It is the Supreme Lord and all must answer to Its Judgment.

Pursuing this Power with sincerity will render a person beautiful and truthful. There is a Hadith Qudsi wherein God says: “When my servant takes one step towards Me, I take ten steps towards him. When my servant comes walking towards me, I come running towards him.”  May we practice this in action. May we teach this to the children. May we know this in our own remembrance. May our own lives honor the Mystery which placed us here and to which we must return.

There is a meaningful distinction between mere knowledge and wisdom. They are not opposed, but wisdom requires a heart filled with love. Knowledge can be used for the love of power. Wisdom is always used to find and nurture the power of love. Knowledge without wisdom will melt the polar ice cap and render our coastal cities vacant. Wisdom will melt hearts and lead us to understand a necessary truth that every small child understands when they meet other children. In this classroom of the planet earth there is no them; there is just us.

Others before us with greater wisdom have left instructions worthy of our reflections:

Bawa Muhaiyaddeen:

“If each of you will open your heart,
your actions, your wisdom, and your conduct and look within,
you will see that every face is your face, every nerve is your nerve,
each drop of blood is your blood,…
all hunger is your hunger,
all poverty is your poverty…
all lives are your life.
You will experience this in your nerves,
in your body and in what you see.
When that state develops inside you, that is God’s love…
If that love develops you will not hurt any other living thing,
you will not cause pain, you will not reject any life, and you will not torture anyother life,
because if you hurt anyone
it will hurt you.”
– Book of God’s Love, p. 23.

Albert Einstein:

“Oh Youth! Do you know that yours is not the first generation to yearn for a life full of beauty and freedom? Do you know that all your ancestors have felt the same as you do–and fell victim to trouble and hatred? Do you know also that your fervent wishes can only find fulfillment if you succeed in attaining a love and understanding of people and animals, and plants, and stars, so that every joy becomes your joy  and every pain becomes your pain?”
– Quoted in David and Beatrix Hamburg’s comprehensive work, Learning to Live Together, p. 363.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“It is not enough to say, ‘We must not wage war.’ It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it…we have inherited a big house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together–black and white, Easterner and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslems and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other….

This means that more and more our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all embracing and unconditional love for all men…

When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response which is little more than emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.

Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of Saint John19:

‘Let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His
love is perfected in us.’”

– Nobel Peace Prize Lecture December 11, 1961

We have the knowledge necessary to be loyal to humanity and God. We have the teachers, old and new, and the resources necessary to create the solutions we need. The question is: Do we have the will and determination to battle those invested in the status quo, to build the bridges where there are presently walls? Do we have the determination and wisdom to overcome the weapons that arise from fear but if used would make real our worst fears? Do we have the creativity to bring parties together to forge mutually beneficial answers and usher in an age worthy of the gifts of life itself? Do we have the courage and humility to bow to love?

Our history says we do. The wise of all times tell us that with sincere faith, awakened love, courage and determination, assured of God’s blessing, the answer is Yes!