What is Love?

Through love we can gradually extricate ourselves from the social conditioning of class, tradition and culture

Love,  according to Gurbani, is a single unifying force though its manifestations are many. Love is a state of mind that brings radical change, making one free of physical, biological and psychological determinisms.

Through love we can gradually extricate ourselves from the social conditioning of class, tradition and culture and from prejudices that prevent us from seeing the essence of Waheguru (God) in all creation.

Vitalized by the essential light of the Guru, love becomes an instrument to form a more extensive human community that is passionate about helping others reach the vision of Waheguru within all.

With the teachings of the Guru, through love human beings are transformed, becoming Waheguru-like, perfecting themselves and the creation around them. Human love must find its culmination and ultimate goal in a community of solidarity and love "with and in" Waheguru (God.)

The hymn solemnizing the Sikh nuptials outlines four overlapping psychological stages through which the human soul travels back to its primal source, Waheguru. In this context, Gurbani repudiates the notion of heaven and hell in order to give Sikhs a sense of urgency by encouraging them to become liberated while alive (jīvan-mukat.) This happens when the banks of the heart are overflowing with unconditional love for the shabad accompanied by the sight of Waheguru in all creation.

Waheguru's love for humanity operates within the institution of Sangat, the congregation of the seekers of truth, which plays an essential role in a Sikh’s journey toward self -realization. The Sangat, as a recipient of Waheguru's grace, cooperates with the divine will (hukam) and facilitates the moving of an individual’s essence from ideal to reality. The Sangat's love is not a calculated will to improve, but rather an act that progressively illumines that ideal value and essence of a being and then affirms that being in realizing its full potential. This affirmation of the Sangat takes place through participation in the Sikh ideals of seva and simran - unconditional service of Waheguru's creation and remembrance of Waheguru, respectively. Seva is a compassionate heart’s active engagement with Waheguru's creation. When we selflessly serve Waheguru by loving its creation, Waheguru reciprocates intensely and showers us with Its merciful love. The Sikh travels across a continuum, from being a manmukh (self-centered) to being a gurmukh (Gurū-oriented) as he understands that Waheguru — because of its love for the world — resides within its creation.

In Gurbani, love begins with an intense longing for the Beloved. A principle of self-transcendence, love finds concrete expression in Guru Graṅth Sahib, which uses the rich vocabulary found in Punjabi, Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic languages to describe this phenomenon. Over a dozen terms such as prem, prīt, bhakti, ‘ishq, muhabat, saneh,cau, bhau, piār and neh are used, often synonymously, to describe different dimensions of love. Guru Nanak exhorts the human mind to love God (Akal Purakh/ Waheguru) like the pied-cuckoo (chatrik) who yearns night and day for the raindrop with his open mouth turned up to the sky. The pools are brimming with water, and the land is luxuriantly green, but what are they to him, if that single drop of rain does not fall into his mouth?

As the revealed word of Waheguru (God) set to a formal system of classical music codified by the Gurus, the scripture Guru Granth Sahib takes center-stage in Sikh life. The revelation, which is internalized with the aid of music, permeates our life to the extent that our every action is in harmony with the revelation of the Guru. Steeped in the divine message that inculcate equipoise (sahaj) results in ethics no longer having a separate ontology and all moral decision-making becoming spontaneous, largely bypassing the rational process. It is only with this state of mind - which is characterized by tremendous humility and courage - that we are able to answer the call of the Guru demanding, “If you desire to play the game of love with me, step onto my path with your head on your palm. Once you enter this path of love, be prepared to give up everything, for there is no turning back.” Accordingly, love for the Guru — the shabad, which is the revealed word of Waheguru (God) — can only be unconditional and utterly selfless. It is worth noting that, in this context, there is no difference between Waheguru and Guru. We must be prepared to feel the Beloved, whose essence manifests itself in the core of our very being.

As love for the Beloved begins to blossom, it is natural for the lover to experience birahā, the pangs of separation. Shaikh Farid (d. 1265) a Chishti Sufi whose hymns are included in Guru Granth Sahib, goes to the extent of saying that “the body, in which birahā does not well up, is nothing but a dead corpse.”

The sharper the pain, the more intense is the love for the Beloved. It is worth noting that love may give rise to desire or yearning for the Beloved, but these are consequences of love and not love itself. Desire and yearning fade away when their goal or object is attained, but love does not die.

In another hymn, Shaikh Farid avers that only those individuals who have cultivated love for the Lord in their hearts are truly human; the rest are a burden for this earth. Love is seen as an instrument of change that takes us toward a state of perfection. It enables us to attain essential qualities that are intrinsic to the nature of Waheguru: truthfulness (sat), fearlessness (nirbhau), and lack of enmity (Nirvair.) It requires complete surrender of the self (mann) to Divine will. In this process, the dissolution of our ego (haumai) is a byproduct.

Add a Comment