Shahriar Shahriari

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Message of the Month

February, 2002

The Anatomy of Love

Secular wisdom hails moderation as the all-encompassing panacea, the one and only reasonable and responsible path to social and personal living. That may be a pragmatic and functional approach to life, but it is also very limiting.

There are many states of being that simply cannot come to full bloom, should the practitioner adhere to the path of moderation. This includes a whole host of spiritual states, and most definitely Love.

No matter how hard we try to define and explain Love, we will fall short of the full expression. The best attempts have been in the form of stories. World literature and mythology abounds with the stories of romantic Love. And they all have one thing in common - a distinct disregard for moderation.

Whether we hear the Eastern Love stories such as Leily and Majnoon, Shirin and Farhad, or we read the Western stories such as Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, to name but a few, we come to realize that the Lover has attained an almost transcendent state of being.

For the Lover, Love is no longer a feeling, but a way of being. The Lover no longer strives to like or love, but is naturally and inherently Loving the Beloved. The Lover knows no other state of being, and his/her only release is either fulfillment of that Love, or death. More often than not, when the Love is not fulfilled, the Lover comes to a tragic death. And the interesting part is that the tragedy is not in the way of dying, but in the taking away of the opportunity to fulfill the Love.

In the same stories we find that those around the Lovers advise them to calm down, to keep a cool head, to become more realistic and practical, dare I say, even more moderate. And invariably the Lovers take no heed.

Then there is the spiritual Love, which can either manifest in the form of Mystical Love, or Religious devotion, or Love of humanity, or even devotion to a cause.

The Lover first finds an object of Love - a personified or impersonal Beloved. Then life becomes a one-pointed meditation. Namely, the contemplation of the Beloved, to the exclusion of all else. The degree of the Love of the Lover is determined by the Lover's willingness to depart from moderation and venture towards the extremes.

Interestingly, all religious and spiritual ideologies and beliefs implicitly include this way of the extreme. Even the Buddha's Middle Way is an extreme. Adherence to total non-attachment to good or evil, is indeed practicing extreme non-attachment. A more moderate path would perhaps allow certain departures from this doctrine, depending on the situation and time in the adherent's life and social circumstances.

The religious practitioner's degree of Love for the doctrine also determines the extreme lengths to which the adherent is willing to go. If misguided and misunderstood, the degree of Love can breed dogmatic fanaticism, even to the extent that we see around the world today. If rightly guided, the practitioner shall approach sainthood. In either case, the Lover is far removed from moderation.

Why does the Lover pay no heed to moderation? We may rightly ask.

For the true Lover, there is only one objective worth pursuing. Namely, Union with the Beloved. To the degree that the Lover is in Love, his/her focus becomes one-pointed. This singular focus on the Beloved leaves no room for anything else. And as such, nothing else other than the Beloved can compete for the attention of the Lover.

Moderation is for being able to function in a worldly life. It helps us maintain ourselves as well as our relationship with our social and physical environment.

The Lover, on the other hand, has no interest in these. Not because it is a way of self-sacrifice, or a spiritual practice to attain Union, but because they simply become irrelevant. In the extreme cases, the Lover eats, if there is something to eat, and goes hungry otherwise. The Lover cares not for the practical aspects of life, not because s/he has no life, but because the Lover's life is only for the Beloved.

The Lover obeys every wish and whim of the Beloved, not because this is the way to practice unconditional Love, but because the Lover's wish is the fulfillment of the Beloved's wish.

Deep Love manifests itself as devotion. Depending on the nature of that Love, it could be devotion to the Divine, to an earthly Beloved, or to a Cause. This devotion, acts itself out as selfless service of the Beloved.

Selflessness not as a way of attaining Union, because even that is to gratify the self. Selfless, because the Lover has no other focus than the Beloved. Selfless, not because the self is destructive, or energy consuming, but because the self becomes irrelevant and inconsequential.

Self-annihilation and purging of the ego is not the Lover's way. To the contrary, to eliminate the ego, because that is the way to attain spiritual enlightenment, is quite self-centered. The Lover has neither any thought, nor any need for enlightenment. The Lover does not resolve, instead s/he dissolves.

In the true Union, the lover is not annihilated, but merges and becomes one with the Beloved. If anything, the Lover's ultimate contribution to the fulfillment of the Love is the giving of him/herself in its totality.

Interestingly enough, on the path of Love, the object of Love is not that important. Whether the Lover is engaged in an impossible romantic Love, or completely devoted to a cause, or for that matter, even if the Lover Loves a tree or a pet, the end result is the same.

By Loving one pet, the Love expands to include other similar pets, and then other dissimilar pets, and other animal species, and other life forms, and other animate and inanimate objects, and eventually the whole world and the creator of the world. Thus the Lover reaches the level of Loving the Divine Beloved.

But Love of the Divine is not the ultimate objective of Love. There will come a point where the Lover naturally sees that the true object of Love is the act of Loving, not the entity of the Beloved.

At that point, the Lover becomes a burning ball of Love, emanating the Love energy in every direction, shining the Love-Light on all that cross its path. Perhaps it is only at that point that the Lover can attain Union, because at that point, the Lover sees no separation, and has Love not for all, but for Love.

Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, CA
February 2002

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