The most important aspect of love is not in giving or the receiving: it’s in the being. When I need love from others, or need to give love to others, I’m caught in an unstable situation. Being love, rather than giving or taking love, is the only thing that provides stability. Being love means seeing the Beloved all around me.
I’m not interested in being a ‘lover.’ I’m interested in only being love. In our culture we think of love as a relational thing: ‘I love you’ and ‘You are my lover.’ But while the ego is built around relationship, the soul is not. It wants only to be love. It’s a true joy, for example, to turn someone whom you didn’t initially like into the Beloved. One way I practice doing so is by placing a photograph of a politician with whom I intensely disagree on my puja table- my altar. Each morning when I wake up, I say good morning to the Buddha, to my guru, and to the other holy beings there. But I find that it’s with a different spirit that I say, ‘Hello Mr. Politician.’ I know it sounds like a funny thing to do, but it reminds me of how far I have to go to see the Beloved in everybody. Mother Teresa has described this as ‘seeing Christ in all his distressing disguises.’ When I realized that Mother Teresa was actually involved in an intimate love affair with each and every one of the poor and the lepers she was picking up from the gutters in India, I thought to myself, ‘That’s the way to play the game of love.’ And that is what I have been training myself for the last past quarter century: to see and be with the Beloved everywhere.
One of the interesting aspects of seeing the Beloved in this way is that it doesn’t require the other person to see him- or herself as the Beloved. All that’s necessary is that I focus on my own consciousness properly. It’s interesting to notice, though, how warmly people respond to being seen as the Beloved, even if they don’t know what’s happening. Of course, it all assumes that all your feelings are genuine and that you aren’t compelled to act on them or to lay any sort of trip on the other person. The idea is simply to live and breathe among the Beloved.
The way I work at seeing others -like the politician-, as the beloved is to remind myself, ‘This is another soul, just like me, who has taken a complicated incarnation, just as I have. I don’t want to be in this incarnation any more than he wants to be in mine. But since I want to rest in my soul and not in my ego, I would like to give everybody the opportunity to do the same.’
If I can see the soul that happens to have incarnated into a person that I don’t care for, then my consciousness becomes an environment in which he or she is free to come up for air if he or she wants to. That person can do so because I’m not trying to keep him or her locked into being the person that he or she has become. It’s liberating to resist another person politically, yet still see him or her as another soul. That’s what Krishna meant when he said, ‘I’m not going to fight, because they are all my cousins on the side.’ We may disagree with one another in our current incarnation, but we are all souls.
A story I have told many times reinforces this point. Some years ago I put out a set of records called Love, Serve, Remember. The records- which had music, readings from the Gospel of John, and all kinds of neat things- came in an album with a beautiful booklet with text and pictures. It was a wonderful package, and we sold it by mail order for about $4.50.
I showed the album to my father. Dad was a wealthy Boston lawyer- a conservative Republican, a capitalist, and, at the time, the President of a railroad. HE looked over the album and said, ‘Great job here! But, gee, you know- four and a half dollars? You could probably sell this for ten dollars- fifteen dollars, even!’
I said, ‘Yeah, I know.’
‘Would fewer people buy in if it were more expensive?’ he asked.
‘No,’ I replied, ‘probably the same number would buy it.’
‘Well I don’t understand you,’ he pressed on. ‘You would sell it for ten, and you’re selling it for four- fifty? What’s wrong, are you against capitalism or something?’
I tried to figure out how to explain to him how our approaches differed. I said, ‘Dad didn’t you just try a law case for Uncle Henry?’
‘Yeah,’ he replied, ‘and it was a damned tough case. I spent a lot of time in the law library.’
I asked, ‘Did you win the case?’ And he answered, ‘Yeah, I won it.’
Now, my father was a very successful attorney, and he charged fees that were commensurate with his reputation. So I continued. ‘Well, I bet you charged him a hand and a leg for that one.’
Dad was indignant at the suggestion. ‘What, are you out of your mind? That’s uncle Henry- I couldn’t charge him.’
‘Well, that’s my problem,’ I said. ‘If you find anyone who isn’t Uncle Henry, I’ll rip them off.’
The point I was trying to make is that when you see the Beloved all around you, everyone is family and everywhere is love. When I allow myself to really see the beauty of another being, to see the inherent beauty of soul manifesting itself, I feel the quality of love in that being’s presence. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing. We could be talking about our cats because we happen to be picking out cat food in the supermarket, or we simply could be passing each other on the sidewalk. When we are being love, we extend outward an environment that allows to act in different, more loving and peaceful ways than they are used in behaving. Not only does it allow them to be more loving, it encourages them to be so.
In 1969, I was giving a series of lectures in New York City. Every night, taking the bus up Third Avenue, I got the same extraordinary bus driver. Every night it was rush hour in one of the busiest cities in the world, but he had a warm word and a caring presence for each person who got on the bus. He drove us as if he were sculling a boat down a river, flowing through the traffic rather than resisting it. Everyone who got on the bus was less likely to kick the dog that evening or to be otherwise hostile and unloving, because of the loving space that driver had created. Yet all he was doing was driving the bus. He wasn’t a therapist or a great spiritual teacher. He was simply being love.
Remember, we are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply interconnected with one another. Working on our own consciousness is the most important thing that we are doing at any moment, and being love is a supreme creative act.