Spiritual alchemy for the heart

(The following article was posted in the "Meditations" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest english language daily newspapers, on 17 February 2003.) Spiritual alchemy for the heart IN THE love market, lust is trading at an all time high. The forecast on values is dire. Religion just crashed. Therapists get rich as victims of affection increase, and who wants the dry life of a sadhu? A metaphysical tale concerns a man who regularly visited his glamorous but disinterested prostitute. In those days the illicit affair always started with a meal prepared by the hostess, who served her customer first. But on this particular night, she brought out two identical portions for him, one in an iron dish and one in a gold container. The unusual array prompted questioning. She replied: "I know what you want, but this is a lesson: you can't judge a woman by her looks, any more than you can rate food by its containers." Her graphic portrayal also reminds us that sexual rapture doesn't equate with life long devotion. Maybe she overlooked a key psychic element, but love and lust are not natural bedfellows. Marriage used to be viewed as a duty and an honourable institu- ti on, rather than a 'perfect romance.' So is love dead? Krishna - often called the "god of love" - is sometimes referred to as a childhood thief, a youthful philanderer and an adult murderer. But His faithful followers know Him to be beyond these partially informed perceptions. His childhood on earth, His activities with the gopis, and His exploits in the Kurukshetra war are like nothing of this world, any more than prema can accurately be defined as 'love': The point is that God-love operates in an entirely different dimension. Study of the Lord's reciprocal attraction for all living beings leads to a deep understanding of human need - psychological, physical, economic, intellectual and spiritual. Sadhu worshippers of Krishna have feelings which are redirected, rather than sublimated or suppressed. This is the true meaning of coming to one's senses. Nothing is last. It is this redirection of human nature that is the missing link. The vacuum of spiritual training injures the health of all living entities, not just our children. Conversely, the study of its intricacies can generate immense benefit and even cure many of earth's ills. You can't force love or learning. but if we bring this dimension back into education, we all win, as love of God includes every emotion, defining moment and feeling our hearts are capable of. (The writer is emeritus member; ISKCON Governing Body Commission)