Knowledge of love is important

Published 16 February 2002 IS THERE such a thing as a param dristvam or ‘higher taste?’ And if there is, what is it? Is there anything beyond the simple God-given pleasures of eating and sex? The Gita tells us that “One whose happiness is within, who is active and rejoices within and whose aim is inward, is the perfect mystic”. (5.24) What’s natural for a human is different from what’s natural for an animal. True, we are animals, but we are also human. So what’s the difference? It’s the human part that we tend to forget, sometimes in the name of being ‘natural’ or ‘nature-like’. Words like ‘normal’, ‘natural’, ‘unvarnished’ and ‘pure’ are as misconstrued and misused as the word ‘spiritual’. In the 1960s, many thought ‘free love’ was spiritual. What do we mean by ‘spiritual’? Love for our own children is a pure (almost spiritual) love. We see forms of parental love every day. We call the child on the mother’s lap a ‘burden of love’. According to the commentator, Vishvanatha Chakravarty Thakur, to remove the child can be more burdensome than the child’s weighty presence. Parental love is quite different from the male-female conjugal form of love. The latter relationship often deteriorates into mutual gratification of desire and the discharge of loneliness and anger. What’s taken to be love may be lust, just as iron pyrite (fool’s gold) is sometimes mistaken for gold. Spiritual love operates in a different dimension. It’s interesting that both the British Oxford and American Webster’s dictionaries put the sexual and even romantic aspects of love after their first definition. Both define love first and foremost as an intense feeling of deep affection and a ‘profoundly tender’ relationship with another person. Spiritual love, like love in this world, is natural, but like lasting love in this world, it includes friendship, protection, servitorship, knowledge, ongoing cultivation, and deep understanding. Spiritual love or love of God is totally free of desire for return in the material sense. It is pure and not based on mutual sensory satisfaction. Does pure or spiritual love include and enable human love? Can it save a shipwrecked marriage? The answer is yes. Without knowledge of transcendental love, there is no full knowledge of love. The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission