For the Eternal Beloved in You Both
I usually write about romantic love. But today I’m writing about another kind of love: that shared in the pursuit of knowledge and self enquiry.
Two of the most important men in my life are my yoga master Paramahamsa Prajnanananda and my philosophy teacher Professor Alexander (Sacha) Piatigorsky.
Sacha passed away a few weeks ago. I met him 18 years ago, when I was 18. He taught me how to think. Not by giving a set of instructions but by generously sharing his own thinking. I’ve loved him from my first meeting with him.
Prajnanananda is a very great yogi. I met him in winter 2005. I’ve spent very little time in his physical presence. But the time I have spent with him has been full on. I’ve also loved him from my first meeting with him.
Love Presence Certainty You are here
I’m loved unquestioningly by both of them. Its quite a thing to be loved unquestioningly: to be in disagreement, or to be on the receiving end of disapproval, anger or the irritations that occur in the daily-ness of life, and still to feel unquestioningly loved. (And yes, even great yogis get irritated.)
On meeting both these men I knew that I was in the presence of greatness and of wisdom. This triggered deep love in me. And of course love wants somewhere to go. This creates a want, a demand even, that the object of one’s love is present in some way. I love Sacha so I demand that he receives my loves.
And he died a few weeks ago.
Death does something very interesting – it removes my option to demand that he is there to receive my love. Over the past eighteen years I’ve been able to make that demand. Even if he told me – as he often did – that he was terribly busy and could I call back at a specific time and date (usually about two months away), I knew that my request to be in his presence would be met. Even his act of sending me away and asking me to return was an act of receiving. My demand for receipt had been met.
That demand wont be met any more.
Love Absence Inquiry Where are you?
The invitation that Sacha has given me is to love beyond physical presence: without requiring any receipt, acknowledgement or validation. There will no longer be token from him that says, ‘I’ve got your love’. No sending me away or invitation to visit him; no inquiry about my yoga practice or rigorous questioning of my shabby intellectual pursuits; no affectionate address or kind glance; no enchanting me with ancient tales of warriors, princes and heroes.
Sacha’s death has made me think about what it means to love without requiring that my love is received in a particular way. I’m at ease to love without requiring commitment – especially in romance. But this takes ‘no demands’ to a whole new level. Can I love without expecting a particular trajectory for that love – from me to you? Can I love without asking that it is received and acknowledged? What would it be like to love someone without demanding that they give me their presence in some way? What would it be like to love someone without asking that they participate by receiving my love?
Are you? Inquiry Absence Love
Sacha’s teaching has taken me on a philosophical inquiry into the nature of self, existence and consciousness. Prajnanananda’s teaching takes me on an experiential inquiry into those things. Yoga means union or yoking: the deliberate joining of body to spirit.
Prajnanananda works and travels prolifically to teach and look after his students. Over the last few months, he has been saying something a little different. In his very gentle and loving way, he is now asking that his students become more independent – by being less dependent on his physical presence. He is asking us to take more responsibility for ourselves. For me, his is also an invitation to love beyond the need for physical presence.
He’s got me thinking about entitlement in love. As a student of a master (not a teacher, but a master) surely I’m entitled to the benefits of being in his powerful presence. And believe me, simply being in the presence of a master has tangible (and sometimes demanding) benefits. Well, it would appear that he is offering a different experience of love. So, to what am I entitled? I’m reminded of a line in the Bhagavad Gita that Sacha often discussed.
‘Your entitlement is to the act [alone], not ever at all to its results.’ [Bhagavad Gita 24.2.47]
So, my entitlement is to the act of loving, not to the result of having that love received. I expect that sounds harsh. Now, because I know I’m loved unquestioningly by both these men, it doesn’t feel harsh.
The challenge will be to translate that into other loves, where there is no such guarantee. To what extent can I love without expectation? Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that boundaries are compromised or sense of self is diminished. Self reference is vital for healthy loving. My/ your entitlement is to the act. The ‘I’ is vital to the act. And in case you were wondering, it would be an understatement to describe either Sacha or Prajnanananda as self referential, with a strong sense of his own individuality and healthy boundaries. Powerful personages both; and they have caused in me the following questions:
What does it mean to love without any expectation? What are the possible consequences of loving in this way? To what extent is this possible in romance? How would this affect my experience of love, of the other person and of relationship?
I look forward to diving into those questions. Without either of them.
You Love I Inquiry?