The final instruction Jesus gave to his disciples at the last supper was,
‘Love one another as I have loved you’.
He was once asked, ‘What is the greatest commandment?’
’There is one God and you must love the One God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul.’
And the second commandment is,
Love thy neighbor as thy self.
It should be noted that to Love was given as an instruction by the Lord. It is stated as a Law. One seeking to fulfill the highest purpose of a human life must practice love.
Love is an art that one spends a life mastering. Everyone wants to love but as in any art it requires the full commitment of the artist. To master any fine art one must learn, develop skills through constant practice, and devote oneself with discipline and perseverance to mastering the art.
Love is the essential experience of the human life. Everyone seeks to be loved, wants to love, and believes he is capable of love.
We say we love our children, our spouse, perhaps our country and our work.
But to wish to be an artist does not make it so. We may wish to make music, and most of us are capable of making music, but to master an instrument and create beautiful harmony requires a full application of ourselves to the task.
There are three forms of love: Instinctual, Emotional, and intentional or ‘Conscious’ love. Jesus was speaking of Conscious love.
We love our children but that is an instinct that serves to preserve the human species. Animals have the same instinct. The physical attraction between men and women is based on instinct, it is biology and chemistry. Certain ‘types’ are attracted to one another. (How often have we heard it said,’ she, or he, is not my type.) Instinctive love is a part of our nature, it is an urge that we satisfy, though some choose to ignore the impulse.
Physical attraction draws men and women to each other, but it is not a basis for an enduring relationship for like anything physical it tends to run down.
The second type of love is emotional. It is based on identification of what I see as being familiar and heightening the sense of myself. Our children are similar to us and very familiar in nature. The attention and responses of loved ones heighten our self awareness. The attention of others is pleasant and so many of our actions are done to evoke a response that is pleasant. This is an immature manifestation of love. Often it does not serve the beloved. Children may be given pleasant things that are not to their benefit, we call this spoiling the child. The ‘gift’ is given for the benefit of the adult, not the child. Between adolescents we see ‘puppy love’. Perhaps she is struggling with her weight, and he gives her chocolates. The gift is not for her, it is to endear her to him.
Emotional love is not for the benefit of the other, it is selfish. Emotional love may evoke a positive response for awhile but it soon turns to indifference and then as it is recognized that it is not in the interest of the beloved, it turns to dislike, even hatred.
These are not the forms of ‘love’ the master teachers spoke of. The art of love is the act if intentional or conscious love, to assist others in the fulfillment of their lives.
Jesus taught mankind the way of love.
He taught through parables, stories laden with levels of meaning that are revealed to the disciple according to his level of understanding.
The study of philosophy is the way of reason. Christ taught the way of love. Love and reason are like the two wings of the dove; both are needed to transcend the material world. Some of the parables appear in more than one gospel. The parable of the fishes and loaves appears in all four Gospels. It’s told a total of seven times. (Matthew 14:17; 15:34; 16:9; Mark 6:38; 8:5; Luke 9:13; John 6:9) It is a parable about the power of love.
Jesus departed out of the city and a large crowd followed to hear him teach. And when evening came and time to depart, Jesus said, (Matthew 15:32) ‘I have compassion on the multitude.’ He said, ‘They cannot travel home without nourishment for many will fall faint.’ But his disciples said, (Matthew 15:34) ‘But we have but seven loaves and a few fishes.’ And Jesus took the loaves and fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them and gave them to His disciples to give to the people. And after they had eaten the remnants were gathered and they filled twelve baskets. And those that had eaten were more than five thousand.
‘He hath compassion on the multitude.’ It is love that performs the miracle. The fishes and loaves, like the Sower’s seeds, are His teaching. ‘For man cannot live by bread alone but by every word from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4) The blessing, the teaching, originates with Christ, but it is passed on by the disciples; for it is through men and women living according to the example of Christ that divine love manifests among mankind. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes allows all to receive what they need, for what appeared to be want was revealed to be abundance. The ‘multiplication’ is the manifestation of love in the lives of men and women. This is the power of love, what appears to be want is revealed to be universal abundance.
The Upanishad says, ‘The good is one, the pleasant another, both command the soul. The good is often pleasant, but not always. The aim of action toward an other of whom we profess to care about, is not to please, but to uplift. We nurture their finer impulses. We help them to nurture the finer, not the courser aspects of their nature. Very simply we care for them.
The law of relationships is, What we care for we learn to love. And Conscious love evokes the same in response. Whereas physical attraction diminishes over time, and emotional love evokes indifference and animosity; Conscious love endures, it grows and develops over time and is the basis of the vow ‘until death do us part’.
Love is the impulse that sustains the creation, and plays an essential role in the unfolding of our lives. It is a role we all seek to play, and most realize how well we play that role determines our well being and happiness.
The ordinary way of thinking is we love someone and so we take care of them. But in practice it is what we take care of that we grow to love. And ‘loved ones’ that we neglect we soon cease to love. How we love is governed by natural law and higher law. The role is determined by the relationship. The law allows us to play our roles well.
Honor thy mother and father.
A child loves his parents he can hardly do otherwise, the child is dependent on parents for his survival and development. His work is to obey, listen and learn.
In doing so the child learns respect for authority and law which are essential later.
The love and care of children is a challenge that requires our continued best efforts. The child will accept whatever he is given, the adult has the power and experience to discriminate between finer and courser, between the good and the pleasant; the child does not. Provide the young child with measure, consistency and order. Children are extremely receptive, they will take in whatever is presented to them, but the ability to discern has not developed. A young mind and heart will take the color of any die it is dipped in. But the child does not have the capacity to understand complex issues and subtleties. Adults sometimes say they don’t want to ‘shelter their children,’ out of fear that they will be unprepared to face life’s challengers. But childhood is a time to develop emotional strength, confidence, and faith in oneself. This is the development that will prepare them for the challenges of adult life.
Parents have a responsibility to protect their children from many things, one of them is failure. We want to teach children to succeed and we do this by placing them in situations and before challenges that they are capable of overcoming. And then providing the vigilance and whatever is needed to insure the child succeeds, whether that is help with a lesson or a stern word when it is needed for direction.
For the first five years the child’s primary teacher is the mother. She can provide all that is needed for the child’s development. Today children often leave the home for school or day care at three or younger. It may be thought that the variety of experiences will advance the development but it also fosters uncertainty and confusion. The child often returns home having learned behavior that the parents find less than desirable. During the early years it is not so important what behavior the child manifests, they will simply imitate whatever they see and hear. What is crucial is the parent’s reaction to the behavior. Parents must be alert to what their children are learning outside the home and careful to react so as to encourage good behavior and discourage bad. We do the child no favor by allowing bad behavior, in childhood they will suffer little consequence, but as the child reaches adolescence and beyond anti social behavior has serious consequences. The student who misbehaves will meet punishment and academic failure. The incorrigible adult will suffer economic and social failure and incarceration. Discipline must never arise from anger but from reason motivated by the child’s best interest. A child who escapes discipline will not escape it later in life. There is the question of physical force. It may be necessary to correct antisocial behavior.
Question, how much force?
Answer, enough to correct the behavior.
If the attention is consistent little force will be required. The disapproval of a loving parent will be painful enough.
The classic fairytales did not confuse children with ‘shades of grey.’ The hero is good, hansom or beautiful, truthful, kind and unselfish. The villain is mean, unattractive, greedy, devious, and lies. And although the good is tested it is stronger than evil and it prevails.
The pure, innocent, receptive, undiscerning nature of children requires that during the formative years, until the age of ten, they should be presented with what is beautiful and harmonious. This helps establish in the child a sense of what is right, true, and good. After ten they can be introduced to the complexities and contradictions and learn to recognize and protect themselves.
from evil; because only then can they begin to discern – to separate ‘the wheat from the chaff’.
What we give our attention to grows. Praise is a more effective teaching tool then correction. Be watchful, catch the child doing something right and praise it.
As the child matures into adulthood the role with parents change. It is no longer appropriate to be dependent. In maturity child and parent become special friends, but the respect and honor toward parents does not diminish. Many families grow apart. The adult may think he shares little in common with parents but that is an illusion. In fact there is much in common physically, emotionally and spiritually but some intentional caring is required for them to remain ‘close’. What we cease to care for, we cease to care about. As the parents age the roles reverse, the parent grows to be more reliant on their children. But the child must never forget the honor and respect that is inherent in the relationship of child to parent. One may help a parent and if asked perhaps advise, but one does not instruct or correct parents. They are to be ‘loved’ unconditionally as they did with you when your life began.
Jesus said, ‘Love thy neighbor as thy self’. Gurdjieff said an obligatory striving was to assist others in their work toward self perfection. Our friends, associates, and neighbors are not our spouses, our children or our students. The form that ‘love’ takes is different for each relationship. How do we ‘love our neighbor? ‘Love’, in this context, is not instinctive, physical, nor emotional. It is more in the nature of how do we serve our neighbor.
We may wish to give advice, but advice is like salt if it is not asked for, it is not wanted. And in regard to our neighbor it has been observed that, ‘ 95% of our thoughts are none of our business.’
Swami Muktananda* used to begin each meeting with the greeting, ‘With respect and love I welcome you with all my heart. And one of the things that made him such a beloved teacher was that was the way he spoke and acted with whoever he met weather individually or when speaking to a group of hundreds of visitors.
It is a high bar, an example set by a teacher many considered to be a saint. But we are capable of serving our neighbor. We seek to be of use, to be men and women of substance and when we are not we feel unfulfilled because we know that among the qualities of our true self is generosity and strength.
The first quality we seek to manifest in the company of others is honesty.
This serves others and our self. For in order to experience unity there must be an alignment of thought, word and deed. And this alignment requires vigilance.
It begins by not allowing the mind to dwell on the failings of others. We remember the devil’s pitch fork – criticism, comparison, and judgment and when we note those thoughts we let them pass. This allows us to speak truthfully when it is of use to the listener and to not speak that which is untrue. These practices purify the mind and heart and simplify the life. If one does not lie he is relieved of the necessity of remembering what he said previously.
For speech to be useful it need only be remembered that,
SPEACH IS FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE LISTENER.
Listening is a valued commodity today. We pay therapists and consultants to listen to us and help us hear what we said. It has always been the function of the priest, doctor, and elder to listen. The ability to listen is growing weaker as well as rarer. In Shakespeare’s time people did not go to see a play they came to listen and the ‘audience’ ( from ‘audio” – to listen) were rewarded with examples of the finest phrases in the English language. The performers did not repeat their lines they ‘rehearsed’ them, ‘re heard’ them. They listened to the lines spoken until the words and meaning were heard at a profound level of understanding. The performers were then ready to present them to be heard by the ‘audience.’
To fall still and listen without judgment, to listen with one’s full attention, is to love, it is one of the highest forms of care we bestow on another. Perhaps we have had the experience of listening to a child while reading or being otherwise engaged. The child will not accept it, he will pull on your sleeve or make a fuss to attract your full attention. They do so because we all need this form of love as much as we need water.
One of the services we perform for our neighbor is forgiveness. In The Lord’s Prayer Jesus instructed us, ‘to forgive trespasses’. In the Orthodox Christian Church one cannot approach the altar to receive communion if one is holding a grudge or ill will toward any one. If one seeks union with the Lord one must first seek harmony with one’s neighbor. This is practical advice, marriage counselors often instruct couples not to retire in the evening angry. There can be no unity without forgiveness.
As a practical matter one needs to avoid making enemies. If one treats all with respect and compassion, and refrains from judgments, criticism and comparison one moves easily through the professional and personal relationships that fulfill our life. Circumstances may part us from the company of some but it is good business and common sense to leave on good terms. Circumstances change and a person one has little use for today one may meet later in different circumstances. And when that happens, you will be glad to have parted on good terms.
A divorce lawyer told me of a trial where the issues were difficult and the parties were angry and agitated. The attorney worked hard to resolve the issues and not be dragged down by the negativity. Several months later the opposing law firm called to offer him a job, which he accepted. He had succeeded in performing his job in this hostile environment filled with anger and hatred without creating enemies.
We are not speaking here of passivity or weakness,
We must learn to be simultaneously, the gentle dove, and the cunning fox. In the Vedanta philosophy the word ahimsa means harmlessness. As in the practice of medicine the doctor is taught the first principle is, ‘do no harm’. But we must have the strength and vigilance to protect ourselves from the inferior qualities of others. Kindness does not imply weakness, in fact it requires strength to be of use to others or yourself.
The ultimate service we provide another is to be aware of the example we set. People are far more influenced by our actions then our words. Looking back on my life there are memories of people I cared about following the example set by my ill advised behavior. I watched them suffer the consequences and found it disconcerting.
BE A GOOD EXAMPLE.
Jesus’ life embodied Conscious Love. The effect and power were such that it uplifted civilization for over 2000 years. He instructed us ‘To love one another as I have loved you. In those moments when we ‘Love thy neighbor as our self,’ the effect can not be underestimated. A conscious moment is a moment in eternity and the effects reach out through time and space beyond the power of our perception.
I knew a lady who taught first grade for over thirty years. She was a talented and devoted teacher who loved her children and was loved and respected. Near the end of her career she received a book in the mail with a heartfelt dedication from the author to his first grade teacher whom he considered one of the most important influences in his life. The teacher was moved for she had no idea her attention had made such an impression.