Self Realisation is the experience of love in its absolute nature. Realise thy Self. – Chinmaya
Whom do we love the most?
We love ourselves the most. This is an undeniable truth.
Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad says:
आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति | (Everything is dear for one’s own sake.)
But based on our understanding of who we are, love can be classified under two types.
If we mistake ourselves to be the BMI (body-mind-intellect), then the love we have for others is called relative/selfish/conditional love.
If we know ourselves to be the supreme Self, then the love that manifests in our heart is called absolute/selfless/unconditional love.
Relative love: It is nothing but selfish love. I get, therefore I love. No gain, no love. It is of the nature of ‘love because of’. For example, because the other person is rich/influential/beautiful/useful, there is love. This being the love among relatives in most cases, it is rightly termed as ‘relative’ love!
A family in Kerala was puzzled when the coffin of their dead mother (Ammachi) arrived from the US. It was sent by one of the daughters.
The dead body was very tightly squeezed inside the coffin, with no space left in it. When they opened the lid, they found a letter on top addressed to her brothers and sisters:
“Dear Kunjumon, George kutty, Alice and Kunjumol,
I am sending Ammachi’s body to you, since it was her wish that she should be cremated in the compound of our ancestral home in Kerala. Sorry, I could not come along as all of my paid leave is consumed.
You will find inside the coffin, under Ammachi’s body, cans of cheese, 10 packets of chocolates and 8 packets of badam. Please divide these among all of you. On Ammachi’s feet, you will find a new pair of Reebok shoes (size 10) for George Kutty. There are also 2 pairs of shoes for Anumol’s and Alice’s sons. Hope the sizes are correct. Ammachi is wearing 6 American T-Shirts. The large size is for Kunjumon. Just distribute the rest among yourselves. The two new Jeans that Ammachi is wearing are for the boys. The Swiss watch that Rima wanted is on Ammachi’s left wrist. Ammachi is wearing the necklace, earrings and ring that Shanta Grandma had asked for. Please take them off her. The 6 white cotton socks that Ammachi is wearing must be divided among my nephews. Please distribute all these fairly.
PS: If anything more is required let me know soon as Appachen (father) is also not feeling too well nowadays.”
In Bhaja Govindam, Shankaracharya talks about the nature of conditional love:
यावत् वित्तोपार्जनसक्त: तावन्निजपरिवारो रक्त: । पश्चात् जीवति जर्जरदेहे वार्तां कोऽपि न पृच्छति गेहे ||
(As long as one is an earning member of the family, he is loved and respected in the family. But when he becomes old, he is ignored by everyone.)
Absolute love: This is of the nature of ‘love in spite of’. While relative love is based on the ignorance of the Self, absolute love is based on the knowledge of the Self. After Self-realisation, one knows that all beings – birds, animals or human beings – are nothing but one’s own Self packed in different bodies.
Self–knowledge transforms self-love to Self-love, selfish love into selfless love. You love because there is none other than you.
In the ashram of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, animals and birds were treated as equal as humans and they were always addressed by their names. Sick animals were brought to Bhagavan and kept by him on his couch or on the floor beside him until they were well. Many animals had died in his arms.
Bhagavan used to say, “We do not know what souls may be tenanting these bodies and for finishing what part of their unfinished karma they seek our company.”
It was a regular ashram rule that at meal-time the ashram animals were fed first, then the beggars who came, and last the devotees. He never referred to an animal as ‘it’ but always as ‘he’ or ‘she’. “Have the lads been given their food?” – it would be the ashram dogs he was referring to. “Give Lakshmi her rice at once.” – it was the cow Lakshmi that he meant.
A devotee once asked him: “If we clear our dining leaves so scrupulously, the dogs, cats, monkeys, rats and the ants will starve.”
Bhagavan answered: “Well, if you are so compassionate, why not feed the animals before taking food yourself? Do you think they relish your scrapings?”
The ancestress of most of the ashram dogs was Kamala, who came to Skandashram as a puppy. The devotees tried to drive her away, fearing that she would litter the ashram with pups year after year, but she refused to go. A large canine family did indeed grow up, but they all had to be treated with equal consideration.
On the occasion of her first delivery, Kamala was given her bath, painted with turmeric, decked with vermilion on the forehead and given a clean place in the ashram where she remained for ten days with her pups. And on the tenth day, her purification was celebrated with regular feasting. She was an intelligent and serviceable dog. Bhagavan would often depute her to take a newcomer around the hill. “Kamala, take this stranger round”; and she would guide him to every image, tank and shrine around the hill.
There was a small pup in the ashram. He was always near Bhagavan and often used to sit on his couch also. One day, the pup urinated on Bhagavan’s couch. The attendants were very angry and were about to beat the pup. But compassionate Bhagavan came to the rescue and defended the pup, “The puppies should be treated like small children. Do you get angry if a small human child had done it?” As Bhagavan got up to clean the place, the attendants felt ashamed and they cleaned the place themselves.
A dog used to sleep next to Bhagavan, and there were two sparrows living at his side in the Hall. Even when people tried to drive them away they would come back. Once Bhagavan noticed that the dog had been chased away. He remarked: “Just because you are in the body of a human you think you are a human being, and because he is in the body of a dog you think him a dog. Why don’t you think of him as a mahatma, and treat him as a great person? Why do you treat him like a dog?”
The respect he showed to animals and birds was most striking. They were served food first like some respected visitors and if they happened to die in the ashram, they would be given a decent burial and a memorial stone.
The devotion which the ashram dogs had towards Bhagavan was remarkable. They would not accept any food unless Bhagavan himself had partaken of it.
A white dog named Jackie lived at the ashram for many years. He didn’t play much even as a puppy; instead, he sat at Bhagavan’s feet on an orange cloth that had been provided for him. He would sit for hours and stare at Bhagavan’s eyes. Whenever food was passed, Jackie would not eat it right away. Instead, he would watch Bhagavan’s face and would only eat after Bhagavan began to eat.
One day, a stray dog entered the ashram. Jackie began to bark. Bhagavan gently chided him by saying, “You just close your eyes. If you do this you will not be able to see the dog.” Jackie obeyed at once. Because he always behaved in such an exemplary fashion, he was always very well looked after.
During Jackie’s last days, he was very sick. Bhagavan arranged a soft bed for him and attended to his wants very affectionately. After a few days, he grew weaker, and was emitting a bad smell. It made no difference to Bhagavan’s attention to Jackie. Bhagavan used to take Jackie in his arms, and holding him to himself, caress Jackie lovingly. Jackie died peacefully in Bhagavan’s arms.
The Ishavasya Upanishad says:
यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मन्येवानुपश्यति । सर्वभूतेषु चात्मानं ततो न विजुगुप्सते ||
(The one who sees his own Self in all beings and all beings in the Self, he becomes incapable of hating any one.)
With Self knowledge, one gains the vision of oneness. This vision of oneness is the root of all virtues. When all become virtuous, there is peace and harmony in the world. A peaceful world is a heaven upon earth.
Hence, says the quote, realise thy Self – for one’s own liberation, and for the welfare of the world.
आत्मनस्तु मोक्षार्थं जगत् हिताय च |
O M T A T S A T