In this post we reach the end of the beginning with our journey into the Way of the Warrior-Saint.
This course, and these posts, have been an investigation into five foundational ‘inner ethics’ that form a code of ethics for the aspiring yogi. All can be found in the yoga sutras of Patanjali. These ways of being form the basis of the Yoga White end of class blessing, which is as follows:
- I am pure in thought, word deed (Śauca)
- I am patient, I dwell in the moment (Santoṣa)
- I am self-controlled; I act and do not react (Tapas)
- I am self-disciplined (Svādhyāya)
- I am devoted; I see Oneness in all that I am and all that I do. (Īśvarapraṇidhāna)
6. ‘And I love without condition’.
Unconditional love is a fairly easy concept to grasp: to love without expectation; without need of outcome; for the sake of love itself; to love all equally and with no terms and conditions attached.
But the reality? Phew!
When I begin thinking of ‘loving without condition‘ I hit a brick wall. Much like my exploration of self-discipline, self-enquiry into unconditional love seems to bring up in me a log of all the times I have failed to love fully. It stirs up ghosts of disastrous relationships, judgements made on others (daily), the billion times when I have acted out of base, selfish need alone, and when I have consistently not helped out my ‘neighbour’, as Christ might say.
It feels like a top-down catalogue of failure.
But…this week I spent some time creating a summary chart, on paper, as a class handout and that process revealed to me that I have been thinking about the nature of love in the wrong way. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it upside-down entirely.
The very essence of existence- the Isvara (God/ Unchanging reality/ Source) – is love. This is not some etheric cloud that descends on us from above, as if we were little children desperately trying to pluck fruit from a too-high branch. No! Love is actually the very Ground of Being in which we are planted. Let me explain…
The Ground of Being
It was the theologian Paul Tillich who referred to God as the ‘Ground of Being’. It is such a wonderful phrase. God is just a word that means Mystery, right? The Great Mystery is life itself. The fact that you are sitting here, fully conscious, reading this means you are ALIVE. How mystical is that? That aliveness is the most profound conundrum in the universe. How did life come about? And why?
The Buddha told us to stay away from metaphysical questions because there are things we simply cannot know, so don’t waste time on speculation. Very wise. But we can still wonder. And life is all about wonder.
Tillich’s brilliance is that his phrase ‘Ground of Being’ flips ‘God’ out of the sky on some cloud and pulls Him/ Her/ It down to ground level. God is not somewhere out there, nor above us. Look down! The Ground of Being is what we are made from, grown from, rooted in, being nourished by and being upheld by. The Ground of Being flowed in our mothers’ wombs, pumps through our hearts, animates us and sparkles through our eyes. The Ground of Being will return us, gently, to the earth when the time is right.
And the Ground of Being is the root of all consciousness: life gives us the gift of being awake. That gift can only be born out of one thing. Pure, raw, unconditional love. It is love that fuels all consciousness: it is a gift freely given. As the ancients say, the sun shines on all alike equally- good & misguided, male and female, rich and poor. That is unconditional love.
Living Love Unconditionally
With this new understanding- that Love is the very element in which we breathe and move- unconditional love does not look so daunting or unachievable. It’s not something we need to strive for, or earn. We are immersed in it. I simply need the eyes to see it.
As we work our way ‘down’ through the levels of the yogic ethics we begin to build a new level of awareness. We begin by purifying body, mind and thought. Why? So we can set the dials to zero (so to speak) and become more balanced, sattvic and neutral. In neutrality we begin to develop patience and an ability to dwell in the moment. When we can live more in the moment, we find a new dimension of ability- to be able to choose to act, and not react. And that takes practice, self-witnessing and self-discipline. As we master these ways of being we no longer feel so buffeted by life’s storms of emotion and commotion: in that stiller space we open into a dimension of devotion, where life begins to appear to have pattern, meaning, synchronicity and magic. Witnessing that fuels the devotion further. Devotion is simply a form of surrendering; of trusting that there is a rhythm and intelligence behind this Mystery.
And when we feel that in our lives- I mean really feel it- then we can offer our pain, our suffering and our misery back to the Ground of Being, to be dissolved, to be carried…and then the peace, the harmony and the deepest sense of Love floods in. Love floods into the vacuum where once we carried our rage, our hatred, our grudges, our pain, our stories, and all of that stuff.
And when Love floods in, we feel that we are moving, breathing, speaking and being in an element of sheer blissful Magic and Mystery. Something so profound touches us, and whispers through us, that everyone and every being becomes the face of God herself. And there is nothing left for us to do in that space but love…without condition.
Perhaps Sri Sri Ravi Shankar can say it best:
“Just by surrendering to the Lord, you can achieve the fully blossomed state of consciousness. Now what is the Lord? Where is He? It is easy to say surrender to God, but what is God? Where is God? Nobody has ever seen God. The comes the next question: What is Lordship? What is that which rules this world?
You find that it is love that rules the world. The core of the existence rules this universe. Like the sun is the centre of the solar system and it rules all the planets, the very core of your life is ruled by Love. Beyond your changing body, thoughts, feelings lies the very core of your existence which is very subtle, very delicate. That consciousness, the core of existence is responsible for this whole creation. There lies the Lordship.
A bird feeds its young out of love. A flower blossoms because of love. Ducks hatch eggs out of love. Cows take care of their calves out of love. Have you seen monkeys? How they care for their young ones! Love is in-built in creation. That is why the whole Creation functions. What you call as in-built is the core of consciousness. That’s why Jesus said “Love is God and God is Love”.”
So, go forth, Warrior-Saints! into the world where much light needs to be shed. Take on your own shadows and welcome them as teachers, an aspect of Guru (the Teacher in all things). Witness to yourself! Write yourself on paper. Laugh at your consistent fuck-ups! But then do something about them.
In summary? Clear out the crap in your heart- with compassion- so that the new comes in. Make space for the Great Mystery to enter in. Call it what you will. It’s just waiting for an invite. And It’s house-warming gift? Unconditional Love.
Blessings for the way ahead. x