By His Divine Grace B.S. Tirtha Maharaj
Everyone has a quest, a search. Mostly it becomes an intense craving to be loved by someone, in fact, everyone. But one cannot identify the one who will satisfy this longing. In this search for love, we keep on relating with many people and acquiring many objects for our satisfaction with great hopes. But we are always disappointed and frustrated.
Baby – 1 to 5 years
Love showers soon after birth when we experience our mother’s unqualified love. From time immemorial, every society has glorified a mother’s love as pure and unconditional. During the first months and the first years, a mother is supposed to be ‘child conscious’ round the clock. Breast feeding, affectionate caring, and singing lullabies are some major expressions of the mother’s love at this stage. Instinctively, she knows what her baby wants and caters to all its needs at any time and all the time. But today’s figure-conscious, working mother is different. She avoids breast feeding of her baby which is the most essential for the infant because, at this stage, mother’s milk is considered the most nutritious, wholesome food.
Modern mothers deprive this nourishment to their babies. When the baby is a few months old, the working mother leaves her baby at a crèche without any guilt to go to work. At the crèche, the baby is looked after by paid attendants who are no substitute for the mother. These career-oriented mothers pick up their babies in the late evening on their way home. The whole day, the baby was deprived of the tender, motherly love. Back home, the work-stressed mothers have to attend to their household chores and so can hardly devote any meaningful time or attention to their babies and/or other children at home.
What’s more, the baby sleeps at night in a cradle/cot away from the mother. Such neglect for the infant by the mother leaves an adverse impact on the child’s psyche and severely depletes its emotional stability. A sense of insecurity gets rooted in such babies when they grow up. Sometimes, this neglect causes a permanent starvation for love, mental imbalance or even a depression. In fact, during this stage, a mother is supposed to plant the seed of God consciousness in the mind of the infant which is very essential for the gradual spiritual pursuit, the goal of human life.
Child – 5 to 12 Years
During these formative years, if a boy or a girl does not receive a loving exposure to spiritual practices and a simple understanding of religious rituals, then it is difficult, rather impossible, for any spiritual dimension to develop in later life. Traditionally, during these years, a child listens to devotional songs, learns to chant mantras, visits temples and takes part and enjoys festivals, carefully guided by the parents, especially the mother. They enjoy these religious festivals and rituals. Despite indulging in childish frivolities, the child becomes rooted in religion as a way of life. This is most essential later to grow up as an ethical and morally upright person. Today, the children hardly get any religious inputs from their parents who are over stressed because of their deep involvement in their profession or business.
The parents have little or no time for their children, do not shower love or care during these formative years. Their children are usually compensated with valuable presents and costly gifts regularly on birthdays and festivals. These gifts have become a mere formality, without true love. Avoiding parenthood responsibilities, these parents are constantly hankering after money and status. These overworked and tense parents deliberately encourage their small children to watch TV in their absence. Although the children begin by enjoying cartoon films; as they grow up, they gradually get addicted to watching horror, violent action and horror serials and films with plenty of bloody fighting and killing. Later, they start playing violent and negative video games. They get addicted to eating junk food as ‘couch potatoes’; gain weight as they have no chance to play outdoor games.
Where has the love, caring and concern of the parents evaporated today? Where are the father’s company and the mother’s love? How can these neglected children of busy professional or wealthy parents grow up into balanced and god loving persons? Teenager – 13 to 19 Years We develop various relationships – an ever obliging father, an indulging mother, protective brothers and loving sisters – not just in our current life, but in life after life. No doubt, we feel joy in their company; get a feeling of security and a sense of belonging during childhood. But during adolescence, this delight fades away. A kind of boredom sets in.
If children are lovingly groomed by their parents, they become keen about their studies, sports and happily take part in cultural and social activities during these years. When deprived of proper upbringing, without personal care and affection, and left alone to fend for themselves, these teenagers become addicted to smoking, alcohol and even drugs. The lack of close parental supervision and control, their unguarded natural attraction for the opposite sex starts causing a new unconventional problem – ‘teenage pregnancy’.
In the West, this has already become a most appalling and distressing social problem as teenage girls, as young as thirteen years, have given birth and stop their education and face the dire consequences. Chain smoking, excessive drinking, heavy drugging, reckless driving and mindless violence are undesirable symptoms of this age group due to lack of affection, care and alienation from their parents. All these issues erupted in rampant burning and looting during the four nightmarish nights in London and other English cities during August 2011. Britain is still trying to look for the causes of this mass rioting and looting.
After a great deal of public debate and discussion, the root causes were identified as a lack of moral values, irresponsible parenting, an apathetic education system and above all, lack of love, headlined as: ‘Sick Society’ and ‘Moral Collapse’. Where has real love gone? During the teenage years, the growing adults hanker after greater joy. They seek new avenues to satisfy their longing for friendship, and for relating with the opposite sex. Now they are happy and thrilled with their own group of friends. Very intimate talks, naughty jokes, teasing one another, yelling on the streets, bullying and calling names, fighting and making up again, dressing flamboyantly, visiting restaurants, careening in flashy cars, violating traffic laws, all night parties, all night drunken brawls at bars and discos, dare devil outdoor sports and frivolous indoor games … all these pastimes seem to give them tremendous pleasure, even a heavenly feeling.
Yet a strange feeling persists of missing something; as they are unable to understand a secret longing that does not seem to diminish. Time passes by. When ushered into youth, this feeling becomes more intense as teenage boys and girls grow up. Something is lacking. They don’t know why this urge does not go away. They go all out in search of it. Yet, it remains an enigma. Indefinable. Intangible. The more they try, the more it evades them. Why? What is it that they really want? In this baffling situation, they look in all directions, try all methods to locate that thing, that person, that ideal to quench their ever increasing thirst – a thirst that wants to see its culmination and an end. When a teenager with a rising urge for sex watches a movie, every romantic scene rivets attention. Their mind identifies with the hero or the heroine.
That singing, that dancing, that togetherness stimulates the deep rooted feeling of belonging to another. ‘This is it! This is what can pacify my hunger for satisfaction,’ they think. This drives him or her to frantically look out for a companion. They fancy this idea to subdue that persistent emotion. This is also the turning point of their lives of finishing high school and embarking on higher education or training. Choosing their career, getting admitted into a university or a technical institute and getting the financial support are all major challenges. They may also move away from their parents to live on their own. No wonder with all these pressures, the teenagers are so confused, stressed, tensed and restless.
Our life is really a quest, a search. But do we really know what we are searching for – money, status or love? Time and again, we declare that we are living for love. But which love? Love has many forms at different stages of our lives – affection from our parents, companionship from our friends, physical attraction of the opposite sex, a commitment from our life partner and, finally, a bonding with our children and grand-children. We keep on hankering for love without knowing what real love is. And it always escapes us.
Young Adult – 20 to 35
After education and careers challenges have been faced by the age of 25, marriage becomes important as they want to settle down. According to the Vedic system of arranged marriages, the right age is age 25 years for the men and 18 years for the women. This meant regulated enjoyment of the senses within this period of life called Grihastha Ashram or householder’s life. In the Vedic system, the first quarter of life is spent as brahmachari or student life. In the second quarter, one goes through married life.
The third phase constitutes Vanaprastha or retired life. The fourth or the final portion is devoted to Sannyasa or the order of renunciation to pursue the spiritual path. Such a scientific Vedic system of living ensured a disciplined, ethical and moral conduct during all phases of one’s existence. The married couples led a clean and responsible life, both the spouses serving each other with love and affection. The matches were made with the consent of family elders and on the advice of the clan’s spiritual master or a learned priest, keeping in mind the inherent nature, the lineage, the occupational group of both the bride and the bridegroom.
Their horoscopes were matched to determine their compatibility at the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual platforms for a happy union. The perfect match is pegged at 36 points but if they match for more than half, then it was considered auspicious. This horoscope matching is misunderstood and criticized by many so-called ‘modern’ people today but it has an important purpose and shows a deep understanding of human nature to preempt discord later. It ensures a sound foundation for the proper progeny and the stability of marriage.
Money or social status was never a criterion. Today, during or after higher education and even before starting a career, the young man or woman starts looking around for a life partner. What is an ideal match that everyone desires? A well educated, good looking, reasonably rich, socially popular and well mannered life partner. After some hunting for a suitable partner, a marriage takes place. Apparently, this is supposed to satisfy the inordinate thirst tormenting all these years. The result: a pleasant relief, a piquant situation, a calm mind. After some of years of married life, one thinks, ‘At last, I got what I wanted.’
This becomes a kind of relief, a desire fulfilled. If the youngsters get involved romantically merely on the basis of attraction for each others physical bodies and get married, their problems start early. Very soon after marriage, the physical attraction evaporates due to intolerance, lack of understanding and adjustment to one another’s viewpoints or temperament. This non-compatibility results in divorce. The futile attempts of modern couples to find real love with adultery usually lead to disasters. Do these give one the taste of true love? Many times, the stress of modern life with its unending demands for money and enjoyment, leads to conflicts among the husband and the wife. Even a casual expression of dissent over a trivial issue between the couple gradually develops into an irritating quarrel. A point comes when they cannot tolerate each other.
The result? Mudslinging and character assassination. A long drawn court case and, finally, a formal separation. A divorce. The relationship ends. Back to square number one. The feeling of finding love that had temporarily subsided raises its (ugly or pleasant?) head again. Another marriage could provide the love he/she wants. Once again, the same cycle starts with impatience, misunderstanding and the torture begins. It becomes overwhelming. Or, it can work well to unite the couple in showering their love at their newborn.
Adult – 36 to 55
Now the focus shifts to showering their children with love and bringing them up. The child born after the second marriage gives joy to the depressed mind. Perhaps, this is the love that means giving without expecting anything they were searching for all their lives. Both are deeply involved in providing the best possible facilities and opportunities in bringing up their children in their education, holidays, sports and hobbies to enable the children to excel in every sphere. In this duty, they may neglect the most important inputs – their time, their concern and most of all, their love.
The ups and downs of the struggle to survive in these years sometimes turn men and women to start moving towards God consciousness as they move towards middle age. This change can come around the age of 40 when they start to think about what they have really achieved and if it is of any real value. If a couple stays together bound by their mutual love and the love for their children, a subtle transformation sometimes happens in their concept of love. If they do not demand love but start giving love to one another and their family, they are moving unconsciously towards Godliness. Middle Aged and Seniors – 56 to 75+ The Vedic way of life requires that men must retire to forest by the time they reach fifty years of age, panchashordhwam vanam gacched.
This is called vanaprastha, the retired life, a preparatory stage for the next phase, namely sannyasa that begins approximately at 75. After fifty, they withdraw from so called society, friendship and material affection and busy themselves to cultivate the love of God, the real love. But depraved men today claim or rather boast that ‘Life begins at fifty’ while chasing new pleasures of their depleting senses. Due to their irresponsible living, these modern men and women have led during their youth by not bothering about bringing up children in the proper manner, their grown up children desert them to live in distant countries leaving them alone in their sunset years. Sad, depressed and neglected by their children and grand-children, and without any inclination for spiritual pursuits, these old men and women are abandoned by their own family.
Ultimately, when they cannot care for themselves, they end up in Old Age Care Homes to die alone and uncared for. In the Vedic system, the most important duty of the children is to care and love their parents and grand-parents to be blessed by them. But this is not the priority of the modern couples involved in running after money and prestige and looking after their children. Where has real love and respect for the elders gone? A few middle-aged couples are lucky to bask in the love of their children and grand-children. Now they have the time to cuddle them to sleep with them; feed them; enjoy their prattle; play with them; take them to school every day; rejoice at their pranks. They discover a new form of love of just giving.
In many cases, the growing grandchildren do not enjoy the company of their grandparents because they find them unable to cope with new gadgets and technology like computers. A huge generation gap has always existed but today it has been further worsened by modern technology that tempts the youth to spend most of their time. As the seniors grow older, they become gradually isolated by both their children and grandchildren. The old search, forgotten with the love for the children and grandchildren, resurfaces. Subdued for so long, the quest surges up with renewed vigor. The mind becomes restless, dissatisfied.
The result: discontentment, disappointment. The elders feel cheated, rejected, and unwanted. Again, the old ennui, the loneliness, the insecurity haunts them. The seniors ponder over the past events of their lives. Meandering through the nostalgic memory lanes is sometimes pleasant but detestable at other times. Recollections and reflections soothe no more, provide no solace. They experience the very old feeling of no real love in their lives resurfacing with greater intensity. Everyone responds to his or her interior stimuli. Each one acts according to the demands for survival. This is true. But then, the same question. What is it that I actually want? What have I been craving for – right from my childhood? That craving which has been the stimulus, the driving force that dominated my life so far, still appears to elude me. A strong emotion wells up in his heart. This emotion seeks an expression now almost driving him to tears. When will this perennial search end? When will that perpetual thirst meet its object? What am I really seeking?
The real experience of life that gives maturity helps in introspection. Dispassionate deliberation leads to a divine revelation. It dawns on him that the impelling force behind the constant search, the relentless attempts and the never-ending thirst to achieve was nothing but a quest for love. This is what has been lingering since childhood. This quest for love was the spark for various relationships he entered into. Each relationship let him down badly. Every human link ultimately ended in bitterness. All family bonds were disappointing. Friends became exploiters. Colleagues became competitors. Social interactions were hypocritical. He always wanted to love someone with all his being, give his entire self.
He wanted to taste sublime love from which he would never desire an exit. He expected in every relationship that the other should love him immensely. He wanted to float in the everlasting blissful experience, in love and love alone, nothing else. Why was my every love a disappointment? Why didn’t my blood relatives ever respond sincerely? Why even my mother’s love, often glorified as pure, had a tinge of partiality? Why was real love absent even in my married relationships? Why is it? Why is it? Why is it? He deliberated long.
After a thorough heart searching, every sensitive person will realize that these questions are deep rooted in his/her heart. In fact, these questions always existed at the back of the mind – during innocent childhood, the carefree teenage years, the passionate youth and the frustrating middle age. The non-stop involvement in various illusory activities to enjoy physical senses afforded no scope to raise this question. It requires one to wake up from the false attractions of material life to understand why this question remains unanswered? Generally, it is only when one becomes quite old, rejected, humiliated and alone that this question arises like a giant. We like to love others because we have a natural tendency to love.
But, in this phenomenal world, love gets misdirected. Hence, in the so called ‘loving relationships’ we are not satisfied and become dejected repeatedly. This despondency will continue in life after life until we direct our love towards God, in the divine form of the Supreme Lord Krishna. This is the inherent and therefore natural tendency of a living being as a spirit soul to love Krishna, the Supreme spirit soul. But this tendency becomes degraded and directed to the false and tempting aims and objects with our interaction and involvement with this world. In this material world, the love for God degenerates into lust; and service towards Him is transformed into sense gratification. It is just like the rain water which is pure as it pours down but becomes muddy immediately on contact with the earth.
Lust or Love?
Our major problem is we always think that lust is love. We often talk of love at first sight but it is actually lust at first sight. Lust arises from a physical attraction while love springs from a spiritual platform. Lust has a basic, animalistic motivation while love means dedication. While love is all consuming bliss, a magnificent obsession, its perverted version or lust, is intoxicating and is damaging. Love is satisfying and lust is depressing. Lust is selfish while love is selfless. Lust is seen when people relate for physical satisfaction. Love flowers in relationships for a spiritual understanding.
Our real existence is spiritual. We are a fragment of God, Lord Krishna, the Supreme spirit soul. Therefore, when our senses are engaged in the service of Lord Krishna, it is pure love and hence it is so satisfying. If our physical senses are directed for our personal enjoyment, it is lust and ends in extreme frustration. When we are living in Lord Krishna’s service, we are perfect and when we are living for ourselves and other physical relationships, we are imperfect.
Today, the whole world is engaged in satisfying the needs, comforts and luxuries for one’s family, community or country based on the physical conception of life. No wonder, lust and selfishness are paramount in all their transactions. Both a man and a woman marry each other for each others physical satisfaction. The physical charms and the pretense of love are considered as real love. Thus, even a slight shortcoming in their marital dealings that hurts their ego or does not satisfy their physical needs results in a quick divorce. So where is true love? Physical relationships only show different degrees of lust.
Since true love belongs to the spiritual realm, one cannot realize it through physical relations. True love emerges naturally in transcendental relationships. True love is only possible between a genuine devotee and God. One who does not love God cannot love anyone. Even when we indulge in physical pleasures, what we are looking for all our lives is true or divine love. Our search for true love can only end successfully by loving God. One who does not love God cannot really love anyone.