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What is Love? Where is love? How does love work? Does true love exist?

What is Love?

Love is an emotional feeling of attraction, closeness, intimacy, strong liking, and source of enjoyment to be together with someone or something.

Love can take different forms with different things and beings. Examples:

“I love coffee”; “I love my new dress” : “I love my native place” – these are to do with things.

“I love Ilayaraja songs; I love watching thriller movies”  – these are to do with abstract things.

“I love my dog”; “I love my cat”  — these are to do with living beings other than humans.

“I love my friend”; “I love the comedian Vadivelu” – these are to do with third persons

“I love my cousin brother; I love my brother in law” – These are to do with distant relatives.

“I love my mother/ sister/ son/ daughter/brother/ grandfather” – these are to do with blood relatives.

“I love that girl; I love that boy” – these are to do with a specific person of opposite sex with a marital or sexual intent in mind.

“I love my husband/ wife” – these are to do with existing intimate relations

“I love Lord Shiva; I love Lord Krishna” – this is bhakti – devotion to God.

It is quite obvious that the intensity of love, the reverberation of the joyful feeling that love generates is not same in the various categories of love that we saw above.

The love a boy develops on his girlfriend is not of the same frequency or intensity as the love the boy has on his sister. The love one has on his father is not same as the love one has on the pet dog. Strange it may seem, but the present day truth is that many people are able to love their pet dogs better than their fathers!

When it comes to love, all of us are both givers as well as receivers.  All of us, with varying degrees of intensity, are capable of giving love and receiving love. No one can constantly be giving love without getting back any love in return. No one can keep on receiving love without giving something back. Think of it: If pet dogs don’t reciprocate any love, no one will ever keep them at home!

What is the source of Love?

Where from does love spring? Why at all does a person express love to another? Why does a wife love her husband? Why do parents love their children?

According to Sanatana Dharma, God is the in-dweller in all beings. God permeates the entire creation. Even though each of us seem to have different personalities, our Self – Atman is one. It is like different beads of a necklace strung together in a single thread. It is like a single sun reflecting in hundred pots of water. Atman is that thread; Atman is the sun. Atman is Sat-chit-ananda – Existence-knowledge-bliss. It is the bliss of the atman that gets expressed in the form of love.

In the Hindu scripture Brihadarayanka Upanishad, The saint Yagnyavalkya says

 ‘A wife loves her husband not for his sake, but for the sake of her own Self.

‘A husband loves his wife not for her sake, but for the sake of his own Self.

‘You love the sons not for the son’s sake, but for the sake of your own self

‘You love wealth not for the the sake of the wealth, but for the sake of your own self

‘You love the cattles not for their sake, but for the sake of your own self……

Is love really pure?

It is really an uneasy question to answer.  At the highest ideal level, it is true, but at practical level it is not always so.

Behind every expression of love, there will always be some dose of selfishness lurking. Perhaps only in one human relationship – the relationship between a mother and her little child, the love may be closest to purity. It is so because, there is a divine dispensation behind it. This mother’s love on her little kid seems to be pre-programmed by the Higher Power for the continuation of progeny in the earth; it is the reality in animal kingdom too. Mother animals carry their intense love on their little ones through instinct. To a large extent, such an instinctive feeling of love exists in human mothers too which transcends any scientific analysis.

But, in the present times, it is a fact that even this motherly natural love is also is also getting a beating. Now a days, children are born out of mere sexual union without the sanctity or commitment of marriage; Children are born out of live-in relationships; Children are born out of deteriorating husband-wife relationships ending up in divorces; children are born out of serial monogamy (i.e. a woman bearing children of different males out of different wedlock done one divorce after another). As a consequence, the natural love that a mother has on her children has definitely deteriorated.

Even when there is a pure love existing between the mother and her young child, the purity gradually deteriorates as the child grows up to a man/ woman.  Parents start expecting several things from their children – obedience, respect, help in family chores, monetary help, heeding to their advice regarding finding a partner for marriage, the monetary expectations (in receiving or in avoiding to spend) behind conducting son’s/ daughter’s marriage, obedience, respect from daughter-in-law, the need to take care of them at their old age, the need to conduct the rituals post their death – the list goes on this is how the once-pure parental love gradually changes colors towards a personal, selfish agenda.

Selfishness and love

Mostly, the selfish motive behind love gets smartly camouflaged. The giver of love may hide and underplay the selfish motive. The receiver of love too, out of love towards the giver, may overlook the play of selfishness behind the giver out of gratitude. Example: A father wants to construct a house and he wants his son to apply loans and assist him financially.  He says to the son: “To possess my own house is my dream; unfortunately, I could not do it because I had to ensure getting your sister married off and to educate you decently. I have done my duty. But with my present financial status, I cannot buy my dream house with my savings alone. I want you to help”. The son, out of gratitude to his father, willingly gets into a debt trap so as to help his father realize his dream. Interestingly, the son too may hold a hidden selfish motive –‘In future, this property or a portion of it will anyway come to me’.

In the above case, the father’s selfish interest is obvious, but is hidden behind sentiments.  The father does not think ‘I would not like to put my son into a debt trap at this young age just because of my selfish motive to fulfil my dream”.

Likewise, if we analyze threadbare keeping sentiments aside, we can locate some selfish motive (small or big) lurking behind every act or expression of love in most of our relationships.

That’s why, Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) says: “We love others because they give us happiness or fulfil our desires; obeying, respecting, or having high opinion about us. Otherwise, we do not love them. When somebody hates us, revenge often takes the place of love. This is the case with even with those closest to you. If you disobey or disrespect them, you may not love them. Where there is real love, there is no selfishness.  We must be able to love without expecting anything from anyone”

Ego and love

“Whom do you love the most?”

If you pose this question to people, most of them will tell the name or a relation that they believe to love dearest. But it is a wrong answer. The unshakable truth of our existence in this world is that all of us love ourselves dearest first and then only any other person or thing.

This self-love as such is natural and fundamentally it is not wrong. It is natural because we are all self (Atman) in essence, but we have forgotten it.

When someone says ‘I love myself’, he does not refer to his atman which is the source of pure unadulterated love; what he means is he loves his own personality – his ego. All of us have different degrees of egoism in us, some very strong, some moderate, some subtle, but nevertheless the ego is very much there.  This ego wants us to be selfish, self-centered, receive appreciation and pampering, garner importance, ensure one-upmanship and so on.

Another face of ego is sensitivity. Some people may look meek, non-assertive, soft-spoken and so on, but they may be extremely sensitive to criticism, censure, sarcastic comments and so on. They will behave like touch-me-not if they are hurt even a little. Sensitivity is nothing but subtle, but strong, hidden ego.

Love and Hate

Ordinary love is just like one side of a coin. The other side of the coin is hate. When the coin is flipped and ‘love side’ goes under, the other side – hate gets exposed.

The greatest truth about love is that it will flourish well as long as ego or sensitivity is not hurt. The moment the ego is hurt, the coin flips! The other side – hate becomes visible. When our selfish interest is not met, love reverses. When we fail to receive appreciation, pampering etc or when our self-importance or one-upmanship is denied, the love reverses.

The swing from love to hate may be slow and graduated in some people and very fast in some people. Normally, women, being essentially very emotional, swing from love to hate very quickly without any intermediate stops.  It is also observed that a woman can hate a person as intensely as her erstwhile love.

Reversing the hate back to love is also possible when the hurt ego is pampered. A genuine apology, a corrective action of mistake done can pave the way for the reversal.

Amma Mata Amritanandamayi says “The difficulty is not in expressing love, but in letting go of the ego. Love is our true nature. It is already present within us, but we are held back by our individual boundaries. We have to outgrow our individuality (ego) in order to merge into universal love. The ego stands in the way of love. Once removed, it flows like a river.”

Time is also a great healer. This can be seen particularly in blood relationships. Any hurt caused in the past leading to a crack in love gets healed over time and people come back to revive relationships. That’s why it is said that the blood is thicker than water.

Love and possessiveness

Ahankaram (Ego) and mamakaram (possessiveness) are like twins.  Our love is mostly available for consumption within our own limited circle — covered within the boundary ‘mine’ (possessiveness).  If true love transcending limited boundaries can be called (with upper case L) “Love”, the ordinary love we see within limits is just ‘love’ with a lower case ‘l’.

Amma says: “There is ‘love’ and “Love”. You love your family: Your father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife etc., but you do not love your neighbor. You love your son or daughter but you do not love all children. You love your religion, but do not love all religions. Likewise, you love your country, but do not love all countries. Hence this is not “Love”. It is only ‘love’. Transformation of this ‘love’ to “Love” is the goal of spirituality.”

Love in Man-woman relationship – Love-Romance-Lust

The very sustenance of life in earth depends on the factor of love between man and woman. May be as a consequence, this love is the most basic, emotion laden, complicated, joyful, painful and stressful. It has the widest scope of expression — from the meanest to the divine.  

In Sanatana dharma, considerable priority and importance has been given to the man-woman relationship, clearly specifying the scope, purpose, boundaries and dharma associated with it. Man and woman leading a life of mutual love and togetherness in proper wedlock, with the aim of spiritual advancement together, begetting worthy and responsible children for continuation of progeny and contributing to the welfare of the society – that is the core purpose married life and such an ideal life is a dharma by itself – Grihasthasrama dharma – The righteous way of living a family life. Sexual energy, instead of getting uncontrollably dissipated in lustful, unbridled way of living, is channelized and streamlined. Proper control of passions, self-discipline and restraint with the twin goals of spiritual progress and social welfare – that is the hallmark of Grihastasrama dharma of Hinduism.

Triangular Theory of Love

Even from the point of view of modern Psychology, the love between man and woman is still set within the conventional scope of good marital life and bonding.

One of the most popular and widely acclaimed theory on love in man-woman relationship is Triangular Theory of Love, conceived and elaborated by Dr. Robert Sternberg (born December 8, 1949), American psychologist and a Professor of Human Development at Cornell University.

His theory is depicted in the form of a triangle in which the three faces are Romantic love, companionate love and Fatuous love. Its 3 corners are passion, intimacy and commitment. A love is consummated in full satisfaction only when all the 3 ingredients – passion, intimacy and commitment are present.  See picture below:

 

When a man/woman gets attracted to the other with passion only (without intimacy and commitment), it is just infatuation.

If in a man-woman relationship there is intimacy but no passion (sexual attraction) or commitment (for marriage or long term togetherness), it is just liking or friendship.

If there is only commitment in relationship without passion or intimacy, it is empty love. Such a thing is possible in arranged marriages, but intimacy and passion may develop subsequently.

Only when lines exist connecting these corners, the triangle of love is complete.

A romantic love (as one side of the triangle) exists when passion and intimacy are present.  In a romantic love, commitment is yet to come. For the romance to end in marriage, commitment is essential.

A companionate love (as the second side of the triangle) exists when intimacy and commitment are present.  In this love, romance is yet to come. Only when romance gets added to this relationship, there is color and spice in the married life.

In fatuous love (as the third side of the triangle) passion and commitment are present. Loving at first sight and getting married quickly fits into this form of love. Here there is no romance or a prolonged courtship. If romance is also added, then the love-life is wholesomely consummated.

Ideally when all the three faces of the triangle are present, it is a successfully consummated marriage.

Love equations that end in disappointment

  • Lust: When the attraction to the person of opposite sex is purely physical with the overt or covert intention of having just a sexual relationship for enjoyment, it is lust. It is fired by passion. If at all romanticism is added, it is more as a ploy to woo the opposite sex. Commitment to a long time relationship will be very elusive.

    If the motive of one of the partners is just to satiate the lust whereas the other partner mistakes it for genuine love hoping it to end in a marriage, then the relationship heads towards an ugly end as and when the moment of realization of truth dawns.
  • Romance: When the attraction to the person of opposite sex is based on passion (where lust is not too obvious or blatant but very much exists hidden) and one finds joy in the company of the other person even without a sexual relationship. Both attraction and intimacy are strongly present in a romantic relationship.

    In a romantic relationship, both the partners will behave their best to keep the mutual attraction and the joy of company alive and vibrant. It also means any dark, unpleasant or ugly side of their personalities or behaviors  will be very skillfully hidden. Even if such things get revealed now and then, the other partner may not notice it and register it but opt to ignore it or sideline it as long as the romanticism is burning.

    When romanticism is all alluring, at least one of the partners may tend to delay the commitment. It is because people have an inherent inkling in them that most of the charm of the romantic love will fade away once the relationship gets committed to a marital bond!

    In romantic love too, when the commitment part of the love becomes elusive, then the relationship starts drifting towards disappointment.

What is true love and where is true love in man-woman relationship?

Since love or attraction (be it infatuation, lust or romance)  between man and woman is extremely emotional and has the undercurrent of sexual intent behind it, human mind creates all sorts pretences to generate an image that the love indeed it “true love”. The coining of the phrase ‘true love’ itself is an indication about the common existence of ‘untrue love’!

Swayed by emotions and sentiments, if we are developing mere attachment to someone, it is not love.  Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) says: “ ‘Am I really in love or am I too attached?’ Contemplate on this question as deeply as you can. Most people are craving for attachment, not real love. In a way, we are betraying ourselves. We mistake attachment for love. Love is the centre and attachment is the periphery. Aim for the centre”.

Suggested additional reading: Reading and discussions on an additional document provided herewith  (see at the bottom: What is true love, where is true love?) may be helpful for youngsters to grasp very practically how our minds caught by emotions can hoodwink us into justifying our own failings in understanding what is love.

Lack of Love

The source of all love is divine. Amma says “Love is the foundation of life, but consciously or unconsciously we forget this truth. When we do not express love in our words and actions, it is like honey trapped in a rock — it is of no use to anyone. When families are able to express love with each other, peace and harmony will prevail in the home and society”.

Every being receives its essential doze of love right from birth from the mother first.  In a family where cordial love exists amidst its members, the child, as it grows, gets love from father, siblings, grandparents and other relatives.  The home is the birth place of love and the fertile soil of love for growth.

Conversely, when a child born in an atmosphere where love is lacking, and is brought up in a home where exchange of love is in short supply, the child grows with lots of psychological issues. Many of the emotional problems in the adulthood where this longing of love or absence of love gets expressed in myriad ways in man-woman relationship can be traced back to lack of love in childhood. That’s why Amma says: “Only those who have received love can give love. Hearts of such people who have never received love will always be closed.  They will neither be able to receive love or give love. It is very important for parents to give love to the young”.

That’s why Grihasthashrama (Family life) is a dharma in Hinduism

A child born and brought up with proper love and care in a family is a wealth for the future generation.  In Hinduism, continuation of progeny and having children of worthy qualities for the welfare of future generations was considered as an essential dharma of worldly life.  

If this dharma has to sustain, there are several things that need sustenance in the social fabric:

  1. Respect, belief and  commitment to the institution of marriage
  2. A marital relationship is not just for releasing animal passions
  3. A marital relationship is a lifelong commitment.  Man and woman have to essentially agree and live to a committed life of togetherness for life based on mutual love, trust, respect and companionship.
  4. There is nothing like live-in relationships. Divorce is an anathema.
  5. Women were expected to be housewifes predominantly because child rearing was considered as the prime responsibility, more than any financial or other considerations
  6. In order to ensure the purity of mother’s love, a woman getting remarried after an untimely death of husband was highly discouraged by the society.

Despite the onslaught of western culture in India, we are still able to see quite a lot of family bond amidst Indians. Divorces and remarriages are not still fully accepted in in Hindu culture.

Loving God – Bhakti

All said and done on love, the obvious ground reality is that love between human beings gets tainted in some way or other by egoism and selfishness. When a man longs for pure love — a love where the giver of love simply gives without any expectation in return — he understands that only the creator can give such a love.  The creator has given us sunlight to see, the air to breathe, the earth to live, the trees and plants to give us food, rain for our drinking water and so on. Man feels he is indebted to the creator for giving us everything without any expectations. This indebtedness makes him love the giver. He is also sure that God being omnipresent and omnipotent can give him all that he needs by sincerely praying to Him.

Such a trust and faith becomes the basis of love on God which is called devotion — Bhakti. Love on God at the initial levels may be based on expectations from God. We want money, wealth, comforts, position and power in life and believe we will be happy if we get all these in good measure. We pray to God lovingly for blessing us with all these. We face difficulties, suffering and worries in life. We want God to remove them all. We lovingly pray to him for support.

As our love and relationship with God gets deeper, our understanding about God also get refined.  Based on our experiences, we grasp that God in any case is always taking care of us irrespective of our praying him or otherwise. We also gradually understand that God is not freely giving us whatever we pray and ask for; sometimes he gives; sometimes he does not give; sometimes he gives something that we do not want. But over time, we analyse, experience  and understand that whatever he has given or not given have all been for our good only. We grasp that we are limited in our own understanding of what is good for us or what is bad for us, whereas God knows only what is good for us and he arranges everything accordingly — by giving or by denying.

The more we grasp this fact, then our ‘love with agenda’ on God comes to an end. We don’t find the need to pray to him. Our love on him too starts reflecting his love on us — unconditional. We start loving God for love sake. Such a deep love on God is called “Prema Bhakti”. A devotee gripped by prema bhakti forgets everything; he has no care for his own body, its needs or comforts. He wants love of God for love sake. He wants to become love. He wants to merge in God. He melts in God and becomes ultimately God himself.

This the the story of evolution of the unadulterated pure love of the divine.  We have several examples of such great personalities who demonstrated the path of pure Bhakti to attain Godhood. We have had great saints and Avatars  like Bhakta Meera, Sri Gouranga, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ma Anandamayi, Papa Ramdas and Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) in this great land of Bharat.

Amma says: “There are three expressions of love that awaken us from within: love for oneself; love for god and love for the entire creation. Love for oneself does not mean the self-centered love of the ego. it means to love life, to see both the successes and failures in our human birth as God’s blessing, while loving the divine power inherent within us. This grows to become love for God. If these two components are present, then the love for the entire creation will manifest naturally.”

Sharing Pure Love

it is no wonder that Avatara Purushas and Mahatmas carry this divine love with them for unconditional distribution to others. Their source of love is unlimited because it is divine.

It is this pure, divine love that attracts people who are emotionally suffering in their loveless lives, to mahatma’s like Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi).  Why a dark skinned, rustic woman from a remote and unknown fishermen’s hamlet in the faraway state of Kerala in India is so much sought after by white skinned, educated elite of the west?

Because they have lost love in their lives. A vast majority of them  have been born and brought up in an atmosphere where lust is essentially mistaken for love; brazen selfishness with very poor faith in the sanctity of marriage is the norm of life;  The mindset for give and take or for any sacrifice for the sake of the other person has been missing among the majority. Life in the west gradually has turned to become filled with ‘beggers of love expecting other beggars of love to feed them with love’.  When they encounter a person like Amma where every nerve of her is bent upon giving, giving and more giving, caring, sharing and absorbing others’ woes and worries, they get floored! Their long and unsatiated thirst for love atlast finds a spring of love rising and flowing for everyone to come and take.

And this love elevates the receiver from evolving from the clutches of selfishness. From a beggar of love the seeker evolves to a lover of God.

-=0O0=-

Amma’s stories on Devotion, Faith, Effort, Surrender and Divine Grace – Part 1 (15 stories)

1.  God comes at the call of the guileless

[Amma: “Children, guileless prayer and incessantly calling Him are sure ways to make God happy. You don’t have to be an educated and wise man. Even an unlettered forest can receive God’s grace”]

Once, a disciple of Adi Shankaracharya was very devoted to Lord Vishnu’s fourth Avatar, Narasimha. Desiring to receive the vision of his personal God, he went to a forest and started deep meditation contemplating on Lord Narasimha’s form. For days at a stretch he would sit on a rcock adjacent to his hut inside the forest and did meditation.

One day a forest dweller came by. The meditating sadhu did not notice him. The forest dweller somehow got attracted towards the sadhu. He started wondering: ‘Why is this person sitting all day like this with his legs locked like this? Why is he suffering like this?”

As the sadhu was meditating with closed eyes, the forest dweller thought that he was sleeping. As he was very eager to speak to him, he came there several times in a day and also on several days; he would wait for several hours there hoping that the sadhu would open his eyes and notice him.

Finally, one day, while he was waiting there patiently, the sadhu opened his eyes and saw the forest dweller standing reverentially in front of him. The forest dweller fell at the feet of the sadhu and asked very humbly, “Master, why are you always sleeping sitting cross legged like this? Why don’t you lie down and sleep more comfortably?”

The sadhu replied, “I am not sleeping; I am meditating on my personal God”.

The guileless forest dweller asked, “Master, what is meditation? What is personal God?”

The sadhu said, “You cannot understand all these. Take it that I am calling God and doing prayers in order to see Him”.

The forest dweller was surprised again. “How can you call someone sitting here? Why don’t you go out and search for Him?”

The seeker did not reply. He smiled, closed his eyes and resumed his meditation.

Days passed. The forest dweller could not restrain his curiosity. He badly wanted to know whom the person was searching and what the details were to find him out. He again spoke to the sadhu one day, “Master, May I know who the person you are searching is? May I help you to find him out?”

The sadhu was happy to see the sincerity and earnestness of the forest dweller. He knew he could not convincingly explain and make him understand about meditation and having a vision of God Narasimha. He simply said, “Look; I am not searching for a man. I am looking for a strange animal called Narasimha that has lion’s head and human body; it is extremely powerful”.

Months passed. The forest dweller and the sadhu became friends. The forest dweller was increasingly getting disturbed to see his master doing meditation most of the time sacrificing food and sleep. He wondered, “What sort of creature is that Narasimha? My master troubles himself so much to see him but that lion with man’s body does not bother! My master, poor fellow, is going leaner by the day on account of not eating properly. I must do something to help my master. I must teach a lesson to that Narasimha who does not come to respond to my master’s prayers”.

He sought permission from the Sadhu so that he can go around the forest in search of Narasimha. The sadhu felt amused. He thought, ‘Cranky fellow! He thinks my God is hiding somewhere in the forest!’ Thinking that there is no point in explaining about these things to the illiterate forest dweller, he thought ‘He is not going to find out Narasimha in any case; let he go and make a search as he wishes; it is not easy to make him see reason’. Thinking so, he gave permission.

The forest dweller started searching for Narasimha. He went into every nook and corner of the forest. He peeped into the caves; searched through dense bushes; climbed hills. He shouted aloud, “Where are you O lion with human body? Come to me! Come to me!”. Somehow he was madly gripped by an overpowering desire to search and locate the elusive Narasimha; he too forgot eating food and drinking while doing the search like a mad man. He too lost weight and became like a skeleton.

His frequent loud cries , “Oh my Master’s Narasimha, come to me; where are you?” reverberated through the entire forest. They created powerful spiritual waves. Even the nature came to a standstill hearing his cries.

Soon his cries ceased; his physical search ceased. His heart was full of single thought – of seeing Narasimha. He sat in one place, totally immersed in silence. A powerful wave of divine yearning emanated from him like fire and travelled up to Vaikuntam (The abode of lord Vishnu) and heated up the Lord’s place. Lord Vishnu could not but yield to his silent the deeply powerful prayer.

He took the form of Narasimha and appeared before the forest dweller. The man was overwhelmed with joy to see Lord Narasimha standing right in front of him calmly. He tied a creeper around the neck of the lion like a rope and dragged Narasimha to the place where the Sadhu was meditating. The lion-man calmly came with him  like a cow!

“Master! Open your eyes! See whom I have brought with me! I have caught Narasimha and brought him for you!” He shouted in front of the sadhu who was meditating at the rock. The Sadhu opened his eyes. He could not believe what he saw! Holding the creeper rope in one hand, the forest dweller was feeding it with a bunch of grass!

“Come down master, don’t be afraid! This line is not ferocious at all! It is very soft and friendly!”

The sadhu came running down from the rock and fell at the feet of Lord Narasimha and the forest dweller. He cried seeking pardon. He was very confused. How could his lord appear so easily and come so freely with the forest dweller? Lord Narasimha spoke, “My son! Get up and cheer up. Whomsoever calls me with total love and dedication, who longs for me in and out – only he is the most dear to me. Where there is true love, there won’t be a trace of ego. Where there is guileless love, I will easily make my abode there”

The lord placed his hand on the head of the forest dweller and granted him moksha instantly. He blessed the sadhu saying, “You too will attain realization in this birth itself”. The seeker was freed of his pride and he became very humble.

2.  Childlike faith

[Amma:  One requires a child-like faith in the word of one’s guru. It is such a faith that can bring grace.]

Once a particular province in a country was suffering from draught. A couple of monsoons failed and people were suffering without rainfall. The several villagers decided to conduct a Yagnya to pray to Rain God.  People enthusiastically came forward to contribute the necessary materials, invite knowledgeable priests to conduct the yagnya and so on. On the day of the yagnya people from several villages gathered in thousands to witness the yagnya.

As a couple with their little daughter started from their home to go to the place of yagnya, the little girl said, “Father, let us take the umbrella”.  The father said, “Why do you want to carry an umbrella? Don’t you know that we have not received rains for many months now?”

“But father, we are conducting prayers today for getting the rains! Sure it will rain!” said the daughter. The father reluctantly allowed the girl to carry an umbrella and they reached the venue. Virtually the little girl was the only person who had brought an umbrella.

The yagnya was conducted as per prescribed rituals.  At the end of it, the Rain God sent forth clouds to bring rains to the venue. Even though it was not destined to rain there imminently, the God brought showers there, moved by the utter faith of one little girl who brought the umbrella amidst all others who had gathered there without such a conviction.

(Amma Tuesday Satsang – 12/9/17)

3.  Manasa Pushpam

Once a very proud and arrogant rich man wanted to make a grand food offering to God. Engaging very talented cooks, he prepared a grand feast consisting of varieties of tasty sweets and savories, curries and multiple other food items. He brought varieties of flowers and fruits too as offerings. Lining them up in front of the altar, the rich man prayed “My dear God, I am offering you whatever best I could prepare and get;  I seek your blessings. If you need anything more from me, please don’t feel shy to ask; Ask me and I will get them for you”.

He heard a heavenly voice: “Dear son, if you could offer me Manasa Pushpam, I will be satisfied. Nothing more is needed.”

“God, please tell me where I can get it and I will immediately arrange to fetch it for you” said the rich man.

The voice said “It is quite close by”

The man went out and asked his neighbors “Have you ever seen Manasa Pushpam? I understand it is somewhere nearby only. Can you help?”

Everyone said they have no idea. The man went around asking every one. He sent his messengers around to inquire in all the localities in the town. But he could not get any information.

Feeling lost, defeated and exhausted, the man came back to his house. Kneeling in front of the altar, he said “My lord, I accept my defeat. I feel humbled. I surrender to you. I have nothing more to offer except my heart”

The heavenly voice said :”That is precisely is the Manasa Pushpam I wanted”

[Amma:  God needs nothing except purity of heart from us.]

4.  The hidden help

[Amma:  “At times, our problems in life may look unsurmountable and we may feel depressed and helpless. But if you have a firm faith that God is with us and his grace will be with us to overcome our problems, we will get the needed boost in our mental energy to come out of our woes”.]

Once a man was driving his car  through a narrow pathway, the car got struck in a pool of slush and could not move out.  The man looked around for help.  He saw a farmer coming there in a cart, pulled by a horse. He sought help from the farmer to pull his car out of the slush and the farmer agreed. He brought his horse name Sunny along with a rope. He connected the rope to the car’s bumper and tied the other end to o his horse. He goaded the horse to pull the car out, shouting “Come on Sunny, pull, pull; pull hard; you can do it!” The horse tried to pull the car but as the load was too much for it, it stopped pulling and did not react to the shouting of the farmer any further.

However much the farmer goaded the horse, it did not make any further efforts. The farmer thought for a while as to what to do. Suddenly he thought of an idea. He moved away from the spot for a brief while, came back and then shouted, “Now, come on Bunny, you can do it; Pull, pull…!”

Now the the horse Sunny started pulling with enthusiasm and the car came out of the pit!

The owner of the car was very surprised. He asked the farmer, “How come when you shouted Sunny he did not pull after trying for some time, but when you said “Bunny, pull pull” your horse pulled it? I don’t understand this. Can you explain?”

The farmer said, ” My horse name is Sunny only. He is blind. Initially, he pulled the car,  but having found the load too much for him, he did not put enough effort subsequently.Then I thought of this idea. When I shouted “Bunny, pull pull”, he thought that I have brought another horse by name Bunny to assist. Since he is blind, he did not know there is no other horse. He thought that he can put effort again, since there is one more horse assisting him and his load will be shared! This time, he managed pull the car out!”

5.    Escape from the floods

Once a mendicant was crossing a river late in the evening. Due to heavy raining at catchment area, the river suddenly started flooding. Water level increased and also the flow was very forceful and turbulent. Though the mendicant knew swimming, he could not really manage to swim across the river. He was getting forcefully dragged by the fast currents and he was struggling to keep himself afloat.

Soon it became pitch dark. Somehow he could manage to catch hold of a log of wood. He felt the wood log must have got stuck somewhere and it was not moving. He gripped the log tightly as water was flowing neck deep underneath. He was fervently praying to God to save him.

Gradually, as the time passed, his hands became very painful and numb. It became increasingly difficult for him to keep holding the log of wood. By that time, the water flow too somewhat reduced and the water level came to his waist. But he could not hold on any further. He made his fervent prayer: “My lord; I have tried my best to hold on. I cannot do any more. Let your will be done. It is up to you to keep me alive or dead. I surrender to your will” So saying, he released his hands from gripping the wooden log.

 

As he sunk into the water by about a foot length or so, his legs touched the river bed and his head was still above the water level! Then it stuck to him that what he was holding all along was the branch of a tree which has grown bent towards the river from the adjacent river bank! He was hardly a few feet away from the river bank all along and he could not know it because of utter darkness!

Amma: “that this is how grace comes when all our efforts come to an end and a sense of total surrender comes.”

6.  The hidden treasure

[Amma: Everyone of us have the potential to know our true self inside us. The self is all powerful, but we are not aware of it. In order to remind us of our true powerful self, the help of the sadguru is needed.]

Once a stranger told a beggar, “Hey! Why are you going around begging like this? Listen; you are neigther a beggar nor a mendicant; in fact you are indeed a millionaire!”

The beggar did not believe him. He ignored what the stranger said and walked away. But the stranger would not leave him in peace. He kept coming behind the beggar and kept on saying, “Believe me; I am your well wisher. I really want to help you. I know this secret.You are the owner of a huge treasure and it is within your easy reach!”

The beggar now got intrigued. “Is that so? Where is that treasure?” he asked.

The stranger said, “Go and dig inside your hut” and went away.

The beggar rushed to his hut, took a crow bar and started digging at the floor of his hut. Soon he hit a huge pot buried inside the ground. when he managed to clear the soil and opened the pot, it was full of gold coins, ornaments and precious jewelry. The joy of the beggar knew know bounds. He thanked the stranger profoundly from his heart.

[Amma: In this parable, the stranger is the sadguru. He gives necessary spiritual instructions to the disciple (the beggar) and encourage him to dig deeper within himself to get the hidden treasure of his true Atman.]

7.  The 3 orphaned boys

Once there lived 3 boys who were orphaned at much young age. Since no other relatives came forward to take care of them, they had to somehow fend for themselves. They roamed around and some times begging for food and sometimes doing odd jobs to earn money for their livelihood. They grew up to become youths this way.

One day, they were sitting under a tree near a road. A rich man who was travelling by car passed by and duddenly his car got into trouble and stopped near the tree. The rich man came out of the car and looked around helpless as to what to do further. The tree young men came forward help. They had learned a little of car mechanic skills in one of their earlier jobs in a garage. Hence they could do something and managed to get the car started.

The rich man felt very happy with the youngsters and inquired about them. He wanted to help them and took them along in his car.

He gave some clerical jobs to them in his factory and provided them with food and simple accommodation too.

The three started working happily in the factory.

The eldest brother was very sincere and hard working. At the end of the month, he said to the rich man, “I am extremely thankful to you for giving me a livelihood. You are already giving me food and shelter. What more do I need? I don’t really need a salary. I will continue to work here”

The second brother too was good at his work, but at the end of the month, he  would go to his manager and wanted his salary to be paid promptly.

The third brother was not so good at  his work. He started finding ways to embezzle the company’s money through wrong means and enjoyed his life. Within a few months, the frauds committed by him came to light and the rich man immediately depromoted him and made him a peon.

The second brother was rewarded with a promotion after a few months.

Years passed this way. One day the rich man died.  He had no family. In his will, he had mentioned that the entire factory and al his properties should be given to the eldest brother.

[Amma: Every karma has its fruits connected with it. Even if one works without expecting any fruits, the efforts of good actions will definitely accrue to the doer of good.]

(Amma’s Tuesday satsang 20/9/16)

8.  The right mindset

Once there lived a saint who had attained self realization. He was a good orator and his speech had the power to awaken spiritual wisdom in others. His high spiritual knowledge and stature became widely known and people sought after him to visit places and give satsangs.

People in an adjacent village wanted to listen to his spiritual discourse. Their representatives went to meet the saint and cordially invited him to visit their village and address the people there. The saint agreed.

On the day of his visit, hundreds of people had assembled in a maidhan and they reverentially welcomed the saint. The saint took his seat in the platform and he was garlanded. He rose to speak. He posed this question to the gathering: “Do you know the subject matter that I am going to talk to you?”

“Yes, we know Swamy!” shouted several people enthusiastically.

Looking at the crowd silently for a while, he said smilingly, “So, there is no need for me to talk to you because you know the subject already!” He got down from the dais and left the village!

The villagers got very disappointed. They went back to his ashram after a couple of days and begged him to come again to the village and deliver his talk.

He agreed and visited the village on the appointed date once again. This time too he posed the same question to them. The villages replied in quorus “We don’t know anything about what you are going to speak, Swamiji!”

He stood there silently for a while. Smiling mischievously, he said, “What is the point in talking to people who do not even know even a little of what they are going to learn?” So saying he got down and returned to his Ashram!

The villagers got very confused. What should be the correct approach to make the saint speak? They discussed amidst themselves and arrived at a strategy: When the saint poses the question next time, some of them should say yes and some should say no.

Again they went to invite the saint to lecture at their village and again he agreed.

This time, when he posed the same question, the responded as per their plan —  half of the people got up and said yes and the other half said no. But the saint was smarter! He said, “Good. Those who know can teach those who don’t know”. So saying he left the place once again.

The disappointed villages discussed and argued among themselves once again as to what should be the right strategy to deal with the saint. One old man got up and said, “Whatever strategy we scheme and follow only fails.I feel it is better to be silent when he asks the question next time”. All agreed.

Finally, the saint was brought back next time with lots of cajoling. When he rose up and asked “Do you know what  subject I am going to speak?” there was a dead silence.

The Saint smiled with satisfaction and he started speaking gems of wisdom to the people and the villagers felt extremely blessed and benefited by his talk.

[Amma: When people said “Yes, we know” during his first visit, it was a sign of egoism. When the intellect is full with so many knowledge, nothing new can enter. It is like a glass already filled with water. If you try to add anything, it will only overflow. It will not hold anything new.

When people said “We don’t know” during the second visit, it is a sign of a negative and closed mind set. To receive spiritual teaching, the mind should be open. This is like keeping glass upside down; you cannot pour anything into it.

The third answer of mixed yes and no is a sign of a confused and unsteady mind. It is like a glass already half full with dirty water. If you pour any fresh water to it, it will get mixed with dirty water and will not be usable.

The last response, silence is the right response. When the mind is open and free without any preconceived ideas, it can easily and freely grasp what is taught. It is like keeping an empty glass open to receive fully whatever that is being poured.]

(Arul Mozhigal – p. 77)

9.   The Farmer’s devotion

Sage Narada once felt proud that he was a great devotee of Lord Narayana as he was constantly chanting the lord’s name. One day, Lord Narayana called Narada and said to him: “There is a farmer in earth who is far more devoted to me than you”.

Narada could not believe it. He came down to earth to personally verify the matter in person. He observed the farmer for a couple of days and noticed that the farmer was chanting the Lord’s name only thrice a day. Narada wondered how this farmer could ever be a better devotee than him?

He went back to Vaikuntha and asked Lord Narayana about his doubt.

God gave him a bowl of oil filled to the brim and said, “Narada, you have to keep this bowl on your head and cicum ambulate that Hill once. Mind you, you should not spill even a drop of oil”.

Narada took up the challenge. He took one full round of the hill extremely carefully without spilling even a drop of oil and came back to the lord, beaming.  The lord asked, “Now tell me Narada, how many times did you chant my name when you walked around the hill?”

Narada thought about it and realized that he did not chant the lord’s name even once, because his entire concentration was in walking carefully without spilling the oil.

Lord Narayana said, “Now do you understand? That farmer has to toil in his field for the whole day; he has to take care of his family and find means to feed them daily. Amidst such a busy engagement, he still manages to chant my name thrice in a day! Is he not a better devotee than you?”

(Source: Arul Mozhigal-1 Tamil)

10.   God’s test

[Amma: “God will come in the form in which we think of Him. God will also come in different forms in order to test a devotee’s depth of devotion and renunciation”]

Once there was a devotee who did a severe penance to realize God. One day, a stranger came to his house and said, ‘It seems you are a great renunciate. If so, let me see your depth of renunciation. Give your wife to me”.

Without any hesitation, the devotee gave his wife to the stranger. The wife started crying but the stranger took her along and walked out of the house. As he was leaving the compound, some friends of the devotee saw the stranger taking the sobbing wife of the devotee along and going away. They mistook the stranger to be a miscreant who was forcibly taking the woman along. They came rushing, caught hold of him and started beating him severely.

Hearing the uproar, the devotee came out of the house and saw the stranger getting beaten black and blue.  It looked the stranger was about to breath his last. He was shocked. With unbearable pain in his heart, the devotee said, “What is this? What have you done to this poor man? I willingly gave my wife to him”. He knelt down and prayed: “Dear lord, please forgive my friends; please save this man; he should not die; please take away my life and give the life to him instead”.

As soon as he uttered these prayers, the stranger disappeared and God Himself stood in front of the devotee and blessed him. It was God indeed who came in the guise of the stranger to test the devotee.

[Amma: “God was testing whether the devotee had any selfishness. The lord did not appear when he gave up his wife willingly; but only when he showed his willingness and mental attitude of sacrifice to even give his life to save the life of stranger, God appeared before Him”]

(Source: Awaken Children – Vol 2)

11.  The king’s test

Once, in a kingdom, the aged minister of the King passed away.  He was a man of wisdom and righteousness. The king wanted to select a new minister for the post and he invited aspiring persons to meet him. He told them that he would conduct  a test for them and if they pass it successfully, he would make them the minister.

The aspirants were taken to a small pond nearby. Each of them were given a pot with holes at the bottom. The test was that they should empty the whole pond with that pot.  After hearing the condition, many of the aspirants dropped away saying that such a test was foolish and did not behove with the knowledge and wisdom they possessed.

Some of them took up the challenge and as they filled water in the pot from the pond and took the pond a few yards away to drain into a nearby canal, considerable water leaked through the pot and it became a task of indeterminable time scale to finish off. Practically all except one person dropped off from the test.

One middle aged person was alone kept doing the job of taking the water from the pond and draining them pot by pot into the nearby stream. He judiciously used his hand to cover some of the holes in the pot so that wastage was reduced to the extent possible. He kept doing the work tirelessly day in and day out for the next couple of days.  Finally, after tirelessly working like this, he virtually emptied the pond. Only a few pots of slush was left out at the bottom of the pond. As he cleared the slush too, he found a large cloth bundle at the bottom. He untied the bundle and found plenty of golden ornaments, gold coins and precious stones inside.

He bundled them up and went to meet the king. He said, “My lord; I have completed the task of emptying the pond and I found this treasure too inside; kindly take it to your safe custody”.

The king was extremely pleased. He immediately appointed the man as his minister and presented the entire bundle of the treasure him.

[Amma: Shraddha (attentiveness) , Kshama (patience) and Utsagam (enthusiasm) are the three ingredients for one to reap success in all the endeavors.”]

(Amma’s birthday satsang 2016)

12.   Even a little is worthy

Once a person wanted to visit a very holy place. It was a very popular religious center and thousands of people thronged that place every day and visit the holy temple there.

With such a huge crowd gathering there every day, the place naturally turned to be a tourist spot too. There were lots of shops selling varieties of food, eatables and snacks, flowers fruits and other sundry items for worship, utensils, silks and garments, fancy items, gift items, electronic gadgets and so on. There were also music shows, discos and film theatres.

The visitor arrived at the holy place and started going all around.  Everywhere he saw people all around, eating rich food, shopping, engaging in fun and frolic at various places of entertainment and so on.  The visitor kept talking, loudly criticizing all these: “What is so holy about this place? You people are only roaming around and enjoying yourself in all sorts of worldly pleasures! Where is spirituality here? Where is holiness?”

At that point of time, he heard a heavenly voice: “All these people are engaged in these activities after visiting the holy shrine here and doing their worship and prayers; but you have not done even that and you are criticizing all the others”

Amma:  Even a small amount of spiritual practices done has its benefits and they carry the value across births. The benefit is never lost.

(Tuesday Satsang 30/8/2016)

13.   Your effort is needed

Once there was a choultry in a village, where travellers, poor and the needy will be served with free food once a day.  The food serving would stop exactly at 12 noon and the doors would be shut. However, for the convenience of any traveller arriving late, there was a bell hung near the entrance. If the visitor rings the bell, someone would come out and give them food.

One day, an orphan boy, who used to eat his daily noon meal regularly at the choultry arrived late. The doors were already shut. He was a short boy. The bell was hanging at a higher level beyond the reach of the boy. The boy jumped and jumped but he could not touch the bell.

He searched here and there and located a short wooden stick; he tried to hit the bell with the stick but it was still a little short in length. The boy was disappointed but still he did not give up; he kept jumping again and again with the stick in hand, attempting his best to hit the bell.

A passerby happened to watch the repeated efforts of the boy to hit the bell. He took pity on him. He was a tall person and he came to the doors and rang the bell with his hand.

The authorities came out, noticed the boy and then served him a pack of food.

[Amma: “God’s grace would come to the person who makes sincere efforts.”]

(Tuesday Satsang 20/12/2016)

14.  Lord Shiva’s test

[Amma: “One must develop totally guileless faith in God. It means a faith without even a trace of doubt. Our heart is the centre of faith while our intellect is full of doubts and questions. Any superficial knowledge without deeper faith in scriptures is dangerous. A child-like faith is needed. Where there is love, there your will get guileless trust.”]

Once Devi Parvati had a doubt. Though it is widely known that taking a bath in the river Ganga absolves one from all the sins committed, she knew that it does not happen like that always. She asked Lord Shiva why.

Lord Shiva said, “People take bath in Ganga ceremoniously, without deep faith  in the power of Ganga in cleansing them off all their sins. That’s why”.

Parvati could not believe it. Lord Shiva said, “Okay; Let us go to the earth and I will show you the truth of my statement”.

Lord Shiva and Parvati took the guise of an old man and his wife. They went to the bank of river Ganga. Lord Shiva gave instruction to Parvati on what she should do and he dropped himself into  deep pit containing clay and slush.

As instructed by Shiva, Parvati beat herself on her chest and cried aloud begging at the passersby to save her husband. She said to the people returning from Ganga after their bath. “Please, please save my husband. Due to a major sin committed by him, he has been cursed to fall into the pit. Unless he is extracted from it before sunset,  he would die as per the curse. O beg you, please save my husband…”

Moved by the pitiable weeping of the old lady, many people came forward to pull the old man off the pit. Parvati, as if she remembered something that she forgot earlier, said. “Wait, wait! As per the curse, the person who attempts to save my husband must be totally free from any sin; else, the person who pulls my husband will also fall into the pit and die; his head will break into thousand pieces”.

Hearing this, those who came forward retracted their steps quickly and excused themselves from the place. No one was willing to take any risk.

After a while, a young man came there. Parvati explained her predicament to him. He said, “I have no problem; I can help you; I am coming here straight after taking bath in Ganga and hence I am free of any sin.”

He jumped into the pit and brought the old man out.

(From Tamil Arul Mozhigal-4)

15.  God’s Will be done

Once there lived a poor farmer in a village who was an earnest devotee of God. He lived there in a hut with his wife and a son. He owned a horse that would help him in his farming activities.

One day, his horse was missing. The farmer desperately searched for his horse everywhere, but he could not locate it. The other villagers came to know of his loss and visited him to inquire about it. They said, “How unfortunate you are to lose such a nice horse”.

The farmer said, “Who can ever say for sure whether it is unfortunate or fortunate? Only God knows. I only know that God is embodiment of compassion”.

After a few weeks, the farmer went into a nearby forest to fetch firewood. He saw his horse grazing there along with a female horse! He tied both of them and brought them home.

Villagers, seeing this now said,  “How fortunate you are to get back your horse and a mate for it too!”

The farmer said, “Who can ever say for sure whether it is fortunate or unfortunate? Only God knows. I only know that God is embodiment of compassion”.

After a few weeks, the farmer’s son wanted to ride the female horse. When he tried to mount on it, the horse threw him off to the ground. The son broke his leg.

Again the villagers came to his house and lamented saying that it was really unfortunate that the farmer’s only son had to have a fracture and be bed ridden.

The farmer again said, “Who can ever say for sure whether it is unfortunate or fortunate? Only God knows. I only know that God is embodiment of compassion”.

A couple of days after it happened, king’s army men came to the village. As the country was at the verge of facing a war, they were recruiting able bodied youngsters for serving in the military mandatorily. Since the farmer’s son was lying with a broken leg, he escaped from military recruitment.

When villagers again came to him and said that he was fortunate to have his son saved from joining the military, the farmer repeated his usual statement!

(Vijayadasami Satsang from Europe 19/10/18)