LOVE FOR GOD
STAGE 1: ASPIRE
Love all ways to live in the heart of God. God’s heart loves all, friend and foe.
Voice of Shafeen
Once, a poor farmer came to a saint with a request: “O saint, I wish to know God. I wish to experience him. But I know nothing of God. I know nothing of Truth. They tell me I should meditate on God. I have tried and failed for I don’t know what God looks like. Please tell me, what should I do?” The saint asked him,
“What do you love the most in your life?” The farmer answered, “My pet goat.” The saint replied, “Go home and meditate on your goat.”
The man went home, prepared a place for his meditation, closed his eyes, and began to think about his goat – its eyes, its horns, and its tail. Every day that he meditated on his goat, he became happier and happier. One day, in his meditation, he saw light, within and without. That day, he had finally known and experienced God, in and through none other, than his pet goat.
What is love? If we analyze our experience of love for another being in our life, we may come to define love as “paying attention to the good in another.” We hear this in the way partners describe what they love about one another: “I love the way she smiles” or “I love the way he sweeps me off my feet.” We also hear this in the way parents and children describe each other: “I love how joyful my daughter is as she sings and plays throughout the house” or “I love that my mom and dad are always there for me.” Since the source of good in all beings is the spirit of God, to truly love another is to see that spirit in that person or life form. This is what the farmer sees in the story above when he meditates on his goat. It’s through this seeing, through this love, that the farmer realizes God.
In this journey of “Love for God,” we strive to become like the farmer, to love and pay attention to God within all of life. At the surface, this seems like a simple concept, but it’s a very difficult undertaking. We live in a world today in which we are taught from a very young age to see the fault in others; instead of paying attention to what’s good, we pay attention to what’s bad in others. As many spiritual masters have taught, whatever we pay attention to, we manifest in our lives. As we observe and point out the hate, ignorance, selfishness, and arrogance in others, we become more hateful, ignorant, selfish and arrogant ourselves. In order to see the good in others, we need to ground ourselves into that aspect of our life, which is pure light, pure joy, pure hope, and pure love. That foundation in this journey is GOD, best defined as the Ground Of Devotion.
LOVE FOR GOD
STAGE 2: PREPARE
Focus your attention on a person or thing you love in your life. The feeling that arises is from God.
Voice of Man
… A neighbor once found Mullah Nasruddin on his hands and knees on the street searching for something.
“What are you searching for Mullah?” asked the neighbor. “My key. I have lost it,”
Nasruddin replied. The neighbor joined the Mullah and they both kept searching. After a while the neighbor asked, “Where did you lose it?” Nasruddin replied, “At home.” The neighbor was agitated, “For God’s sake, why are you searching for it here then?” Nasurddin answered, “Because there’s more light here.”
Dear God, it was as if I was sinking in a pit of quicksand and this story gently pulled me out. I realized that I too had been looking for the key in the wrong place. It was not my belief in God that I had lost; it was my belief in love. When my parents got divorced, I stopped believing in love, for how could two people that loved each other hurt each other so much? When I stopped believing in love, I stopped believing in everything and everyone I loved. I stopped believing in you, the one I loved the most. Love is something we can’t fully explain; it’s something we can only experience. From childhood, I had experienced my parents’ love for each other. But, when it turned into arguments and fights, when it turned into hate, I stopped believing that such a thing was real. I started believing that all these years, my parents had imagined that they loved each other. Respectively, I started believing that all these years, I had imagined that I loved you. Just like their love didn’t exist anymore, my love didn’t exist anymore. So, you didn’t exist anymore.
Dear God, I realized that I didn’t need to prove that you existed. I only needed to love again. I needed to love someone or something with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul. As I did, I would find you again. As a child, I had this love for all of life, all the time, so I saw you everywhere. As an adult, when I lost this, I lost you, and I lost myself. I inherited those feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and separation from myself, from all of life.
Dear God, I decided to call my parents. I asked them to meet me at a coffee shop. As they sat in front of me, awkwardly looking at each other as if they were two strangers, I told them what was in my heart. “Mom and Dad, I only brought the two of you together to say one thing. Even if you don’t love each other anymore, I still love the both of you. I want you to know that.” As I said this, I got up and gave them both a tight embrace, one arm around each of them. Suddenly, love exploded in my heart. Tears flowed through my eyes as if a high pressure pipe had been unclogged. I felt myself dissolve as an inner softness overtook me. I felt my mom and dad also dissolve. They, too, had been holding on to pain, to separation, to a feeling of being empty and lost. In that moment, all of us found love. Finding love, we all found ourselves, we all found God.
LOVE FOR GOD
STAGE 3: ARRIVE
Imagine a time before your birth when you existed as the spirit of God. Connect with the feeling of infinite, unconditional love you felt that moment for everyone and everything.
Voice of God
Mullah Nasruddin was once speaking of God to a crowd. One of the hecklers cried: “O Mullah, instead of spinning up spiritual theories, why don’t you show us something practical?” Nasruddin humbly asked: “What kind of practical thing would you have me show you?” The heckler confidently spoke: “For example, show us an apple from the garden of paradise.” Nasruddin immediately picked up an apple and handed it to the heckler. “But this apple is bad on one side. Surely, a heavenly apple would be perfect,” the heckler noticed.
“A celestial apple would, indeed, be perfect,” the Mullah said, “but given your present faculties, this is as near to a heavenly apple you’ll ever get.”
I am as you see me. This is why there’s so much diversity in the way people see me. Every seer has his or her own perception of me. I am like water. I mold to whatever container you contain me in, you see me in. I am not contained by your definitions; your definitions are contained by me. This is why there are so many today that struggle to find me. They are trying to find me in the same way as their ancestors did. Your ancestors were using their own containers. You have to use your own. Every human being has been given his own eyes. Why do you strive to see me with the eyes of someone else when you have been given sight yourself?
When you see me, you see yourself. I have created each of you unique, each of you my son or daughter in his or her own way. Even identical twins, though they may look alike, are very different from one another. Each of you is also unique. In your uniqueness, you express my uniqueness. In your diversity, you reflect my diversity. This is not just true for human beings. This is true for all of life. Each tree is different, unique. Each leaf is different, unique. Each bird, each bee, each ant, each grain of sand, even each raindrop has its own uniqueness, its own life, its own being. Life is meant to be a unique experience for every living being. When you try to deny your uniqueness, you try to deny me.
But, you have reached a time in history when life is built on categories. Whenever you encounter anything new, you strive first to name it and label it so that it belongs within all that you already know in life. You then give it a definition and an application so that you can agree or disagree on its understanding and utility in uniformity. I don’t fit into this framework. Life, in which I am embodied, doesn’t fit into this framework. Try not to analyze; instead, try to realize. See the mystic as he looks at a tree, a cloud, a ray of sunshine. See the child as he looks at a wave, a breeze, a drop of rain. See the mystery in their eyes as if they are seeing it each time for the first time. See the joy in their hearts as they live that moment that experience. I am inviting you back to this joy: to your personal unique experience of life, to your personal unique experience of me. I am inviting you back to your light, your infinite eternal light, your infinite eternal nature as love.
LOVE FOR GOD
STAGE 4: EXPERIENCE
Experience feeling from the heart of God for all of life. God has no enemies; all is a reflection of himself.
Voice of Muhammad Rasulullah
(Muhammad Messenger of God)
I was getting ready to attend to my daily affairs. As I left my house, a very unusual site greeted me. The path that I took when leaving my house was clean. I expected it to be littered with trash, something that had been a daily occurrence. I said to myself: “Perhaps the neighbor woman has something else much worse planned for me today.” I had suffered many abuses at the hands of the people of Mecca. They had thrown stones, animal entrails, blood, thorns, trash, sand, and branches at me. I had been pushed into holes, often filled with thorns and trash. Many times I had been physically hurt. But, it was not the physical ridicule and abuse that bothered me. It was that these were my people, my own family members, my uncles, my cousins, my near and dear, who were subjecting me to such hatred.
None of this stopped me from my mission. I had been given a message from my Lord, which was my duty to deliver and, above all, exemplify. It was a message of generosity and kindness, of love and mercy, especially for those who were the most marginalized of life: the poor, the orphan, the slave, and the hungry. It was a message of equality, giving honor and privilege to both man and woman so that both would be respected and celebrated at birth instead of one being preferred over the other. It was a message of peace and unity, of bringing all tribes and peoples under the protection and love of one God, of one reality, of one community. It was a message of responsibility, of each of us doing our part to make the lives of our fellow brothers and sisters better, especially if we had been given the means to do so. Of course, the Meccans didn’t like this message. A thriving economy was built on all the vices that my message strived to correct. The Meccans didn’t want to lose this economy, their status, their power, and their riches. Consequently, they did everything they could to deter me from my work.
As I continued to walk on the path under the house of my neighbor, I kept an eye towards the sky in case some debris would come raining down on me
from her window. To my surprise, nothing of this sort occurred. This is when a thought struck me. Perhaps something was wrong with the woman. Immediately, my heart filled with concern for her. I closed my eyes and prayed: “Dear God, please attend to that woman as you attend to me and my family in every way.”
LOVE FOR GOD
STAGE 5: RELIVE
O God, make me a channel of your love to all whom I hold precious as well as I despise in my life. All life begins and ends in your love.
Voice of Shafeen
It was the evening of February 20, 2012. We were in one of the post-delivery rooms at the Siratt Women’s Center in Bedford, Texas. My wife was finally getting some sleep after thirty-six hours. The baby was sleeping next to her in the small hospital carrier. I was a father. I didn’t really know what to feel. It had been an intense couple of days. My wife and I had arrived at the hospital. My wife had endured hours and hours of labor. There had been a few episodes where the baby had trouble breathing and the staff had rushed in to change my wife’s position. As the child had finally arrived, the miracle of it all stood larger than anything we had ever experienced before. A parade of family members had paid visits. There were lots of felicitations, lots of food, pictures, stories, and it was finally time for mommy, baby, and daddy to sleep. But the baby had some other plans.
Suddenly, waking up from the middle of her sleep, she started crying. I lifted her out of her carrier and rocked her gently but that didn’t work. She wanted her mommy and wanted to be fed. It was the first sleep that my wife had gotten after going into labor. I wanted to let her sleep but had no idea what to do with the crying baby. I looked around as if a nurse, perhaps an angel, someone, anyone would rush in to help me. But no help arrived. We didn’t even have pacifiers. I felt helpless.
Suddenly, the Lord whispered in my heart, “Give the baby your pinkie.”
I put my pinkie in her mouth and she started sucking on it. It was a beautiful moment. All through labor, my wife had done all the work to get this baby out. Even when it was out, the baby, having spent nine months in the mother’s womb, desired her mother’s warmth. She also wanted to be fed and only mommy could do that. I had felt left out wondering what role I served. Finally, I had found my role, the role of a dad, the role of a father. I said to the baby in my heart:
I’ll always be there for you whenever you need me. I’ll protect you from all harm. I’ll watch over you every step of the way, always nearby just in case you need me. You’ll always be loved, completely, unconditionally. You’ll always know that you are loved: through all the hugs and kisses, through all the laughing and playing, through all the stories and running, through all the talks and listening. I’ll always be there to listen to you, to hear what you have to say. You’ll know that what you say is important, even if it’s pointing something out, like a bird or a bug, for the twentieth time. When you fall, I’ll be there to pick you up, to let you know that it will feel better soon. When you soar, I’ll be there to encourage you, to let you know that it’s your destiny to shine. I’ll say to you: “Shine your eternal light so bright that it illuminates the entire world!”
Suddenly, I was struck with an intense feeling that my life in that moment was a mirror. My relationship with my daughter that instant was a reflection of the relationship of the Spiritual Father with me. The love I felt for my daughter that moment was a reflection of the love that the Spiritual Father felt for me. I had witnessed the Spiritual Father express his love in my life. He had nurtured me, strengthened me, protected me, listened to me, guided me, smiled with me, laughed with me, encouraged me, enlightened me, in summary LOVED me. Now, I was reflecting that love towards my daughter.
LOVE FOR GOD
STAGE 6: CONVERSE
My child, in my love, all is loved, all is complete. The mirror reflects completely the one looking.
Voices of Man and God
Man: O God, there are people in our lives who we love more than others: our spouses, our children, our parents. Sometimes we even love them more than you, at least from a worldly perspective. We sometimes only pray to you because we desire the good of those we love. So, even our love for you seems conditional on the love we have for those family members or others. Is this wrong for us to do? Is there a better way for us to love?
God: Not at all, my child. Any form of sincere, deep love is good love. But I do want to separate love from attachment. Love is good and so it makes you feel good. When you hurt because a loved one doesn’t love you back, what you feel in that moment is not love. I want to clarify this because many people have justified killing themselves or others in the name of love. This is not the way that I have taught.
Love is completely free, free within, and free without. Love is completely unconditional, it doesn’t require any recompense,
and it doesn’t require any response. Love is completely free of judgment, it doesn’t love only and unless one acts or speaks a certain way.
I can hear you saying that this means that most people don’t truly love others because almost all people are filled with judgment for others. This is true. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t glimpses of unconditional love within the conditioned love. Each couple, each parent and child, each group of friends, has those beautiful unconditional moments in their relationship. In fact sometimes years of relationships between two people or groups of people are sustained by such a moment or experience. They so value that moment or experience between each other that they “put up with” the rest of the judgment or nagging or whatever you want to call it.
Such is the power of unconditional love that one human has for another. Can you imagine if instead of being a moment, instead of an individual spending thirty seconds of their day in a state of unconditional love, they spent hours? What kind of transformation would they bring into their own life and the lives of others? Such a love is divine love. Such a love can only exist and originate from me. And when you love from that place, when you pray for others from that place, you have to have first gone through me. In that love, you are always with me. It’s always right.
Even if it’s conditioned love, it’s an attempt, a preparation for divine love and so I love that love because my love, is unconditional. It can’t be wrong in my eyes. For it to be wrong, I have to judge it and for me to judge your way of loving would make me conditional in my love towards you.
LOVE FOR GOD
STAGE 7: REALIZE
I now fly the kite of my life with clear love for God. I go wherever his love takes me and his love grows wherever I go.
Voice of Reader
As I return back to my day to day life, I reflect on the following questions to apply lessons from this journey:
- What new insights did I receive through this journey about life and about God?
- What changes will I make in my daily life as a result of these new insights?
- How will these changes help me live a more fulfilled and meaningful life?
Adapted from Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, Kindle My Heart: A Collection Of Talks by Gurumayi Chidvilasananda (South Fallsburg, NY: SYDA Foundation, 1989), 71.
Adapted from Anthony De Mello, “Searching In The Wrong Place,” in The Song of the Bird, 2nd ed. (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1982), 32.
Adapted from Anthony De Mello, “The Perfect Apple,” in The Song of the Bird, 2nd ed. (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1982), 202-203.
See Tanvir Kazmi, “The Garbage Thrower,” ireport.cnn.com, accessed November 12, 2015, http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1204985, and Reza Aslan, No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (London, UK: Arrow Books, 2006), 39-49, to read more about the mistreatment of Muhammad by his community.