When asked what they want out of life, many people, spiritual and secular, answer: to love and be loved. It sounds so simple. Yet the desire to experience love often leads people down roads marked with confusion, longing, and heartache. If Love is all there is, why is our quest for it often so rocky?
On the opening page of The Everything and The Nothing, Meher Baba explains that Love must love and to love there must be a Lover and a Beloved. But since God is Infinite, He must imagine Himself as the Beloved in order to express the eternal Love that He is. Meher Baba goes on to explain that the experience of a Lover and a Beloved implies separation, which causes longing and search. And that is when longing is most intense that the experience of separateness is complete and the purpose of creating a Lover and a Beloved–that Love can experience itself–is fulfilled. It is with the surrender that follows that union is achieved. The longing to love and be loved, then, is the very spark that created this complicated universe we find ourselves in. And the longing so many of us feel in the core of our beings can be traced back to missing a feeling of unity with God.
Even for those of us who accept that our inner longing is none other than the pain of experiencing separateness from God, most of us yearn for love with one another–the opportunity to love and be loved in our concrete, daily lives.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the human stories of lover and beloved that we create and how He pulls the strings of our daily lives to urge us deeper into the story of what loving is all about. One thing I’ve noticed is that different relationships in my life have allowed me to experience different aspects of the lover/beloved dynamic–the longing of a love that cannot land, the stillness of being offered a love I cannot receive, and many things in between. Rather than dwell on the imperfections of these connections, I started to grow curious about how different glimpses of the lover/beloved dynamic were revealed by each new attempt at loving. And I have wondered how these stories prepare us to enter more deeply into the relationship of lover and beloved with God. Reading Meher Baba’s discourse on Marriage, I also started to crave the unique opportunity of sustained love and commitment to one other person, no matter what.
This summer I returned to Meherabad, the place where I have learned the most about love. And I went with my fiance, Michael. I was looking forward to going to the Samadhi with him and to introducing my fiance to the remaining mandali, who are among the most loving human beings I have ever encountered. Our marriage would be more grounded, I imagined, if we could just share a few moments soaking in the atmosphere of Baba’s home, basking in the glow that abides there.
Michael is a man who loves to connect and to hear about other people’s experiences. Once we were engaged, he started asking people he respected for marital advice, to see what wisdom we could collect at the threshold of our life together. Meeting the women mandali was no different. With Meheru, Katie and Arnavaz, after the initial introductions were complete and they’d offered us their sweet congratulations, Michael would lean forward and say: “So, do you have any advice for us about marriage?” And the women did.
Meheru told us to “remain in His love” and that we have to keep rowing the boat in the same direction. She advised us each to keep our focus on the pleasure and happiness of the other. Katie told us that we are “Baba’s gift to one another” and that there may be times we feel like running away, but to stay with it. And on our final day at Meherazad, we had a long visit with Arnavaz, whose advice, as a woman who was married to one of Baba’s men mandali, I was particularly interested in hearing. She had a refrain–“no matter what”–that she tacked on to every piece of advice. “Love each other, no matter what.” “Be cheerful, no matter what.” And, as she beamed love at us from her bed, “Remember Baba always, no matter what.” With those words in mind, I am looking forward to what this next chapter will teach me about what loving really is and how it always leads back to Him.