Thursday, October 25, 2007

Love Everyone No Matter What?

In every veil you see, the Divine Beauty is concealed, making every heart a slave to him. In love to him the heart finds its life; in desire for him, the soul finds its happiness. The heart which loves a fair one here, though it knows it not, is really his lover.
– Jami

It is very difficult for most of us to understand to what extent our love can be expanded. Everybody has a few people with whom he can be friendly, with whom she can be tender, but the Lord tells us, “That’s not enough. If you want to become whole and never be separate again, you should have love and respect for everyone.”

Jesus said, “What is the special achievement in loving those who love you? Even selfish people are prepared to do that. Bless those that curse you.” I can see the twinkle in his eye as the gathering gasps. This is the daring of Jesus. Today we talk about revolution, but I think there has never been a greater revolutionary than Jesus the Christ. He tells us that by loving those who hate us, we can win our freedom, because we will no longer be dependent on how others act towards us. The person who practices this can reach the summit of human consciousness, for it is only by loving people who oppose us and learning to bear with them that we can heal ourselves and heal them too.

--Eknath Easwaran

"Cousin Dupree" would no doubt disagree with Easwaran on this, insisting that it's further evidence of the man's foolishness. But I strongly suspect that Easwaran is right on the mark. This doesn't mean that I'll ever be able to love everyone, and I'm not going to wear myself out trying or beat myself up for failing. But I do see it as an ideal, and I believe that the older and wiser I get, the more closely I may be able to approximate it.

12 comments:

cousin Dupree said...

It all depends on what you mean by "love," for if you love a person improperly, you do great psychologiocal and spiritual harm to them. If love's mercy and severity are not in harmony, it is worthless at best.

Nagarjuna said...

Dupree--
I'm not sure what you mean by "severity," but I tend to agree with Easwaran that love "does not mean playing Pollyanna or closing our eyes to wrong behavior. It means simply that we will never lose faith in any person's capacity to change. Without that faith, people lose faith in themselves, and without faith in yourself it is not possible to improve. Everyone deserves our respect, for all are children of an all-compassionate God. This is the most effective way to help others remember their true character." (Original Goodness, p. 36)

I also tend to think that some people (bloggers and otherwise) claim to be spiritual, but their love, if it can even be called that, is far more "severe" in its mockery and contempt for others than it is merciful. That can also "do great psychological and spiritual harm" not only to the objects of such "love," but also to those who manifest it, and such "love" ALSO seems "worthless at best."

Cousin Dupree said...

Well then, we'll just have to wait and see if this man Easwaran can magically convert your hate to love. It's amazing to me that I know the answer ahead of time and you don't. I mean, what happened to your Tony Robbins experiment? When I told you he was a fraud that woudn't help you, you no doubt regarded that as excessively "severe."

In my opinion, you are desperately crying our for the true love that heals -- and burns -- not the platitudes of this yuppie guru. But in your case, you can't get enough of what you really don't need. So after Easwaran, you'll just move on to the next snake oil salesman, as if nothing happened.

Nagarjuna said...

Perhaps you're right, Dupree. And if you are, you'll be able to read about it here even if I don't come right out and admit it, and you can tell me "severely" that you told me so until, perhaps, I finally stumble blindly on to "the true love that heals--and burns."

Then, again, maybe not. For, unlike you, I'm clearly not the brightest bulb on the block, and the older I get, the more I realize it. I may not like it very much. In fact, I hate it, if the truth be told. I hate going through life wanting to do and understand countless things people like you or even the less gifted can do and understand that I cannot and never will. But I realize that I can't do what I can't do, and I'm trying my limited best to deal with it.

The way I see it, I essentially have four choices. I can go through the motions of doing as you suggest even though my efforts are undermined by my even greater skepticism about what you say than my skepticism about what Easwaran says; or I can try Easwaran's way unless and until I discover through personal experience that it doesn't work for me; or I can do as I've always done and continue to hold out hope that Easwaran, Wilber, Watts, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tony Robbins, and all the other people I admire for their sagacity really do have pieces of the Truth while I never really put their teachings to the test that could bring utter disillusionment and disconsolation; or I can just say "Fu*k it!" and curl up into a ball of bleak resignation and wait for the end to come.

Right now, I favor the second alternative. Is there another, better one?

Cousin Dupree said...

First of all, you sound clinically depressed -- low self esteem, hopelessness, anger, difficulty concentrating, etc. If so, your spiritual noodling can do nothing about that. You probably just need more serotonin, not more new age jive.

Nagarjuna said...

Dupree--
I DO have low self esteem. I think that has something to do with the huge discrepancy between my verbal and performance IQ's and the fact that there are so many practical, everyday things I want to do but can't that most people do rather easily.

My clinical neuropsychologist has also diagnosed me as having ADD, which supports your "diagnosis" of "difficulty concentrating."

However, I doubt that I would qualify as being "clinically depressed." I may well have in the past, so I think I know what real depression feels like. But I don't typically experience the complete and chronic "hopelessness" and related depressive emotions and symptoms that I used to.

I think I can attribute this partly to the fact that I DO believe that there's more to life than what Alan Watts called "the world as seen on a bleak Monday morning." I DO believe that there is " a Which than which there is no whicher" and in the essentially philosophical--i.e., love of wisdom and the pursuit of wisdom--quest to understand and harmonize with this Ultimate Reality.

If I did not believe this, I might, indeed, be clinically depressed and in dire need of your services, although I might well benefit from them anyway if only I could afford them.

As for having a serotonin deficiency irremediable by "spiritual noodling" in "new age jive," I'd be curious to know how you'd suggest that I come by a serotonin boost.

And while I agree with you that I've mostly been merely "noodling" in spirituality, I wonder why you dismiss Easwaran's approach, as I've described it here or as you know it to be from more extensive acquaintance, as "new age jive."

I'd really like to see and consider your answers to these questions, although I doubt that you have the time or inclination to furnish them. In any case, I DO respect you and appreciate your comments.

--Steve

Cousin Dupree said...

First of all, many people have gulf between their perfermance and verbal IQs, and it doesn't bother them in the least, so that's a red herring. I can barely change a lightbulb, while my brother could make a transisitor radio out of two coconuts and some dental floss. Everyone is crippled in some way, trust me.

ADD is often a dubious diagnosis, but assuming you have it, have you taken a stimulant such as ritalin or dextroamphetamine? Because if you truly do have it, those mediations will usually be remarkably effective in eliminating the problem.

Third, clinical depression, as often as not, does not involve sadness, more the types of vague complaints you always mention.

As for how you boost your serotonin, it's quite easy: experiment with an SSRI. Both Prozac and Zoloft are available as generics, so there should be no financial barrier. In fact, Effexor and Wellbutrin, two atypical anti-depressants, are also avaliable generically. And Wellbutrin often helps ADD symptoms (which are more or less always present in a depressed person).

I don't necessarly dismiss Easwaran's approach, as it contains some common sense verticalisthenics. However, with no grace, you really won't get very far. You can try, but I just don't see how anyone can do it without the grace of God or a relationship with a genuine saint, avatar, or guru. Easwaran was a nice guy, but not a vehicle of grace.

Nagarjuna said...

Dupree--
I wonder how many people have a "gulf" between their verbal and performance IQ's that exceeds 70 points and how THEY are affected by it, especially when they almost literally can't do such things as "change a lightbulb," figure out how to to get around in unfamiliar places or adapt to new circumstances, make sense of "office politics" and innumerable other nonverbal behaviors and systems, and perform countless other tasks that most people take for granted and need to be able to do to flourish in society.

Nonverbal learning disorder can have a profound impact on a person's life, and I'm still trying to find ways to minimize the negative aspects of that impact on mine and maximize the positive ones (e.g., use my verbal fluency to the fullest and find ways, perhaps by writing about it, to help others who are impacted by disabilities or disorders of their own).

You may well be right about "clinical depression" that doesn't manifest as chronic and deep sadness. My neuropsychologst wrote the following in interpreting my MMPI results:

"The diagnostic conclusions from this test are anxiety and depressive traits."

He also supports your observation of low self-esteem by writing:

"The test reveals a high degree of negative self-esteem and self-distrust identification."

He also reported: "The most dramatic elevation on this test was on the scale identifying 'social introversion'...although there is no indication of any severe pathology."

As for taking stimulants for my ADD, my neuropsychologist has suggested that I be evaluated by a neurologist or psychiatrist for this possibility, and I have indeed found that when I take caffeine tablets (I don't drink coffee) or Spike tablets (said to be a mixture of the vitamin-B derivative thiamine di(2-methylpropionate) disulfide and caffeine, I feel much more clearheaded and capable.

I don't know how a stimulant such as Ritalin would interact with an SSRI, or how an SSRI by itself or in conjunction with a stimulant would interact with my cardiac arrhythmia (WPW Syndrome) and my body in general (I understand that SSRI's can do such unpleasant things as decrease libido and cause erectile dysfunction and hepatic or renal impairment), but I suppose that this would be up to a qualified physician to determine.

As for needing "the grace of God or a relationship with a genuine saint, avatar, or guru" beyond the "common sense verticalisthenics" of a "nice guy" like Easwaran, I'd be curious to know what or who you would specifically recommend for this grace or relationship.

As always (or, at least, usual), thanks for your comments, Dupree.

cousin dupree said...

Self esteem is rooted in security about who you are, not what you do. Again, it's a red herring. People who can't to squat, such as criminals, often have very high self esteem, while people of great accomplishment often have low self esteem. Murderers have the highest self steem of all.

I wouldn't place much stock in the MMPI. However, it is almost as useful as a competent astrological reading.

Caffeine helps everyone feel a little more clearheaded and capable, otherwise you're just having a placebo effect (especially to the vitamin B, whose main effect is to make your urine darker).

If you truly have WPW, then you probably want to avoid any cardioactive medication, but I'm hardly an expert there. But for most people it's benign, so the payoff may exceed the risk.

An SSRI shouldn't have any effect, but you would naturally want to run it by your cardiologist. Most people tolerate SSRIs very well. The few who don't get all the attention, but don't forget, they were generally crazy to begin with, so their testimony must be taken with a huge grain of salt.

I've never heard of anyone developing renal impairment from an SSRI. If it does happen, it's probably one in a million, like dying from aspirin. And it's much more typical for the person to have increased sexual interest, simply because they're less depressed (in other words, depession causes much more erectile dysfunction than its cure).

As for who I would recommend as a source of grace, that is up to you, just as it is up to you who to marry. But you must fall in love with a genuine vehicle of the divine grace, or it is my opinion thart you will get nowhere. Love is the vehicle of spiritual growth -- not knowledge, meditation, or some behavior.

Nagarjuna said...

Dupree--

A few comments and/or questions.

If my pronounced NLD is a "red herring" in terms of diverting me from the key issue, what is the key issue? My low self-esteem? If criminals tend to have the highest self-esteem and people of great accomplishment often have the lowest, what value does self-esteem have? Why is it important? And if it isn't, what is?

If self-esteem "is rooted in security about who you are, not what you do," what is the difference between who you are and what you do? If you do or can do nothing, how can you BE anything? If you do or can do little, how can you BE enough to have the kind of self-esteem that comes from "security about who you are"? That is, if you ARE someone who is so defective that he can DO little of benefit for himself or others, what "security" can he have in being who he is?

I don't have your psychological expertise, but I think you're probably right about the MMPI or, for that matter, any other personality test. It may have some utility, but one should not take it too seriously. My psychologist said the same thing. Still, my results strike me as being pretty accurate. But, then, a "competent astrological reading" probably would too. :-)

I wonder if you're right about the main ingredient in Spike having no effect (with the caffeine doing all the work) or, at best, a placebo effect. I guess I could I try the non-caffeinated version and see what happens to, at least, begin to get an idea.

Thanks for the information about SSRI's. I need to do some research and, ultimately, run it by a qualified physician. But who IS qualified, and how can I know they are?

And who or what is qualified to be my "genuine vehicle of the divine grace" and "spiritual growth", and how can I know he (or she) or it is? Do I know he or it is if I "fall in love with it"? What if you're right about me having false notions regarding love? What if I don't really know what love is and could mistake false love for true love and fall in false love with a false path or spiritual "snake oil salesman"?

A huge, huge question for me is how an unenlightened person can distinguish between unenlightened persons who seem to be enlightened but aren't and enlightened persons who seem (or don't seem) to be enlightened but are. And if one is not qualified to distinguish between a qualified and unqualified "source of grace," how does one become qualified? By choosing a qualified teacher so that he can become qualified to choose a qualified teacher? :-)

I'm not just trying (and probably failing miserably) to be clever. I REALLY don't know what to do or to whom or what to turn, and these questions are some indication of why.

cousin dupree said...

--If my pronounced NLD is a "red herring" in terms of diverting me from the key issue, what is the key issue?

I don't know. I would say you're depression, which is probably also responsible for your anger, your circular thinking, and your despair.

--If criminals tend to have the highest self-esteem and people of great accomplishment often have the lowest, what value does self-esteem have

Precisely none. It has no relationship whatsoever to important things such as doing the right thing. It's just a made up concept that has no importance. What is important is self, not self esteem.

--If you do or can do nothing, how can you BE anything?

All sprituality is founded on the principle that essence is prior to existence. Being that you are not at all religious, I can understand why you would reverse the order. Nevertheless, even supposing you were capable of this or that, it woudn't have any effect on what you call "self esteem," except perhaps a temporary one. The mind is a complex system that will always return to its "attractor," in the same way that your temperature always returns to 98.6. An SSRI can help you move the whole system into another attractor.

Let's turn it around: let's say someone is in a wheelchair and can't do much. Would you say it is a sensible thing for him to despise himself? Of course not. You would never treat others in the despiccable way you treat yourself. Who is this monster that does this to you?

--I don't have your psychological expertise, but I think you're probably right about the MMPI or, for that matter, any other personality test.

Yes, I have a lot of expertise in the MMPI. You can get much more useful information by simply asking the person questions.

-- But, then, a "competent astrological reading" probably would too. :-)

Astrology in the right hands is quite profound and remarkably accurate in describing the essence alluded to above. The idea is to live a life in conformity with your essence. This is what leads to a sturdy sense of self and to fulfillment.

--Thanks for the information about SSRI's. I need to do some research and, ultimately, run it by a qualified physician. But who IS qualified, and how can I know they are?

Truly, I cannot imagine there is any danger to the heart with an SSRI. As for a qualified psychiatrist, even for the best ones, it's still a matter of trial and error, as everyone is different. You must simply adopt the same spirit of experientation that you perhaps did "back in the day." Or perhaps as Alan Watts did with psychedelics. Run the experiment on yourself. Nothing vetured, nothing gained. When SSRIs work, they are truly a "magic bullet." Many people finally realize for the first time what normalcy is -- and what depression is, once it's gone. It's like a biochemical fog that hangs over the person, but which they cannot see because they've never known anything else.

--And who or what is qualified to be my "genuine vehicle of the divine grace" and "spiritual growth", and how can I know he (or she) or it is? Do I know he or it is if I "fall in love with it"?

Look, if you are interested in Vedanta as "your approach" to God, why not at least start with someone orthodox, a recognized master, as opposed to an English teacher? Ramakrishna, or Sri Aurobindo, or Shankara, or so many others would be suitable. You will feel a "zap" of shakti with a real teacher.

--A huge, huge question for me is how an unenlightened person can distinguish between unenlightened persons who seem to be enlightened but aren't and enlightened persons who seem (or don't seem) to be enlightened but are.

You need to first sort out your psychological issues before taking the next step. But in answer to your question of "how to distinguish between a qualified and unqualified "source of grace,"'" this is why it is so important to remain within orthodoxy, as these are guaranteed sources of grace. They have an established record, like a boring mutual fund that you know will appreciate over time, as opposed to some hot stock that may or may not grow.

To cite a banalogy, let's say you have a big social function coming up, and you want to look sharp. But like Gagdad Bob, you don't know anything about fashion. Whom do you trust? On the one hand, you could go to some cutting edge place on Melrose Avenue and get the latest style. You'll probably end up looking like an idiot. No, better to stay with a classic look, something timeless, something that will never go out of style. This is why Cary Grant always looks impeccable, while those who follow fashions look very silly five or ten years later.

What I'm saying is that you must worship Cary Grant.

Nagarjuna said...

Thank you, Cousin.

--Steve