How do we understand the term ‘love’ in the context of spiritual sadhana? We bring to the term a large number of impressions, ideas, and conceptions based on our cultural background, educational upbringing and socialization in our society. We have no direct experience, for the most part, of anything other than what we may call human love. Human love is a very mixed affair, including various needs, urges, desires, vital drives, lusts of the body and mental preconceptions about love that color our understanding. Human love is also often associated, on an individual basis, with sexual gratification, domination, and vital reactions of jealousy and various forms of abusive conduct towards those with whom we have a relationship we call ‘love’. We look at actions of charity, self-sacrifice for a higher cause or altruism as acts of love on a more disinterested scale.
It is impossible to bring all these associations into the truth of what may be termed ‘divine love”. We can assert certain things that divine love is not, but until we have an actual experience of divine love, our conceptions are obviously going to fall short.
Those who have experienced even a touch of divine love report an experience of ineffable bliss, of an overwhelming feeling of adoration, of gratitude, of self-giving in a non-demanding way with no expectations. There is a joy of surrender to the Divine that goes beyond any experience of human interactions under the term ‘love’. Even human compassion and goodwill cannot approximate the experience of those who have been graced with the experience of divine love.
All expressions of love in our lives, whether personal and individual, or whether the wider, more expansive forms we give to these acts, contain a seed of Divine Love, although in some cases there is only a very tiny seed or one that has been vastly deformed and distorted as it has been filtered through the human instruments of the body, life and mind.
It is therefore not possible to speak of bringing forth Divine Love in the world without associating it with the transformation of consciousness that brings with it an entirely new relationship and perspective between the human individual and the universal manifestation that shifts the relation from an ego-basis to one that is wide, receptive and giving at the same time.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “To bring the Divine Love and Beauty and Ananda into the world is, indeed, the whole crown and essence of our yoga. But it has always seemed to me impossible unless there comes as its support and foundation and guard the Divine Truth — what I call the supramental — and its Divine Power. Otherwise Love itself blinded by the confusions of this present consciousness may stumble in its human receptacles and, even otherwise, may find itself unrecognised, rejected or rapidly degenerating and lost in the frailty of man’s inferior nature. But when it comes in the divine truth and power, Divine Love descends first as something transcendent and universal and out of that transcendence and universality it applies itself to persons according to the Divine Truth and Will, creating a vaster, greater, purer personal love than any the human mind or heart can now imagine. It is when one has felt this descent that one can be really an instrument for the birth and action of the Divine Love in the world.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Love and Devotion, Divine Love, Universal Love and Psychic Love, pp. 156-158