Love - Charity

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‘Love is infallible. It has no errors, for all errors are the want of love'. We can only love what we know. We can never know completely what we do not love. Love is a mode of knowledge. When it is disinterested and very intense, the knowledge becomes the knowledge of the Divine and so takes the quality of infallibility. Where there is no disinterested love, there is only biased self-love. Consequently there is only a partial and distorted knowledge of the self, and the world of things, lives, minds and spirit outside the life.

Charity is disinterested love. Unfortunately, charity has come to be synonymous with alms giving in modern English. In its original sense, it signifies the highest and most divine form of love. The principal characteristics of charity are that it is disinterested; it seeks no reward; nor does it allow itself to be diminished by any return of evil for its good. As charity is disinterested, it must of necessity be universal. As it seeks no reward, persons and things are to be loved for their own sake.

Divine-love is nirgunam (without attributes), niranjanam (pure), sanatana niketanam (the final abode), nitya (eternal), suddha (unsullied), buddha (enlightened), mukta (free) and nirmala swarupinam (the embodiment of sacredness). Divine-love is all-pervasive. It is the Supreme Self.

Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit. It is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. Unlike the lower forms of love, charity is not any emotion. It begins as an act of the will and is consummated as a purely spiritual awareness.

The highest form of love is the love of God. It is an immediate spiritual intuition, by which ‘knower, known and knowledge' are made one. The means to, and earlier stages of, this supreme love-knowledge of Spirit by spirit consist in acts of a will directed towards the denial of selfness in thought, feeling and action, towards desirelessness and non-attachment. It is in the nature of ‘holy indifference', a cheerful acceptance of affliction, without self-pity and without thought of returning evil for evil.

Peace from distractions and emotional agitations is the way to charity. Charity or unitive love-knowledge is the way to the higher peace of God. The same is true of humility, which is one of the characteristics of charity. Humility is a necessary condition of the highest form of love, and the highest form of love makes possible the consummation of humility in a total self-naughting. In the words of Ansari the Sufi saint, ‘would you become a pilgrim on the road of Love? The first condition is that you make yourself humble as dust and ashes'.

Feelings may be of service as motives of charity. But charity, as charity, has its beginning in the will - will to peace and humility in oneself, will to patience and kindness towards one's fellow creatures, and will to that disinterested love of God which ‘asks nothing and refuses nothing'. But the will can be strengthened by exercise and confirmed by perseverance.

All feelings get translated into charity when it is sublime love-knowledge of the Divine. Temperance is love surrendering itself wholly to Him who is its object. Courage is love bearing all things gladly for the sake of Him who is its object. Justice is love only serving Him who is its object, and, therefore, rightly ruling. Prudence is love making wise distinctions between what hinders and what helps itself.

The distinguishing marks of charity are disinterestedness, tranquility and humility. Where there is disinterestedness, there is no greed for personal advantage, or fear for personal loss or punishment. Where there is tranquility, there is neither craving nor aversion, but a steady will to conform to the Divine Will. Where there is humility, there is no glorification of the ego or any projected alter ego at the expense of others. Charity is essentially spiritual. It is purely of spiritual essence.

It, therefore, follows that charity is the root and substance of morality, and that where there is little charity, there will be much avoidable evil. It also follows that where there is charity, there can be no coercion, for love cannot compel, and God's service is, therefore, a thing of perfect freedom. But as it cannot compel, charity is a kind of authority, a non-coercive power, by means of which it defends itself and gets its beneficent will generally done in the world.

The guiding principle of all social organization is to be, ‘lead us not into temptation'. The temptations to be guarded against are the temptations against charity, that is, against the disinterested love of God, Nature and man. Charity is to preserve men and women from the temptation to idolatrous worship of things in time such as fanatical religiousness, state worship, revolutionary and regulated future worship, humanistic self-worship all of which are essentially opposed to charity.

K. R. Paramahamsa is an author of book Living in Spirit.

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