By Sally Kempton
From “What is Love?”
Love as Absolute
Love with a capital L: That’s the Great Love, love as the source of everything, love as radical unity. At this level, love is another name for Absolute Reality, Supreme Consciousness, Brahman, God, the Tao, the Source that vast presence the Shaivite tradition sometimes calls the Heart. The yoga tradition often describes Absolute Reality as satchidananda meaning that it is pure beingness, present everywhere and in everything (sat), that it is innately conscious (chit), and that it is the essence of joy and love (ananda).
As ananda, the Great Love is woven into the fabric of the universe, which of course also puts it at the center of our own being. Most of us get glimpses of the Great Love at some time in our lives perhaps in nature, or with an intimate partner, or in the moment of bonding with our children. We remember these experiences for years afterward, often for the rest of our lives. We remember their numinosity, the feeling of deep connectedness they give us, and the fact that even when the love we feel seems inspired by someone or something in particular, it has a profoundly impersonal, universal quality. And sometimes, the Great Love hits us unveiled, as it were, and changes our lives.
It happened like that for me one November evening in 1970. I was sitting with a friend in my living room, listening to a Grateful Dead album, when without warning, an overwhelming experience of joy welled up in me. The state sprang up seemingly out of nowhere, a sensation of tenderness and ecstasy that seemed to ooze out of the walls and the air, carrying with it a sense that everything was a part of me.
This experience inspired a burning desire to get back to it and ultimately became the motive for my spiritual practice. At the time, however, I did what most of us do when we get a glimpse of unconditional tenderness: I projected my inner experience onto the person I happened to be with and decided (rather disastrously, as it turned out) that he was the love of my life and the mate of my soul.
Join Sally Kempton and Marc Gafni in one week at Esalen Institute for “Falling in Love with the Divine.”