Love is a most powerful spiritual force. It conquers the heart and mind of an individual in a single moment. Love transforms a sinner into a saint. Love turns grief and sorrow into acceptance and peace.
The Biblical story of Jacob’s reunion with his brother Esau is an example of the great transforming power of Love. As a young man, Jacob had stolen the ancestral blessing from his brother Esau. Afterward, he fled his father’s house in fear and went to his Uncle’s home in Padam Aran. Twenty-one years later, Jacob has gathered together his wife, children and all of his possessions and is starting back home.
While Jacob is on his return journey, messengers come to tell him that his brother Esau is approaching him and his family with four hundred armed men. Esau has never forgiven Jacob for his treachery and is coming to carry out his revenge.
On the night before he is to meet Esau, Jacob undergoes a spiritual initiation. As he is wandering alone in the dead of night, he encounters a man while crossing a bridge. The man grabs hold of Jacob and begins to wrestle with him.
The initiation process continues on right through the night as the man, who is in reality a Divine messenger, pours powerful energies into Jacob’s spiritual centres. The effect of these energies is so intense that Jacob becomes lame in one of his legs. Just before dawn, the angel gives Jacob a new name, Israel, and then disappears.
The following morning, a completely transformed Jacob goes to meet Esau. As Esau approaches his brother, he is consumed by hate and a desire to see Jacob pay for his deceit. It is not Jacob, however, that he encounters but Israel. As a result of his combat with the angel, Jacob is filled with the energy of the Love of God. His heart centre is wide open and fully flowing. Its emanation enters Esau’s heart and breaks down his hatred. Esau no longer seeks to harm his brother. He falls on Jacob’s neck and they embrace.
The kabbalah gives us a symbolic indication of this metamorphosis in Jacob. Each of the sephirot has a Biblical figure associated with it. The kabbalists assign Jacob the sephirah of tifferet, the heart centre. They understood that after his encounter with the angel, Jacob became a master of the transforming power of love.
When we meet a spiritual teacher, we tend to think that it is his unique character that attracts us. It is not really his outer personality, however, that is drawing us towards him, but the love of the soul that is pouring through him from behind. A true master is a channel for the infinite love of God to flow into the world.
When an individual has a heart centre that is open and flowing, it means that he has made a link with his soul. Once this soul link has been established, the light of the soul will begin to flow into his centres. If the individual is highly evolved, then the energy from his heart centre will have a magnetic effect on others. If the Shechinah (kundalini) energy rises up into the heart centre as well, then the love emanating from him or her will be irresistible.
The power of such a love will break down barriers. Its energy will expand our vision and open new horizons. Such a love will conquer anger, fear and hatred. Through its power we can transcend our lower selves.
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach was once invited to give a concert at the Ramle prison in Israel. The Jewish and Arab prisoners in the prison generally avoided each other and treated each other with hostility. The relationship between the guards and inmates was also unfriendly and tense. The other guests who accompanied Reb Shlomo to this concert wondered how he would ever create a spiritual atmosphere in such a place.
As usual, Shlomo was undaunted. He entered the prison with the jokes, loving comments and bear hugs that were the trademarks of his entry into any location. After greeting the guards and prisoners, he went on to the stage and started to sing. As he was singing, the love began to flow from his heart. By the time the concert was over, the guards, and both the Israeli and Arab prisoners, were all dancing together as they smiled and laughed with joy.
A similar story is told about Swami Ramakrishnananda, one of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.
“This happened in our Ramakrishna monastery at Madras while Swami Ramakrishnananda was the abbot. On Sri Ramakrishna’s birthday, a group of Brahmins and a group of untouchables came to attend the special worship.
The two groups stayed at opposite sides of the prayer hall. Then hymns were sung, and Swami Ramakrishnananda went into an ecstatic mood. He began to dance, first toward one group, then toward the other. An intense spiritual atmosphere was created. Responding to it, the Brahmins and untouchables forgot themselves, and moved closer to one another. Finally, all were dancing together, united in the thought of God.”
These stories describe how the energy of love can change the dynamics of a specific situation. The energy of love, however, will have much more than just a momentary effect on our nature. The outpouring of love from another fills us with self-belief. When we are the recipients of love, it makes us want to strive higher and further. When our heart is filled with love, it gives us the might of many. Love raises us beyond ourselves until we are transformed into different human beings.
The Sikh Master, Sant Darshan Singh, worked for the Indian government and was in charge of over 12,000 people. Around the department, he was known for his unique way of treating his workers. No one was ever penalized for his mistakes at work. No one was dismissed from his post. Anyone that was in trouble was first informed of their wrongdoings and then brought into Sant Darshan’s own inner circle of workers. Sant Darshan would carefully watch over them and slowly affect a change in their character and behaviour. He would accomplish this transformation through the power of the love that he poured out on them. Because he loved them, believed in them, and gave them a second chance, they all wanted to do their best for him. He poured out his love on them and they gave him back their love in turn.
The healing powers of love are extraordinary. Its warmth and light penetrates deep into our being. The energy of unconditional love can completely transform even the most broken of souls.
During the early days of the Ramakrishna Order, the younger brother of one of the monks became involved with a rough crowd that was taking drugs. Eventually, his conduct became so unsavoury that his friends and family gave up all hope. In a last ditch attempt to save him, his brother the monk went to see Swami Premananda, one of the heads of the Order and a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, and informed him of the situation. Swami Premananda immediately went to see the young man and spent a long time talking to him. By the end of the conversation, he convinced the young man to come visit the ashram from time to time. Slowly, he helped the boy to turn his life around until finally he too joined the order and became a monk. In later life, this monk spoke about the profound love that the swami showered on him:
“How much tenderness and affection he bestowed on me. My relatives and friends abandoned me, but his love sustained me. He knew all my misdeeds, and still he loved me!”
Love makes whole that which is fragmented and broken. Love unites as one that which is separate and diffuse. Love creates harmony where there is discord and disagreement. Love brings the power of the Divine into this material world.
Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk teaches that yirah, the awe of God, has a limit. We cannot remain in awe of God at every minute or we would expire. Love, on the other hand, has no limit. The more we love, the more our capacity to love increases.
This is because love is more than just an energy or one of the attributes; love is part of God’s essential nature. When we experience God’s Love, we are touching the very core of the Divine – the Heart of that which is Infinite and Eternal. This is why in the kabbalah, the heart centre is also called truth. Love is the fundamental truth of the Divine reality.
copyright © 2008, by Yoel Glick