We rarely talk about love and its relevance to the spiritual path.
Yes, that is true. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that while it is the most basic and powerful of all qualities, love is also the most misunderstood.
It is common to view love as always good, unfailingly positive. But I would say it is beyond what we consider to be good or positive. In what I am about to say, please understand that I have not travelled the full length of the path of love but I have seen the signs and know something of the route.
When all else is stripped away, is it not love that remains, if anything? Love is not merely affection, nor is it romantic. In the beginning, love by its very nature deceives the one who loves, who thinks that love and all its satisfactions can be won. The deception continues until there is no longer one who loves, only love itself. Love is the ultimate motive behind all other motives and its ultimate aim and satisfaction is love alone.
The fullness of love is therefore the death of self, the annihilation of the one who loves. This annihilation is not peaceful or gentle, rather it is a slow process of exquisite suffering in which the limitations of the one who loves are ruthlessly exposed and burned away. Along the way, love brings us the agony of attachment in which our dearest wishes for the ones we love are broken.
Hatred, envy and greed are thought to be love’s opposites but are they not actually imperfect expressions of love? Love itself moves these deviations that take us far from love. Love itself sustains its counterfeits, the aims we pursue as substitutes for love. Therefore, we could say that the opposite of love is not hate but apathy.
As Rumi says:
The way sticks and pieces of dead grass and leaves
Shift about in the wind;
The directions of rain and puddle-water on the ground;
Those motions are all a following
Of the love they have been given.
From this perspective, the Universe is an act of love and love stands behind its forms and gestures, perhaps to find a worthy response in our love of the Absolute beyond name and form.
May our love be deepened.