Bhakti Yoga: the art of loving
Wolter Keers
(from Yoga Advaita, published with authorization of uitgeverij de Driehoek)

Love and knowing have in common that they are a sort of suicide. If we ever want to arrive at real love, then we need to understand it with our whole being. Love and knowing both begin — or so it seems — in duality: here I am, there is the loved: A loves B and B loves A. But, when we learn little by little to see more clearly, we discover that we had made a mistake. In the experience of love both A and B disappear and have totally dissolved in one Experience that is love itself.

A special difficulty lies in the fact that with love, with that word, we mean two different things: to begin with it means a feeling and even the deepest that we know and which, also in a psychological sense must lie at the basis of our lives, if we are going to function well. Whoever as an infant had no mother to cuddle him, and to sing lullabies to him later and who comforted him when he was hurt, probably has a more difficult life than others. And whoever underwent the tragic destiny that his parents hated him, grows up to become schizophrenic or criminal — in any case that is easily possible.
As a feeling, love often has a beginning and an end. But, this feeling is very special, because it transcends itself. Just as the I thought can carry our body, senses, thinking and feeling to what is the actual irreducible 'I', love can take us from the object to the complete oneness in which neither object nor subject can be found: there you and I are one — not as personalities, but as the one Experience that is timeless and without form, larger than the largest. There is no unity in duality: two bodies never become one, two personalities never become one. Unity is there in the love where we have left time and space behind us.
And this love is the love in the other sense of the word. This is the love that is meant when it is said in the Bible- and other holy books and traditions that God is love. God is not a feeling, but unchanging, the Light of the light, the Love of the love: that is the meaning of the saying 'I am the light of the world'. This second love, beyond time and space cannot be known as an object, as an 'it', as something that can be perceived by something or someone else. Because, there is nothing beyond the eternity, and moreover in this love there is no one who can ascertain anything, or to witness, or to conclude. One can only know this love by being it, just as the sea knows wetness by being it: the sea cannot go and stand away from the wetness to make some kind of opinion about it … the sea, water, is wetness.

Seen this way, love is maybe the most beautiful way to arrive at what we call self-realization. Because, if we travel this way consciously, lead by the 'distinction' between 'I' and 'not-I', we are led from the very beginning along the richest sources of our existence. After all, what is the nature of the feeling that we call love? To give of oneself. I only need to be in love and I no longer sit on the throne of my ego, but all the attention, and especially that of the heart is directed towards the other. And that alone is enough to change the world: the sky is bluer and Schubert's mountain brook bubbles more passionately than before. Thinking and feeling are fluffed up like a pillow and the body reacts spontaneously and full of enthusiasm — we forget ourselves. In such a case we say that we were besides ourselves with joy, by which we don't mean that we were actually out of ourselves — that is of course impossible — but we are miles bigger than we what we thought ourselves to be before when we felt like an 'I'.

The tragedy of most love relations is that slowly or even sometimes with a bang, this horizon-wide experience disappears and there comes to be, in the best case, a relation in which we bump into each other in the house and become some kind of furniture that belongs there and that we are even glad to see for each other, but from which the element of inspiration has disappeared. In the worst case the love is deformed into living like cats and dogs, and the hell of the quarrel marriage comes into being: hardly anything worse can happen to a person. Where did it go wrong? How is it possible, one hears many people say, that this happened to me? All great and important truths are simple and obvious, in this case also. If we have looked well, we see that it is clear that when love was flowing through us, the ego and its cravings were gone, while later, the battle ground was ruled by this ego: we started making demands, defending our rights, blaming and so on. In short: we behaved as if our ego, our personality had a right to the other's love .. we sought love for the ego, for the personality. We wanted to push the cork deeper into the bottle in order to be able to drink better. And then, when no wine came out for a long time, and the cork was stuck in the bottle, we even went and sat on it.
But love is to never stand at the cash register: love is a kind of suicide. This is not something new — this is something that we can see as clearly as the sun on a cloudless day. But, we are so rusted into our old habits that we refuse to look clearly and we drag all our old games out of the closet and we adopt the attitude of a small child who had trouble with papa and mama, and who now fights it out with the poor marriage partner. Is that necessary? Does it have to go wrong because we are after all people and not angels? For whoever has at least once clearly seen the whole thing in perspective, there may be falling and getting up again, but it doesn't have to go wrong if both partners are of good will. We found a partner, and we wanted to join with them because we lost our egos in being together — because the love wiped away what held us bound just a few months before. And our experience was that the bounds have fallen away and that our heart embraced the world: didn't we want to hug every tree in the forest, didn't we want to jump naked from a mountain top to fly like eagles…? The world's literature is full of this.
If we want to avoid that a relation fails, and that it reaches its goal if one can speak of a goal, then we have to walk the opposite path. To arrive from the first love — the shining feeling — to the second, where we have totally dissolved in the light, the partners need to treat each other as altars on which to lay everything that one has and that one is … and when love is there we ask nothing more. The lover is flooded by the urge to give everything that he has and is, even more, even more. This urge is the very nature of love that shows the difference between real and imitation love. Even if you go through the motions of love with a hundred men or women, it remains imitation if the unconditional urge to give all of one's self is not there: giving is the true nature of love. Whoever thinks only of a night of pleasure remains outside of love, even if they go through the motion a thousand times. Whoever is just wants to collect remains outside of love.

Is it possible then that difficulties still remain?

In principle no, but in practice yes. Because time has to pass before we understand what the word 'everything' involves. The bible says that we have to pass through a narrow gate, and that it is more difficult for a rich man (and we are all that) to pass through the eye of a needle than to enter the kingdom of heaven. We can't be clothed and naked at the same time. In other words, we can't know nothing and be full of old standpoints at the same time. We can't love and stand at the cash register at the same time, or try to maintain ourselves in any way. And to reach that we have to be deliberately ready to surrender completely. This is not some ethical story: it is almost a pragmatic certainty, after all as long as I try to maintain myself, my center of gravity remains limited within one or another defense, and as long as I am limited I can't be unlimited. What we have to lay on the altar involves not only the identification with all kinds of bodies in the waking and dream states, but also all our fears, all our deformations, our desire to search for safety where none is to be found (as in the relation with the loved one!), our viewpoints, our entire I-feeling, in short the whole world; but first of all, that part of the world that I call my I-feeling and that I project on all kinds of things and situations. As long as we are jealous, or want to possess, or dominate the other or even demand that the other give themselves to us totally, we stand outside of love, whatever clever arguments we may invent to intellectualize our urge to compensate.

But we are no angels. We don't live 'beyond Good and Evil'. This kind of argument only shows a lack of seriousness. Whoever sees problems arising in themselves need not feed them, not to mention blow them up into a storm. One can feel when a fault has been made immediately. It is immediately clear when tension arises. Then you can do one of two things: either accept the invitation of the ego, of the personality, the feeling of having a right, life insurance and so on; or one can retreat for a few moments into silence, to ask oneself not what is one tempted to do now in the short run, but what we actually want in the long run. That is the return to the worldwide heart that encompasses creation. One can almost immediately return to that; one can then bring the picture to mind of how that is. And in the complete relaxation that is coupled to that perspective it becomes clear that the demands that I made a few minutes ago, were nails that would have fastened me to what I don't really want (which makes us think of one of the expressions of Janov's patient — from out reading of his book in June 1973 that said: Neurosis is doing everything that we can to hang on to what we don't really want). In other words, non-neurotic behavior is to look at what we actually and finally really want. That is the Experience that as a fire that burns everything bursts into flame as soon as I give and attempt to give everything that presents itself as my property at this moment — and especially all my dependencies, all my identification with body, thinking and feeling, all my standpoints, my fears and everything else that I have built up in the past to defend and preserve my imaginary personality.

Whenever we give ourselves again and again in the totality of that moment on the altar that the other has become for us, then it must happen that the chains melt and fall apart. Again and again we can have that surprising experience: just a few months ago I dreaded this and was afraid of it… and now it has all disappeared. Until I finally actually awake and discover that I am free. Probably all of this, whenever two people deeply love each other, shall be a way of the heart that leads from one joy to another: because this way of self-dissolution in what the ego calls nothing is a crusade through paradise. Whoever gets the taste of letting go of defenses loses his fears of giving and of being exploited, wounded, misunderstood and so forth. Every letting go of an illusory safety that the defense offers us means a victory — exactly the opposite of the chains that get heavier and heavier after every illusory success in a quarrel.

It is another question whether this is possible without a spiritual master. In theory there is no decisive reason to indicate why we unavoidably must have a spiritual master on this way of the heart, bhakti. In practice however it seems to be necessary for every person without exception. Without a spiritual master one also gets stuck on the way of bhakti. The master is by definition love itself — what we have called the second love in this article, beyond thinking and feeling, beyond time and space. The love of such an, extremely rare, spiritual master is deeper than we know or can know as long as there remain any trace of duality in us. For those who are really looking to lose themselves there will probably come a moment when he or she will long to lay themselves down and leave themselves behind at the feet of love itself, that is to say at the feet of a guru who has been found and recognized as such. In him there is no egoism left, and you know, with absolute certainty, that he alone is safety itself, because there is no ego left in him that would want to exploit you in any way whatsoever; that he is safety because he is what you are really seeking. When, leaving everything behind you become smaller and smaller, until only a single point remains, you find in him the one who will take you through the eye of the needle, far beyond all fear and calculation.
The final realization of the deepest I itself, beyond time and space, requires the unity of head and heart. Some arrive with baggage that demands a solution via the head, other are rather more heart people, but both are needed. As soon as one understands the ultimate perspective and sees that the I is the experience that has heart and had (and all other things) in common, one lives from a standpoint that is neither heart nor head, but of which these are two manifestations. The decisive insight has arrived. There only remain a few obstacles to clean up: a few things to recognize that we unjustly call I. If one is serious, the way via the head is direct. But for whoever can follow the way of the heart, the way of the head is long and laborious. Is not the heart the motor, the source of power of our existence? Shri Atmananda (Krishna Menon) once said: 'The heart does easily and in a few beats what the head sometimes needs years for, for example understanding that the entire creation and myself are 'translations' of one indivisible love. This is what I sometimes call by your name, and sometimes by mine.'

Love can not be given
From a talk with Wolter Keers in Gent on January 18, 1978. (Appeared earlier in Yoga Advaita, March 1978)

Question: And love?

I had a meeting yesterday evening with a group of psychiatrists and psychologists. There I defended the proposition that there is only one psychic obstacle and that you can reduce all of psychology and psychotherapy, and all psychiatry to that one obstacle. That one problem is that we have forgotten that we are love. It was told to us when we were little that we got love from our mother and father and so on. And when it all maybe went wrong later in all sorts of ways, we discovered that we had not received enough love. And so love became for us something like a sack of potatoes that you can give and get in a big sack or a small sack and the like.
This has nothing to do with love. What we actually are is the most humble of all humble things, that in which everything arises. That is the light itself. Nothing is more ordinary, common, everyday than that light; we have known nothing except that. Love is the discovery of myself (the light) in the other; the recognition of the Silence that I am in the other. That is love. Love cannot be given to anyone, you cannot get love; you can't make water wet, because water is wetness. Neither can anyone give you love, no one can receive love from you, you can only recognize love in yourself and you can recognize love in others. The moment that it happens, there is naturally no other anymore, because you indeed recognize in other, in the most literal sense, notice well, in the most literal sense; yourself. I never speak to anyone except myself, and you never hear anyone except yourself. I cannot underline enough how literally true this is. Love is to recognize yourself in the other, in what you unjustly saw as 'an other' until that moment. But it is yourself that you see there because there is only one Self. There is only one light. There is only one love. The recognition of yourself in the other, of the Silence that you are in the other, of the light that you are in the other, that is what we call love. It is not a question of giving, it is not a question of receiving, it is a question of recognition.

What is well true is that when the recognition has taken place there arises in us a reversal of movement. When I have not yet recognized it, I have a calculating machine going and then I find you to be nice or not nice: then I can either earn money from you or not, then you will say friendly words to me, or give me trouble, and so forth. That is all calculated with a centripetally directed mentality. But the moment I recognize myself in the other, who then is no longer an 'other', because I am speaking to myself behind the eyes, at that moment a centripetally directed movement become a centrifugally directed motion. You need only have been in love once to know that you are as large as the universe.
Fear is one obstacle. And every fear is the fear of losing love. I am afraid to let myself be seen as I am because the you may think that I am crazy or bad, or something or other. And then there is the wall: then there is 'I' here and the other there. I am afraid that I am going to lose the love of the other. You see, whenever I think that love is something that I can possess than I am afraid then I am going to lose it. But, when I have seen with my entire being that I am that Love, what then? Water can never become wetness, because water is wetness: you can't lose love because you are love. Seeing that clearly dissolve all fears one by one; fear of death then becomes laughable. Then you can also be totally yourself in a psychological sense; you can drop all your resistances, because what others think about you is then their problem; 'you' are that which the others are seeking. And if they project a mental picture on you it is because they project a mental picture on themselves; they see themselves as a personality and therefore they see all living beings as personalities.

As long as I take a position as something that I am not, namely as something that could possess Love, as something that searches for Love, just so long am I subject to the laws of desire and fear. And where there is fear and longing there is karma and the whole story. As soon as I see what I am this imaginary world falls apart in pieces. The moment that I recognize this — always unexpected — a subtle explosion takes place and this material world turns out to be nothing but a dream, exactly the same as a nightly dream, there is absolutely no difference; both are nothing else than movements in Consciousness, and the movement that is there for a given moment is seen by me as real — in the day time it is the waking state, the world, the primary feeling, and at night it is the dream world, which is then just as real for me as the dream world now. But if I look at the experience that the dream world and the waking world have in common then I see that they are nothing other than movements in that One Consciousness that I have always been. I don't have to do anything to become it because I am it. I am the One Experience. In everything and everyone, in every movement I am this One Experience.

When this becomes a lived Experience then there is no more psychic fear possible; then there may be pain, but suffering is no more possible. I recognize that in all people, I recognize That as myself in all people, and because I know as a lived Experience- not as a theory — that there is nothing else than love I love all people, because I see Myself also through the eyes of the schizophrenic or the criminal or whosoever.
Last time we discussed the image of the water and the waves; first we all think that we are a wave and that the neighbor wave is a competitor, then at a given moment, we discover; I am water and the neighbor wave is also water, and the more we pay attention to the water the clearer it becomes, until we are totally in the depths where there is nothing else but water, then we see that we are that one water and all the waves and by means of these waves the water speaks with itself.
In terms of religion; this Light is what religious people call God. We are that Light, each of us consists of nothing else than that Light. Every great tradition and religion says it; that God is omnipresent and is Light and Love. Not only Christianity but all the great religions say that in one way or another. In other words: John is not speaking with Peter, but God is speaking with himself, through the one and through the other.

If this is seen and all the old ballast and ideas, such as 'I am a thing weighing so many kilograms' have disappeared, then what remains is the one lived Experience. That is what one calls Enlightenment or Freedom. It is never something new. It is That which you are now and have always been, and whoever says that he can give it to you is a swindler.