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‘Ishq'(Love) is the most oft repeated word in Sufi circles. It is so common a word that it sounds like a cliche whenever somebody mentions it. This article is an attempt to explore and dig deeper to understand ‘Ishq’ a little better. Saints have been hinting at this from time to time using different words and analogies offerred by their languages. This is what Kabir said about it. ‘Pothi padh padh jag mua pandit bhaya na koy. Dhai aakhar prem ke padhe so pandit hoy’ (World spends ages reading books without learning anything. Read only ‘Love’ and be a learned man). Rumi puts the same word in context of realizing God – ‘Ishq asterlab-e-asrar-e-khuda ast ‘ (Love is the instrument which can guage the characteristics of God), ‘Love is the bridge between you and everything’.
In common man’s interpretation, love is an aspirational phenomenon that makes the world a beautiful place. It is a sort of bonding glue that is beneficent for the one who experiences it and connects the two entities engaged. For the mystics, ‘Love’ is something that is improving our capacity, or should i say has the capacity to ‘expand our consciousness’ so much so that we get connected to the ‘supreme consciousness’.

As a spritual practitioner, i would be more interested in the interpretation of these spiritual champions and help the reader understand what blocks or diverts us from getting their point or getting close to the real point. In my view this problem of interpretation is perhaps due to lack of vocabulary and too much of intelectual and less of experiential growth of the interpereters.

We use words to name objects, feelings and phenomenon. Subtler the feeling, more difficult it is to name it. In such cases we have to resort to analogies and symbolism to convey the point. There’s another route, and we’re going to explore that here. In such cases we can also go beyond the ‘name’ (here the cause) of the feeling and come backwards from its ‘effect’ to understand it. Let’s do the same with word ‘Ishq’. We all know that only ‘Love’ connects us to ‘God’ the supreme. The essence of existence of everything that exists. Saints have gone on record and declared that ‘Love is God’.

What is this thing called ‘God’ that exists in everything and it is also equated with ‘Love’?

Here’s an interesting research conducted by Dr. Leonard Horowitz and in his findings he concludes that “there’s a frequency that is central to the musical mathematical matrix of creation. More than any sound previously discovered, this frequency, he adds, resonates at the heart of everything that exists. Basically it connects our heart, our spiritual essence, to the spiraling reality of heaven and earth”, and that frequency is 528 Hertz. Not only this, he further explains, “the DNA double helix vibrates at a specific resonant frequency – 528 cycles per second”, this he declares ‘LOVE frequency’. He also observed that when our body vibrates at this frequency, it can remove impurities on its own, allowing itself to become healthy, balanced and hence perform at its optimum.

We all have felt that our body’s vibration changes in accordance with our mental state and orientation. When we’re happy and joyful we feel lighter(higher frequency) and when we’re sad, grieved or ashamed we experience a sinking feeling and heaviness(lower freqency). To complement Dr. Horowitz findings let me share a ‘State chart’ developed by David Hawkins, a modern American philosopher, which will perhaps help the reader understand the point better.

Let’s analyze the top and bottom of this state chart and correlate them with

the collective understanding gathered from our scriptures and traditions. Almost all the spiritual modalities declare “enlightenment” as “nondual consciousness”, “a primordial, natural awareness without subject or object”. Please note the word ‘primordial’ which implies that it is our primary/essential nature. The state in which we’re born. On the other hand the bottom of the chart can be equated with The fall of man, the transition of the first man and woman from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience. After doing so, they became ashamed of their nakedness(they started seeing each other as different bodies-Duality) and God expelled them from the Garden (please mark the feeling of ‘shame’, felt by Adam and Eve as they were thrown out of heaven). Therefore ‘shame’ can be taken as the ‘worst state’ a human being can experience from his/her feeling portfolio.

In light of the above inferences we can easily establish that ‘Love'(non duality/advait) is our essential nature but something robs us off this beautiful attribute forcing most of us to live our lives in duality(survival mode characterized by a lurking fear). This ‘duality consciousness’ is termed Ego/Nafs, and it is born the moment we’re born and become body conscious. The exact moment of birth of Ego/Nafs maybe pointed out as the moment our umblical cords are snapped and we’re left to ourselves. In next few seconds we’re expected to start breathing through nose or die. For the first time in our 9 month’s existence we are faced with the challenge of figuring out how to find food and suckle through mouth In next couple of hours or perish without. All in all these are one of the most trying moments of our life and they leave a lasting impression on our psyche which lasts for the lifetime. One should also note that we use our mind and senses as tools to come out of this deadly situation, and hereafter start treating them as our primary succor in all trying times. So much so, if unnoticed (this survival or fear mode) starts posing as our essential nature and forces us to live up our limited potential only. This may be termed as ‘Ego Centric’ living. And we totally forget, well in most cases, our ‘Soul Centre’ mode. Maybe that’s the reason human beings are called Insaan (one who forgets, root word; Nisyan) in arabic.
As we grow, this Ego centre coupled with conditionings, memories, and validations provided by the society sum up to form our personality( our social mask), and it gets stickier and stickier from here on if we’re not aware of this, constricted mode of living.

What is our true potential, then?

Here are few hints dropped by the saints and spiritual exemplars over the ages.

Paramahansa Yogananda quotes ‘Man is important in one sense only. He was made in the image of God: That is his importance. He is not important for his body, ego, or personality. His constant affirmation of ego-consciousness is the source of all his problems’.
‘We must go beyond the constant clamor of ego, beyond the tools of logic and reason, to the still, calm place within us: the realm of the soul.’ says Deepak Chopra.

How can we get out of this Ego trap?

It can be achieved, by acknowledging, decimating and training our Nafs and giving priority to our essential nature; ‘Love’. Often this journey begins with contemplation and self observation. It can be taken to a new levels under the supervision of a mentor/Guru. But it is not an easy thing to do, as pointed out by some old sufi, ‘It is like watching a black ant crawl on a black stone; in a dark night’. According to others, taming the ego is equated with killing oneself ‘Die before you die’. Hindu concept of ‘Dwij'(born again) also comes from this idea of decimating the ego only. Prophet Muhammed(PBUH) declared ‘Man arfa nafsuhu faqad arfa rabbuhu'(One who knows Ego, knows the Lord).

In the folds of ‘Love’.

All the saints agree upon the fact that ‘Love is the best thing to dissolve the Ego’. In fact weakening ‘Ego’ and strengthening ‘Love’ is one and the same thing. Unfortunately not many bravehearts take up this difficult challenge of realizing their real nature. As pointed out by an Indian mystic in medieval ages ‘Prem na kheto neepje, prem na haat bikaye. Raja praja jehu ruche, sees deye laye jae'(Love is neither cultivated in fields nor is it sold in the market place. Be it the king or subject, anyone can have it by giving the head; killing the ego).
Sufis, through their literature and sayings, have been hinting at this ‘Love state’ only, by employing analogies and idioms befitting their times and cultures. Though this journey generally starts from ishq-e-majazi (love for an object, beloved/sheikh) it always ends up at ishq-e-haqiqi (love with no object). No wonder the subject/object of love disappears, as we move towards the climax of most of the sufi love stories. Baba Bulle Shah, the famous sufi of Punjab puts it beautifully in one of his songs, ‘Ranjha ranjha kardi ve main aape ranjha hoyi. Ranjha ranjha saddo ni mainu heer na aakho koyi…’ (Calling out for Ranjha for so long, I’ve myself become Ranjha. Call me Ranjha now, don’t call me Heer anymore). In this zone the duality of Lover-Beloved ends and both become perfectly aligned. In this state the individual is in perfect harmony with the supreme consciousness; God, and lives upto his/her fullest potential, in peace, joy and awareness. Let me conclude the article with a Rumi quote, in this journey the “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”