Expansion is Life, is Love
Since love and its dissemination is the favorite subject of my teacher in India, the Avatar Sai Baba, and since Sai Baba is my source of inspiration, I decided to use a series of quotes from Him as the foundation of this article. So what is love and how can each of us have more of it in our lives?
"Man in his ignorance, asserts that he lives for himself alone, eats and drinks to appease his hunger and thirst, and looks after his health and comforts only. But the truth is quite different! This selfish attitude which curbs and curtails man's interests to himself and his aggrandizement is really "death." Contraction is extinction. Expansion is life. There is happiness only in the vast, the limitless, the huge: not in the little, the small, the limited. Love leads to expansion; hatred leads to contraction and death."
Here we have the core of it. If we want to have more love in our lives we need to expand the circle of our concern outward. Initially we are concerned with our family and friends, but if we want to know true love we need to expand the circle of our affections out wider and wider to include our local community, country and world. As we expand the circle of our concern we discover that there are no strangers, for all reside in the tabernacle of our heart.
"When a lamp is lit from another, there are two where there was but one. The first one did not stop emitting light. You can light a million lamps from one, yet the first will not suffer a jot! Love too is like this. Share it with a million, it will still be as bright as when it was alone."
What Sai Baba recommends and what he encourages is for each of us to find practical ways to express love toward others. Whether it's visiting a nursing home every Saturday afternoon and befriending the residents, or starting a local 5-a-side soccer club to take troubled teenagers off the streets, or helping out at a local charity shop - it doesn't matter, as long as it's in your heart to do this service. For through such public service, given with joy and gratitude, from the heart, we touch others and transform their lives.
Physical power is limited to the strength of our limbs, mental power is limited to the power of our brain to solve problems but spiritual power, which comes from the heart and is based on our capacity to share love, is unlimited. In fact the more we share love, the more we experience love and the more love we have to share!
"Broadening your heart and making it bigger and bigger, you should make it as big as God Himself. If you look at a balloon, in the initial stage it is flat. If you go on blowing air into it, it will get bigger and bigger, and at one stage it will burst. Though beginning with the ideas of "I" and "Mine", if you ultimately move onto the place where "all are mine," "all are one," gradually you will become broader in your vision and you burst and merge in God, who is omnipresent."
Here Sai Baba, through the simple analogy of the balloon, is revealing the purpose of life - to share love and through that sharing to expand our heart until it bursts and we merge in God. This is not a fantasy. We are all Gods - every one of us. We incarnated on Earth to evolve so that we eventually go beyond the Ego and become one with God. During this evolutionary process we are challenged to change our values so that they become more all embracing. These changes in our values in turn effect the decisions we make. We work out of a motive of love and service rather than for a desire for profit. We reach outward, extending our self-expression and sharing into our local community. We make different decisions as to how we earn our money and where we invest it. Love, instead of being an abstract concept, finds a central role as the determining factor in how we live our lives.
"This creation is like the bridge which connects man with God. "I" is one hill. "God" is another hill. The bridge between the two is the aspect of creation. If you break and destroy the bridge, you can never reach the destination. I am hoping that you plunge into society and do service to society and thereby use the bridge to reach God."
Sai Baba emphasizes again and again that love, if it is to mean anything, must be fashioned into practical projects used to address the most pressing needs of Mankind. This is where the wisdom of the public service ethos (not for income) comes into play. Many of Mankind's most pressing needs require love for their solution. We do not address meeting Mankind's most pressing needs with a profit motive. We do it for love - and these needs can only be solved through love, freely given and made practical in response to human distress. We may continue to work in a regular job to bring in sufficient income, but our public service work we do for love alone.
In some countries many people still lack the essentials of life - clean water, fresh food, education and healthcare - and in these countries such needs are an appropriate area of concern and corrective action. But in wealthier counties these needs are by and large met. The need here is to pour love into the lives of the depressed, distressed, suicidal and downhearted. Cities that are awash with money are still starved of love. Think of the prostitution, drug addiction, broken homes and crime that are the under-bed of such wealthy places. People engaging in such activities are lost for the want of someone to show them some love. Such love, delivered at the grass roots, is transformative and healing. In such instances love is the crying need and the only solution.
"Expansion is love, is life. Contraction is death, is hate. Pray for the good of all, crave for the prosperity of all, not of one person or party or nation. The craving for power, if it afflicts any one person, degenerates into a mania and brings in its wake great confusion and calamity."
Why do we do such work? It offers no position of power or authority. It offers no income. We might imagine that we do it for the benefit of the people who need our love and devotion and so they do - but this is not the reason we engage with this work with such dedication - we do it for our own personal development. We do it because we know it heals ourselves as well as the recipients. And ultimately we do it because it is as natural to offer love and to expand the circle of our love as it is to breathe.
Through such work, provided it is aligned with our hearts desire, we come finally into the reality of ourselves. Others may view our life as filled with work and dedication, but we experience it as simply having fun being the person we were born to be. Through our life of service we finally come home to ourselves - our magnificent, sensitive, empathic, Selves. We have finally found the love, wisdom and unity for which we have searched so long.
"Expand your heart. Enlarge your vision. Enlarge the circle of kinship and take more and more of your fellow beings into the tabernacle of your heart. Adore them in loving worship. Wisdom is only compassion at its highest, for through sympathy you enter the heart of another and understand him through and through. You go behind the veil of pretense and punditry, convention and custom, you go behind good manners and fashion that people put on to hide their agony and ignorance from the rest of the world. Finding unity in this diversity of roles is true wisdom."