Monday, April 19, 2004

First Love and the Religious Experience

First Love and the Religious Experience

Religious awakening, like first love, can be an overwhelming experience. It seizes a person and changes his whole perspective in life. In the throes of its ecstasy, one is so sure that what one feels inside is right.

It is as if, at a certain point in the evolution of the mind and soul, it latches on to a stable state--one in which everything suddenly seems to fall in place; one that illuminates and dispels the darkest doubts in our minds. It is a heightened state of consciousness unlike what one has ever felt before.

Depending on the readiness of the person, this transformational experience could either change a person for the better or veer him completely off-course. A teenager falling in love for the first time thinks that nothing else in the world is more beautiful than what he or she is experiencing. The pair of teenage lovebirds would think that adults simply do not understand what they are going through. With the love that they have for each other, they feel that they will be able to conquer and overcome every obstacle that comes their way.

How beautiful is first love! How intoxicating is the flowering of our first spiritual impulses! Our entire world bursts into dazzling splendour. The lotus blooms. Stars explode. Eyes well with ecstatic tears.

What we think is the childish love between a boy and a girl in the bloom of their youth, is but an inferior glimpse of what the religious experience is ultimately like. The love between two individuals is often selfish; but love, in all its forms, when it does blossom, is naturally a good thing for it is basically a sign that the soul is seeking to embrace something other than itself. The soul is ever-growing. When it realises that it has some worthy purpose beyond its limiting mortal frame, it lunges furiously at it, like a plant seeking light.

We smile at the innocence of teenage love because we could see how small their vision of the world is. Later in life, their souls would progress to embrace larger causes--it could be the environment, it could be human rights, or it could be the desire to serve the community. These are all noble causes, worthy of our pursuits. The soul revels in its tendency to embrace an ever-expanding vision of the world. As we slowly diminish the selfish concerns of our mundane souls, the glory of God begins to fill us. This can be a very intoxicating experience.

But little do we realise sometimes that this intoxication could also be an impediment to our progress. We are so enamoured with these incidental glimpses of God that we forget that the soul still has a long journey to go. Sometimes we even think that the ecstatic vision that happens to consume us is all that matters. We are so sure that the girl we love is the most beautiful girl in the world. Why should we or other people for the matter, even consider other girls?

Once upon a time, we thought the Universe revolves around our Earth. Then we realised that the Earth is but an average-sized planet, rather unremarkable, among many other planets that revolves around the Sun.

Then we found out that our Sun is but one of millions of stars which perambulate within a cosmic carousel of stars called the Milky Way galaxy. And then even the Milky Way is nothing special--there are billions of galaxies like that--each with its own population of stars, of planets, and probably of souls, lonely in their enormous cosmic isolation, souls that cling desperately to one another, or to their tiny visions of the world, and falling head-over-heels in love, for the very first time.

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