Circles of Love

In this article the path of expansion and contraction, and the circles of love and awareness are elaborated upon.

"There are two competing processes in life, which determine the entire course of a person’s spiritual growth and evolution. One process is the tendency toward contraction, in which a person becomes increasingly selfish, bitter, egotistical, and separate from others in life. No matter how much such people pray or meditate, they can never make real spiritual progress if they continue to create walls between themselves and others. They can never recognize the essence in themselves or others. Contraction means hatred and fear; it reflects the absence of love and peace. 

The second process is vital, for it is the process of expansion, the opening and development of love and the ability to recognize the essence in all. Only through expansion can a person ever really achieve happiness. Family life exists to help bring about expansion—to teach you to love. When you are alone in life you love only yourself. Then you meet and love your partner, and eventually you learn to love your children. Throughout life this love expands, extending in wider and wider circles. Family life is a preparation to accept and love the whole of humanity."

An excerpt from Love and Family Life by Swami Rama

The early years of human development are focussed on physical development, education and learning to integrate in society. This self awareness is only the beginning of the long journey of expanding love and awareness. Even though a young adult is physically mature he must learn to nourish and maintain the body. Nourishing and maintaining the body is important because it is the only instrument that enables you to live out your samskaras on this plane. The first duty you have is to yourself. It is possible to take good care of your physical and mental health with greater body awareness. 

Self love is very different from selfishness. A person who is self-centered is following the path of contraction. Self love is the first step in the path of expansion. This self love radiates outward in ever widening circles of love and awareness until it includes all.

The first circle: the immediate family

As you learn to care for yourself, you gradually learn to share your life with your immediate family, take responsibility for them and participate in family life. Your duties to your immediate family is the first circle of love and awareness.

The second circle: the working community

You must expand the circle to include your professional life. Work is not just a means to earn a living. It gives you a sense of purpose and is life transformative. It is important to create a community feeling rather than a competitive approach in work. A constant competitive environment causes chronic disease, the bane of our modern lives. With greater awareness you learn to integrate with your colleagues in your professional community developing healthy relationships and a cooperative attitude. You also learn to cultivate a positive approach to gathering knowledge in your area of work and transferring it to future generations. This is the second circle of love and awareness.

The third circle: extended family and friends

You can expand the circle of love and awareness to support the extended family and friends and taking up community work in the spirit of service for a cause that you feel strongly about. This is the third circle of love and awareness. 

The fourth circle: the nation

As the circle of love keeps growing it expands to include the entire nation. Such a person becomes a great leader.

The fifth circle: humanity and all beings 

This fifth circle of love and awareness includes entire humanity and all beings. The circle of love and awareness has become all-encompassing. Becoming utterly selfless, you work only for the welfare of others. This is a world leader. There are few who attain this level, since most of us remain attached to our petty identities. For a world leader, the world is no longer a terrible place of suffering; it is a wonderful playground to live out samskaras. Everything is Shakti, a play of benign energy.

 

Duties are ever expanding circles of love and awareness on the path of expansion

 

 

Love All, Exclude None

The path of expanding love and awareness finally leads to liberation. Self Realization has little in common with the petty concerns of the little self, where this journey of expansion began. 

The early years of human development appear selfish, because you think in the following terms: myself, my family, my job, my friends, my country. Your family, professional life, and extended family and friends are a playground for you to learn to keep expanding the circle of love until entire humanity and all beings are included in it. Such a one may choose to prepare for the final transition, remaining absorbed in contemplation and meditation. This is the culmination of the path of expansion. Life is beautiful and the one who is established in his own Self delights in it. For such a desireless one there remain no action to be performed, so he performs actions without attachments. The Sage King Janaka, for instance, is a legendary King, a truly wise and great, who has attained the highest state of Sakshatkara but he still performs his duties as a King in the spirit of selflessness and unconditional love. All his actions are an offering to the divine, all his life is a sacrifice. It is appropriate to call such an evolved person, “shreesta", one who is the best, superior, excellent one, best among men and women.

Self Realization vs self-centered

Self Realization is a natural result of expansion. For many beginners on the path of meditation the idea of Self Realization is attractive. Unfortunately for many, the path of meditation becomes a form of escapism. Tyaga, that is, external renunciation and withdrawal from society to devote oneself to meditation and contemplation cannot lead to the mystic heights of Self Realization if it follows the path of contraction and becomes self-centered. The path of contraction leads to egoism, isolation and separation from others. Self Realization is not selfishness and loneliness. Self Realization is vibrant, selfless, unconditionally loving and an indescribable interconnectedness with all beings.

Expanding awareness; not shifting awareness

From the idea of expanding circles of love it should be clear that love and awareness is not just shifted. For instance, it is common for those caught up in their careers to neglect the self and focus solely on their professional duties. Others who are politically ambitious neglect the family for the nation. Some sacrifice everything for a cause close to their hearts. This is not expansion of love and awareness. 

Expansion is inclusive. On the path of expansion you take care of yourself, your immediate family and fulfill your professional duties. The common response to this is: I do not have enough time. The solution is to lower one’s expectations, share work and be content with less.

Duty is not a burden 

Seen from a perspective of love and awareness duty is not a burden. It is the natural result of love and awareness. One who is aware and loving need not be forced to perform his duties.