The Difference Between Infatuation and Love
Dealing with unrequited love and broken hearts
I start off with a basic truth. Love has no complaints and all is well always! But 'love' brings a lot of problems right? It depends on definition of love. All the painful love is unrequited love.
Unrequited love has been defined as a love that is not understood and reciprocated by the object of love, which is usually a person. The ‘beloved’ may be unaware of the ‘admirer’s’ deep affections or may not want to reciprocate even after knowing what the ‘admirer’ feels. And when it comes to the suffering and pain, it is always the case of grass being greener on the other side. The ‘admirer’ feels that life is so simple for the ‘admired’ wishing that there is someone to pine for him/her in a similar manner. The ‘admired’ feels that the ‘admirer’ is simply complicating life, gets embarrassed and wonders why he/she is being stalked.
And there are broken hearts, pieces of which lie scattered along many life-journeys.
It is not as if unrequited love happens only in romantic relationships. Platonic friendships, which are based on strong, non-romantic attachment too provide a fertile soil for such love. In these cases, a friend, an acquaintance or a colleague becomes the object of unrequited love. So well-known are cases of unrequited love that poems, songs, books and movies have been made on such themes. Almost everyone has faced this either as an ‘admirer’ or as an ‘admired’ at some point of time of their lives. While some may whine saying that one-way love is at least better than having a completely dry life, those that have been part of the one-way love feel that it is best to be away from such things rather than have the heart broken.
So, what is this true love? Is it a myth? When love is supposed to elicit love, why does it not seem to be doing so? And when love is not returned, why does the person not just understand and go away? All these questions arise like a sandstorm in the heart, breaking it into tiny pieces in the fury of its gusto. The greatest adventure and experience in my life has been in experiencing true love and thus understanding some of its facets. Before I embark on sharing these insights, I wish to make that task easy by sharing my own little story on unrequited love and a dozen heart-breaks. Knowing that will make it easier to understand the difference between infatuation and love.
The story happened in three different sections, the second of which I have shared in the most unforgettable episode of my life - When God Teaches You to Walk. Here I share the first. The third is about how I found my best friend.
The story of a dozen friendships - and a dozen heartbreaks
The story begins from my school days. I was a person who would get attached to people very fast. If anybody was nice to me and shared their affections with me, I would grow very fond of them. This trait of mine was nourished and nurtured by many friendships that I made. I was fiercely possessive about my friends and very loyal to them too. And I had many circles of friendship, with a select few in the innermost one - for whom I would be ready to do anything! Though a friend would enter my life from the outermost circle, with a little understanding, empathy, affection and kindness, he/she would be able to work the way through to the inner circles.
I have made use of the past tense in my narrative because today, I am not like that. I still love people with great intensity but I do not get attached to them as I used to. The happenings during my 2nd year undergrad, in the academic year 2001-2002 have been important in shaping me in this manner. I was a student of the Brindavan campus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.
I shall not go into the minute details of my unrequited love for I wish to present the answers. The pains of unrequited love that I went through were the same - my ‘best-friends’ not coming up to my expectations, me not getting in return what I was giving out liberally to my friends, my friends not even knowing that they were paining me and, to top all of that, some of them even wondering why I was acting so ‘crazy’.
During these days, the worst part of my days were the nights. The schedule for the students at the Institute has been set so wonderfully by Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) that if it is followed sincerely, it does not allow any student time for distractions. It keeps him completely immersed in academics, extra-curricular activities, prayers, social service and integrated personality development that it is tribute to the monkey mind that one is able to find time for distractions!
And my mind found this ‘devil’s workshop’ timing from 9:30 pm to 10:00 pm. The dinner and study hours would be complete by 9:30 pm and it was lights-out at 10:10 pm. Those 40 minutes, I would ‘visit’ my friends in their rooms, talk and interact with them. I thought of these minutes as a very happy time. But it was also the seedbed for growing expectations. I would visit a sick friend and tend to him for long. But I would expect the same treatment when I was sick, but that would not happen. I would work extra hard to make special cards for my friends’ birthdays, but I did not receive such special cards from them! (You get the idea right?)
So, as I would sleep at night, I would cry over why these friends were not responding to the love and affection in my heart. Little did I know then that intertwined along with the purity of my love were the dreadful strings of attachment also.
The trip to Puttaparthi - a hope beckons
I decided to seek Swami’s help out of this. There were a hundred other things in my life which He had helped solve and I was sure that He would help me out with this too. We would be soon visiting Puttaparthi for the Sports Meet on January 11th, 2002. I wrote a letter to Swami about how each and every friend of mine had failed me and how desperately I wanted His help, strength and understanding from within, to deal with this. I cried bitter tears as I wrote that letter and I asked Swami as to why love was never appreciated in the world. (The mind goes into such foolish assumptions very quickly. It makes one feel that one is being very noble in love. It makes attachment, infatuation and the burden of expectations to be confused as love.)
By January 5th we were at Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi. I carried my letter with me for daily darshans whenever I could. I never got a chance to give the letter to Swami. And even at Puttaparthi, my pain from unrequited ‘love’ continued. For instance, I would tell a friend of mine that I would be joining him for dinner at the canteen and I so I wait for him to return from Sports practice. But when he returns, he has already had his dinner and he says,
“Gosh I forgot. Am sorry.”
That's all! He does not even know that I have not yet had my dinner. And if I state that, I will be accused of being clingy. (Let me be honest - I was clingy! And stupid too. And I mistook that to be love and friendship.)
Amidst all this, I get no solace from Swami. No letter-acceptance, no smile, no pat on the head and no consoling words. The Sports meet concluded on 11th and the 14th was the prize distribution. I wrote a fresh letter because I was sure that when I went on stage to pick up the winners’ shield for the Institute Debate, I would get a chance to hand over the letter to him. Frankly speaking, I was most eager about being able to give this letter and do away with a terrible problem in my life - more than about receiving a shield from Him. I wanted a ‘shield’ of another kind.
But on the 14th of January, 2002, as I went up to him with my fellow-participant to take the shield, I did not even get a look of recognition. Of course, Swami presented us the shield and posed with us for a photograph. But he did not pat me on my back nor take my letter. Nor did He give me a reassuring smile. To add pain to this, he patted the other’s shoulder! I returned to my place with great sorrow in my heart - a sorrow that I could share with none for none would understand, even Swami (or so I thought).
Divine Love and Light
The next day we started back towards our campus in Brindavan, Bengaluru. I was in a state of complete sadness. The feeling of being a ‘victim’ of unrequited love was enhanced by Swami’s apparent indifference to what I was going through. I wondered as to when I would get the next chance to convey to Him what I felt and give Him my letter. The next trip for Shivaratri was at least more than a month away.
In the meanwhile, we reached our destination and it was with a certain amount of dread that I faced the prospect of another night without a solution. My damned attachment was so strong that I could not even restrain myself from going and interacting with my friends. I decided that this night I would not go anywhere. I would simply go to bed.
“But what if some friend comes to me and talks to me?”, I thought. I again prayed to Swami to help me love the way He loves. And in an instant, a magical and totally unexpected thing happened.
I was summoned to the warden’s office or ‘the den’ as we used to call it. Sri.B.N.Narasimhamoorthy was the warden, a man who commanded great awe and respect. I entered the office and the first statement he told me, simply swept me off my feet,
“Swami wants you to sleep every night in His residence, Trayee Brindavan. This means you will have to go in by 8:00pm and be all by yourself till next day morning 5:00am. Are you ready?”
What was I to say?
“Swami said that some students should sleep in Trayee Brindavan for security(!). He personally picked the boys and you are one among them. Get your bedding and shift to Trayee Brindavan.”
This was a boon from the highest heavens. And adding to that boon was the next statement,
“You will continue to sleep there even when Swami is in Brindavan.”
Sleeping one floor below Swami’s bedroom! What a boon!
Seeking God’s love alone is the solution
As I lay on the bed looking at the balcony from which Swami gives darshan after every Trayee session, I was simply lost. My mind was blank and heart was rejoicing. In a single moment, Swami had solved my ‘friendship’ problems! I was connected to Him so strongly that the other attachments felt weak and loose.
Today, when I look back to that special ‘first night’, so much clarity evolves. Unrequited love is nothing but attachment, desire and, at times, infatuation or a combination of all of these. Love is always blissful. Love is divine. And Love is always one for it always comes from God alone.
I realized that throughout my life, whenever I ‘liked’ a person or ‘loved’ a person, it was because of some nice feelings and thoughts that the person evoked in me. It was because he/she gave me love and affection of some kind. What I failed to see was that this love was God’s love coming to me through a particular person. Instead of getting attached to the love, I got attached to the person.
What do I mean? When I was sick, I was looking forward for my ‘special friends’ to come and tend for me, all the while neglecting my roomies and other classmates who came to be with me. So lost was I searching for expressions of love in a few that I missed the very same expressions from many others! How many times have I missed God's love because it comes in a form that I am not expecting?
Swami has exhorted a thousand times that His love for me is always with me, in me, above me, below me and around me. He says that I will never be away from His love. But I miss it all the while because I am looking for it only in a few forms! Oh! What a mistake it is to give importance to the conduits of love rather than love? It is like licking with parched tongues on a dry pipe allowing water to gently gurgle out of another pipe nearby. Is the water more important or the pipe?
And thus, the difference between infatuation and love boils down to what I seek. When I seek love, for it is my default mode to do so, it is fine. But when I seek the form, the body or the object through which I feel I can experience love, it becomes infatuation. One is then unable to let go of that object of love even if loves ceases to flow from it! The irony is that there is always an abundance of love for any seeker of love. One just has to make sure that it is love that one is seeking and not its container.
Finally, I understand what Swami means by saying the heart is not musical chairs but a single-seater sofa. It has place only for one. And that ‘one’ should be God’s love because that is all there is in the universe. My heart is a container that should not hold pipes but the water. Who cares from which pipe the water flows? And my God is the only reservoir of water.
I prayed and I continue to make that prayer even today,
“Swami, let my love for you and thirst for your love grow stronger each passing moment.”
If I seat many on a single-seat sofa and it breaks, is it not natural? Let me seat only ONE and let that be my God! For, God is love and love is God.
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