What’s “Love” got to do with it?
During Valentine’s Day every year I get to reflect on “loving relationships” in a double whammy scenario.
Not only is it a commercialized and heavily re-interpreted celebration of romance that has origins in an anniversary of the martyrdom of a Christian saint as well as the Roman holiday Lupercalla (ref: www.history.com), but this time of year is also the birth anniversary of my loving wife.
Every year the comical ritual is enacted of figuring out whether I have to buy two separate gifts or a single gift as a token of my “love.” I am of the attitude that celebrations of “birth” days are also heavily commercialized and tokenized rituals and would rather participate in “life” days. But I am not a stickler of these mundane arguments.
This year I have figured out a symbiotic balance between the two annual events and have acquired the right “gifts of love.”
I will be safe. But mere safety in the relationship is not the goal. One would hope for, among other attributes, a relationship of continuous understanding, compassion, grace, respect and honesty.
That is the problem with the word love.
What is love? And the more important question is what the word “love” has to do with Valentine’s days, birthdays, anniversaries, and general periodic social events. Is it really love as in “I love my wife/mother/daughter” or is it, like my daughter would say, “I love ice cream!”
Love is indeed a four-letter word, heavily used, very interpretive and many times taken out of context in our personal lives.
On the other hand, there is no context for the word love in Sikhi. Love is so important within the Nam-culture of the Guru and relationship with the Divine that the Guru’s divine poetic revelations contain over a dozen different terms to refer to what in English we may know as “love:” piar, ishq, mahobat, prem, nehu, preet, chau, pria, etc.
Love in Sikhi is not just a feeling as in “I feel an intense Love for you,” love is an action as in “my whole being and actions in my life are a manifestation of my love for you.”
dilohu muhabati jinn sei sachia
jin mani horu mukhi horu si kande kachia
Those that love from the heart are the true beings
Those that have one mindset but different actions; those are the underdeveloped beings.
It is ironic that Valentine’s day which is interpreted as a commemoration of loving, romantic and favorite relationships is in actuality the memorialization of the ultimate act of love which is witness to Truth which is martyrdom.
No student of Sikh history will deny the fact that the rich heritage of martyrdom is in our worldview an epic love story between the Sikhs, their Guru and the Ultimate Beloved.
The Sikh Divine Wisdom posits that the ultimate act of love is when the lover will either take or give a life on behalf of the “Loved One.”
The Master of Miri-Piri took the life of Pande Khan in an act of love, and the Ninth manifestation of the Master also gave his head but not his dignity and freedom in a similar act of love. These examples have inspired thousands of Sikhs for generations who delve into both physical and meta-physical personal and communal relationship of piar with the Piara.
jisu piare sio nehu tisu agai mari chaliai
dhrigu jivanu sansari ta kai pachai jivana
The beloved whom you love, ensure your death before theirs
Living life after the death of the beloved is a worthless life
Love is an action, but it is a journey as well.
In any loving relationship the never ending journey begins with humility and submission and progresses towards composure and courage. Love in Sikhi and as a result love in our natural life is not a barter system, not an exchange of episodic gifts and movement to safe zones.
To really love with one’s whole being, one must submit to the beloved. To really submit to the beloved, one must have courage to “give one’s head in love” to the beloved.
Yes, this is in reference to the journey of building the “Fort of Love,” the foundation of which was established by Guru Nanak Sahib – the Humble One, and the final touches of which were formalized by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib – the Courageous One. If their work is not a holistic model of love (puran prem pratit sajai) then I don’t know what model we can follow for what’s love got to do with it?
This blog is lovingly submitted to all the loves of my life; may I be as humble to love wholly and may I be as courageous to love till I can walk the journey of love with my head on my palm.
Inderpreet Singh serves on SikhRI’s Board of Directors. He is also a frequent presenter on behalf of SikhRI.