LOVE AND DETACHMENT
Excerpt from “The Quest for Meaning : Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism”, forthcoming book published by Penguin, 2010All spiritualities highlight the ambivalence and ambiguity of love; its different natures and its two faces. Love is an initiatory school in which we learn to make progress, to rise above ourselves and then to free ourselves, but it can also be a prison in which we are bound by more and more chains. We go under, get lost and eventually become totally dependent. The universal teachings of spiritualities, philosophies and all religions are in agreement about this, and proffer the same truths: in love, the individual rediscovers what he or she went there to look for, because love is a mirror as well as a revelation. Because he is under the sway of his emotions and his need to possess, his love will always turn against him and cause him the sufferings of dissatisfaction and a chained heart. Imbued with spirituality and mastery, his love will take him out of the self and enable him to attain fulfilment and self-giving.
Love is therefore like education. It involves “going with” and learning to detach ourselves with an ever-greater awareness of the ambivalence of things and of the need for balance, which is always so difficult to achieve and so fragile. Knowing oneself, loving oneself sufficiently, learning to love better, to give, to give oneself and to forgive are lifelong learning processes that are never complete, never finished, always to be renewed. Loving without becoming attached and loving without becoming an object of attachment are probably both attitudes that require human beings to develop an acute discernment and to arm themselves with deep qualities of being and courage. Loving life and watching it fade away, loving ourselves without any illusions about ourselves, loving one’s loves in the knowledge that times will take them away, loving without idolatry, and loving with an awareness of the relativity of all things. That is the profound meaning of the loving compassion that must, in the Buddhist tradition, set us free. In the monotheist religions, the oneness of God has the same deep meaning. We must free ourselves from our illusions, from the false worship of our desires and idols of one’s inner self if we wish to accede to a love-lucidity as we seek a proximity that can perceive the extent of distance in the absolute. That is the mystical experience that al-Jilâni (11-12th centuries) and Rûmi (13th century) tries to convey, as do all spiritual and mystical experiences. Gibran’s Prophet sums up how the love of the Whole and/or God leads us to abandon the self when he says ‘When you love, you should not say “God is in my heart”, but rather “I am in the heart of God”.’
To love without being dependent. Nothing could be more difficult, and doing so requires a long apprenticeship that is both demanding and sometimes painful. The goal is to love without any illusions. That is all the more difficult in that we sometimes have the impression that love means being deluded. How can we graduate from the illusion of love to the lucidity of love? How can we detach ourselves from the very thing to which we are, by definition, attached? Gibran’s Prophet also says: ‘Love possess not, nor would it be possessed ’, but what becomes of those who are possessed, of the women and men who are ‘blinded by love’ and who are in chains? How can we reach out of ourselves to merge into the heart of the Whole or the Light of the One? Love is indeed a promise of good, beauty and well-being, but that promise has always come with so many tears, so much suffering, and so much pain. To live is to suffer; to live is to love … to love is to suffer. And if we wish to live, must we therefore come to love our suffering until we die?
The love that transcends love is a love that liberates. It brings both fullness and a sense of contingency. We therefore have to teach our consciousness and our hearts to love in the absolute of the moment and in full awareness of time, to be there and to know that we will pass away. To love whilst learning to go away: the finest love never forgets separation, and still less does it forget death. Love and death are the most human of all couples: the deepest human love tries to have no illusions about the inevitability of death. That fragility is its strength. The power of humility lies hidden on the edge of that awareness –in love –of death.
To go back to the beginning. The sacred texts, the ancient traditions and all philosophies of all ages tell us to look at and learn from Nature, its beauty and its cycles, and to the ephemeral and eternity. We know that we love, naturally, but they still teach us to love better, to love consciously and spiritually, and to learn to apprehend meaning in detachment. And we have to choose between the reserve of Kant and Nietzsche’s impetuosity, between the way of Buddha and that of Dionysus, between the love of God and the love of Desire. Between an idea of freedom and the management of needs, between independence and dependence, and between detachment and bondage. One does not choose to love but one can choose how to love. Nature is the mirror before which we must raise our faces, gaze into proximity and distance, in the knowledge that, whilst we are now fully present, the earth will give the same fullness to others as it sanctifies our absence. The mirror of time and the infinite spaces reflect it, the liberated self understands it, and the One repeats it: to love is to be there, in proximity to the extraordinary in the ordinary, and to offer, give and forgive. To love is to reconcile the sedentary presence with nomadic migration, the roots of the tree with the strength of the winds. To love is to receive and to learn to let beings go. To love is to give and to learn to go. And vice versa
15 commentaires - “LOVE AND DETACHMENT”
Assalamalaikum wa rahmatullah Dr. Ramadan.
The article is wonderful; the topic is relevant throughout our lives. My question is this: which school does one attend to learn these ways of being? Surely the school of your childhood home is the first place… however, every parent does not have the wisdom/capacity/ability to constantly live out these ways of being and pass them on to their children. Perhaps they themselves are struggling with learned ways of their own childhoods and are unable to be the living examples their children need.
Your article gives wonderful suggestions and what we should aim for in our lives… but how does one train oneself to be like this? How can our religion help in this regard? Beyond theory, I mean. Beyond the implementation of the 5 pillars and the reading of hadiths, I mean. How does one train oneself to be the person you describe in your article?
The school of your childhood should be the first school, but to be honest many of our parents caused more harm than good in giving as a proper, love-filled islamic education. We have a lot of catching up to do. So the question of how to learn islam in it’s totality is a very real one!
I think muslims today are so lost. Islam should bring love and peace, but we have made it into an empty shell. Without this love, patience and peace it means nothing. I think we miss out on a lot and don’t even began to grasp the essence of islam. So mr. Ramadan it’s good that you remind us of this and I see in how you deal with people that you have got it, but you must help us to learn how to get it too.
Dear Professor, you state that we can choose how to love but is there not, in western tradition, a belief that romantic love is almost by definition something that cannot be chosen but which chooses its victims. Scott Fitzgerald depicted romantic love as being essentially incompatible with god consciousness. Can you indicate how we can be free from romantic love without losing our vulnerability and the selflessness that sustains so much that is good?
Romantic love is tricky; often superficial but very intense. A man can fall in love with a woman that appeals to his sight, a woman can think she found her lifepartner in a man that gives her a (vague) promise, while in fact both are meaningless. That’s the problem with romantic love, often meaningless and built on delussion. I think it’s very necessary to be wise in who one gives his/her heart and mind to, and not to go by instincts. And we must teach our children to do so as well.
Aprendre à se connaître est une chose, refuser le sentiment amoureux en est une autre.
Il serait trop triste de construire un couple avec l’aide d’un logiciel raisonnable. Comment même avoir la moindre attirance et se laisser approcher? Sans sentiment amoureux l’union charnelle est triste. Comment pouvoir se sentir épanoui dans le cadre dune “union raisonnable”. Comment ne pas s’y ennuyer dans la banalité la plus plate?
Le sentiment amoureux peut conduire, s’il est accompagné d’une attention à ses besoins et à ceux de l’autre, s’il relie deux personnes qui ont des visions de la vie proche, à un amour profond et durable, irrigant de sa richesse une vie entière. Tournée vers autrui et reliée à Celui qui a créé toute forme de vie. Christiane Singer le disait : l’amour n’est pas aveugle, il est au contraire lucide.
Comment se fait-il que tous les grands mystiques aient utilisé le langage amoureux?
C’est peut-être cela notre problème : nous n’osons plus aimer.
Un amour réussi part d’une rencontre. Qui n’a déjà vu ces jeunes couples d’amoureux si tendres, si attentionnés l’un avec l’autre, si joyeux et légers, dans l’innocence de leur sincérité… Faut-il leur dire qu’ils se trompent? Ou faut-il leur apprendre à mettre toute leur attention à faire vivre la quelité de leur relation? Non dans leur cocon, mais aussi sans se perdre…
Bref, de ma vie entière, je n’ai jamais connu qu’un ou deux couples réussis… Pour dire que l’amour est aussi une grâce, un cadeau, et que les “il faut” ne nous servent pas à grand chose…
La crainte de la solitude est selon mes observations le plus grand facteur de durabilité des couples…
Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent et …?
yesterday …I listened to this statement:
(I am not a man of money . I am a man of principles) in your last talk in the church. Thanks for guding us by your lectures and articles.
I understand completely. I look at my loved ones, my mother who is 83, Alhamdulillah, and I feel a desperation, almost a panic as our time together slips away and I look at my daughter who at 25 and is about to marry and is only beginning her life’s journey and the joy and hope I feel for her overwhelms me. And I hope the Almighty forgives me for having difficulty in letting go and loving, letting go while loving.
This world needs detachment to love anything, even your own self. It needs reminding the essence, the One, or else you are lost.
‘…to be there and to know that we will pass away’. this is so true, we come in this world and we want to stay forever. a very selfish thought came to my mind couple of months ago when I looked at my niece and saw her as my replacement in this world and for a second I did not know if I really liked her. she is my sweet heart of course but the fact that I am going to die and will be replaced by others seemed a bit scary.
“VICE VERSA” MEANS TO RECEIVE AND LEARN TO STAY?…
I WOULD LIKE YOU TO ANSWER. THINK ABOUT IT TWICE.
Salams to All: A masterpiece. I am reading this article many many times. Love it so much.
yes why do men get so emotionally involved with women and women are so detached , perhaps it is single mothers who have been hurt by aman so they dont allow themselves attatchment after that
Assalamualaikum Waramatulahi Wabarakatuh ,
My Bro Tariq Ramadhan , may ALLAH swt reward you in every bit , may ALLAH swt accept our deed .
Im Marlina Wong from Malaysia, i was a pratising Buddist revert to Islam 15 years ago , so much more yet to learn in Islam but along the learning journey found many similar value, indeed the chapter of spiritual excellent in Buddism – selfless is deep , how low can we go is broad.
Your writting has inspired me to enter another classroom of search of Love for the ALMIGHTY and D Beloved Prophet saw.
Jazzakullah khir katiran
Should we perhaps argue for non-attachment rather than detachment?