Last week, I wrote a blogpost on the four immeasurables (compassion, gratitude, equanimity and joy), but failed to mention that gratitude is actually a placeholder for love. Kolbjorn Martens substituted gratitude for the modern beginner because love is so deeply misunderstood in this era.
In today’s age we confuse love with affection, romance, lust, and attachment; we experience it more often as something we can “get” from another and less so as a virtuous state of being.
Love is mistaken as a commodity.
What then is love?
Love is actually beyond concept; it is a state of consciousness that is spontaneously arising, luminous, and ever-present.
One of the words for love in Sanskrit is advaitabhavana, which translates as, “the feeling of not two”. So love is the ultimate experience of non-duality. Not to be mistaken with codependency, love is the first possibility of unambiguously experiencing another as self.
Let’s be honest, how many of us actually have a reference point for this? (The closest I have come is the first few weeks after my son’s birth when it viscerally felt as if we were one.)
Love is one of the signposts along the spiritual path. We get there with applied effort, such as devotion and accepting/treating all others as we do ourselves. It is not the work of martyrdom, but instead the celebration of humanity and life, and it arises naturally as we become less attached to the individual I.
Why then has Kolbjorn replaced love with gratitude?
Like love, gratitude is a virtuous state, yet easier to conjure at any stage by cherishing each moment of our existence. When selfless service and love’s other qualities still feel untenable, gratitude may be used as a gateway, since once we can really appreciate our lives, we will innately desire to share them with others, eventually experiencing all as one (love) seeking the same ultimate liberation.
It is at this point, once we have stabilized the internal state of love (or at least can summon it with relative ease), that we then can practice the traditional immeasurables: compassion, equanimity, joy and LOVE.