Question: You’ve said, “in love, the pleasure comes from humility.” Can you explain this more thoroughly?
My Answer: Non-humility means to feel that the self is of central importance. The self, however, is a very dependent entity, so to put it in a central position is unnatural and stressful because it is like putting a weak beam as the support of a house. It is very stressful, and subject to frequent collapse.
Humility is natural and therefore not stressful but joyful. Humility means taking the self out of central importance. This removes the distress. Removal of distress brings a sublime pleasure, because it removes obstacles to experiencing the ānanda inherent in existence itself.
Humility is not just stress-relief, it is also positively delightful in its own right because it fulfills the fundamental need of consciousness: to experience something worth being conscious of. The beloved provides that experience.
Love and humility are not two different things. Love is intensified humility. Love is hyper-magnified humility.
Love takes the self out of focus and brings the beloved sharply into focus. It inspires us to act without consideration for our own happiness, to act for the happiness of the beloved. It grants us the mokṣa / liberation of losing the “self,” but without losing our individuality and motivation. So our expressions and endeavors do not lose any intensity or passion, but they lose all their limitations and smallness. So love is the most thrilling thing – the most concentrated form of bliss, sandrānanda.
Question: The soul is searching after the real, eternal lover. It wants to love Kṛṣṇa, to attain real love without separation. What about this desire ? Isn’t it a selfish desire? If so, is it not on the level of pure, Uttam Bhakti, which is unmotivated?
My Answer: Pure love is not “without desire” or “unmotivated.” That is a misunderstanding, or an unclear expression. Pure love is without extraneous desire, without ulterior motive.
Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī defines love as being anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam, not abhilāṣa-śunyaṁ (without desire or motivation). How could anyone say that love is without desire!? Love is full of desire. Śrī Rūpa describes the primary quality of love as being a desire (anukūla), specifically it is the expression (anuśilana) of a desire for pleasing Krishna. “anukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśilanam bhaktiḥ.”
Śrī Rūpa says pure love is desire, but is anya-abhilāṣa-śunyam – completely free from any other desires. The prefix anya- is important. Added to abhilāṣa it means ulterior motive, other desire. Love is the desire to please the beloved, and it has no other desire or motive.
Actually Śrī Rūpa doesn’t say anyābhilāṣa, he says anyābhilāṣitā. This -tā means that the basic quality of the love is that it has no ulterior desires, but occasionally, desires that are self-oriented can appear when they are not central. For example, if one’s life is threatened, one might desire survival. For example in such a situation, one could feel the need to survive so that the beloved will not be inconvenienced or saddened. Śrī Rūpa used this suffix to indicate that such self-oriented desires are also not antithetical to pure love.
The example you specifically brought up was the desire to attain love. How could this be considered an ulterior motive? It cannot. It is integral to the love itself to desire it. Such desires to love Krishna, meet Krishna, please Krishna are in no way anyābhilāṣa. Saying so is equivalent to describing a girl who loves her lover but has no interest in meeting him, seeing him, etc. What sort of love is that!? If she has no desire of coming into a position that could please and delight her beloved, does she really have love for him?
Love is desire – desire to please the beloved. The desire to attain the beloved and attain deeper love for the beloved is integral to love itself, not antithetical to it.
Even if there is some self-interest in it, “I want to be happy by gaining the supreme love,” still this is not antithetical to uttama-bhakti. Every individual has self-interest as a intrinsic result of being a distinct self. We cannot be rid of self-interest without being rid entirely of our individual existence as a distinct self, ātmā. But if we rid ourselves of individuality, who will be the lover and who will be the beloved? Prahlād Mahārāja clarifies that we cannot kill our inherent motive for self-interest, but we can realize that the true root of ourselves is Viṣṇu and therefore our ultimate self-interest is in pleasing him. “na te vidhu svārtha-gatim hi viṣṇum.” So, wanting to be happy by loving Krishna is not outside the realm of pure devotional service, it is an important part of the realization of what inspires a person to fully dedicate themselves to loving Krishna.
In summary, love is desire, and therefore desires that motivate one to please the beloved are positive, helpful, important parts of devotion. They are not at all antithetical to pure devotion, uttama-bhakti.
Vraja Kishor dās