Being in love with God
- Category: Alison Marshall's Column
- Created: Wednesday, 26 April 2006 14:53
- Published: Wednesday, 26 April 2006 14:53
- Hits: 4993
The conclusion from the last post gives us the following description of detachment: "Detachment is about the soul leaving everything behind and 'journeying' to its Lord. In doing so, it finds a place that is eternal, and in that place it isn't concerned with anything else but God - nothing gets between the soul and God or the Absolute Truth. That soul is busied with mentioning God and isn't in love with anything else or immersed in anything else. In that eternal place, the soul is in the presence of God, sees God and bears witness to God."
I said that I would try to find the essential experience of detachment and, from the above description, I would say that it is about being in love with God. Let's explore what that means. What are the many experiences a person has when they are in love with God?
There is one notion I want to discount from the outset. In Christianity, the accepted behaviour for people who love God is to adopt a monastic way of life. Such people become monks and nuns and do not marry -- they are thought of as being married to Christ. They live their lives secluded from the world to varying degrees. However, Baha'u'llah has forbidden the Baha'is to take up a monastic way of life. He tells us to participate in the world and not to seclude ourselves from it. I think this makes it difficult for Baha'is to understand what detachment is. The only concept they have to go on is monasticism. When they think 'detachment', they think 'monasticism'. And they imagine that a detached person is a person who does not operate in the day-to-day affairs of the world. Given that Baha'u'llah has forbidden the Baha'is to take up monasticism, the concept of detachment must mean something different from that. Baha'u'llah asks us to become detached but does not allow us to become monks and nuns.
Having given this a great deal of thought, I reckon the best way to think of detachment is as being in love with God. If we examine how we behave when we are in love, we get an idea of how a person behaves as they become detached. When we are in love with someone, we become absorbed in thinking about them and entirely focused on them. We are interested in them and seek out information about them. We value things in the world according to how those things relate to the person. If a thing reminds us of the person, we love that thing. If a thing was touched by that person, we love that thing. If a thing is loved by that person, we also love that thing and so on. In essence, being in love rearranges our inner world by rearranging what we value.
But when we are in love, we do not stop living in the world. We go to work, we participate in our communities, we vote, we talk about what's going on around us, we continue with our lives. Just because we are in love, we do not necessarily seclude ourselves from the world. People watching us would not necessarily know that we are in love, unless we spoke about it or we changed our behaviour noticeably. When we fall in love, the biggest change is inside us. That change is so great that people refer to it as moving from one world to another. For the person who has fallen in love, they have 'detached' from their previous world and found a new one. Using the language that the Sufis and Baha'u'llah use, you can say that the person has 'died' to their previous life.
So you see, detachment isn't about taking up a monastic life style. It is about undergoing an inner transformation which is so revolutionary that a person finds themselves experiencing a completely different world and holding to different values.
"Say: O concourse of monks! Seclude not yourselves in your churches and cloisters. Come ye out of them by My leave, and busy, then, yourselves with what will profit you and others. Thus commandeth you He Who is the Lord of the Day of Reckoning. Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, truly, is the seclusion that befitteth you, could ye but know it." (Baha'u'llah: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p 49)
Original blog entry...