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The Basis of a Spiritual Relationship
Marlene: Dear Ram, let me just say I am glad. I enjoy reading your satsangs and thank you for including me. I hope I will benefit from them. Would it be okay with you if our relationship is based on friendship and affection, appreciation of nature, etc. as opposed to a relationship between an enlightened person and a person seeking enlightenment?
Ram: Yes, because I don’t think you are seeking enlightenment and I am not looking for someone to enlighten. I’ve always felt affection for you, so that is not a consideration. Nevertheless, please consider what I have to say because “enlightenment” needs to play some kind of role in nearly every one of my relationships. I think the best relationships involve more than the personal needs of two individuals, they involve a mutual appreciation of something higher.
Before one even considers a “relationship” I think it is important to understand why one wants a relationship in the first place. I view relationships as direct communication between equal participants on subjects of mutual interest. But, I’m sorry to say, since there are almost no topics that interest me except enlightenment, this makes me pretty much a one-issue guy. If I were lonely or needy, companionship might be a reason, but I’m not. Appreciation of the same activities can be a legitimate basis of a relationship, but this limits my appeal because about the only things I enjoy are walking, writing and conversing about God. I’ve done my business bit, my travel bit and just about every other bit imaginable. I’m in the winter of my life, moving inexorably toward the grave, so I’m pretty boring on the activity level, if you really must know. Sure, I’ll do the “one-off” just for a lark, but basically my whole life is taking place “within” me. If I have any passion left, it is for discussion on the meaning of life. I absolutely refuse to do relationships that involve arguments about “issues.”
It is difficult for me to have a relationship with someone who believes that the question of happiness can only be solved with reference to the options presented by society (pleasure, wealth, duty, power, fame, relationship, etc.), because such people are inevitably burdened by “problems” and “issues.” There invariably comes a point when their problems become my problems. This is only bad if the person does not realize that outer solutions are not workable and resists the idea of self-inquiry – since a commitment to self-inquiry has proven effective in removing most problems normal people encounter.
I don’t have problems. I’m not here to get anything, to learn anything. I don’t need help in any way and I am not going to bring personal longings, guilts and confusions to a relationship. But because my heart is pure, people feel compelled to let me see what is in their hearts. I swear, complete strangers tell me the most intimate details of their lives. When I lived in India, men would come up to me and confess everything, sometimes they would even break down and weep as they offered me their problems. So when this happens, I offer the only solution I know, the one that worked for me and the one that has worked since time immemorial: seek the self.
If the person insists on trying to make life work according to his or her desires and is basically uninterested in the topic of self-inquiry, then it is a waste of time for me to pursue the relationship. Very often people try to enlist me to help them get something they want from life – or they think I am what they want – but I don’t give it to them, because I can see that it will not solve the problem that they think it will solve. So the person needs to be sensitive to what I want.
What do I want? As you know, I have really lived. I am not going to get excited by a passionate love affair, an adventure to an exotic local, financial security or any other worldly thing. What does turn me on is seeing people respond to the spiritual message, seeing them wake up and get inspired and then get to work on themselves. If this happens, I am the absolutely best friend you can want. I will give you the shirt off my back and suffer untold torment for you.
But if a person is completely confused about what they want, is still trying to make the world work and has not actually considered or has a healthy resistance to the spiritual viewpoint, then I get quickly bored and wander off to spend time with people who understand and appreciate what I have to give.
Love is as much about giving as it is about getting. I don’t feel happy if I can’t give love in the form that most satisfies me: intelligent, heartfelt dialogue on the topic of the self. That doesn’t mean non-stop satsang, far from it. There is nothing more boring than the self-obsessed “spiritual” crowd. Give me a good Montana redneck any day. But a sincere interest should be there from the other person’s end so that the relationship keeps developing and growing. You don’t have to worry about me, spirituality is my life. I keep up my end of the bargain and I know how to keep a relationship heading in the right direction. I don’t think this is a “no” to your question, but I’d be interested to hear how you read what I just said.
Marlene: I know that I can, will and do learn from you, but what I really want is to enjoy you, you humor, your insights, your warmth and joy, to laugh with you, to be real with you, trusting in our friendship and affection.
I don’t know that I am on the path to enlightenment or have the mental intellect or energy right at this time to devote myself to the readings or studies, etc. But I don’t want to lose the opportunity to know you because of that.
Ram: I don’t think you are on the path to enlightenment, Marlene, at least not consciously. If you were on the path to enlightenment, you probably would have said, “I am on the path to enlightenment.” No blame. Aside from your career and your causes, your heart has been looking for love in relationship. I think you thought that if you could get the right guy the loneliness you feel would go away. I’d like to hear more about what conclusions you came to about the relationship with Michael. This will help me to better understand whether or not I can be of service to you.
Marlene: You may want to tell me, as you did Cynthia, to get off of my ass and get with the program.
Ram: Well, your situation and hers are quite different. She has been doing meditation and retreats for years, gone to India, the whole spiritual nine yards. She fancies herself to be a spiritual person, yet she whines and complains and seeks (unsuccessfully) for love in the world. So hers is a “money where your mouth is” argument. You have not signed on, you’re not even sure if there is anything to sign on to. And frankly, this is a better position to be in. You may not be ready to work on yourself, but at least you don’t have that detrimental “spiritual” overlay.
Spirituality is not about studying books at all. If you are confused, how will you know how to respond to what you read? The best way is to communicate with someone who is spiritually mature. I’m not going to suggest that you take up a whole lot of “spiritual” activities. I would imagine that you are up to your ears in activities. Spiritual activities might be marginally useful, but they will not remove the fundamental confusion you have about who you are.
What I want to talk about with you is whether the old idea of who you are has solved the problem it purports to solve. I want to introduce you to some new ways of thinking about yourself and what you are actually doing here on earth. And then once you understand what I’m saying, perhaps I might help you put these ideas into practice, should I be invited to do so.
The most attractive people to me are those who are working on themselves. There is nothing more boring than a person who is going nowhere, stuck in the same old patterns and who in the fullness of time will, like my father on his deathbed, say, “Too soon old, too late smart.” Well, it’s good to wake up on your deathbed, but it is better to wake up when you have some life left in you.
Marlene: But I hope that won’t be the only basis of our friendship. I look forward to talking.
Ram: It’s not about power or anything crass like that for me, Marlene. I don’t have disciples, devotees, students or anything of the sort. I may know something, but I am a regular person. There is nothing “spiritual” about me. I have friends, some of whom have solved or are committed to solving the existential riddle. There are several with whom I rarely discuss spiritual topics but where the spiritual undercurrent is so obvious and powerful that nothing needs to be said. With others I communicate exclusively and intensely about the self. There are a few who are beginners and some who are very knowledgeable. There is no particular rule. Something happens when you meet someone with whom you resonate spiritually – and you know it. And if you are true to that feeling and express yourself openly, the relationship can take any form. So let’s talk and see what happens.
You’re a lawyer. Think of this letter as a statement of intent, perhaps a kind of spiritual contract. This is what I expect and what I am willing to deliver. If you sign on the dotted line, I sue you if you get off-topic. If I fail to deliver, you take me to court.
~ Much love and affection, Ram