Love Thy Neighbor



Please elaborate on the practical ways in which we can follow Christ’s second commandment -" Love thy neighbour as thyself".

Thanks. Joy.

—Shikha, Sehdev


Dear Friend,

To “Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean we have to love each and every person in a personal way. Our human nature is such that we feel at home with some people and repulsed by others. Remember that Jesus said, immediately before saying “Love thy neighbor,” that the first commandment is to love God with “all thy heart, mind, soul and strength.” And the second commandment, he said, is “like unto the first: love thy neighbor.”

We cannot, therefore, understand the second without confronting the first! Nor can we only focus on “love God” while we dislike our neighbors! The two are like the sides of a coin: you cannot have the coin of divine realization without both of its sides. Paramhansa Yogananda put it another way: he said, “How can you expect to win the love of God if you cannot win the love of your fellows?”

The reason the first commandment is first is because of what I said “first” (above). We simply cannot love every other person in precisely the same way and degree if we love in only a human way.

Let’s say you have a committed inner spiritual life of daily prayer, meditation, and good works. As you develop, especially through meditation, a direct, personal perception of divine realities even in their abstract forms such as inner peace, divine joy (meaning without condition), and, importantly, divine love, you feel “loving” in your heart without regard to whether there’s any person around you whom you love in a human way. This “loving feeling” simply fills your heart and radiates outward into your thoughts and daily activities.

Thus, even when you encounter a person who is otherwise spiteful, irritable, or critical towards you or others, this loving feeling in your heart remains untouched. Instead of reacting against this unhappy person in front you, you calmly respond as if it had nothing to do with you (your ego), and speak and act in ways that are helpful, healing and soothing.

Even if, taken to an extreme, you had to physically defend yourself or another person, you would not be aroused to personal anger or hatred towards that person. You’d feel regretful that violence was needed in self-defense or to prevent that person from harming another, but you will have done what was needed without regard to personal likes or dislikes.

Does this give you a hint as to how “to love your neighbor as yourself”?

Think of the word “yourself” as “your Self.” Think of Self as the divine soul, made in the image of God. Think of the soul, therefore, as a specific reflection of God. In the end, therefore, you are loving your neighbor as your Self (as God!)

Pray for devotion. Pray that God’s love fill your heart. When that happens you will find that feeling love for all people is natural and easy, no matter how you are treated by them. Thus it was, with this Divine Love as His essence, that Jesus Christ, nailed to cross, despised and rejected, prayer to the Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” For his Self was their very Selves but they did not know this.

In joy,

Nayaswami Hriman