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Chapter 9  -  Relationships: Human and Divine

We all need love, and we all need relationships, but our deepest needs for  love and relationship will never be fully satisfied by any human relationship.

 To find the happiness which is our birthright, we must learn to recognize that human relationships will always have some imperfections, and that our deepest needs for enduring love and happiness will only be fully met through a personal relationship with the loving-kindness and inner guidance of the Light Within, the light of Divine Presence.


We all have a strong instinctual need to pursue a deep, lasting, loving relationship and we all have an innate need for love, but no matter how many human relationships we may try, human love will ever be enough. There is no human relationship which will ever be able to totally fill all of our deepest needs for love. The ultimate source of happiness is not external, it is within you! Seeking "out there" is not enough, you must turn to the inner life, that still small voice within, the holy spirit, the spirit of guidance, the wondrous Divine Presence which is the very foundation of your being.

Every soul seeks for happiness, and after pursuing all the objects which for the moment seem to give happiness, it finds out that nowhere is there perfect happiness except in God.

The Unity of Religious Ideals, Hazrat Inayat Khan

The deep, enduring relationship which we are instinctively seeking, and which is our birthright, is above and beyond human relationship. In fact, we have an innate need to pursue a deep relationship with the Divine, a need which is most completely filled when we become joyfully willing instruments of the Divine Presence, offering the wondrous gifts of love, harmony and beauty to all whom we encounter.

Deep within every person is a shimmering flame of love, an ultimate fountain of truth, an ever-present source of inner guidance, which I'll call Divine Presence, but please don't be distracted by the use of that particular name. Perhaps you may choose to call it The Spirit of Guidance, or Ruach, or Holy Spirit, or True Nature, or Truth, or Sat Nam, or Ruh, or Buddha-Nature, ... the name does not really matter, words are only metaphors which help us to recall something. All that truly matters is that you remember your own true nature and find a way to allow that still small voice of loving-kindness and guidance deep within you to be the very foundation for every relationship and every moment of your life. There is no other path to enduring happiness.

Yes, we need human relationships, but human relationships alone are not enough. We also need an intimate relationship with the inner voice and inner guidance arising from the Divine Presence. Human relationships can help to meet our human needs, but no human relationship can ever equal the deep calm, peace and illumination of a personal relationship with the Divine Presence. Yet, all too often we find ourselves chasing after a more perfect human relationship, imagining that if only we had a new friend or a new lover, or if he/she was taller, or thinner, or wealthier, or more loving or more gentle or more appreciative or more supportive, then we would finally be happy.

But, alas, that is all nonsense, it is only the cluttered rambling of the superficial ego. Human beings, and human relationships, will always be imperfect. As a humorist once wrote:

You have two choices in life: You can stay single and be miserable or get married and wish you were dead.

H. L. Mencken

Our deepest needs such as our longing for pleasure, affection and esteem can only be reliably fulfilled through a healthy inner relationship with the Divine Presence. It is certainly true that in the presence of some people, or in some situations, we more easily experience the joyful serenity of the Divine Presence. But the wondrous beauty of such moments is not actually dependent upon that particular person or situation, it is entirely due to your awareness of some shimmering facet of the Divine Presence during that interaction.

A wife loves her husband not for his own sake, dear, but because of the Self that lives in him.

A husband loves his wife not for her own sake, dear, but because of the Self that lives in her.   ...

Everything is loved not for its own sake, dear, but because of the Self that lives in it.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, tr by Eknath Easwaran

The love, harmony and beauty which we long for in our life is ever-available in each moment of our life, and our enjoyment of it is only limited by our own ability to accept and embody the inner gift of the true Self, the Divine Presence, which constantly enfolds and supports us, even when we do not acknowledge it.

All of our human relationships will be even more beautiful if we can attune ourselves to the Divine Presence and carry the wonders of that magnificent presence into each moment of our human encounters. Rather than expecting to find peace and joy as a result of a specific human relationship, the greatest beauty will be found when one carries the loving-kindness of Divine Presence into that relationship. The resulting happiness, peace and satisfaction which you will be blessed with will be a measure of the flow of Divine Presence which you are giving, not what you are receiving from another person.

Rather than demanding that life must give to us some certain relationship, or some perfect human being, we must instead learn to see "How great Thou art!", and strive to simply be instruments of the ever-present, unlimited flow of Divine Presence, bringing love, harmony and beauty into the world, and accepting the fact that every human relationship will be, in some way, imperfect, yet delightful.

The work of the inner life is to make God a reality, so that He is no more an imagination; that this relationship that man has with God may seem to him more real than any other relationship in this world; and when this happens, then all relationships, however near and dear, become less binding. But at the same time, a person does not thus become cold; he becomes more loving. It is the godless man who is cold, impressed by the selfishness and lovelessness of this world, because he partakes of those conditions in which he lives. But the one who is in love with God, the one who has established his relationship with God, his love becomes living; he is no more cold; he fulfills his duties to those related to him in this world much more than does the godless man.

Every soul seeks for happiness, and after pursuing all the objects which for the moment seem to give happiness, it finds out that nowhere is there perfect happiness except in God.

The Unity of Religious Ideals, Hazrat Inayat Khan

Accepting Imperfection:

A deep and joyful relationship with one's own inner fountain of Divine Presence, the source of all loving-kindness and beauty, must be the solid foundation upon which we build all of our human relationships. One's deepest inner satisfaction, one's need for enduring love, must be fulfilled through one's on-going personal relationship with the Divine Presence. Then, all human relationships can be secondary, with no need for any expectation of perfection from any other person or from any human relationship. Certainly we may strive to perfect ourselves, but we must avoid falling into the ever-attractive trap of trying to perfect another person, or of expecting another person to be perfect. We are humans, and our human life has imperfections.

All human relationships are limited by our human foibles, and as such, all human relationships will have moments which are, from time to time, insufficient, unsatisfactory and perhaps even downright annoying. But, if we simply respond to the present moment with the love, harmony and beauty which are our God-given inner gifts, we will easily make it through those moments without adding further turmoil to the already dire situations.

Whenever you encounter someone else behaving badly, or you find yourself behaving badly, don't take it personally, it is simply an old, outdated program of the ego being played out in response to some perceived threat. Learn from it, and turn within to find the solution. Don't tense up and obscure your heart, but rather, in the midst of problems, breathe calmly, soften your belly, open your tender heart, and let love help to solve the problem.

All the ugliness in the world can be traced back to turning away from our raw and beautiful heart.

Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, John Welwood

Despite our best intentions, each of us is likely to continue to accidently obscure our inner light and respond to some situation with an old habitual response, but if we remain alert enough, awake enough, we will eventually be able to catch ourselves in the early stages of such foolishness, and with a calm deep breath, we can fill our cup with the gifts of Divine Presence, and return to the wonder of the present moment, infused with the gifts of love, harmony and beauty.

Direct Experience:

To accomplish a task, it is not enough to merely possess the required tools, one must also know how to use the tools. The tools of the heart are much the same. In the calm inner depths of each person's heart are all of the relationship tools that will ever needed, but we need to learn, by means of our own direct experience, how to most appropriately make use those tools. And that is the role of human relationships. In effect, we are each other's "guinea pigs". The direct experience gained through our relationships is the way that we learn how to use the tools of the heart.

A deep, intimate relationship with the Divine Presence provides all of the necessary tools as well as guidance on how to use the tools, and our human relationships offer a direct, experiential way to learn to successfully use the tools. Have no fear. When your primary relationship is with the Inner Light, and your human relationships are viewed as secondary extensions of that primary relationship, then success is assured.

However, if your human relationships begin to obscure your relationship with the inner Light, that is, if you place more value on your human relationships than your inner relationship, then your relationships are likely to bring failure and disappointment.

Go within; breathe calmly, soften your belly, open your beautiful heart, and let love show you the way.

Health and Happiness:

We all want to be healthy and happy, but focusing on the external life and continuing to use the ego's old, obsolete, reactive programs will never be sufficient to get us there. We need to turn to the Light within, the inner life, the loving manifestation of the One, found in the glorious depths of your own heart.

All psychological problems are ultimately spiritual issues— symptoms of disconnection from our deeper nature.

John Welwood, author of "Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships"

In fact, many troublesome problems, both physical and mental, are caused when we do not live in harmony with the depths of our own heart and our own inner life. A great body of contemporary research clearly shows that all aspects of one's life, mental and physical, are greatly enhanced when one is happy... and the ultimate of happiness arises only when we turn within and plunge into the pristine calm depths of the ever-loving heart.

How Can I Believe in Something That I Can't See?

Many people choose to neglect the inner life, God and the gift of Divine Presence, simply because they do not (yet) notice these powerful influences acting in their daily life. God, and the loving gift of Divine Presence, are not missing, they are not off in some remote corner of heaven, they are not absent, they have been with you every moment of your life, simply waiting quietly, in the depths of your own heart, for you to notice them!

We don't notice these great forces in our daily life due to our own lack of awareness, an obstruction of our own clarity of vision which leads us to erroneously believe that just because we do not (yet) see God and the gifts of Divine Presence, then they do not exist.

Without a personal relationship with the inner guidance and loving-kindness of Divine Presence, we each respond to our daily  human relationships based on our own individual habitual patterns and dysfunctions which were likely learned in childhood, rather than responding with the loving clarity, kindness and beauty which the Divine Presence offers.

In order to live a life of love, harmony and beauty, we must find a way to open our own eyes to the reality of the inner gift of Divine Presence, and live our life based on that Divine Presence rather than living a stressful and unpleasant life based on old conditioned responses and habits.

No one else can open your eyes, ears and feelings to the wonders of this inner gift... you must do it yourself. We can help one another, but it is entirely up to each individual to choose to either awaken or remain asleep.

No one else can ever provide the connection that finally puts the soul at ease. We find that connection when the window of the heart opens, allowing us to bask in the warmth and openness that is our deepest nature.

Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, John Welwood

The God-Ideal:

We can never fully know God, but we can still have an ideal which guides us through our daily life. Thus, every person must be free to have his/her own conception of God, the highest of all possible ideals.

The God-ideal has been regarded by different men in different ways. Some have idealized God as the King of earth and heaven, some have a conception of God as a person. Others think of God as an abstraction. Some believe in God, others do not, some raise the idea of the Deity to the highest heaven. Others bring it down to the lowest depths of the earth. Some picture God in paradise, while others make an idol and worship it...

The Unity of Religious Ideals, Hazrat Inayat Khan

For some of us, it is necessary to use our imagination to create our highest of ideals, the God-ideal, while for others, the ever-present wonders of life, especially as seen in nature, produce a God-consciousness which fuels their ideal.

There are two points of view from which one sees the God-ideal. One is the point of view of the imaginative person, and the other the point of view of the God-conscious. ... One person [believes] that there is a God, and the other sees God.

The believer, who adorns his God with all that imagination can supply, sees God as all beauty, all goodness, and as the most merciful and compassionate God, and recognizes Him as the Almighty, the Supreme Being. He sees in God the true Judge, and he expects one day to receive justice from Him. He knows that in God he will find at last the perfect love on which he can rely entirely. He sees in God the Friend to whom he can turn in sorrow and in joy. He calls him his Lord, his Father, his Mother; and all that is good and beautiful he recognizes as coming from God. In point of fact he makes an intelligible form of God, that being the only means by which he can see God. And the believer who has imagined God as high as his imagination permits adores Him, asks His forgiveness, looks for His help, and hopes one day to attain to Him. He feels that there is someone nearer to him than anyone else in life, whose mercy is always with him.

The other [point of view is when] a person begins to see all goodness as being the goodness of God, all the beauty that surrounds him as the divine beauty, he begins by worshipping a visible God, and as his heart constantly loves and admires the divine beauty in all that he sees, he begins to see in all that is visible one single vision; all becomes for him the vision of the beauty of God. His love of beauty increases his capacity to such a degree that great virtues such as tolerance and forgiveness spring naturally from his heart. Even things that people mostly look upon with contempt, he views with tolerance. The brotherhood of humanity he does not need to learn, for he does not see humanity, he sees only God. And as this vision develops, it becomes a divine vision, which occupies every moment of his life. In nature he sees God, in man he sees His image, and in art and poetry he sees the dance of God. The waves of the sea bring him the message from above, and the swaying of the branches in the breeze seems to him a prayer. For him there is a constant contact with his God. He knows neither horror nor terror, nor any fear. Birth and death to him are only insignificant changes in life. Life for him is a moving picture, which he loves and admires, and yet he is free from it all. He is one among all the world. He himself is happy, and he makes others happy.

The Unity of Religious Ideals, Hazrat Inayat Khan

In the next chapter, we'll look at some ways to begin to form a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Divine Presence.

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For Further Study:

   Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, tr by Eknath Easwaran

   Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, by John Welwood

Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,

rev Sep 02, 2009