Loneliness: There Is a Cure
What is loneliness, what causes it and why is it so pervasive? In this interview, Jagad Guru speaks on the root cause and the cure for loneliness.
QUESTION: I was at a party the other day and a lot of my friends were there. But in the core of my heart, I felt so lonely. I'd like to know what this loneliness is all about.
JAGAD GURU: Just about everybody has had that experience of being lonely even though we're amongst so many people. I particularly remember Christmas when I was a kid. There were always a lot of people in the house. They weren't strangers, but actually relatives and family friends. But the experience of loneliness existed even when I was amongst all these loved ones — parents, friends, etc. Everybody was there; yet I was feeling this emptiness. I'd know that I was empty.
So when we're talking about loneliness, we're also talking about an emptiness. Loneliness is really an emptiness, isn't it? It's hard to describe. Loneliness includes other things, too, like fear. Loneliness includes fear. We experience it not only when we're all by ourselves but even when we're with huge crowds of people, with our family or even after the most intimate sexual relationship that you can imagine. Some people experience great loneliness right after they have a sexual experience with someone they really love. They'll roll over on their back and they're still lonely.
QUESTION: What's the root cause of loneliness? Why do we feel lonely?
JAGAD GURU: According to the saintly persons and the scriptures, the reason you experience loneliness is because you are away from the Supreme Person. In other words, we have to view the subject of loneliness in connection with our identity and relationship with the Supreme Person. What is our actual identity? We are not our physical body. We are not our mind. We are sparks of the Supreme — spirit in essence, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. That's what you are — a child of the Supreme Spirit, a spark of the Lord. You are intimately related to the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being is presently and always has been your best Friend. In the ancient scripture Srimad Bhagavatam, the Lord Himself states: "Long ago, you knew Me as your dear Friend. But now you have forgotten Me, trying to live separately from Me and enjoy separately from Me. But previously you knew Me as your dear Friend."
Our natural condition is being united with the Supreme Perfect loving and lovable Person. You may call Him "God." God is a Person. The Supreme Person is not just an impersonal force. He is not, as you might imagine, a person you're supposed to fear. He is not an old man; rather He is the ever-fresh, ever-attractive, ever-beautiful Supreme Lord. He is the most attractive Friend and the most loving Friend that you can imagine having.
QUESTION: But the problem is that I have now forgotten that relationship with the Supreme Lord?
JAGAD GURU: Yes, but that relationship is still there. It will always be there just like water will always be wet. It's an essential part of yourself. You will always be related to the Supreme and that relationship will always be there. You can forget it but you can't end it. The reason you feel lonely is because you are now away from the Supreme Friend. You are separate from Him and this is the real root cause of loneliness. Different people experience loneliness at different times. But it's the same experience. We've all experienced it and although various events can cause our loneliness to come to the forefront, the root cause remains the same. No matter what the conditions are — the country you live in, the language you speak, the color of your skin, your gender — we are all sparks of the Supreme. And each of us experiences loneliness because we have left our Supreme Friend. We are away from Him because we do not have that unity with Him.
According to the scriptures and saintly persons, the reason you experience loneliness is because you don't have an intimate relationship with the Supreme. In other words, you have forgotten your original relationship with Him. Therefore, you are now experiencing that you don't have something you need. You feel alone because you are away from the Lord.
QUESTION: I feel that I'm trying to fill up my loneliness with all kinds of relationships.
JAGAD GURU: So many people try to do that. They try to overcome their loneliness by finding the perfect person in this world to love. They try to find someone to love and have this perfect relationship with. At some time in people's lives, they have had this dream or fantasy of having the perfect loving relationship in this world. And it ends up being shattered just like all dreams do. They think they've found the "perfect person" and it ends up that their beloved isn’t so perfect after all. And even if they do have a great relationship - they really like each other - they're still lonely. The relationship doesn't really satisfy the very core of the person's being. In other words, even if you are with your partner, you can still experience this loneliness.
QUESTION: Some years ago, my sister decided to give up getting married in favor of a career. Now that she's in her late thirties, she's terrified. She's afraid that she's not going to find a husband and that she's going to live the rest of her life alone. What can I say to console her?
JAGAD GURU: What you can say to anyone is the truth. Even if she were to find a husband, she still would be lonely. I'm not saying that it's not of some benefit to have a husband or that she might not temporarily forget her loneliness. We can all try to cover up our loneliness but no matter what we do it will still pop out. Yet, on the other hand, it may be there more obviously when we're by ourselves and we don't have a really nice husband, wife or friend. But in a sense, it's good to experience loneliness if you can recognize it for what it is and let it motivate you to seek your relationship with the Supreme Person. In other words, turn a negative into a positive. You may think, "Oh, loneliness is so terrible." The psychiatrist may even advise you, "Well, make a lot of friends." You reply, "But I have a lot of friends and I'm still lonely."He then may suggest, "Well, take some Valium." He'll just tell you to forget your experience and try to cover up the symptoms of the problem. But in fact, there's nothing really wrong with experiencing loneliness if you understand the reality is that you are alone. There's no use really trying to make believe you're not alone. The best thing is to realize, "I am alone but I don't want to be alone. The solution to my loneliness is to link myself back up with the Supreme Person."
In other words, let your loneliness turn into a spiritual longing for the Supreme Friend. This longing then acts as the drawing force to focus your full attention upon Him. And this is the only way that a person will go to the Supreme. If you want to develop your relationship with the Supreme Person and are interested in spiritual life at all, then you can realize or appreciate that this loneliness is really your lifeline to the Supreme. Because if it's not and you don't experience loneliness, then this means that you've gone so far away from Him that you really think you're okay here and that this world is really your home. And you won't experience loneliness until it's too late. When will that be?
QUESTION: At death?
JAGAD GURU: Yes. Death is the ultimate power which will make you experience loneliness. To put it another way, you're going to be the most lonely at death. Right now, the little feelings of loneliness that you might have are just a tiny taste of the loneliness that you're going to experience when you leave your body behind. Why? When you leave your body behind, you're leaving behind everybody and everything. You're leaving behind your friends, family and everything that you're attached to. You're leaving and experiencing all the fear and anxiety that comes with it, "Oh, I'm going to leave relatives and friends. Oh, how horrible it is! I'll never see them again."
While you're in your body, you're linked up to people in this world. You're attached to them and this has made you forget your loneliness for a while. You are not only attached to people but also to things -your home, the earth, the feeling of the sun, the smells of the world, etc. All these things are very subtle but you're very attached to all of them. And when you leave this body behind - your nose, your tongue, the things you're attached to tasting, all the people and all the relationships, etc. - you'll experience loneliness like you've never experienced it before.
QUESTION: How can I avoid such an experience?
JAGAD GURU: While you're still in this world, your attention should be upon the Supreme Person. In other words, the focus of your love and attachment should not be the world and the people in the world. The focus of your love, your affection and attachment should be the Supreme Lord. If your attachment is on the Lord when you leave this world, then you leave with the excitement of one who is finally going home, "Oh, now I get to go to my Friend. Now it's time for me to leave this particular dimension and go to the Supreme Lord. I will simply serve Him wherever He wants me to serve Him." You are linked up with the Supreme Lord in meditation and you just focus your full attention upon Him. If your attachment is on the Lord, then you won't experience the fear and loneliness at the time of death.
QUESTION: I understand what you're saying - that in order to conquer loneliness, I have to re-establish my relationship with the Supreme Person. But while aiming toward that ultimate goal, I still feel like I need companionship or friendship.
JAGAD GURU: Right. We have to be pragmatic. We're not going to be idealists about the situation. First, try to understand that we are not only related to the Supreme Person, but we are obviously related to each other. We're all sparks of the Supreme and we're all brothers and sisters. There are no rules against relating to each other. The problem is that we cannot satisfy our need for the perfect person or cure our loneliness by simply relating to other individuals. Now if we're developing our love for the Lord, then we're gradually solving the root problem of our loneliness. And at the same time, we can be relating to other individual spirit souls who are also our brothers and sisters, parts and parcels of the Supreme Lord. We are social entities in that sense. We're social beings. It's not just the Supreme Person and me. There's the Supreme, me and all the rest of us. So our relationship is simultaneously vertical and horizontal. We're relating simultaneously to the Supreme Person and we're also relating to individuals around us. You can't live without any association, without any friendship or without any other people in your life. So what you have to do is develop horizontal relationships with other individual spirit souls. Establish relationships with individuals who are of a similar bent of mind - those who are also interested in developing their love for the Lord. Associate with people who are trying to develop spiritually. Make friends with them.
Thank you very much.