By Tammy Stone Takahashi
I have an endearing memory of my younger self trying to enjoy a coffee with a classmate in Toronto many years ago.
We were both in the same Masters program in film, both heady and philosophically-oriented. We were staring intently at the fire-engine red mug on the table between us, wondering if we could ever really know we were seeing the same colour, or experiencing the same mug.
Earnest as could be, we wanted to believe so badly that this knowledge was within reach. We also knew that this was an impossible dream. As I look back now, I want to hug these two young, eager students of life. I can still see, on their hopeful faces, they had no idea what was really causing the aching sense of longing underneath their ontological conversation: they didn’t know if they could truly know anything, or be known.
They also didn’t know that by “to be known,” they really meant, “to be loved.”
In all the years of their academic pursuits, they were ultimately and unwittingly looking for something we are all searching for, and that they would never be able to find there, in their cozy, intellectual setting: love—pure, unfettered, unconditional, wise love.
Pranada Comtois’ Wise-Love: Bhakti and the Search for the Soul of Consciousness, recent winner of the 2018 National Indie Excellence Awards in the Spirituality category and finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2018, had me right at the title.
Contemplating wise-love, I immediately think of all of the ways—despite our best intentions and most intimate desires in which we are not as wise as we would like to be in the realm of love—we form unhealthy attachments, develop a toxic set of expectations, and most of all, assume love to be something that is actually not love at all, because we have placed so many conditions our willingness to give, and receive it.
Is this love at all? And don’t we want the real thing?
As we learn so beautifully and deeply in this book, our standard conception of love is not in fact love, because it comes from both a false ego that drives us away from ultimate reality, and from our rather unruly minds. To learn to drop into our hearts—to cultivate the kind of wisdom that will allow us to love freely, unconditionally, and expansively—is the work of a lifetime. It is also the rewarding goal of Bhakti yoga, Comtois’ spiritual practice provides the pathway to true connectivity and love in this compelling book.
As the author describes, the essence of Bhakti yoga is the wisdom of heartfulness, manifested in the ways we can be of service and act in the name of devotion to pure divine being. If our intention lies in this genuine sense of service and is performed with unfettered devotion, the highest states of spiritual attainment are within reach.
In Bhakti, one does not merely forego the attachments of the material world to achieve peace, but goes further by re-engaging with the material plane on which we exist to reach the highest levels of eternal joy, as opposed to momentary, fleeting instances of pleasure.
In other words, what is described here is a path not solely meant for those who want to exclusively devote their lives to spiritual practice and enlightenment, but for all of us with an interest in understanding ourselves better and improving our state of being. Who does not want to feel more engaged in their own lives? Who does not want to figure out the difference between a self-moving about in a Matrix-like, illusory world spun by our chaotic minds, and our true, authentic self existing directly from the heart with pure peace and joy?
Comtois’ years of practice as a Bhatki yogini and seemingly unlimited wealth of knowledge (both intellectual and experiential) of this yogic tradition have found perfect expression in a book that is never too esoteric for the everyday reader and spiritual seeker. Grounded in an intimate exploration of the Bhakti path, the book also encounters a more universal, mystical wisdom and Western thought to become a very practical guide for those searching for a more mindful, heart-based existence.
First exploring the nature of self and consciousness and then explaining how karma interacts with our lives, Comtois reminds us that any spiritual path requires consistent practice and a toolbox of practices we can commit to, in order to see real, long-lasting results. Comtois offers the reader many heart-based practices with a beautiful goal in mind: to allow ourselves the luxury of finding a deep love for something much greater than ourselves to guide us back to the very heart of our being, a reward in itself and the perfect platform for living each day with a renewed, and loving sense of self.
With each unfolding page, I touched upon kernels of wisdom that do not feel out of reach, but rather, inspire me to understand myself, my place in the world, and our relationship to each other much more profoundly. There are no platitudes, no easy steps to success, but rather, a deeply grounded, trustworthy treatise on love-based wisdom and wisdom-based love that acts as a salve for anyone who feels they are not yet living their ideal, joyful lives and who wants to access the eternal.
Reading this book, for me, was like sitting down with an intimate friend who only wants the very best for me, who has the patience, intelligence and wisdom to remind me of something I have known deep inside of me for as long as I’ve been alive, but have forgotten: the meaning of true love that transcends time and space and the conditions of my earthly existence; the very reason why I am here. I know that I’ll be reaching for Wise-Love over and over again, as I walk, one step at a time, toward my—our shared—destiny.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak
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