A Neuroscientist’s Quest for Transcendence through Love

In our previous post ‘Why we are all seeking transcendent love’, Lauren and I indicated that we are conducting research on love – specifically love’s potential to help us achieve spiritual growth and fulfillment. This is all part of the book project we’ve been working on lately. Below is an excerpt from the introduction of our book. It is a very short essay on how I have always been seeking transcendence through love and where I currently stand in this quest.

“What kind of marriage do you want, Western or Indian?” This was Lauren’s first question to me. After some thought, I replied, “I want the best of both worlds.” “So do I,” she said instantly. And thus the seeds of our journey were planted. This was the first serious conversation we ever had, after a year of knowing each other through common friends.

I would later learn that Lauren had heard me give a speech at her graduate school orientation some years earlier. My Indian accent left a memorable impression on her, she would tell me. And perhaps this is what inspired her fascination with India and its knowledge systems, meditation and yoga (though I admit this may be overstating my influence).

“What kind of marriage do you want, Western or Indian?”

A week after the marriage conversation, and a couple of dates in between, we met at a garden on our university’s campus. Lauren was seated on a bench looking both charming and thoughtful as we surveyed the spring blossoms around the lake. I turned to her and said, “You look like someone in love.” Quite rash of me to say to a girl to whom I had just started talking few days prior!

But even more surprising was her positive response. She said, “I feel like I have this infinite capacity to love, and it seems to be manifesting right now.” Lauren had put into words what I had been feeling for years, a kind of love I was never able to fully express. And thus that evening – on that bench by the lake – our story began. The seeds of our journey had germinated. That moment started a quest, a life-long voyage to understand the love that we felt for each other.

I’ve always been in love, or so I think. My friends would attest to this. My first memory of being in love was when I was 8 years old. I even remember the girl’s name and a faint memory of sharing my feelings for that girl with my best friend. I don’t know if that’s what other eight year-old boys do, but I was always seen as ahead of the curve in terms of expressing my romantic side.

“You look like someone in love.”

So my pursuits continued throughout childhood, teenage and adolescence. One girl after another, I kept falling in love. My infatuations or liaisons ranged from days to months and sometime even years. Every single time, all I wanted was to express, share, and grow my love. Mostly, I was either rejected or quickly found that something blocked me from fully feeling or showing the kind of love I felt capable of. I didn’t know whether it was my approach that was wrong or the execution. Unable to manifest and share this love, I began delving in deeper philosophical questions that most of my teenage peers scoffed at or mocked.

Eventually, I did fall in love with someone who equally reciprocated the feeling. I thought, “This is it! This is the destination of my seeking, the epitome of my quest!” But eventually even that faded away. I felt satisfied psychologically and emotionally, because in many ways, it did seem like a perfect romantic relationship. But I couldn’t ignore that there was still something missing… Something I couldn’t really put a finger on. Something I would eventually come to recognize as a need to grow spiritually, a need to dig deeper into the inner chambers of my mind.

I slowly grew disillusioned with this seemingly-perfect relationship. It looked satisfying from the outside, but deep down, I felt empty and unfulfilled. I’ve always been a contemplative person, constantly reflecting on my thoughts and feelings, so the awareness that something was lacking in the relationship was deeply troubling to me. As an escape, I tried filling this void in other ways – through my scientific career, through extracurricular achievements, through contemplative practices. Little did I know that this longing for deeper experiences, which frustrates many people, is inescapable. It is a sensation we all come to face eventually in our lives, this desire to seek and know more.

“I feel like I have this infinite capacity to love, and it seems to be manifesting right now.”

When my long love affair ended, I felt something akin to a sense of relief and freedom. There was no grief, no dejection. Instead I experienced a deep feeling of contentment. Now I was free to find what it is that I’d been looking for. What was it that was missing?

I read philosophy, followed discourses, practiced meditation, but still nowhere was the answer to be seen. And then one fine day, I met Lauren, someone who also had this infinite capacity to seek and manifest love. Someone who happened to ask me that funny question, “What kind of marriage do you want?”

Who asks such a question? Even in an intellectual discourse? You would only dare to ask such things to someone who you feel deeply connected with, someone who wouldn’t judge your answer. And in that instant we felt deeply connected, sharing a common quest to know the mysteries of our minds.

Of course, it hasn’t been easy to answer that question. Trying to find the answer has led us to this mission, to unravel the myths and theories of how the mind works when it comes to discovering and manifesting love. And now we are in it together, bonded for life.

Granted, marriage and love don’t always need to tag along. But in our case, we wondered, “Why not design a marriage that was undergirded by a pursuit of seeking together? Why not develop a system for seekers to find each other and develop their own path towards spiritual love?

This has been our quest… to answer those questions that mystified me throughout my teenage life. But only now, together, we have gained the discerning ability to ask the right questions. Only now, together, do we have the scientific and philosophical tools to discover the right answers.

This book is our quest for knowledge and transcendence. Together we will navigate the vast repositories of information in social science and neuroscience, for spiritual fulfillment and rational contentment, and to eventually manifest and attain transcendent love.

Author: Amol Yadav

Neuroscientist and Associate Dharma advisor at Duke University, seeker of truth on the path of gyaan yoga, vegan.

3 thoughts

  1. As a college student, I personally feel that this post exactly mirrors my own feelings at this point in time–a quest for some sort of companionship that would not only be romantic but also spiritual, something that almost unites my soul with that of another to reach above and beyond the material world (or deeper into the self within). My question is, do you feel that such a transcendental relationship is attainable on a wide scale, or is it a very rare union and so requires a very special connection? Or does it simply require time?

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    1. When we were in Vrindavan-India for our research on prema (love), we stayed at an ashram of the guru who is a scholar of Indian philosophical views on prema. We asked him the same question and he said we are indeed lucky to have found each other. But since we are scientists, we didn’t want to stop at the realization that we just got lucky. Our goal in the book is to demystify the situations that lead us to finding each other and show others how to recreate those circumstances that could lead to manifesting a ‘transcendent love’ relationship.

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