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How to love everyone equally? It’s a beautiful question. There are so many differences among us in terms of age, physical characteristics, professions, and so on. The only way to love everybody equally is to see the common element running through all these differences. All of us are equal in our essence-nature, yet different on the material level. It is in our essential nature—the Spirit, the True Self, Atman, Image of God, Pure Consciousness—that we are all One.

To love all our neighbors, we need to see our neighbors as our own Self. When we say Self, we don’t mean the body or the mind but the very Spirit of the person. Only when you see the True Self in everybody, in everything, can you love everyone equally. That is called spiritual love and that is also what you call living a spiritual life. When a person wants to lead a spiritual life, they should try to see themselves as Spirit and see the same Spirit in everything and in everybody. It is the effort you make to see that universal Spirit that is called spiritual practice. In our ordinary, worldly perspective we only see the physical and mental aspects of people and in those two levels, people are always going to be different. But, you can still love them equally.

Parents love all their children, even though they have differences in personality and behavior. One may be very calm and kind and another may be restless and disagreeable. But we can learn to accept people the way they are, for what they are, as they are. It helps to know that each of us is growing in our own way—in the way that is best for us. We are like the plants in a garden. Some plants are flowers, some are vegetables, some are fruits. Some, like the cactus, even have thorns, but you still take care of them. You love them all because together those plants make the garden. Try to develop that same vision in regard to one another so you can realize that we are all needed.

There is no doubt that, ultimately, we are all made of the same stuff—whether it is spiritually, mentally, or physically.  Your mind and my mind are not essentially different. Our bodies are all made of blood and bone and muscle. The materials that make up our different houses are also the same; it is the design that varies. If you see other people as being different from you, it is because you are not seeing the common element. The only way to love everybody and everything equally is to see that we are all essentially the same, but we appear as different forms.

Even if somebody makes a mistake and hurts you, instead of disliking them learn to see beyond the mistake. You can think, “Oh, probably they are still learning.” If a child hits you in the face, what would you do? You would educate them. You would understand that they are still, in some ways, ignorant. They don’t know what they are doing. Well, some of our so-called grownups, may still  behave like children! Even someone in an eighty year-old body can sometimes behave like a child. And, at times you might see a young child, acting like a saint. We often only think of people’s growth in terms of their physical growth, but this is incorrect. Our vision should go a little deeper than the physical level. Then we can begin to understand and to appreciate people as they are, for what they are. And then we can love them all.

So we have to develop our spiritual vision, to see one another in the spiritual level. We have to understand that all are ultimately the same Self, growing in different levels. If you see hundreds of apples on a tree, you will notice that not all of them ripen exactly at the same time. Some are ready to fall off earlier and others need more time; you can’t condemn them for that. You see them all as fruits of the same tree, ripening at different rates. This is what you call spiritual vision, and this is what we should try to develop.

Sometimes we have to respond to one another differently, but with the same love. This is a very important point to understand. You might have the mistaken idea that if you love everybody equally, you will treat them all the same. Loving equally doesn’t mean that you should give the same treatment to everybody. A doctor may give a sweet tasting pill to one patient and a bitter pill to another. A third patient may receive a sharp injection. Different treatments are used because of the different diseases, but the doctor cares for them all, equally. It is that common vision, that will make us love everybody equally. You can love a police officer, and also love the bank robber. But, you will certainly treat them differently. There will always be differences, but at the same time there are the common threads. If you are always conscious of this in all your actions, you could easily develop the ability to love everyone; it is not something impossible.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda