On March 6, 2013, Udana Power spoke to The Only Love Project, an organization committed to inter-faith, inter-spiritual bridge building.
The Only Love Project is based on the premise that “only love dispels hate,” and it is open to all who desire to change the world for the better, one community at a time.
Bill Murphy (BM): Could you tell us, briefly, a little bit about your background?
Udana Power (UP): Well, I’ve always wanted to know God. I don’t know where it came from, but I had to know. And I wanted to know. I mean, I was journaling about it when I was 11 and 12 years old. Sometimes I would just journal all night. I wanted to be also an actress. I was compelled to be, don’t know why. And I would write Love and God and Art and Nature and Sex – all those words started with capital letters. Because somehow all that was part of my searching.
I don’t know what it was. It was core. Now I call it the Law of Blooming, being connected to our source. But at that time, I didn’t know what it was. I was just vaguely trying to find it.
So, my desire to be an actress was for many reasons. I had a gift for it, but I had to know the Source. When I was acting, or when I ultimately started singing, I would reconnect to the Source place within me, and let that flow of energy sing through me. I would line it all up, and it would take over and flow. I remember when I was flown to New York by Alan Jay Lerner and auditioned in front of the producers of Coco, starring Katharine Hepburn. It was in her only stage musical. Alan and I walked into the big lobby of the Mark Hellenger Theater one afternoon. It was empty. It felt like I was walking into my own dream. I remember Alan was holding my hand. I was very young and very naïve at the time, and I felt like I was walking into a cathedral. As we crossed the lobby and walked I into the great, big, empty theatre, there were a few men in suits there. One of them was Andre Previn. Everyone introduced themselves and then they asked me to go up on stage and sing.
It was a long walk. All I knew was this is where life was created. All I could think of was that and my personal relationship with God. I walked up to the big empty stage and sang “Greensleeves” in French and “God Bless The Child.” Alan said later that it was like they were watching a young Judy Garland.
And whenever I’ve been to a theatrical performance that’s truly wonderful there is something of the spiritual in it. So, that’s been my life, and that’s where I came from. I was an actress in theatre for many years, I was on television and film, I did a one-woman show for five years. And when I did my work, I called it a Yahweh. That’s a word for God. I couldn’t quite articulate what it was, but if I could fling myself out into that experience, and channel that. Then I was doing what I was put here to do.
And I did that many times over and over. People would come backstage just sobbing because the performance had such a profound effect on them. It wasn’t me – it was something that I flung myself into that came through me. For me it was interesting, and it was easy.
I remember the producer for Applause at the San Bernardino Civic Light Opera. Larry Kasha had produced it on Broadway and was directing it here. I played Eve opposite Yvonne De Carlo. The producer was a woman who produced with her husband. I remember what it was like for me for the final scenes of the show. Eve is realizing things about herself. How wrong she’s been and how empty her victory was. I remember that it was always a spiritual experience for me. The tears that came up were from love and a place beyond here. That was where tears would come from for me.
When I was doing a show every night at 8 p.m. the audience was there to have a peek experience…then I had to go there. I couldn’t pretend. The audience feels what you feel. You can’t make believe it. The few times early in my career when I tried to pinch myself or remember my dog dying or something…that didn’t work for me. To connect with overwhelming love is what brings me to tears.
So one night after the show the producer came up to me and she was still crying and said, “Udana, you’ve got to stop doing that? How can you continue to do that every night?” She was crying. And I said, “I don’t do it. I have to do it, because that fills me from the inside.” If I don’t that, then it’s too hard.”
That’s been my experience. That’s been my experience as an actress. And that’s been one part of my devotion.
Then I went to India. I wanted to find God, and I found Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who ultimately changed his name to Osho. He seemed to bring it all together about the creative process. He said, “To become creative, one must become one with creation.” That became my journey. I had finally found someone who understood what I needed to understand.
So that’s my background [laughs].
BM: Would you consider yourself to be a spiritual person?
UP: Totally, yes. I came from a place where there was religion at the beginning in my life. My parents were part of a church. But it didn’t feel spiritual at my house. There wasn’t a lot of love. We survived, but there wasn’t love. Lots of fear and angst and blame. My parents had religion for a while, but didn’t know love. Yet, I was a spiritual person. It was in this darkness that I started to probe and look and need and want and search. The light that lit my way came from inside me. Ultimately I found that it’s right here [laughs]. Yes. But it wasn’t about religion. It was about finding Truth. Finding what really is.
The fact that my home life was so dysfunctional was like putting fuel to the fire. In my horoscope I have what is called a T-square. I’m not sure what that means all together, except that it comes from both my mother and my father. They never helped me. Always tried to stop me. Undermine me in ways. When I look back I realize that without that resistance I wouldn’t have wanted to know God with such overwhelming demand. That was my only way out.
BM: “Finding what really is.” That’s profound. Most religious traditions speak of the power and value of love. The Dhamapada, for example, tells us only love dispels hate. What does that phrase mean to you?
UP: That’s really, really, really powerful. And it’s really, really, really true. It’s interesting, because I’ve been contemplating all of this. Let me just articulate my experience so far of how the universe really works.
Number one, this quote came to me at one point when I was on a meditation retreat: “I am a vastness, an opening, a song of God.” It was a voice that spoke in my head. I was stunned. That was the quote that literally came to me, into my ear. It was spoken to me. “You are a vastness, an opening, a song of God.” And it was like, Ah, I’m not just this little person struggling around here at the bottom of a pit. I am part of this vastness. I am totally connected with all life. And I’ve just come down here to play this game in the material world.
I started to call this material world “the marketplace.” We are all vast Beings who decide to come down here and play in this physical world. It’s a continuum. Because, as we know, in science, the octaves of light – when they come into a lower plane of vibration, they become sound, right? And in the lower planes of vibration, they become physical matter. So as this immense being who I am – and who all of you are – this expression of whatever this divine force is in individual form – like a glove on the hand of God – I decided that I was going to come down here into this physical world and start expressing myself in this physical world.
Part of the genius of this physical world is its polar opposites: Yin and Yang. The cycling of polar opposites. This is significant to everything down here in the physical world. It’s yes and no, black and white, male and female…and that starts creating all these shades of gray, all these shades of all the colors. And now it gets very, very complex, but it’s fundamentally back and forth, Yin and Yang.
So that is when we start bumping into each other. I push you that way or pull you this way or blah blah blah… we’re working in a series of laws that is actually just physical laws. The marketplace laws. They’re not the law of divine love. And that’s where a lot of misunderstanding, arguments come from. We say, “Well it’s gotta be this way.” “No, it’s gotta be that way.” “Well you shouldn’t believe this and you shouldn’t believe that.”
You need to take a moment to step back. The churches and the great teachers talk about about awareness. Sometimes they talk about stepping back a little bit, withdrawing a bit, seeing it all. Osho, one of the things I loved about him was he would say step back, be in awareness, and also include everything, black and white, male and female, yes and no. Don’t disrespect or push any of it aside. Or don’t non-allow anything.
That’s my experience of it, because my experience is if you disallow something because you think it’s wrong or it’s been labeled as wrong, now you’ve got a tire that is flat on one side. You know, you’re going to bump along. And so, as we can reconnect with the Source, we find our own Source within ourselves, and we are totally connected to Love and to God. And we’re part of that.
We are harmonizing with the same laws that keep the planets in orbit. It’s beautiful. We are experiencing love above the marketplace level. It’s a different point of view from “You’re wrong and I’m right, blah blah, blah. I’ll never be wrong, I have to be right,” all the negativity we are surrounded by each day. That’s just the polarities dancing. Boing-boing-boing-ugh.
And so that’s a long way around to saying “Love is the only thing that can change the world.”
And love does change the world – like turning on the lights. When the lights turn on, the darkness disappears. How many times have we heard that? What that phrase means to me is only love dispels hate. We have to move from a different plane of attention. Rise up to a higher vibration. See it all as one… the yes-and-nos, the push-me-pull-yous. Einstein said, you can’t solve a problem from the same order of laws that were used to create it.
So we do have to reconnect with ourselves, we do have to reconnect with the spirit within us, or a higher power, or however we see it, and that’s the only thing that turns the lights on. That will cause us to enjoy the good and the bad, the Yin and the Yang, and welcome the darkness with the light. Does that make sense?
BM: Of course. That was well put.
UP: Ok, good [laughs].
BM: [laughs] What role, then, does love play in the world today?
UP: I think that’s our only choice, actually. And love is not sacrifice. We make all these assumptions that we fall into love like falling into a ditch. You know the thing about falling into a ditch, right? You know that little story about falling into a ditch? You walk down a path, and you see this great big hole in the middle of the road, and you go, “Oh my god, what is it?” And you walk over to it and look in and then you fall in. You walk down the road the second time and try to stay away from the ditch, and then you fall in anyway. And then the next time you go down that road you say, “Well, now I’m really going to stay away from it.” And you go down the same road and walk far away from the hole and then you still fall into it. The next time you take that trip, you take a different road. [laughs]
BM: [laughs] Yeah.
UP: So that’s what role can love play in the world today. We all have to become responsible for reconnecting with our own greatness. With reconnecting and seeing this turmoil we’re in from a different point of view, from a higher point of view, not disconnected from ourselves and not disconnected from love. And see love is God is creation. All of it is the same. Love, creation, God, and boy does it feel good. [laughs] Because as we continue to fight and be at war with drugs and at war with this and at war with that, and the war on terror, the wars on all of these things are going on, and they’re going on in the physical world. The Marketplace. We all hear it, there’s a lot of hype going on in the media to stir us into more trauma and more raaarrrugh. And that’s true. And we can live our lives in fear and in disconnection from who we really are. And as we do that, we think we’re servicing people and doing the best we can for people, by being as negative and upset as they are. And as a friend of mine said, “you can never make yourself sick enough to help the sick.”
BM: [laughs] Yes.
UP: You have to be healthy in order to help the sick. By the same token, you can never make yourself poor enough to help the poor. It’s the wealthy people that can help the poor. Whether they will help the poor is another thing. But that’s not our responsibility. Our personal responsibility is to reconnect with our inner selves, and do it just in our own little life, not try to tell others to reconnect, or be like we are. Have our own little circle of influence, right where we are. We are to be this circle of light, of clarity, of love in our relationships. We have to decide: Am I gonna come from love?
So, what role can love play in the world today?
First of all, Love is the only thing that can heal the Marketplace. Bring us together. As Osho said, Science just divides things, separates them into little tiny divisions. He says, Love is the only thing that brings everything together in a cohesive whole.
I thought that was pretty profound.
Something occurred to me one day when I was an adolescent. I was thinking, “Well, I’m not going to love this person unless they love me first.” And then I realized that someone has to love first. If everyone waits for the other person to love them, it will be a stalemate forever. So someone hs to go first. So why not me? I’ll just jump in first and love openly and freely?
It made my relationships come alive. Some of them have been just profound and wonderful and deep because of that. And here’s the other part of it: If I hadn’t decided to love first – and just love as deeply and profoundly for the aesthetic reasons (it’s so beautiful) – some of my most amazing relationships never would have happened. Everybody waits for the other person to love first. It becomes a negotiation. An exchange in the Marketplace. Tit for tat. However if we can love first, not as a sacrifice, but as a joy and a pleasure…you know, those are two different things. And a lot of us are taught and believe that we love as sacrifice. But I don’t think it is. I think it is inclusion. Surrendering to the pleasure of life. Does that make sense?
UP: And it’s up to us to do this in our own little circles and practice with our mates, with the people we do love, with the people we really have lifetime connections with, with our animals. And part of that love is allowing them to be exactly who they are and respecting them as who they are, as different as they may be. [laughs] So we have to do that, because that’s what spreads into the world.
BM: That sounds wonderful. But what do you think stops people from being more loving and compassionate?
UP: Well, we keep forgetting who we are. Or we get in competition. See, we come down here to the physical world, and we forget all that stuff. We may have a yearning for it, but we forget that, and we get down into this world of competition and the only thing we listen to is what I call the push-me, pull-yous. Or, the bump-into universe. So what stops people from being more loving and compassionate is they’ve just disconnected themselves from who they really are. They’ve forgotten. I think we get caught up in the competition, the drama, “Oh, I’m gonna get that person.” “No, no, no, I’m gonna do it this way, that’s the way we’re gonna.” You know, it’s like, it’s, when you remember who you are, you can’t do that [laughs].
BM: Do you have recommendations regarding how someone might cultivate the spirit of love over the long term, but also to put love into action right now, so that he or she can make a positive difference right away?
BM: Good. [laughs]
UP: [laughs] I think, though, they’re two different questions. And there are as many ways as there are people. Think of this as a big wagon wheel, and love, or God, or source is in the center, the hub of this wheel. And as we come closer and closer to the center of the wheel, it all becomes more and more alike. This love thing. This God thing. So one of the things I’ve realized is first of all, in order to dissolve these upsets, or these push-me, pull-yous, or these stumbling blocks that we’re all carrying around (‘cause they’re misunderstandings, dis-ease, whatever they are) is to step back and raise to a higher vibrational level called Love.
Then you want to raise to a level where you can start seeing both sides of whatever misunderstanding or conflict that you’re embroiled in. And love it. See, love is such a huge, vast experience, it’s hard to articulate in a word. But you certainly know it when you experience it, so just decide to commit to it.
First of all, it starts with loving myself. If I don’t love myself, there’s no overflow to love anyone else. And I’m always blaming people for the same thing I’m always blaming myself about. So why don’t I love me. I have a little exercise, I did the other evening, of loving something in myself that’s interesting or different, or anything I feel like loving, whether it’s the extra five pounds, or the goofy way I look at the world, or the way I turned the dining room into my sewing room. Don’t apologize for it, start loving it. And say, “Wow, that’s interesting.” And then, find something in somebody else that is that interesting and unique about them, and just start appreciating that about them. If you can’t love it, appreciate it, just appreciate it. And then step back and look at the whole picture, and see how different you are from what they are. And – here’s the key – love both of them together. Just say, “Wow, what an interesting picture that is.” How, because our tendency is to want everyone to be like us, to believe like we want them to believe, or believe like we believe, to prove that we’re right. And they want us all to fit into what they want us to do, because that’s the corporate structure, and that’s the way society is. And Osho said, The less you become like society, the more you become like Existence [laughs].
UP: You know, a garden isn’t just yellow daffodils. Can you imagine if every garden, if every flower, was just a yellow daffodil? How uninteresting everything would be? [laughs] You can get yourself to a different point of view that is raised higher on the vibrational scale, where you become up to that level of love. Once you start getting to the pleasure of loving, and that becomes more important than making somebody do what you think they should do, and then you begin to allow just this great harmony. Now you’ve become a part of this great harmony that actually just works. I mean, it’s keeping the planets in orbit, don’t you think?
BM: [laughs] Absolutely. Who do you look up to most when you think of the power of love?
UP: Osho. He was complete, he wasn’t even there anymore, he was just love. And he kept pointing in the direction, he said, “Don’t look at my finger, look where I’m pointing.” I was overwhelmed by this love. I was just overwhelmed by this peace that entered me and it emanated from him. When I looked into his eyes, all I could see was fathomless love. It was a remarkable experience. So that’s my experience. And it’s been the touchstone for my life.
BM: Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask in these previous questions?
UP: Yeah. First of all, loving really is a lot of fun. Here’s the other part of it: it’s really, really simple. Really, really simple. You just decide. And it’s free. It doesn’t cost anything. And yet, it’s a feast. So you can’t sell it in the Marketplace, and you can’t buy it in the Marketplace. You can only create it and share it. This is a logline from a movie I wrote, called Ray of Hope: “The only love you get to keep is the love you give.” Sometimes it feels dangerous or scary. And then you just gotta do it anyway.
Love requires courage. The root of courage is a French word: cœur. Courage is of the heart. Love is of the heart. That’s what Osho told me in my sannyas. It’s of the heart. You must become courageous of the heart. He named me “Richness in Love,” or Ma Prem Udana. And he said, “Udana, that’s where you will go.”
That was thirty years ago. And I realized the other evening that this is what my life has become. I’m rich in Love. My life has been totally unconventional. Even in my relationships. And there’s a tremendous amount of love. Nothing conventional, mind you. Maybe what’s why there’s so much love. And, while I was thinking about all this in the middle of the night I began to realize that the more love you have, the richer you are. And it takes courage to do that, particularly in our crazy world. And the first part of the courage is to love ourselves first. Because then we have lots of love to overflow.
That’s part of the nature of love…when you love you are happy and you just want to share. You spread it around. It’s a choice. And we can all chose Love. It’s fun. And it feels really good. It can turn the lights on and change the world.