The elder brother also felt it was unfair. He returned home saddened and downhearted. He saw the lamps and the flowers set out in his brother’s honor and could bear it no longer. He went to his father and said, “I have served you and obeyed you my whole life, but you have never prepared a feast in my honor. Today this prodigal son of yours returns home and look how much you have done to receive him. I can’t believe my eyes.”
The father replied, “Son, you have always been near me. You never went astray, so there was no need to welcome you. You are always with me and welcome every moment. You are so close to my heart, but this boy who went astray, who wandered and ruined himself, and for whom I spent so many anxious, sleepless nights, he is returning and needs to be welcomed. You gave me no cause for worry; instead I have always been happy and pleased with you, so there is no need to express excessive happiness in your case.”
When the prodigal returns a magnificent reception is called for. Jesus would say: Good people, holy men and saints, are like the elder brother; those who have gone stray, sinned, committed crimes, are like the younger brother. Jesus made this a wonderful beginning for his spiritual teachings and because of this, the Jews turned against him. For the Jews believe that he who sins is punished by God; whereas Jesus has said he will welcome him when he returns for he loves him. Do as much wrong as you please, you cannot remove yourself from his heart. You may show your back to him but he will wait. He is the Father of all.
We have a very deep connection with existence, and existence feels pleased – so the Hindus have known from time immemorial. That is why it is said that when a person attains buddhahood flowers bloom out of season. Flowers open when Buddha passes by, whatever the season, for existence is filled with bliss at that moment.
This is what Nanak is saying, that he is so filled with joy and dances in ecstasy whenever the prodigal returns. This is the union of freedom and love. Do what you will, you cannot displease him. His love for you is much deeper than anything you might do. But his attachment is not like yours. He doesn’t chain you by the neck. God is not a prison; God is love and freedom. It is difficult to explain, for they appear so contrary, for when you love a person you take away his freedom, and when you give freedom you say good-bye to love.
Where affection and nonaffection both are, where desire and desirelessness both are, where all contradictions unite, there is the great confluence.
Nanak says, To describe Him is like chewing on iron.