We often confuse love with certain kind of obsession, fixation, or craze about the other person. At the best, it may be called passion, but not love
Every year, people around the world celebrate February 14 as the day of love. Young or old, male or female or the ‘others’, people rush to show their affection to their loved ones. But oftentimes, what we actually show is attachment, not affection.
For most of us, it is anything but a day of love. It may be a day of desire, of clinging, or longingness, or infatuation toward the other person. For, that’s what we often mean by ‘love’. Rarely do we really understand love. And even rarely, do we actually love.
We often confuse love with certain kind of obsession, fixation, or craze about the other person. At the best, it may be called passion, but not love. Love is not even remotely related to them.
Love is free, passion is not. Passion binds, love liberates. People may even mistake their lust for love, unfortunately. That’s when love becomes problematic. And it has happened for millennia in human history. That’s why from centuries, there is a phrase in English—fall in love.
It is so absurd. If one has to fall in love, then who needs such love? But why do people ‘fall’ in love? Why do we carry such ignorance, such wrong view about love?
The problem lies in our minds, our psyche, our way of looking at things. When we say we love somebody, we are not expressing our love to that person. We may even tell somebody that they are our ‘soulmate’. In doing so, we are actually confirming—at the back of our minds—that they meet certain criteria or benchmarks that we have set for our soulmate or loved one.
When we say ‘I love you’, we are unconsciously saying: ‘I love your body’, ‘I love your money,’ ‘I love the way you talk,’ ‘I love your sexy smile,’ ‘I love your height and muscles,’ ‘I love your pretty face,’ ‘I love your position and power,’ or ‘I love your intelligence’. Maybe we mean one or more of them, but very unlikely all of them. Even more unlikely is to say something like: ‘I love your sexy smile, and I also love it when your mouth smells’ or ‘I love your money, and I also love it when you ignore me for years making money,’ unless our fixation for sexy smile or money is so strong that all other things become secondary.
Love entirely, totally
It is extremely unlikely that we love the other person in their entirety, in their totality. What does entirely and totally loving the other person mean?
First, it means loving the other person irrespective of their appearance or attributes. You don’t love them for their money or social status or sense of humor or dress. You don’t love them for their sexy look or their charming smile or beautiful body. You don’t love them for their fascinating way of speech. You just love them without dissecting them into pieces.
Second, it means loving the other person irrespective of their action. Whether they respond positively to your expression of love or not, whether they say in return ‘I love you’ or not, whether they act as you have asked them or not, whether they forget to wish you on your birthday or not, whether they text you every few hours or not, whether they like your Facebook posts or not—you love them. Whether they have time to talk to you or not, you love them. Whether they do stupid things and create troubles for you, you love them. Whether they agree to go to bed with you or not, you love them.
Third, it means loving the other person irrespective of sex. Imagine your girlfriend was not a woman or your boyfriend was not a man, would you have the same feeling of love for them? Would you be able to love the person as a whole and not the male or female in them? Remove sex and if there is no change in your love, then you may be loving him or her totally.
But how is it possible? It is not possible by ‘falling in love’. It is possible by ‘DOING love’. It is possible by training your mind. When you are in the habit of letting your mind do whatever it wants to do, you are likely to fall in love. When you have a little practice of training your mind, you DO love and rise in love.
Not training your mind and allowing it to run your life is like letting an untrained pilot run your flight. It is destined to crash, just as we are definite to fall and be crushed in love by letting our untrained minds drive us.
Let us not confuse falling in love with ‘being in love’, although being in love may be possible when we fall in love. But here, we are very likely to meet with an accident. But when our DOING love leads us to being in love, then we are pretty much safe. Then, we are in control and not hurt when our loved one does not meet our expectation of how they should appear or behave.
Again, how is it possible to train our mind to DO love and rise in it?
Turn to Buddha
About 2500 year ago, the Buddha gave some wonderful teachings to the world. One of such teachings is to train ourselves in four practices, called the Four Immeasurables or the four sublime states of mind, that connect us to infinite source of love and joy. With these practices, we can actually DO love and rise in it.
First, we need to make an effort to understand the other person—to understand what makes them happy and what makes them suffer. We will then be able to say or do things that will give them joy and happiness. When we do so, this gives them the joy of our presence. We say loving words and do kind deeds to them. This comes from the practice of Maitri, or loving-kindness.
Second, when we understand the suffering of our loved one, we take action to remove it. We take pain and go to the extent possible to relieve them of the situation. This comes from the practice of Karuna, or compassion.
Third, we need to share happiness with our beloved, and be happy together with the other person. We find our happiness in their happiness. When they are joyful, we are joyful. This comes from the practice of Mudita, or appreciative mutual joy.
Fourth, and very important, is to give them freedom—some space, some privacy, so that they feel liberated in your presence. You don’t always poke into their affairs and try to control them, but give them the liberty to be themselves and be at ease. This is the practice of loving but being aloof, impartial, and non-judgmental at the same time. This comes from the practice of Upekkha, or equanimity.
There is a caveat, though, for us who are not used to practicing such kind of love. What do we do if the other person—your beloved or would-be beloved—is so callous and hard that your efforts become meaningless? There may be people who would take your Maitri as fabrication and your Karuna as weakness. They may term your Mudita a mockery and your Upekkha ignorance.
How do we deal with difficult people? For most of us ordinary people with very little mind-training, it is best to cultivate Maitri and Karuna at our hearts for the callous people, and stay aloof. Don’t get involved. If the other person is so negative and so overpowering that you cannot do anything about it, the best way is to keep away. Just wish them well from a distance. Do the same if your beloved is not accessible. If you find somebody compatible, accessible, and reasonable—who understands your loving heart and who has warm feelings for you—then DO love them the Buddha’s way.
If we train our minds such, we will be able to love totally and entirely. The love for one person will open up our hearts, and we will be able to love the entire world, boundlessly. Then we rise in love.
May your love lives take-off, may you DO love, be in love, and grow to the state of limitless love.