Wednesday, February 15, 2012

So, what really is love?

You can find the Part 1 of this article here.

So, what is love, really? In my last couple of posts, I argued that words and symbols of love shouldn't be equated with real love. I emphasized that love is what you do, not what you say. But then, gifting a material object, whatever it may be, is a form of doing. Same with expressing love through words. After all, saying is doing as well. So, why am I saying that these actions aren't exactly love? Am I trying to suggest that some actions qualify as love and not others? Am I saying something like cooking or doing laundry for someone is love, but gifting a teddy bear isn't? No! That would be too judgmental a statement. But before I talk about what is authentic love, let me first of all confess that I am no expert on love. In some ways, I am probably just the opposite of an expert, because I haven't exactly fared well in the area of love, at least based on societal standards. However, my failures have definitely prodded me to meditate on the matter, and now, I think I have a little better sense of what is true love than I had before.

I believe it is very important that we have a good understanding of what is real love, because without it we won't know what to strive for within ourselves in our relationships. Also, we will likely get carried away by popular, fantastic notions of love. Worse, we may experience a lot of suffering when we confuse fake love for authentic love. In essence, our practice and experience of true love is contingent upon our understanding of the same.

My current understanding is that real love is primarily about being there. Before I elaborate further on this understanding, let me first acknowledge that this idea is not mine. About three or four years ago, I had read a book by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, on love. Thich, if you don't know, is a highly respected monk, and had also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Martin Luther King Jr. In any case, according to Thich, "To love..., is above all to be there." He wrote, "If you are not there, how can you love?" If I translate Thich's words into scientific lingo, being present is a necessary condition of love. If it isn't there, then there is no true love; whatever we see then may have the appearance of love, but it isn't really love.

When I first read this Buddhist idea of love being defined in terms of being, I liked the idea. However, I didn't realize the full truth behind it until I started meditating on love a few days ago. Thich's words weren't there in my conscious memory. But when I meditated I got the same insight as Thich's. You may say, I remembered the words of Thich's. Whatever it is, insight or recollection, I realized the profundity of being there for the first time.

To be continued ...

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