There have been so many songs written about love; movies that seem to tell us what love is; books that proclaim great love stories. But what is truly the meaning of love? What is true love? With Valentine’s Day dawning, I invite you to think a little about what you think true love is all about.
I have recently begun reading a little book by a fantastic Buddist monk and author, Thich Nhat Hanh. I have read several of his books and this one is no different. True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart is really mind opening.
So I want to share just a few thoughts and the basic premise of the book. In Buddhism, there are four Aspects of Love.
The first is maitri. This means loving kindness. When you love someone, you want to make them happy. Loving kindness also means the desire and the ability to make the one you love happy. It is also the ability to bring joy to your love’s life, with openness and understanding. “Understanding is the essence of love. If you cannot understand, you cannot love.”
The second aspect is karuna – which means compassion. When your loved one is in pain or is sad and unhappy, you want to bring them joy and you want to ease their pain. Compassion allows you to have the ability to ease the other’s pain. It is the practice of looking deeply into the heart of things. You may try desperately to ease the suffering of your love, but truly having compassion and understanding is the only way to bring peace.
The third aspect of love is mudita. This is quite simply joy. “If there is no joy in your love, you can be sure it is not true love.” Sadness, anger, resentment cannot be present in a truly loving relationship. Compassion and understanding are difficult when joy is gone.
Finally, the fourth aspect is upeksha – freedom. “In true love, you attain freedom. You bring freedom to the other when you love.” Loving someone gives you both a sense of being free and safe. Without it, there is no love.
These four simple practices involve looking deeply into the other person. Be attentive, observe your loved one. This will allow you to practice kindness, compassion, joy and freedom at all times.
Happy Valentine’s Day!!