What is Love?

Love: a strong feeling of affection – to care for. ORIGIN Old English lufu, of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit lubhyati ‘desires’. The opposite of love is hate or to detest.

There are two aspects to love.

There is conventional love and ultimate love. Conventional love is conditional love (relying on a condition), and ultimate love is unconditional love (not relying on any conditions, as it is our natural state). In Sanskrit, these are called relative bodhichitta and ultimate bodhichitta.

I asked a lama, “What is ultimate bodhichitta?” He said, “Oh, don’t bother with that now, stay with relative bodhichitta first.” It sort of made sense, but I was not convinced.

I asked another lama the same question. He said, “We start with ultimate bodhichitta to manifest relative bodhichitta.” That made sense, and I was convinced.

Why did these lamas answer differently? They came from different traditions. One was from the Mahamudra path – Kagyu – and the other from Dzogchen – Nyingma. You can see how it is sometimes difficult to understand the different methods of the dharma, and therefore the approach to love. Dharma people do argue! 🙂

We all have a sense of love, of loving or caring for something or someone. Of course caring is a good thing, but this is something we are relating to, and is therefore dualistic. We hope to get something out of this love, even if it’s peace of mind. This is not real love as it relies on conditions and illusions.

So what is real love?

We have to start with ultimate love. When empty awareness is experienced, we realise our true nature. There are no flashing lights and trumpets; this experience is simply clarity, and therefore it looks ordinary. It is only extraordinary compared to the confused state! When we realise that there is nothing more, we feel relieved, confident and…in love. This is not a claiming of pleasantness; it is merely pleasing to be at peace, and it does not rely on any conditions other than emptiness.

The important point is that we realise this pure experience of ‘being’ is within every other sentient being as well. It’s just covered up with illusions. Love is understanding this, and manifesting with clarity for the benefit of others.

We all experience ultimate love, but it could seem so ordinary that we miss it. We are unconscious oscillators!

This is why the word ‘compassion’ is preferable to the word ‘love’, as it is more a sense of empathy.

Compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others: “the victims should be treated with compassion.” ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from compati ‘suffer with’.

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