Saturday, March 13, 9976

What is Love?

Love is not an emotion. It is a state of being.

We might feel strong emotions toward our family members, close friends, or lovers: affection, appreciation, generosity, attraction, sympathy. We might believe that this is “love”. But what happens when they fail to fulfill our needs or otherwise disappoint us? What emotions do we experience? Anger. Resentment. Disgust. The fact that attraction can turn to aversion so quickly shows that there is no true love there, only exploitation to satisfy egoic desires. As soon as someone no longer enables us to “get” something from them, we view them as useless. So all we have for them is emotion, which is a temporary state of mind based on a temporary condition. Emotion, because it is temporary, cannot come from the true self because the true self is permanent. Emotion comes from the ego, which is temporary.

True love comes from the true self, which sees people beyond their worldly actions and what it can “get” from them. It is a permanent state of being because the true self is permanent. If someone disappoints us, we don’t automatically label them “bad” or “useless”. We understand that they merely acted or reacted according to their own fear or ignorance, just like we have done many times. They are still worthy of love because they are permanent beings, not their temporary actions. Only the true self can love because only the true self can see other true selves. All the ego can see is other egos.

We can love only being, not doing, because we can love only what is permanent. Doing is impermanent, so it cannot be loved; it can only be reacted to. If we “love” someone because they say nice things or give us gifts, then what we “love” is what they do, not who they are. What they do can change, and when it does, so do our emotions, because emotions are nothing more than reactions to events. So in many cases what we think is love is not love at all but a temporary emotion. True love does not change with events.

This doesn’t mean that we must enjoy the unpleasant things people do or go out of our way to be with them. We might end friendships and romances, or avoid certain people altogether, because it would not be fruitful to have a worldly relationship with them. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t love them. We might not have affection or attraction for them, but remember that those are just worldly reactions to their worldly actions. We can still love them, for love has nothing to do with their actions but is a state of understanding that we have for all living beings.

What about people who commit despicable acts, such as members of drug cartels, mafias, and terrorist groups? Certainly what they do is horrible, and our egos love to villainize and hate them, for that makes our egos feel morally superior. But can we honestly say that we would not do what they do if we had been born into their situation? Doesn’t it seem rather coincidental that most criminals come from situations that foster criminality? You might not do the horrible things that they do, but look at the environment you grew up in: you were steered in productive directions by your parents and teachers, and you enjoyed a lot more safety and freedom than most of humanity. Do you believe that ISIL members would have joined their group if they had been born into your family? If we look at things honestly, we can see that people’s actions do not necessarily reflect who they are, and so we can look past their unpleasant actions and love (not feel affection for, but understand) who they are.

The true self loves all. The ego is incapable of love; the best it can do is be attracted to those it can benefit from.