“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
As soon as I wrote the word “love” in the title of this post I had a vision of 80% of my readers rolling their eyes and thinking, “great… here comes another post about love“. For some reason love is not a very cool thing these days. But I don’t care. I’m not all that cool anyway. In this post I want to talk about how we have lost touch with the art of love and why we desperately need to get it back.
Love is not romance or sex
Before I get in to the juice of this post I need to define some terms. Love is not romance. It is not sex. Actually, I should say that it is not just sex. It is so much more than that. This is one of the reasons that we have lost touch with love because we really have no idea what it is. If you walked up to 100 people on the street and asked what love is I think most of them would talk about being “in love”. That is nice. It is romantic. But, honestly, it is selling love short. Because love is so much more than that.
Let’s take a look at few more encompassing ideas about what love really is:
The Buddhist version of love
In Buddhism love is not romantic at all. It is not about starry nights and sunsets on the beach. Nope. It really isn’t. In Buddhism love is defined as “the wish for all beings to be happy“. It is the other side of compassion which is defined as “the wish for all beings to be free from suffering”. It is the very heart and soul of Buddhism because without love for other beings you have no chance of progressing along the path to enlightenment.
The Buddhist idea of love is an excellent one because it is both personal and impartial. What it teaches you to do is take the feelings you have for your friends and family and expand them out to all sentient beings. Your love is no longer reserved just for your wife and kids; you give it to everyone. Why? Because other people are someone’s daughter or son or brother or sister too. And because you know what it feels like to love your own son or daughter you know that it must be important to others as well. Buddhist love is wanting others to be happy.
The Ancient Greek version of love
One thing that is really limited about the word “love” is that it is only one word. We have one four letter word to describe tens of different emotions and feelings. The Ancient Greeks were on to this and as such they had several different words for love so as to not dilute the meanings.
Philia is a term developed by Aristotle and is a love towards friends and family, co workers and other members of the community. This type of love is about a mutual dependence – we love each other because it benefits us both. Storge is the natural affection that a mother feels for her baby. Eros is the word used for romantic love and xenia is the greek idea of love between a host and his guest where the guest repays the host’s kindness with nothing but gratitude.
The theistic version of love
Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus also have the type of love that is between a person and God. This type of love is not romantic but is more about respect, gratitude and even fear.
Christians love God because they are grateful for the life he is given at the same time as being fearful of his wrath. The same is true in Islam where the words rafah and rahmah relate to God’s compassion and mercy respectively. As you can see the theistic idea of love is different to general ideas about love.
Love is many things
The point of looking at all of this is to show you that love is far more than just the romantic versions that we see on TV. It is about brotherhood, community, friendship, altruism, happiness and so on. When we look at love in these broader terms it is easy to see how it can be so important for the world today. And that is why we need to remember how to do it.