The term “Love” in Buddhism / Phra Ajahn Ofer
I have been asked many times about the way Buddhism deals with the term “Love”. According to the Buddhist scripts, the Buddha related to three types of love.
The first type – “piya” (in Pali) – means love based on attachment. The Buddha said that all things tend to change. If a person loves something from piya, he will live in constant fear worry and anxiety to lose the thing that is dear to him. That is why the Buddha said that a person who has a tendency to piya love, is better off not loving anyone, otherwise he will live in constant fear, worry, and anxiety.
The second type of love is called ” kama ” (in Pali) – meaning love based on attachment to information that is received through ones senses. For example, I like this kind of form or color, I like this taste, this sound, this smell, this touch. The Buddha said that given that all elements in nature tend to change, a love that is based on information from our senses can be deceiving like drugs, and is a love that depends on elements that change constantly. The object of our attachment changes all the time, and when that happens, our love will disappear, we feel hurt and look for a new object for attachment. For example, a man falls in love with a woman because of the way she looks, but with time she will age and her body will change; as a result he may look for another woman.
The distance between our eyes which receive information from an object we see, tends to change. So, if we see something that we like through a screen of fog, that same object may turn into something repulsive when the fog is lifted. Even our eyes tend to change, and so do the rest of our senses, so that information we used to love before may evoke repulsion with time. Our perception tends to change as well, which is another reason why something we used to love may turn repulsive with time. The conclusion is that love which depends on our senses or anything else will bring us suffering as a result of change.
The third type of love is the kind that the Buddha taught and encouraged. This love, called “metta” in Pali, and loving kindness in English, is an independent love, arising from the good will and care for the other as a living creature.
Metta can have a mental manifestation, or can be expressed by speech or action. It is one of four qualities which are called ‘Brahma Vihara’ (divine abodes), and is the love for all leaving creatures, wherever they are, in an equal way.
In one of his teachings to the monks the Buddha said that as a mother loves her child to the extent of self sacrifice for him, so a person should love all living creatures. But first, he must love himself. One can find an example for such love within the Dalai Lama in the way he treats all people around him, including the Chinese, who are the conquerors of his country.
We practice metta at the end of each meditation session, by sending blessings to all living creatures, wherever they are, and wish them wellbeing, happiness, health and joy.
May each and every one of you develop a love of metta for himself and for all the living creatures, and may that be a state for true happiness.
Yours in Dharma,