November 27, 2012

The Nature of Love, Part 4: Buddhist and Daoist Concepts

Last time in Part 3 of this series, I talked about how the mystical traditions classified love. This time, I'm going to look at the Buddhist and Daoist ideas.

As we make our way toward the Eastern traditions, especially those of China, the ideas about love become less and less about classification and types, and more about overarching themes and ideas. The first one we will look at, Buddhism, basically divides love into only two main categories. Whereas Daoism, the next one we will look at it, has no categories at all.


Although Buddhism recognizes more than just two types of love, they are all categorized into two main types: attachment love and unconditional love. Attachment love is any form of love that has a benefit to the self or is based upon an attachment to something or someone. This type of love is considered biased and is fundamentally based on the idea that the object of one's attachment is important or dear to that person. Virtually all forms of love, as described in the West, can be seen as attachment love. In Buddhism, there are two kinds of attachment love.

Kāma (काम) - this is desire, lust, and sensuality. Although normally associated with sexual desire and concepts, it is possible to have kāma without the sexual component.

Karunā (करुण) - this is compassion. It is the desire to reduce the pain and suffering of others, and is considered a necessary component of attaining enlightenment.

Unconditional love is love that is unbiased, is not reserved for only those we care about, and is not centered around the idea of attachment or a benefit to oneself. Instead, it is based on the idea that just as we are striving for peace and enlightenment, so is everyone else. This idea grows into an affinity for others on the same path (everyone) and eventually develops into love for them. There are the two forms of unconditional love.

Mettā (मेत्ता) - this is usually described as benevolence, kindness, and good-will. It is love without the clinginess found in most other forms of love. It is said to require a great deal of self-awareness and exploration in order to develop. Most people, at some level, do not have a problem with feeling Mettā toward people they love and care for. But for the Buddhist, it is necessary to feel it for everyone, enemies included.

Advesa (अद्वेष) - although Advesa and Mettā are usually grouped together as one type of love, they are not the same. Advesa is non-hatred. This doesn't simply mean that one does not act in a hateful way, nor does it mean that one does not hate. It goes further, to the point of saying one does not even have the desire to want to hate anyone or anything. The urge to do so - the temptation - is no longer there.


Whereas Buddhism distilled the types of love into two kinds, Daoism goes one step further and reduces it to none. In Daoism, there are no "kinds" of love - there is only love. There are not many manifestations of love, only different ways that people use it and express it.

In Daoist theory, it is believed that qi descends from Heaven down into Man. This Heavenly Qi is a transformative force and begins a process of change in a person. A byproduct of this change is the creation of love.

Compassion, a similar but slightly different concept than love (according to Daoists), is created by the act of sacrificing yourself to the Dao. This explained in verse 13 of the Dao De Jing:

"See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self,
then you can care for all things."

Daoism, along with other esoteric or mystical traditions, sees the body as a microcosm, meaning that the inner body is an analogy to the greater universe outside of the body. Much like how the outer universe consists of energetic vibrations and resonance, so does the inner one. This energy that powers the inner universe, that gives rise to the inscrutable forces that govern it, is love. In short, love is the rhythm of the Dao.

Daoists have many methods that they employ in order to develop and cultivate this energy of love. The simplest method is through meditations, such as the Microcosmic Orbit Meditation. In some Daoist teachings, meditation is described as the nurturing of the fetus within. This concept of growing the fetus and developing it, along with the ideas of inner universe that is powered by love, are roughly analogous to Western ideas of parent/child love.

Another, more powerful, method used by Daoists to cultivate love (especially spiritual or divine love) is through sexual alchemy. Sexual alchemy is the process of converting sexual energy into spiritual energy, for a variety of purposes. It is considered to be a form of mystical training and part of the path toward enlightenment. This will be discussed in more detail in an upcoming article.

In Part 5, we will look at the traditions of India and Tibet, including Hindu, Vedic, and Tantric ideas on love.


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