November 6, 2012

The Nature of Love, Part 1: What is Love?

This is Part 1 of an 11 part series on love. In this first part, I will attempt to define love in the sense that I will be referring to it.

When pursuing any form of spiritual study, you will inevitably come across all sorts notions about "love". But what is love, really? Wikipedia defines it as "... an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment." Personally, I don't agree with this definition.

I don't think love is an emotion at all. Emotions can be fleeting. Anger can be upon you in a flash, but so can laughter. This doesn't sound like love to me. Love is not fleeting - it is persistent. In fact, love can be the hardest thing in the world to rid yourself of.

Love also differs from emotion in terms of where they come from. In a healthy and mentally stable person, there is (usually) a good reason for each emotion. You feel angry because a friend betrayed you. You feel happy because you got a promotion. You feel sad because a loved one passed away. But doesn't have a good reason. In fact, the stronger the love, the less reason it needs. With the purest love, you love someone for no reason at all. With all of their imperfections and faults, you still love them. We see this all the time, with mothers that love sons that are serial killers. With wives that love abusive husbands, and children that love abusive parents. These are very extreme cases, granted, but more commonly we see people deeply and truly in love with people that are lazy, unintelligent, uncaring, arrogant, manipulative, and unmotivated. It doesn't seem to matter. Love wills one to love, without reason.

In some esoteric or occult practices, love is thought of as the optimiziation of our natural state. Our natural state, for the purposes of defining love, is being focused on and at one with the Universe (or the Dao, or God, depending on your belief system). It is said that if love is in your heart and your focus is on the Universe, then all the powers of the Universe are available to you. Therefore, we can turn this around and define love as "if all the powers of the Universe are available to you, then love is that which you have in your heart."

No, love is most definitely not an emotion. Love is the sum total of all of our emotions, and the intentions behind those emotions, and the place they all hold in the Universe. As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, "Love is not an emotion. It is your very existence."

And this is why, ultimately, love is all that really matters.

In Part 2, we will talk about the different types of love, starting with Ancient Greek and Christian notions of love.


  1. John,

    I completely agree with you. Love is not an emotion. It is part of creation itself. Great blog. I look foward to reading more in this series.