the science and soul of an innocent world

What is Love?

By Jeevan Ullas

river meets ocean River meets ocean, Photo: user Pinwheel[CC-BY-2.0], via Flickr

Recently a friend’s statement that he loved me but didn’t have the will or desire to talk to me raised a question in me. What is this love or what is true love? So much talked about, discussed for eons-- what is this love which makes one feel happy or sad at times? Is it the feeling of being with someone or the desire to do something for someone?

Whatever love is, it’s not easy to digest that love is only when someone does something for you-- that sounds more like business. You do something for someone and someone does the favor back. Also, someone saying “I love you” every now and then out of the habit of saying it just makes the word cheaper. Is “love” really a meaningful word in our current social use of it?

The Fool "The Fool" by Diego da Silva [CC-BY-2.0], via Flicker

Bertrand Russell, philosopher and mathematician, mentions in The Conquest of Happiness, “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” That sounds scary. It almost sounds like a fool standing on an edge of a cliff ready to jump in without caution. But is that what one has to do for love? Is love when one jumps into the unknown without knowing the consequences? It seems I have more questions than the answers. In a psychiatrist’s perspective it might sound like a psychotic episode. In a doctor’s perspective it’s a disease-like thing which affects your biological functions, just a trick of nature to force us to reproduce.

What about all different kinds of love? Love for parents or children? Or love for a friend, neighbor and others? These could also be considered functions of biology or sociology, side effects of the social structure which help our own survival. Is there any difference in those faculties of love, or is love one emotion which is expressed in different ways?

Is it possible to be in a kind of love which doesn’t require another, just to be in a state of love? What kind of love is that? It sounds plutonic, but it definitely erases the possibility of the business-like love where one wants something back in return for their love.

Osho, a contemporary mystic of our time, was asked the same question: “What is love?”

He replied, “There is no love.” It was almost like a shock when I heard it, but he then explained that what we perceive as love is not love. It is business, politics; what Osho means by love is something else, something higher. Almost like Bertrand Russell’s quote, it sounds like a fool’s errand, where one has to have complete trust, merging into the unknown, losing oneself to be in the state of true love. Only then can one find the true meaning of love and be capable of loving.

Question arises again that is that love possible without caring for someone, or willing to know what the other is going through? Is it possible even if one is totally ignoring the other? I listen to my heart and it says, no, that’s not possible. It’s not possible because if you love someone, your acts will show it. If you are in that loving state, then it will be an overflowing joy which will prompt sharing in abundance, not in scarcity, like a miserly businessman who pretends to love but has nothing to give, always wanting to receive, to get the best end of the deal. Like boiling water overflowing out of a pan, someone who lives in real love will be a giver, overflowing with love, flowing downhill to anyone accepting enough to receive it with gratitude.

Meera "Meera" English Wikipedia user Redheylin [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It reminds me of the beautiful story of Meera, an enlightened woman from India’s ancient past who fell in love with Krishna. Being from a royal family, she brought disgrace to her family and they punished her for it. They abandoned her and even tried to even kill her, but they couldn’t crush her love. Meera had dissolved into the unknown, she had disappeared, stepped off the cliff; she danced on the streets in her joyous love for Krishna, who was not even alive in her time. Meera once went to a famous Krishna temple, dancing in the streets, spreading love all around, but the priest asked her to stay out of the temple because women were not allowed in that temple in the past. Meera responded to the priest by asking, “Who else is male here? I can’t see anyone else other than my Krishna.” Her love was such a fool’s love that the only male who existed to her was Krishna; her eyes didn’t see anyone else as male anymore.

Meera’s story is a unique one, in which love reaches to almost madness— perhaps a psychologist, reading about her, would say Meera was not enlightened, but simply insane. Probably one has to be in her shoes to feel what she felt. I can only say that her story changed my definition of love and affected my being to such a level that, for me, nothing less than that level of devotion can be truly considered “love.”

I feel love is like a wild river, flowing down the mountains to meet an ultimate ocean of love. In the process she gives her love to every lower ground which wants to receive it. In the journey she loses a lot. The dry desert may torment her; the summer heat may evaporate her, but eventually, when she reaches to her lover, she reaches to the ocean, an abundance of love.

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