Can Love also Be Non-Attached?


Can vairagya and prem co-exist? I love a person and have lustful thoughts only for him. I don’t want to be touched by some other person now.

—Manisha, India


Dear Manisha,

If you are romantically and sexually infatuated with a person and because of that have no such feelings towards others, that is a normal human experience. It is not the deeper and spiritual meaning or manifestation of the Sanskrit terms vairagya and prem.

In my reply to you, I can either focus on “What is vairagya and what is prem?” or on the nature of romantic and sexual attraction! Maybe I have to do both?

Vairagya is non-attachment and prem is, of course, love. But pure love includes wisdom and wisdom includes non-attachment! The question of “How to love a person without attachment” is a very deep one because it is a subtle subject and a difficult state of realization to achieve.

When love is pure and does not think in terms of personal desire (including and perhaps especially sexual desire), one’s love is without attachment. In this case, one wants only the best and the highest for one’s friend or beloved. Nor does this unconditional love mean one does not grieve or feel sorrow if the beloved is hurt, dies, or even hurts your feelings.

True love can forgive and if appropriate, also discipline (e.g., a child). Though cases of romantic love being truly spiritual are uncommon, there are many different levels of romantic love ranging from “pure” lust to an elevated spiritual partnership where its sexual expression is naturally limited (perhaps even to the intention to have children or at least only in the context of expressing a calm and deep mutual love). It is possible, however, for two mature people to have a balanced relationship in terms of sexual desire and spiritual inspiration.

Lust can never last. When lust is uppermost, sexual desires and activities are informed by our animal natures and when indulged, even if to the point of exhaustion, we are burying these impulses further and further into our subconscious. These impulses, after a period of rest, will rise again and again, perhaps becoming ever more impure, until perhaps our relationship ends (out of disgust, jealousy, anger, etc.), or, our health is destroyed, or we re-direct our impulses into some new form of self-indulgence.

You have surrounded the “object” (person) of your desires with a “halo” of perfection and desirability. You can be sure that this golden aura will not last. The excitement of romance and sex will subside just like every sunset into darkness, boredom, and daily routine to be periodically aroused from time to time but with ever decreasing satisfaction.

You should seek calm, mature, and wise counsel as to whether the person you “love” is right for you. You should also seek to re-direct your lustful thoughts into pure thoughts of how you and the other might together express friendship, selfless service (karma yoga), artistic or creative endeavors (including conducting business). You should contemplate the other person’s higher qualities, whether in virtues, talents or spiritual aspirations and actions. And what about habits, especially those which might manifest in later years such as alcohol abuse, womanizing, gambling or just unhealthy habits of diet or lack of exercise? You might inquire, also, of this other person’s character and past from those who know him and who are impartial.

Be wise, be calm, and be careful. Sex and romance occupy only a small portion of one’s life. Ever-indulged, they will never be satisfied. Ever held in check, they can have their proper place. We are God’s children and our hearts will ever be restless until they rest within in the Self, in the Bliss of God.

I wish and pray for the best to come to you to reveal your soul’s destiny and wisdom!

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA