What Is Love?


What is love? Many people considered attraction or obsession as Love but I don’t think that is love.

—Aman, India


Dear Aman,

I believe the French are credited for the saying “Love makes the world go ’round.” The English language is peculiarly unsuited to express the many shades of the meaning of the word “love.” Other languages — Greek, Spanish and presumably others — have a wide range of words. For example, it is a common, if somewhat exaggerated, belief that Eskimos have 50 words for “snow.” (They actually do not.) But the point remains the same: one word (“love”) is far from sufficient to describe the reality of attraction of one person for another, what to mention two (or more) for each other!

Lust, for example, is at the far end of the spectrum of divine love. “Love-making” can be sheer lust or it can reflect committed and mature love between two people. A person can “love” ice cream, for example. Or, “snow!” The French saying could just as easily be re-phrased to say “Desire makes the world go ’round.” That would fit more neatly with Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita!

At the same time, the impulse to love; the need to be loved; the seeking of happiness and avoidance of pain: all these things are deeply rooted in human consciousness. Second perhaps only to the survival instinct (itself a derivative of our intuitive knowing of our own immortality as Atman), the desire to seek happiness cannot be wholly eradicated from our consciousness. The knowing that happiness is our true state is truth itself. Nor, therefore, can the instinctive attraction or repulsion to other people, things, or mental and emotional “objects” be easily dismissed.

The spiritual quest is one that seeks to redirect those basic drives to ever higher, ever purer “objects!” Ultimately, union with God brings the Bliss of our own, true nature as children of God. It is in re-uniting with the Infinite Spirit, the source of Divine Love and all creation that can finally, at last, satisfy this impulse which is of God. The very nature of Bliss is to share and the desireless-desire of God to create this dream universe endowed this universe and all beings in it with the very same impulse: impelled by the nature of bliss we seek that bliss — unfortunately, everywhere where it cannot be found (which is to say, outside our own souls).

Our existence has for its purpose the drama, the play, the lila, of finding God within and without, behind the mask of maya, of creation. For this we were born. Divine Love is the answer and we go through countless incarnations seeking it. Until we turn away from the endless monotony of repeated rounds of birth and death and seek God alone for love of God alone, then, and only then are we at last on the journey of the Prodigal Son home. But as God is the essence of all things and people, seeking God means seeing God in everyone. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

Blessings and joy to you!
Nayaswami Hriman