Romantic Love Could Be True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Q: If Buddhism supports love for Mother Nature, then why does it not also support romantic love between two people and demonstrations of affection between two people?

A: It’s a wonderful question. (long silence). The Buddha is a teacher of love -- true love. True love brings happiness to both you and Mother Earth. Romantic love, if it is true love, can also bring happiness.  How to know true love from the other thing? True love has four elements.

First of all, a mindful awareness of loving kindness, that is, the capacity to offer happiness. If you cannot offer happiness, that is not true love. In romantic love, if you are not able to make the other person happy, that is not true love. If you are not able to offer happiness to him or her, both will suffer.

The second element of love is compassion. Compassion is the kind of energy that can help remove suffering. It can help transform suffering in you and the other person. If you cannot transform or take care of the suffering in you and the other person, that is not true love. That is why the second element of love, karuna, should be contemplated by you and the other person. Romantic or not romantic, that is not important.

What is important is whether it is true love or not.

And the third element of true love is joy. If by loving, you make the other person cry all the time or you cry all the time, that is not true love—romantic or unromantic.

The fourth element of true love is inclusiveness. His suffering is your suffering; his happiness is your happiness. There is no individual suffering or happiness anymore. In true love there is no separation, no frontier between you and the other. You can’t say: “That’s your problem!” Your problem is my problem; my suffering is your suffering.

If romantic love has these four elements, it can bring a lot of happiness also. And the Buddha never said negative things about true love. If romantic love is successful, and you cultivate loving kindness and compassion, then very soon your love will be all-embracing. The other person is no longer the only object of your love because your love will continue to grow and embrace all of us and happiness becomes limitless. That is the love of Buddha; that is the meaning of the fourth element, inclusiveness.

If it is true love, it will continue to grow and it will include more and more, not only humans but also animals, vegetables and minerals, and that is great love, mahakaruna, mahamaitri, and that is the love of Buddha and this is what he taught—how to release the tension in the body and reduce the pain, how to take care of a painful feeling and how to create a moment of joy, how to use loving speech and deep listening in order to restore communication and to reconcile; all these are very concrete things that can be learnt.


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