The 4 Aspects of True Love
(as taught by Thich Naht Than)
According to Buddhism, there are four elements of true love.
1. MAITRI or METTA (Loving-Kindness)
The first element of true love is MAITRI, which can be translated as loving-kindness or benevolence. Loving-kindness is not only the desire to make someone happy or to bring joy to a beloved person; it is the ability to bring joy and happiness to the person you love because even if your intention is to love this person, your love might make him or she suffer. Training is needed in order to love properly; and to be able to give happiness and joy, you must practice deep looking directed toward the person you love, because if you do not understand this person, you cannot love properly.
Understanding is the essence of love. If you can not understand, you cannot love.
That is the message of the Buddha. Without understanding, love is an impossible thing. What must we do in order to understand a person? We must have time; we must practice looking deeply into this person. We must be there, attentive; we must observe, we must look deeply. And the fruit of this looking deeply is called understanding. Love is a true thing if it is made up of a substance called understanding.
2. KARUNA (Compassion)
The second element of true love is KARUNA, which roughly translates as compassion. This is not only the desire to ease the pain of another person but the ability to do so. You must practice deep looking in order to gain a good understanding of the nature of the suffering of this person, in order to be able to help him or her to change. Knowledge and understanding are always at the root of the practice. The practice of understanding is the practice of meditation. To meditate is to look deeply into the heart of things.
3. MUDITA (Joy)
The third element of true love is MUDITA, or joy. If there is no joy in love, it is not true love. If you are suffering all the time, if you cry all the time, and if you make the person you love cry, this is not really loving―it is even the opposite. If there is no joy in your love, you can be sure that it is not true love.
4. UPEKSHA (Equanimity or Freedom)
The fourth element is UPEKSHA, equanimity or freedom. In true love, you attain freedom. When you love, you bring freedom to the person you love. If the opposite is true, it is not truelove. You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free, not only outside but also inside.
“Dear one, do you have enough space in your heart and all around you?”. This is an intelligent question for testing out whether your love is something real.
“You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered around the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. He is the man Martin Luther King called “An Apostle of peace and nonviolence.” His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world. Read more about him here.