“THE ROOTS OF A LASTING RELATIONSHIP ARE MINDFULNESS, DEEP LISTENING AND LOVING SPEECH, AND A STRONG COMMUNITY TO SUPPORT YOU.”
― THICH NHAT HANH, HOW TO LOVE.
Love is an unsolved mystery. We are all troubled by the question ‘ What is love?’
Poets, musicians, writers, philosophers, scientists and everyone have tried to define love but nobody has been able to define it
Is love a feeling? Or an action? How should it be defined?
Complicated as it sounds to all of us, the Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh has the simplest answer to this eternal question, ‘What is love?’
According to him, love is a way of being.
To him, love is complex but it is the most rewarding of all experiences.
At the core of his teachings, lies the basic idea that love’s another name is understanding.
According to Buddhist philosophy, understanding is the basic necessity of life. Hence, if we are to love another, we need to understand them, their suffering.
However, caught in our daily struggles, it becomes difficult for us to understand one another. Thich Nhat Hanh explains this using a beautiful metaphor:
“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink.
The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer.
We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore.
We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.”
Now, that we know what to do, the next question is: how to do it? How can we understand one another?
Thich Nhat Hanh has an answer to this:
“When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.
Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, one should learn the dynamic interaction of love:
If our parents didn’t love and understand each other, how are we to know what love looks like? … The most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness.
Our parents may be able to leave us money, houses, and land, but they may not be happy people. If we have happy parents, we have received the richest inheritance of all.”
However, one should also understand the difference between infatuation and love. Thich Nhat Hanh says,
“Often, we get crushes on others not because we truly love and understand them, but to distract ourselves from our suffering.
When we learn to love and understand ourselves and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person.”
Love is simple. We just need to understand it.