A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

What does love mean?

As Buddhists we are taught about love. Love is always given freely, never asked for. To love someone, whether it is our children, a girlfriend or boyfriend, we can only truly love them when they are free to accept that which we offer. You can’t say I love you, but only if I get something back, for then it is not love. We may have hopes and dreams for our children, that they become a doctor perhaps. If however they choose to be a singer, then to love them, means we accept their choice. After dating for a while perhaps one is ready to move on to the next stage, while the other is ready to move onto the next person. You love them; this means you must be capable of letting them go. Perhaps you will never meet again, or perhaps you will reunite in the future. We only truly love when we give with no strings attached, no return to sender instructions. Perhaps you might say “To love someone is to send them a gift through the mail, with no return address on the package”. I am not saying there can’t be reciprocation; I am saying that we mustn’t expect anything in return. To paraphrase a song, “I love you has many meanings throughout our lives. As a child we say it to our parents, because they provide our needs, take care of us, and show us affection. When a teenage boy says it to his girlfriend, he might mean he wants to have sex with her. When a teenage girl says it to her boyfriend she means she feels close to him and trusts him to be there for her. When a parent says I love you, it may be because of pride in their child, or perhaps because they have met the parents expectations in some way. Buddha told us to love our foe the same as we love our friend. This is a path that many of us will stumble along before we learn to walk it. Perhaps the times we have been hurt in love have been lessons to make us strong enough to love our foes.

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