As a budding Buddhist, one cannot help but investigate day to day phenomena with the magnificent tools made available to us by the Buddha.

An interesting thought occurred to me today and prompted me to ponder the nature of love. The conclusion that was arrived at the end of this particular stream of consciousness is that love is non hate, non greed, and (hopefully) non delusional. It is experiential, highly conditional, impinges on all faculties, and reverberates through the heartstring. As with all formations, it is impermanent. Wordly beings crave it, but few truly uncover it.

How do other lay people conceptualize love? And how would a monk approach this investigation?

3 Answers 3


Love is a very overloaded term. There are many different phenomena that fall under the umbrella label of "love":

  • There is love as obsessive kama (liking/desire) towards someone or something. This should probably be classified as lobha (greed, obsessive desire).

  • There is non-reciprocated love, longing for something you can't get. This is probably tanha (unsatisfied thirst, craving) - the root of dukkha.

  • There is love towards your mother, family, friends, town, country. This could be pure metta (loving-kindness) or metta with attachment. The first is a wholesome kind of love, producer of good karma. The second subtype, love with attachment, will serve as the root of dukkha once the impermanence kicks in.

  • There is love of self. This can be an egoistic form of love, or a kind of acceptance/appreciation - a factor of healing.

  • There is love as unconditional acceptance/appreciation of someone or everyone and everything -- a non-dual kind of love that does not draw lines between "self" and "other". In my understanding, such love is a factor of Enlightenment.

Summarizing the above, there seems to be two main types of love: attachment-type and acceptance/appreciation-type. The first type is a factor of dukkha, the second type is a factor of good karma, healing, Enlightenment.

  • You describe the love towards one's mother, family, etc as pure metta or metta with attachment. How is different to love with attachement. Second, what is pure metta? Unconditional as you would have for a child? Void of expectations?
    – Motivated
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 1:44
  • pure metta is just infinite friendliness or infinite kindness to someone - while metta with attachment (or love with attachment - same thing in this context) is friendliness/kindness on the basis of identifying with something as "me" or "mine" or "us" or "we" or "ours".
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 2:10
  • Thanks Andrei. If pure metta is infinite friendliness or kindness, how is this expressed? How do you differentiate between pure metta and metta with attachment?
    – Motivated
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 6:26
  • 1
    I think they appear identical in peaceful times, but in the times of trouble, the one with attachment shows its dark side - and manifests as either suffering and/or as aversion.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 16:07

If you mean kind some kind of romantic love, my own experience isn't the same as yours. You said ...

love is non hate, non greed, and (hopefully) non delusional

... but I'm not sure I agree:

  • "non-hate" -- if the 'love' is the result of (i.e. conditioned by, conditional on) experience[s] that you like, then when the experience ends the love-you-experience becomes aversion-you-experience.
  • "non delusional" -- to the extent that "identity view" (of self) is a delusion then love might be a similar type of delusion (e.g. seeing the object of your love as a person who has/is a fixed identity)

In summary I suspect that love is "attachment".

There's a book I mentioned in this answer titled The Buddha's Teachings to Laypeople: Practical Advice for Prosperity and Lasting Happiness. It says that most of the suttas were written by and for monks, but that some of the Buddha's advice was for people in lay society, and it summarizes some of that advice.

In my limited experience the good side/aspect of love might be right/moral/ethical actions and views.

In retrospect (i.e. looking back) there was a time in my life when I was motivated by (i.e. when my love was expressed as) wanting to be kind and to do the right thing.

It's these "ethical" actions that I don't regret -- which is inline with the Buddhist suttas, for example the Kimattha Sutta:

Skillful virtues have freedom from remorse as their purpose, Ananda, and freedom from remorse as their reward

It might be worth also considering the doctrines about admirable friendship. The various doctrines (e.g. "Keeping company with the wise" and "Never with an evil companion") suggest that the benefit is conditional on who you love -- i.e. not just on the nature of your love but on the nature of your beloved.

"The whole of the holy life" is I suppose (in context) about the benefit of the monastic sangha; perhaps if you're lucky or wise or both then you might experience something like that in a lay relationship.


The deepest description of love I have come across in my walk is a state where one does not oblige oneself to draw a distinction between one and the subject of one's love. One can give freely to the other, not out of obligation or expectation or even altruism, but simply because one does not see a reason to distinguish between giving to their love and giving to oneself.

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