In some denominations in buddhism there is a conventional and an ultimate reality. So from the conventional point there could be, to begin with, two people so they could love each other. But in the ultimate reality there is only one, so it looks like that there aren't two people moreover there can't be love between people.

But if I think about that it seems to be strange that there isn't love in buddhism. So what is love meant to be in buddhism and how could love be practised in the ultimate reality?

  • The question in the title is a question about "conventional" reality, and the question at the end of the text is about "ultimate" reality ... is that right?
    – ChrisW
    Aug 1, 2016 at 20:42
  • Well in the title they are both meant. But the most important is finally the ultimate reality.
    – Marijn
    Aug 1, 2016 at 20:47

4 Answers 4


The Piyavagga & elsewhere refer to at least three kinds of love, namely:

(i) raga (lust);

(ii) pema; piya (affection; endearment);

(iii) universal or divine love & compassion (metta-karuna).

This is similar to the three kinds of love in Greek-Christianity, namely:

(i) eros (lust);

(ii) phileo (affection);

(iii) agape (self-sacrificing love).

People that realise the selfless ultimate reality love others with metta-karuna.


The Beatles sang “All you need is love” in our times. Then there is another song on ‘Love’ that the celestial being, Pañcasikha, wrote to his ladylove in the time of the Buddha. Pañcasikha approached the Buddha and playing on his vinā, sang of the parts of the body of his ladylove that he loves as much as the Arahants love the Dhamma. The song that this Deva sang talks about both of the carnal love of passion, and of the altruistic love of the Triple Gem. Our question here is how we can see this other “Love” through Dhamma.

The love that we project in the loving-kindness (Metta) Meditation is the true love that one exercises toward oneself and others. We spread this other-worldly ‘love’ that is altruistic in nature in two ways. The two methods are Appamānha Chētō Vimukkti and Mahaggata Chētō Vimukkti. Loving-kindness meditation is meant to be a challenge for you to really think through as to why you would want to limit your love, and to remind yourself of why it’s good to have love for everyone. In this guardian meditation, we spread love direction-wise without any limit. Also we can spread loving-kindness by expanding the area of focus progressively.

As a person progresses deeper into Dhamma, he/she discards the false values in self, in cultivating awareness and a love that is altruistic and unselfish. When a person gets into the Noble Eightfold path, he/she rises above the "fetters" (samyojana) of (1) personality view, (2) doubt, (3) clinging to rules and rituals. This person is then possessed with qualities of honesty, uprightness, benevolence, altruistic joy, magnanimity, modesty and humility. The negative qualities of deceit, cunning, hypocrisy, jealousy, avarice, feelings of self-importance and arrogance are not found in one who begins to walk the Noble Eightfold Path. So to your question, Love still exists, but goes beyond to a level of limitless that is difficult to fathom.

  • So what is the highest act an enlightenent person can do for someone else?
    – Marijn
    Aug 2, 2016 at 9:40
  • An enlightened person is the perfection of giving. It benefits beings in many ways. Instructing them in the Dhamma is the highest act. Giving of the Dhamma (dhammadana) is supreme. Giving has an intimate connection to the entire movement of the Buddha's path, as the goal of the path is the destruction of greed, hate and delusion, and the cultivation of generosity. Aug 2, 2016 at 11:05

On a conventional level metta (loving-kindness) means wishing all beings to be happy. It's unconditioned in a sense, since the love is not dependent on the being (i.e. whether it's someone likeable or unlikeable), but still deals with the concept of 'beings'.

Whatever beings there may be, weak or strong, without exception, long, large, middling, short, subtle, blatant, seen & unseen, near & far, born & seeking birth: May all beings be happy at heart - Metta Sutta

In ultimate reality there exist no beings at all (not even you exist). There is only the experience of one of the 6 senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, thinking). So metta would here not refer to the concept of loving other people, but rather to the state of mind that is free from defilements (anger, greed, delusion). This aspect is mentioned at the end of the Metta Sutta:

Not taken with views, but virtuous & consummate in vision, having subdued desire for sensual pleasures, one never again will lie in the womb.


Understanding love is difficult unless you are already a very loving person. People who have lived through a dysfunctional or abusive family life understandably have a cynical or negative view of love. That is a very tragic situation for anyone to be in. But, if you want to observe someone in a very loving state, then you best observe the way a young infant loves his (or her) mother and father. Concerning the Tibetan concept of sunyata, it is best learned after you learn about love. For example, the Dalai Lama argues that the experience of sunyata does not deny the existence of anything. To understand why he says that is another story.

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