WHAT IS LOVE?
Sri Satya Sai Baba of India described himself as personification of a Force/Power/Energy called LOVE. In natural world, forces of attraction are known as gravitation, and magnetism. If Love is viewed as a force of attraction between two objects, it may be governed by natural laws. I view love as a three-dimensional force of attraction, and its dimensions are 1. God’s Love, 2. Self-Love, 3. Love for another person other than self and God. These dimensions flow into each other to become a full circle.
Love is a powerful emotion felt for another person manifesting itself in deep affection, devotion or sexual desire. If love is viewed as fondness or affection it may include or based in part on sexual attraction which is related to libido( sexual urge or instinct ), and lust( a desire to gratify the senses or bodily appetite that seeks unrestrained gratification ). Love implies feelings that are attached to relationships or objects and assumes various forms such as sexual love, brotherly love, and love of God. The attachment may be felt for inanimate things as well as people, or ideas, or expressed as an abstraction. There are many different kinds of love; different in object, different in tendency, and different in expression. The problem of the kinds of love is further complicated by the need to differentiate and relate love and desire. The category of love known as sexual love has the tendency to desire possession of the object that is loved. The tendency of desire is acquisitive. Sexual love is a love born of desire, and the drive of desire continues until it is satisfied by possession of the loved object. Physical possession is the basis for satisfaction of sexual desire, sexual appetite, or sexual hunger, or sexual thirst. The other forms of love do not tend to possess the object loved but seek to benefit the object that is loved. Love is selfish when it acts like hunger, thirst, or appetite which need to be satisfied for the benefit of the person expressing that love. Love is altruistic when it acts for the good or the benefit of the beloved. Conjugal love may include combination of selfishness and altruism. The ancient languages have three distinct words for the main types of love; EROS, PHILIA, and AGAPE in Greek language; AMOR, AMICITA or DILECTIO, and CARITAS in Latin language. However, English language has no such distinct words and hence it becomes necessary to use such phrases as “sexual love”, “love of friendship”, and “love of charity” in order to indicate plainly that love is common to all three, and to distinguish the three meanings. The idea of love expressed in Biblical Scriptures makes no distinction between AMOR, DILECTIO, and CARITAS. For example, in The Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Chapter 22, verses 37, 38, and 39 speak of the Great Commandments of The Laws of Moses: Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy GOD with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Jesus brings unity between the idea of self-love, love of God, and the love of one another without making distinction between the three different kinds of love. Jesus does not specify if man should wish and expect to be loved in return. Jesus did not attach any purpose to this act of love, and did not describe the nature of desire, the attachment, and gratification of his Love Commandment.
THE ORIGIN OF LOVE :
Sigmund Freud’s theory places the origin of love in the sexual instincts, and so for him the many varieties of love are simply the forms which love takes as the ‘LIBIDO’ fixes upon various objects. He states, “The nucleus of what we mean by love naturally consists …… in sexual love with sexual union as its aim. We do not separate from this; on the one hand, self-love, and on the other, love for parents and children, friendship and love for humanity in general, and devotion to concrete objects and to abstract ideas….. All these tendencies are expression of the same instinctive activities…. They differ from sexual love only because they are diverted from its aim or prevented from reaching it, though they always preserve enough of their original nature to keep their identity recognizable.” If love is passion of the sexual instinct, temperance is an inadequate restraint. Neither reason nor law is adequate to the task of subduing the nature of the sexual instinct. Sexual instinct is a very powerful biological instinct and it profoundly influences human behavior. Hence it becomes necessary to transform sexual love either by repressing it, or sublimating it, or mixing it with tenderness or kindness. In that context, friendship, charity or compassion, and devotion to God could be stated as transformations of sexual love. Sexual instincts are inhibited or actually repressed in expression of brotherly love, or feelings of deep affection for children and others where the relationship should not be based upon feelings of sexual attraction.
THE COMPLEXITY OF LOVE :
Love is a very complex emotional instinct and it is complex as it may not always provide a sense of joy or happiness. There is a fact about love; love frequently turns into its opposite, HATE. Sometimes there is love and hate of the same object; sometimes love inspires hate, and love may also cause jealousy, anger, and fear. Love seems to be the primal passion, generating all the others according to the oppositions of pleasure and pain and by relation of cause and effect. The individual’s experience of love is extremely variable and it includes operation of both positive and negative impulses. Indian tradition has carefully examined this complex instinctual behavior and has instructed people of the Land of Bharat or India to understand the three major distinctions or categories of love and to apply a sense of restraint, or that of repression has brought love under the purview of morality, the code of Right Conduct or DHARMA. Indian Culture does not provide the linguistic tools to express feelings associated with sexual passion without using temperance. There is no linguistic equivalent in classical Indian languages to profess love. The terms and words that Indians use have specific meaning attached to them.
LOVE vs PREMA :
Love is an universal term and this idea is not expressed in Indian tradition and classical literature. The word “LOVE” appears repeatedly in the Bible, in several different editions of Bible. I am not a language expert and I believe that people who had translated Bible have exercised great care to convey the meaning of love. Many editions of Bible have further clarified the meaning of Love in their glossary section or Bible dictionary and define Love as a deep sense of affection, devotion for someone or something and they very carefully exclude sexual desire and sexual passion. In English-speaking world, and in English literature, the word Love is used to describe desire, libido, lust, and passion based upon sexual attraction. So, Love is a generic term and it may not always mean brotherly love and goodwill. Indian Culture has erected subtle barriers and has not provided linguistic tools to use the word Love as we like. It separates Love into various categories and sets them apart. The feelings of affection, or fondness that are associated with sexual attraction are specifically known as ‘KAMA’ and intense sexual passion or desire is called ‘MOHA’. Any intense or passionate desire could be called KAMA and to act under its influence could be stated as MOHA. My love for God could only be expressed in terms of Bhakti or Devotion, and the desire could be called PREET. The desire called PREETI or Preet is a legitimate desire. It is also called “ISHTA”. I am allowed to seek or desire certain things in my life and that desire is subject to the rule of Good Conduct or Dharma. I can express sentiment of Preet only when, and where such desire is allowed to be stated in a legitimate manner, and is acceptable to tradition and established conventions and social norms. If I entertain thoughts of sexual attraction about my attractive and rich neighbor, I am not allowed to express my feelings as Preet. Feelings associated with sexual desire may not be called “ISHTA”. I can call it Kama or Moha. In the epic poem of Ramayana, when King Ravana of Lanka had wanted to marry Princess Sita and had attended her Swayamvara, the desire was legitimate and he was allowed to feel sexual attraction and it was not Kama. But, when he had abducted her while she was lawfully married to Prince Rama, that desire and sexual attraction represents an impulsive action of Moha, and Kama. King Ravana was not entitled to express his Love for Sita if it is formulated by Kama, and intense sexual passion known as lust or Moha. Similarly, a man can express his love or Preet for a woman in a respectful or legitimate manner and to seek a valid relationship. If the relationship is illegal, it can not be called Preet. A father’s love, or mother’s love, or brother’s love is described as “VASTHALYA”, a natural sense of affection and fondness which is not related to sexual attraction or desire. The word “PREMA” or “PREM” is used to describe the feelings of affection, fondness, friendship(SNEHA), kindness(DAYA, or KARUNA), compassion(KRUPA), happiness, joy(ANANDA) that have no direct relationship to satisfaction of sexual desires and passions. The deep sense of affection between husband and wife is often called “ANURAG” which indicates an intimate friendship. I can not literally translate this word LOVE into any of the Indian languages as such expression is not allowed without stating the nature of its contents.
If Jesus gives the Commandment of Love your neighbour as thyself; I would not be able to express that thought in Indian languages. Jesus has not stated that idea in terms of friendship(SNEHA), kindness(DAYA), or giving happiness(ANANDA). Only when, and if those qualities of friendship, kindness, and giving joy or happiness are specifically included; Jesus could Command others to express PREMA to one another. However, in Indian tradition, the deep sense of affection or fondness of God is stated as Bhakti or devotion. Mirabai has expressed such deep sense of affection and I would not call it as her love of Krishna. Jayadeva in his famous description of Lord Krishna’s creative activities in Brindavan(Vrindavan) has depicted the intense erotic feelings of the young maidens as a product of their intense devotion to the Lord. I can not use the word Love to describe the sexual passions of the Gopis or the young maidens of Brindavan.
SELF-LOVE AND NARCISSISM :
My concern is not about PREMA or LOVE. My concern is about self-love, a man’s love of himself. In psychology the word ‘NARCISSISM’ is used to describe excessive self-love. In my medical practice, I have not encountered such narcissistic tendencies among people of Indian origin. Indian tradition has erected barriers and would not easily let us identify ourselves with the physical-self. Indian tradition repeatedly instructs us about our Essence and true Identity and reminds us not to get attached to the physical-self. If I have no feelings of attachment to my physical-self, I can not really love myself. If I can not truly love myself, I can not also love my neighbor in the same manner, or to a same degree of my self-love. If I hate myself, the chances of loving another person become extremely remote. If man is not expected to love himself, the issue of loving the neighbor is redundant.