The Illusion of Romantic Love & Four Elements of Love


Last night I was at home editing my second poetry book called Awakening to Love. Initially, this poetry book was supposed to be called This Eternal Romance and it was meant to publish it early this year on Valentine’s Day. However, it wasn’t meant to happen, as my definition on what love is has radically shifted, with a 180 degree change, particularly in the past month.

I feel I have truly awaken and experience what true love is, what unconditional love is like. Love is actually our innate nature and it is really not something that we have to seek outside, just like enlightenment.

While I was reading my old poetry book, I almost bursted out laughing, and thought luckily I didn’t publish that, it would have been quite misleading.

In my early awakening journey, I was on a path of exploring my sexuality and pretty much following the path of lust and desires. I had sex with many men, different men, ranging from different ages, from different cultures. On one way, it was a way of self-discovery and trying to understand my own sexuality; on another, it was also to satisfy my own desires, craving and escaping from my own loneliness.

It wasn’t until I got on the path of Tantra, I realised my understanding on “love” was largely false. What I thought was love, was actually simply desires, not true love. True love can only come from within. And the outer relationship is simply a reflection of the inner union. Also, when you feel whole and complete within, it doesn’t matter if you have the outer union or not, as the inner union is sufficient to keep you content and happy.

Whatever we seek outside, it is mostly because there is a part within us that we have ignored and didn’t connect with so well. For instance, if you feel you need a man in your life in order to feel happy and complete, is it because you are missing the connection with your inner man; and if you feel you need a woman in your life to complete you and make you feel happy, is it because you are missing your inner woman? There is a man and a woman within all of us, it doesn’t matter what’s your gender. The Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine energies exist within all of us.

I had many romantic stories in my twenties, perhaps enough to fill an entire book. In India, I jumped into the Ganges with a Brazilian man; In Japan, I went on a romantic trip with a Frenchman; In Turkey, I toured Istanbul with a Turkish man… I could go on and on.

The common trait of the above stories is that most of them started with an intense romantic attraction, often associated with sexual attraction, but all of them were very transient, momentary, and sometimes could be a little bit destructive if both parties had different expectations and have not developed the mature awareness to understand and to be compassionate with one another.

The notion of romantic love is pretty much a grand illusion. The romantic love here I refer to is short-term, temporary, largely based on sensory, sexual, pleasure kind of love. We like to idealise love, idealise the one, the Prince Charming, the white knight who could save us from our own miseries, as this is how we had been brought up, these are the stories we heard.

We have been deeply wired and conditioned by fairy tales, romantic love stores, movies and pop songs to believe that there is one person who can complete us and make us happy, and if we find him or her, we can live happily after… however, reality is not always like that, or should I say reality is never really like that.

I feel most people don’t understand what love and sexuality actually is, and how they actually worked as the human minds had been so deeply wired and deeply conditioned into believing in illusions.

The mind is master at clinging to stories and fantasies. When one makes promises, please understand that these kind of promises can only be relevant in the “Now” as one can only live in the now. The future is always in the unknown. Yes the intention may be very pure and sincere but please do not believe in mere words, do not drown in illusions and fantasies. I can tell you I have heard perhaps the most romantic promises, and I had definitely built up my expectations in believing in them, only later found out they were not really true at all.

I’m also not being pessimistic, but just realistic. True love happens in the here now. Also love is from within. For a relationship to truly work, two people must be already feeling complete within themselves so they can share their completeness; or otherwise one person shall be very mature and very compassionate to the other; or otherwise they could grow together at a similar pace.

To maintain a loving relationship requires a lot of work and it is definitely not like the fairytale story which says “princess and prince live happily after.” Princess and prince can argue and have disagreements too, and may even end up in separation or divorce.

Also, it doesn’t matter whether you have met the perfect person. Please understand that no one can make you feel happy 24/7 (have you met anyone who can make you happy 24/7?) It is impossible and also they should not be responsible for your happiness 24/7 either, no one should be responsible for your own happiness. Only yourself should be responsible for your own happiness.

I feel the illusions of romantic love have permeated so much in almost every aspect in the society - the Hollywood movies, the pop songs, the commercials, the speed dating apps… in truth, romantic love never really lasts long. They are what they are, short & romantic. The everlasting romantic love is the couple who couldn’t be together, such as Romeo & Juliet, and their story is also tremendously destructive.

True love starts after the romantic period fades. After you have seen the flaws of the human, his or her imperfections, his or her volatile emotions… if you can still accept the person as he or she is, then there is a chance for real love to develop.

We need to understand that no one can complete us, only we can complete ourselves. Also perfect relationship does not really exist (unless both parties are enlightened), to maintain any relationship one needs to put some work and effort, just like to build any company, to achieve anything in life. One needs to be patient and compassionate.

True love is from within. Only when we start to love ourselves, that’s how we can love others. A beggar can never truly love, only an emperor can love (I don’t mean beggar and emperor in the literal sense). One cannot truly love from demanding and asking, which is equivalent to begging. One can only love from an overflowing bliss and joy, with no demanding and expectations.

That is why Osho says “Friendship is the purest level of love. It is the highest form of love where nothing is asked for, no condition, where one simply enjoys giving.”

Also I feel after enlightenment, I experience love for many, and this love is no longer on a personal level. That’s why bramacharya becomes natural, because the personal desire is not really here.

I also like to share this video answered by the brilliant Thích Nhất Hạnh about what true love is.

Video title: Why doesn't Buddhism support romantic love?

The Buddha is a teacher of love, true love. Love for mother earth should be true love. And if it is true love, it can bring a lot of happiness to you and to mother earth. And romantic love, if it is true love, it can also bring a lot of happiness. But if it is not true love, it will make you suffer, and make the other suffer as well. And in the teaching of the Buddha, true love needs four elements.

First of all, maitri, loving kindness, that is the capacity to offer happiness. If you cannot offer happiness, that’s not true love. In romantic love, if you are not able to help the other person [be] happy, that’s not true love. So you should train yourself in order to be able to offer happiness to you and to him or to her. Without that, both will suffer.

The second element of true love is compassion. Compassion is the kind of energy that can help remove suffering. It can help transform the suffering in you and in the other person. If you cannot transform and take care of the suffering in you and in [the] other person, that is not true love. That is why karuna, the second element of true love, should be cultivated by you and by the other person. Romantic and not romantic, that’s not important. The important [thing] is it is true love or not true love. Right?

And the third element of true love is joy. If by loving you make the other person cry all the time, and you cry all the time, that’s not true love, romantic or not romantic. True love is inclusiveness; that you do not exclude. His suffering is your suffering, his happiness is your happiness. There’s no individual suffering and happiness any more.

In true love, there is the element of inclusiveness, non-discrimination, there’s no separation, there’s no frontier, between you and the other person. In that spirit, you cannot say “That’s your problem.” No. Your problem is my problem. My suffering is your suffering. So this is true love, the forth element of true love.

And if romantic love has these four elements, it can bring a lot of happiness also. And the Buddha never said negative things about true love. And romantic love, if you are successful, you will cultivate a lot of loving kindness and compassion, and very soon, your love will be all-embracing.

The other person is no longer the only object of your love, because your love continues to grow and your love will embrace all of us. And happiness becomes limitless. And that is the love of the Buddha. That is the meaning of the forth element of true love, inclusiveness. If it is true love, then it will continue to grow, and include more and more and more, not only humans, but also animals, vegetables, and minerals, and that is great love, maha-karuna, maha-maitri. And that is the love of the Buddha.

I completely agree with what Which Nhat Hanh says here, the four elements of True love:

1) loving kindness
2) compassion
3) joy
4) inclusiveness 

To be able to love and to maintain a loving relationship, indeed one needs a lot of compassion and when one can fulfil the above four elements of love, then one becomes a Buddha. In fact, when one vibrates on the frequency of unconditional love, one also becomes enlightened. That’s why the path of love is also the path to enlightenment.