True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Without true love, life has no meaning.

Love is something organic, and if we don’t know how to handle love, it will turn into hate or despair, so we have to learn how to feed our love, so our love will continue to grow.

In the teaching of the Buddha, love has no boundaries. In the beginning, your love may include only you and the other person, but if you practice true love, very soon it will grow and include us, all of us.

The first element of true love is loving kindness, the capacity to offer happiness, this is maitri. The willingness, the desire to make another person happy is not enough. You may have plenty of good intentions to make him or her happy, but if you are not capable of offering happiness, that’s not true love.  The capacity to make him or her happy: that is maitri. If we do not know how to make ourselves happy, it’s hard to make another person happy. A true lover is capable of offering happiness to himself, to herself and to other people. You cannot impose your idea of happiness on the other person, you have to understand him or her. That kind of understanding is the foundation of love.

The second element of true love is compassion. That is the capacity to help remove the pain, sorrow, or fear from a person. The intention is not enough. You have to have the capacity to be able to help that person transform the pain, the suffering, the fear in him or her, and if you know how to do that for yourself, you will know how to help that person to do the same. You have to understand your suffering, then you can understand the suffering of the other person and help them to suffer less and to transform.

The third element of true love is joy. If by loving, you cry every day, and you make the other person cry every day, that’s not true love. A mark of true love is joy. You can recognize true love by this aspect. You are able to offer joy to him, to her, to yourself.

The last element of true love is equanimity: inclusiveness: non-discrimination. When you are in love, in true love, your suffering is her suffering. Her happiness is your happiness. You cannot say, “That’s your problem!” No. There’s no personal problem.

There is no limit to true love. You may begin with one person, two people, but if your true love continues to grow, then you will include all of us into your true love. So, the teaching of true love offered by the Buddha is very deep and very practical.

True happiness is made of that kind of love: Loving Kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.


(Abridged and modified version of Dharma talk 2013)

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