We may have come a long way in achieving worldly knowledge but one of life’s greatest mysteries is still the definition of ‘love’.
We’re still grappling with the idea of what love really is. Is it a feeling? An emotion? An action? We may never have a definitive answer. However, according to Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, love simply is a way of being. It is one of the most complex yet rewarding human experiences that exist.
According to Hanh, to love someone is to truly understand them in their happiness and suffering and understanding is love’s other name.
Too complicated to understand? Hanh explains it with this profound metaphor:
“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.”
We then need to ask ourselves, “how do we commit to understanding each other’s suffering?” To this, Thich Nhat Hanh says:
“When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.
Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love”
Apart from this, there must also be a dynamic interaction of love that one must learn. And this we must imbibe early on in life, through our loved ones along the years. He says:
“If our parents didn’t love and understand each other, how are we to know what love looks like? … The most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness. Our parents may be able to leave us money, houses, and land, but they may not be happy people. If we have happy parents, we have received the richest inheritance of all.”