Love… this word has been used (and misused) for so long, and people define it in so many different ways, including into the definition a wide range of emotions that includes anything from pleasure and bliss to pain and suffering.
I think it’s interesting to look at how the same idea is expressed in different languages. I like referring to Sanskrit as it presents greater depth of meaning and precision. In Sanskrit there are three different words that we can translate as «love»: kama, prema and bhakti. Kama is love that is based on sexual attraction and lust, and associates with physical craving. Prema is conventional love, which is pure enough not to be counted as kama but yet not selfless to get to the next stage, it will involve emotional craving. Bhakti is the highest form of love, unconditional and infinite, and it is commonly linked to devotion and surrender to the Divine.
It’s important to understand on what type/stage of love a relationship is being based. If we talk about kama, then obviously there is no way the ego can be out of the game. It’s all about satisfying one’s desire. In this type of relationship one can’t find peace and contentment, the ego just won’t let it happen.
In case of Prema, there is deep emotional connection, to the degree when one’s heart sings «I can’t live without you». However, it also operates from the ego platform. That «I can’t live without you» usually is followed with «You can never leave me» or «Don’t you dare treat me like this» (read «you must satisfy ME»). Even if one decides to be loving and compassionate, and to do all possible to serve her/his partner, it’s often just a trick of the ego to get pumped up with «I’m so selfless, I’m so good», and it eventually (if not at once) will get followed by «and you… how could you…» (again, «you must satisfy ME»). This type of relationship also brings lots of suffering as the ego can never get enough, and nothing is permanent, all is bound to constant change and the final ending at one point.
Now, Bhakti… What is this unconditional love that can last forever? As the only thing that never dies is our Soul, Bhakti is love at the Soul level. To get THIS high, we must start seeing our partner as the Soul, the Divine Self, the Cosmic Consciousness (put any other name for the Highest Self to suit your cultural background and beliefs). If there was GOD (again, use any other word if this doesn’t appeal) in front of you, would you make that negative remark, would you not find time to help out, wouldn’t you serve him/her well?… I hope you got the point. Never expecting anything in return, yet giving the whole of your Self. Without holding back. Constantly. With devotion. With joy. Maybe then we can have an experience similar to Mother Teresa’s who said once: « I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love».
I know we are all far from being saints, yet we can bring more Bhakti into the Prema relationship by learning to surrender our ego in devotion and humility (not humiliation), and treating our partner as a Divine Self (which he/she is anyway, as we all are!). A relationship is the best opportunity for self-development and spiritual growth. Take it!
19th of Dec 2011