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Love, and images of love || Acharya Prashant (2016)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
20 min
267 reads

Question: Would you please talk a little more about love? You have spoken a lot about love as helping. But just love, what’s that?

Acharya Prashant: Oh yes, but I could have talked about love had we been really ignorant about love. The barrier that this speaker faces while talking to anybody is that people are already very knowledgeable. There is hardly anybody here who would not write an entire book on love given the chance. If I circulate sheets of paper and say, “Kindly write a paragraph or two on love”, is there anybody who would say, “Sir, I know nothing, I cannot write anything, I haven’t ever even heard the word.”? Anybody?

Listener: No.

AP: So we already know a lot about love. The container is full. How do I talk about it? Are we in a position where we first see that what we have called as ‘love’ needs a deeper enquiry? Would we be honest enough to let our convictions be questioned, or are we adamant, “Ah, I already know, I have lived an entire life, I am experienced. Who are you to tell me about love? And even if you do tell me about love, all that I will do is judge it against my own experience. I will tally whether what you are saying concurs with what I have experienced, and if our thoughts match, then I will say, “Yes, this speaker is a good one.” If they don’t, I’ll say, “Ah, hardly knows a thing.”

That’s what knowledge does to us. It turns us into a closed box, a silo.

What do we know about love? What is love?

I’m helpless. I have to start this way because we already know about love. I cannot give you anything extra. Yes? Yes, what do we know about love? What is love?

Listener: We get speechless. Love is beautiful.

AP: Yes, yes. Love is beautiful, love makes us speechless.

Let it flow. Keep answering. I really do not believe that you are so ignorant of L.O.V.E. It’s not possible. Come on.

Listener: All the songs…

AP: Yes, all the songs, the colours, the scarf, the butterflies, the honey, the beach, the violins, the balloons, the pink, the red, the violet – it is impossible that we don’t know.

Yes, what is love?

Listener: Life.

AP: Life, and what is that?

Listener: Breathing.

AP: But you continue to breathe even after a breakup, don’t you? What happens to love then?

What is love? Please come up.

Listener: Perhaps I am confused between love and wonderment. I love the dog and the butterfly but I don’t know if that is love. It’s so difficult to explore also in myself. Is it just a word we give it or is this just a nice thing that we say, “Okay, this is love.” This we call love.

AP: Let’s also not give theoretical answers. Let’s come from our life.

Listener: Do you know what love is?

AP: I really don’t. Seriously. The moment I know…

Listener: Love is gone.

AP: Yes, tell me.

Listener: To be in the present.

AP: And what is that?

Listener: In the now.

AP: “Now” would mean this moment?

Listener: That you are glad that you are exactly where you want to be and it feels complete. Feeling connected to somebody, something.

AP: Feeling connected. How do you know that you are feeling connected?

Listener: It’s a feeling.

AP: What else is love?

Listener: It comes from the Heart.

AP: And what is the Heart?

Listener: The Heart is a part of the body.


Listener: It is also a part of the body.

AP: I really appreciate that because that is actually the way we think. We need not deal in theories and ideals. What we are looking at is real life, and in real life what is it that we call as love? What is the stuff that happens on anniversaries, on weddings, on the Valentine’s Day, in our houses, between husband and wife, between lovers, on television and movies? That is what I’m calling as life. What is really love there? When do you complain, “Oh you do not love me!”? When do you say, “It seems he loves me or she loves me.” So you do know love, right?

Listener: Attention.

AP: Attention. When somebody starts looking at you, starts giving you his time, his energy, when you start appearing in someone’s thoughts, when somebody says, “He misses you”, when you are attracted to something, when you want to be close to something, when that something or somebody fills up your mind and you also want a certain physical nearness. Is that not how it operates? Yes?

Listener: It’s all made out of love, the whole world. Everything – which is alive, is basically love, and everything – which conditions us, sometimes can bring us out of that field, but basically I think that everything which is alive – from the little seeds to just about everything, is made out of love.

AP: Would you say that even when, let’s say, a stone is about to strike you, “Everything that is life is love.”? Even when a fellow stands in front of you and curses and abuses for his own reasons. Would you say everything that ‘life is love’? Everything including this: the curses, the abuses, all the unjustified treatment? Would you say that?

I’m asking for how we look at love, really, not what our concept of love is. Not what we have read in the textbooks, not what the preachers have told us, but what we take love to be.

And that’s another thing about love and everything else – the compartmentalization – the ideal that it must be and that which it actually is in our life.

Ideally, love should be something that is life itself, in every moment, living in the present and a few other responses. That is the ideal. And then there is that which we experience, which we see, which we know of, which is riddled with jealousy, possessiveness, suffering, angst, desires, domination, sometimes even violence – all this as love.

Don’t you think that this second part is what we experience more often? Don’t we? Yes? Why don’t we talk of that then? Why must we talk of textbook stuff? You won’t live textbooks. You won’t eat them, you won’t breathe them. In your moment of despair, textbooks won’t help you. Ideals won’t save you from drowning, or would they?

You are carrying that small book on love in your pocket. Would that improve your relations with your neighbor, would that?

Listener: (Laughter) Maybe we can gift it to the neighbor.

AP: If the book is large enough, one can probably even use it to…


Listener: Hit the neighbor.

AP: …the book on love.

Let’s just begin with saying that unless there is attraction, unless there is a certain niceness, unless there is a pull, we cannot or rather we do not say that there is love. Right?

The attraction could be of any kind. If the very sight of something or somebody repulses you, would you say there is love? No. You don’t want to look at something. Somebody’s face makes you go nauseous. You throw up. You look at the person’s face and you throw up. Would you say there is love? Love is at least when something appeals to you, somebody pulls you, something draws you. You feel like being there in his or her presence in his or her company.

Is that general enough and fair enough to start with?

Listener: Yes.

AP: So, what we call as love is firstly an experience of being drawn, being pulled, being attracted. All attraction is there only with a desire, a particular hope, the hope is of fulfilment. “I will get something there which I usually do not get. There is something that I am missing in life and if I reach there, if I get that object then that which I am missing will no more be missed. The inner hole will be plucked. Love has to be seen as, first and for most, the need of the mind, the attraction of the mind towards Peace, towards rest.

The mind is agitated, the agitation of the mind is its disease. The restlessness of the mind, the excitement of the mind is its sickness, suffering. The mind wants to get rid of that and the mind looks around. The mind says, “What is it in the world that can cure me of my fever. I am excited. I am always hot. Burning. I am feverish. What is it in the world that can cool me down, where would I find a final rest?” And with that objective — that is the only objective of the mind — it keeps looking around. It looks around, but given that it is the mind, it can only find something through comparison. It has nothing original. It is only full of experiences — what the past, the conditioning has told it. So the mind is missing something but it cannot know what it is missing, yet it must find, so what does it do? It compares. It says, “Alright, what I want is this. I am carrying a picture of what I want and then it goes around looking with that picture trying to match the faces of the people with the face in the picture.

The situation of the mind is that of a blind man, who has lost something that he has never actually seen. He knows that he has lost it but he has no way of communicating what he has lost. So he takes a picture, a borrowed picture, a picture that someone else has given him and he goes around showing that picture to people and asking, “Have you seen this somewhere?”, now if somebody says “Yes”, the mind has no way of really confirming because it has no eyes of his own. It only has stuff that it has been filled up with – by stories, by education, by neighbors, by what it sees in the media, reads in the newspapers. Right?

So the mind wants love, the mind wants Peace, but rather it searches for somebody. Now, what do you want? Peace. But what are you looking for? Somebody or something. Now who would that somebody be? That too you cannot know. But you must have a picture if you want to search. Who provides the picture?

Listener: The same mind.

AP: But the mind has nothing of its own. So who provides the picture?

Listener: The “me”.

AP: The ‘me’ is nothing on its own. All that it has is acquired from the world. From where does the picture of love come to the mind?

You see, if an advertising agency has to put a billboard there, and on top of the billboard is written ‘love’, and on that billboard below ‘love’, you have a picture of two persons sitting with their backs to each other, or two persons hitting each other with hammers, would that billboard make sense? Will that product sell? But if you have a picture of two persons holding hands, now would it be now compatible with L.O.V.E.? A man and a woman or any two persons hugging each other, is this image compatible with L.O.V.E.? Is it? Would you see it on the billboard and see that it does not quite add up or would you say of course it is common, it is natural?

Listener: Yes.

AP: And if a picture of one person shooting the other and on top of that it is written ‘Love’?

Listener: Not natural.

AP: Would you quite agree with that? Would you say, “Oh, this is of course love.”? Would you say that?

Listener: No.

AP: So when the mind says ‘love’, along with love it has a picture of love. Do you see this? The mind cannot know love, it is a strange situation. It misses love but it cannot know love. By way of knowledge, it cannot know love, so it relies on pictures. What it then starts looking for is not even love, but the picture of love. And that’s what we do. We do not want love, we want pictures of love. We want somebody who can behave as if he loves us. It is only the behavior that matters. If he can behave in the right ways, we say, “Oh yes, he loves.” But in spite of what that person is. In spite of the heart, if his behavior is not as per the picture, not as per the expectations, we will say, there is no love. If someone comes and curses you, it will be very difficult for you to believe that he loves you. You would go to your room and cry. Two harsh words and you will start doubting love.

Won’t you?

I was reading a book on Zen tradition this afternoon and there they said that the teachers of the past, the Gurus, when they wanted to belittle somebody, they praised him. So if somebody was praised, it was a sign that the teacher was saying, “You better improve,” and when the teacher wanted to compliment somebody, they would criticize him, sometimes even give him blows. Yes, of course. But today, given our pictures, it will be very difficult to imagine that if you are being criticized, it is love. Then what do we look for? We look for appreciation.

How do you know that somebody loves you?

I’m asking you a very basic question. It may appear ridiculous but please stay with it.

How do you know that somebody loves you? Only if he behaves according to set patterns. The patterns that you see in movies, the patterns that you have seen in your mother and your father, the patterns that you have seen in all the fairy tales, in all the stuff that goes around you.

Remove those patterns, do you have any way of determining whether you are being loved? And if you want to express your love, please see how you do it using set patterns. Even the shopkeeper knows what the images of love are, otherwise, how will he be able to sell those teddy bears, those chocolates? How would he know that this is the stuff that represents love?

And today and probably always, because the man of mind hardly seems to change, all that we have been concerned with is images and representations of love. That would not have been so tragic had it not come to the point where the images of love have become so important that we reject Love just to have the images of love. Now, this is tragedy.

You will reject Love. You will reject a Jesus, or a Buddha or a Krishna when they come in front of you. They are the loving ones but you will reject them. Instead, you will go for someone who conforms to your idea of love? Says just the right things, holds you in just the right way, kisses you properly, pays your bills, opens the gate of the car for you, does not seem to harm you, pleases you, and the rest of it.

Is that not so?

In fact, it is greatly difficult to love a Buddha because he will not act according to your images of love. He would love really, and we do not want real love. When real love comes to us, we close our gates to it. We want the imposters, we want the fraudsters, and then we complain, “Oh, we are not getting love. Oh, we have again been deceived by life.”

Life is not deceiving you; life is offering you real love at every point. Are you courageous enough or truthful enough to accept it?

Instead, you would accept all the liars and the ones who are any way determined to exploit you. They very well know what you would take as loving. Go to a man and if he is experienced enough, he knows what women want, he will give that and he will get his women. Go to women and don’t they know what men want. And that is what you call as love.

Even kids, they start imbibing this from a very early age. They know what mumma (mother) takes as love. And if they want their orange or their apple, they know what to say. And mumma doesn’t have the eyes to really know love. For her, love is a sweet statement. Love is a sweet statement.

So easy then is to fool somebody and so difficult then is to really educate somebody. People are prepared to be fooled, you want to fool them, they will welcome you. But if you really want to bring the Truth to them, they will kill you. Because when you bring the Truth to somebody, you are destroying her images, and she or he has lived in images, taken those images to be life. The moment you destroy somebody’s images, it appears as if you are destroying her life. The person shivers.

You want to know what is Love? The mind knows what is Love. Without knowledge, it knows. How does it know? It knows in the sense that it wants really to avoid all that which makes it even more frantic, which makes it even more jittery. But we push the mind. Yes? We say, “Don’t be unreasonable. Go by your education, go by your training, go by what you have experienced.”

If you must be with a person, here is some advice: be with someone who does not excite you. Be with someone in whose company you feel as if there is no one with you, you feel alone. Do not be with someone who makes his or her presence felt. Be with someone who brings you close not to himself but to yourself.

All the lovers in the world want to bring you to themselves. They will bring you to themselves and then imprison you. They will say, “You belong to me. I possess you.” Rather be with someone who brings you to yourself. Who says, “I’m setting you free. Neither do you belong to me nor do you belong to the world, you do not belong even to yourself. You are free even of yourself.” Be with such a man or woman. Be with a man or a woman who takes you to your Heart, not with someone who is intent upon filling up your mind.

If someone keeps on coming again and again in your thoughts, he cannot be good for you. If the very thought of someone makes you unsettled, even if it is in a pleasant way, then it not auspicious for you. Are you getting it?

And also do not confine love to persons. To confine love to persons is to unnecessarily be held to a person or to hold a person.

Love is the natural state of the mind.

The mind is agitated; the mind wants to simply relax. Yes? And that relaxation is not something intermittent. It needs that even in the middle of all activity. A relaxed mind is a very active mind, a very vigorous mind.

When you are walking on the beach, walk in love. And that love has no object. That love is not with someone. That love is just your inner restfulness. When you are sipping a cup of coffee, sip in love. It is not as if you are loving the coffee. You are in love, doing whatever you want to do. In love, walk, eat, curse, abuse, hit, shoot; in love.

Yes, of course. The war of Mahabharata, the entire Gita sermon is about helping Arjun come to a point where he is fighting in a settled state of mind. He is fighting, it is a vigorous battle. But fight even as you are composed, and that is love. Now that does not tally with any image of love.

A man shooting arrows, a man firing missiles, you will not say this is love, but yes, this is what it is. I’m not saying only ‘this’ is love. You don’t need to go out and start shooting arrows and say this is love. Are you getting this?

Love is not a particular action; love is not a particular image. Love is not with a particular man or woman; love is not anything in particular. When you are alright, then that is love.

Are you getting it? Yes?

But if your question is specific to human beings, to persons, then I have already said, be with someone who helps you be alone. Be with someone who is a friend, a lover and a teacher rolled into one. Be with someone who is not intent upon dominating you, possessing you, exploiting you, using you. And also, it applies to you.


Remember that if it is just the body that you like in a person, the body will sooner than later come apart. If it is the body that you like in the person, then you will inevitably exploit the body. And if using the body to attract a person then surely you are inviting that person to exploit your body.

These are simple matters, right? This is the crux of living.


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