Happiness can only come from practicing love according to Buddhism. There cannot be happiness without love, and it is only with true love that true happiness follows. True love has the power to heal and transform us while bringing deep meaning to our lives. Buddha says that there are 4 different elements that make up the true source of love, called the Brahmaviharas, that can bring us close to the source of love in the Universe. Not only do we benefit from practicing true love, but we also have the power to transform suffering into love for those around us. The four elements are maithri, or love; karuna, or compassion; joy or mudita; and upeksha, or equanimity. These are called “immeasurable” traits because they grow limitlessly within us when we practice them. These elements are also not contained to Buddhist practice, and people of different faith or roots can practice them without reservation according to Buddha. Our roots make us who we are, and we cannot be happy if we are cut off from these roots. The 4 aspects of true love are explained below:
Love, or loving kindness, refers to our intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness to the people around us. This requires us to look and listen to the people around us so that we understand who they are and what they need. True love cannot be found unless we understand the person we love. Through understanding, we know the person’s needs, fears, aspirations and sufferings, and then we are able to offer what the person needs. We may believe sometimes that what we offer to the person is better than what they ask from us, but this isn’t how love works. You may feel like your partner needs to socialize more to feel less lonely, but if he/she does not want to do so and you force them “for their own good”, it is not true love. You must be able to give what the person needs, and deeply understanding someone can help you do so.
Compassion is the capacity to relieve and transform suffering, and lightening sorrows of the people you love. The literal translation for compassion is “together is suffering”, but the concept of Karuna is somewhat different. Buddha believes that one person need not have to share in the suffering to relive it because if we suffer too much, we may also crumble. We learn compassion through deep listening, deep looking and by cultivating deep concern for the world around us. Even one word, one action and one thought of compassion has the power to change lives, destroy doubt, build confidence, reconcile a conflict, and open the doors to liberation. With compassion in our hearts, we can relive and transform suffering for the people we love.
Joy is once again, a little different from happiness. While happiness uses both body and mind, joy relates primarily to the mind. The classic example Buddha uses is that if we are in a desert, we feel joy when we SEE the water, and we feel happiness when we DRINK it. We experience joy when we are fully aware of the present moment, and when we realize the beauty we are surrounded by, we can feel joy in the smallest thing. Mudita is described as joy that is filled with peace and contentment.
Upeksha can mean equanimity, non-attachment, non-discrimination, even-mindedness or letting go. “Upa” means over, and “iksha” means mountain, so one must essentially stand over a mountain to look at the whole situation, and not be bounded to a particular side. If your love has attachment, discrimination, prejudice, or a person clinging to another, it cannot be described as love. We must be able to see everyone as equal, and we must not discriminate between ourselves and others. Essentially, when there is no distinction between the “self” and the “other”, we have achieve upeksha.
The 4 qualities or elements of love combined together can help you to achieve a state of true love. Doing so might be difficult as we are guided by other notions of love, such as what we see in the media or by what our friends tell us. If we can commit ourselves to this endeavor however, we will be on the path to knowing the true state of love.