The Four Aspects of Love in Buddhism

August 3, 2019
The four aspects of love are essential values that are applicable to all forms of love, including the love you feel for yourself. These are parameters that you should cultivate and maintain to allow your inner self to flourish.

The four aspects of love in Buddhism were described by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh in a short book titled: True Love: A Practice for Awakening the HeartIn this book, the author doesn’t just talk about romantic love but all kinds of loving relationships, including the one you should have with yourself.

The qualities of love are truths that are so simple, they often go unnoticed. They speak of essential elements that you should identify, cultivate, and protect in all of your relationships, whether that be with relatives, significant others, or friends. Ideally, these elements also extend to the relationship you have with yourself and with the world.

Buddhism defines love as a universal feeling that you should bestow on everything that exists. If you fill yourself with true love, you’ll achieve balance and spiritual peace.

The four aspects of love in Buddhism

Energy going from one hand to another.

Happiness

Happiness is the manifestation of inner delight. It means you’re content with reality and it brings you delight and enthusiasm. It doesn’t mean that you feel happy one hundred percent of the time, or that your happiness will never vary in intensity. It’s more of a disposition, a way of facing your life and the things that happen to you.

People who are happy make other people happy. Just like anxiety and sadness are contagious, joy and happiness radiate out to others.

Compassion

Compassion doesn’t mean feeling pity for someone or considering them inferior or limited. As the word indicates, it’s all about sharing passion (passion meaning suffering, in this context) with another. It means understanding their pain and feeling it as if it were your own. Fundamentally, it’s an act of empathy.

Compassion is essential because it helps you understand other people’s feelings. It also makes it possible to accept and validate their vulnerabilities and limitations. Without compassion, you’d criticize and question people’s weaknesses and mistakes. With compassion, you’re able to comprehend them and feel them as your own.

Mutual enjoyment means happiness is multiplied

When two people enjoy each other’s company, there’s love. They both want to spend time with each other and be truly present during that time. When you spend time with someone you love, you focus all your attention on them when you talk or share experiences.

This also involves the ability to listen and be open to what the other person thinks, says, and does. According to Zen Buddhism, mutual enjoyment isn’t just a quality of love, but also an unequivocal sign of its presence. Without mutual enjoyment, there’s no love.

A couple at the gates of a Buddhist temple.

Freedom: The foundation of everything

Buddhism says that you can’t be free without inner peace and balance. People with inner peace are calm and composed in all situations. This means that if you want to love yourself and others, you first have to calm the inner turmoil that prevents positive feelings from flourishing.

Anger and fear trap you and take away your freedom. Only by working through these feelings and processing them will you be truly free to love. If you don’t, you might direct your fear and aggression towards other people. If you reach inner harmony, on the other hand, you’re free and you let others be free as well.

Zen Buddhism considers that it’s very important to limit yourself to your own inner balance. You should also help others grow and achieve inner peace. Buddhists believe that love is an active feeling, not receptive. Every person is a support and reference for the people they love, so cultivating these aspects will have a positive impact on those around you and encourage them to do the same.

  • Burin, M., Meler, I., & Ramírez Rodríguez, M. H. (1998). Género y Familia poder, amor y sexualidad en la construcción de la subjetividad [Reseña]. Trabajo Social, (3), 159-161.