Love is the most beautiful mind there is and the most powerful force in the universe. It is love
that motivates the holy beings to help and bless all living beings, regardless of what those living beings give them in return. Indeed, love is completely nontransactional, for it never seeks payment of any kind. It is love that underlies people’s noblest deeds. Love gives meaning and purpose to people’s lives, and an absence of love in a person’s heart leaves a devastating void. As Othello says about his wife, Desdemona, for whom his feelings of love are mixed with decidedly baser feelings, “When I love thee not,/Chaos is come again.” Love is an elevating mind that, while wholly committed to the happiness and well-being of the other, organizes and fulfills itself.
Attachment, in contrast to love, is a mind that is invested in the self. Attachment wishes to draw someone or something to it in order to enhance the self. When people look for romantic partners based on what the other person can do for them, how someone else can fulfill their needs, they are operating from a mind of attachment.
For most of us, living in samsara as we are, our love for others does have some portion of
attachment mixed in, for we cannot help but have some self-cherishing. But even so, love will prove itself the stronger force and we do experience fine moments when our self-concern falls away and we act solely for the benefit of another. Parents forego their own pleasures in order to make their children happy; spouses take on extra burdens to help their partners; people adopt animals and spend money and time on ensuring that the animals have good lives; and self-proclaimed ordinary people perform acts of altruism.
In fact, our interest in Dharma, especially our commitment to developing bodhichitta, is itself fed from the spring of love that runs through us. One of the magical properties of love is that it replenishes itself exponentially in its own expenditure. As Venerable Geshe-la tells us in Joyful Path of Good Fortune, “If we meditate on love towards all living beings, even for a short time, we shall accumulate a vast amount of merit and receive many benefits.”
If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of love, check out this podcast from Gen-la Khyenrab, the former General Spiritual Director of the New Kadampa Tradition.
To learn more about how to distinguish between love and attachment, and how to increase love and reduce attachment, we invite you to our special Valentine's Day talks with our main teacher, Gen Zamling: Love, Desire & Attachment (2/12 in Wicker Park & 2/14 in Oak Park)