The difference between love and attachment

The lotus flower symbolises purity.  In the same way, when many people are getting muddy with mutual attachment, we can try to love purely.  Photo by Eric Wang on Unsplash

According to much Buddhist thought, there is a difference between love and attachment.  While love thinks of others, attachment thinks of self.

The western world has a recent history of song lyrics built around attachment, rather than love.  ‘I can’t live, if living is without you,’ is a classic lyric of attachment.

The problem with attachment, is that it focuses on what the other person can do for you, not what you can do for the other person.

One of the reasons these song lyrics survive, is that they sell themselves to people going through the same thing.  People get addicted to each other, they experience withdrawal symptoms, and they seek out lyrics that express those withdrawal symptoms.

It wouldnt be a very salesworthy song lyric that said: ‘I can live perfectly well.  How can I help?’  It’s more loving, but less dramatic.



How do I think of love?  Do I think of it as a kind of addiction, wanting others to comfort me as though they were teddy bears?

If so, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised when I am disappointed by love.  If I focus on what others can do for me, then love will only last as long as others feed me my desired experiences.  Once that is threatened, I will feel threatened.

On the other hand, perhaps I can learn to see love as what I can do for others.  When I turn my mind to helping others, then the pain of my demanding nature goes away.

Just for today, I will let my mind rest on goodwill towards others.  I have no doubt that I will see, everywhere, the debris of attachment.  People will be arguing, demanding, chasing, shouting, crying.  That does not mean I have to join in the demands.  But perhaps I can watch them with awareness, and then simply see what I can do to help.