What Is The Difference Between Love And
By Thich nu Minh Tâm
When one of my friend angrily cried about her intimate friend that “He’s
so narcissistic!” I focused right away the word “narcissistic.”
did this because the word “narcissistic” reflected to me an image of an
ancient Greek myth “Narcissus” and it related to an important idea
of Osho, a famous Indian philosopher and writer, who did emphasize in his book
that “egoistic pride is the narcissistic pattern of life, narcissism.” (Osho
– “Love, Freedom, and Awareness” p. 29).
Narcissus was a beautiful youth who fell in love with his own image reflected
in a pool of water, thinking it a nymph. Frustrated at not being able to
reach the reflection, he killed himself, and from his blood sprang the
narcissus. (ed. David J. Burrows “Myths and Motifs in Literature” p.458)
This story seems so strange, doesn’t it? But in my own opinion, the myth of
Narcissus does have something discrete hidden inside. It is a metaphor
of human’s sentimental feelings, a parable of human’s suffering.
Looking into a silent pool of water, Narcissus feel in love with his own
reflection – not with himself. The man who loves himself does not love
his reflection, but here Narcissus loves his own reflection in water.
That Narcissus’ love is not true self-love. He fell in love with the
reflection, and the reflection is the other. Narcissus had become two:
he had become divided. He was split into a kind of schizophrenia.
He had become two – the lover and the beloved. Narcissus had become
his own object of love – and that’s what happens to so many people who
think they are in love. (Osho, “Love, Freedom and Awareness” p.30.)
However to me, I think that Narcissus did really enjoy being beautiful for his
own sake while most of us are motivated by the beauty of another and would
prefer to possess a beautiful other than to be beautiful ourselves. (Alan
Bloom, “Plato’s Symposium” – 2001 p.117) Why? Because we cannot
distinguish clearly the difference between love and egoistic pride.
Love is not egoistic pride. Ego and Love are opposite to each other just
like darkness and light, when light comes, darkness disappears. In real
love, there is no longer ego any more. Love likes the rays of sun that
melt an iceberg, whereas ego is melting and disappears into the warmth of
love. However, the majority of people always have misunderstood and
confused about self-love and egoistic pride.
As we grow into maturity, we all already have in our minds an ideal image of a
woman or a man who matches with our styles, our standards, our desires.
Therefore when we meet someone who seems to embody these ideals, his/her face,
his/her eyes, and his/her words, etc. look like our ideal image and we fall in
love, but in reality that person only functions as a lake in which we are
seeing our own reflection. We really do not love the person as he/she
is. Rather, we love the appreciation that this person is giving to us.
We love the attention, the flattery that this person is showing to us.
No, that reflected attention is not true love. Why? Because we are
easily deceived into thinking that we do fall in love, but in fact, we do not
love him or her, we love ourselves through someone else. That is what we
call love! No, it is narcissism - the man becomes the pool
of water and reflects the woman, and the woman becomes the pool of water and
reflects the man. In fact, the pool not only reflects the truth but also
decorates it, in a thousand and one ways, makes it look more and more
beautiful. This is what people call love. This is not love; this
is mutual ego –satisfaction. Osho also writes in his book that:
“The real love knows nothing of the ego. The real love starts firstly as
self-love. Ego lives through comparison. Love knows no comparison;
there is no division in love. So whenever there is comparison, it is
egoistic pride. It is narcissism.” (Osho, “Love, Freedom and
Awareness” p. 32)
Love is the nourishment of the soul, just as the food to the body, love is the
food to the soul. Without food, the body will be weak just as without
love, the soul will be weak. Love is the greatest experiment in life,
and those who live without love will never know what life is.
Love is the gift of God, the blessing of God to human, and those who knows
love are bound to know God, but those who think about God and philosophize
about God may never know about Love – and will never know about God,
either. Be aware with our own ideas, our thoughts, our sentimental
feelings, our belief. Do not let them lure us to illusion of faith and
love so finally, they will create suffering and despair to us.
me, the myth of Narcissus which is a symbol of “self-absorption,
self-destruction, even self-love,” somehow much or less creates bad effects
to man. According to the Buddha’s Teachings, Self or Ego is the
primary source of sufferings and rebirths. Due to Ignorance, man does
not realize and sees things as they really are therefore he cultivates his
ego. He thinks the ego is his only treasure. He has been
protecting it, he has been decorating it, he has been continuously polishing
symbol of Narcissus expresses that selfish ego of human. Everyone loves
himself, protects himself. This is “me, my, mine,” that idea is
ugly, untrue. Why? Because the nature of everything in this world
from a very tiny unit to a huge mountain, stars, living beings . . . is
influenced and controlled by the law of Impermanence and No-Self.
Nothing lasts long or forever in this life. Today you breathe, tomorrow
you die. This moment you are a rich and powerful person, next minute you
are in prison . . . We notice rise and fall, success and failure, loss and
gain, etc. Everything exists from moment to moment. All is
changeable, continuous transformation, ceaseless mutation, and a moving
stream. Change is the very constituent of reality. Understanding
the law of Impermanence, we arrive to accept that all living beings are
merely a combination of physical and mental forces made up of body and matter,
sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness. These forces
are working together in a flux of momentary change and they are never the same
for two consecutive moments. They are two components of the psycho-physical
life, therefore there is no eternal soul called self or ego. So,
clinging on the misconception of Ego, human suffer as Narcissus did suffer
because of not satisfying his desire of self-love.
Reading the myth of Narcissus and trying to analyze its metaphor, I come to
understand the deep meaning of narcissism and true love, bondage and
liberation, lust and loving . . . I realize that love cannot exist when there
is jealousy; love cannot exist when there is attachment; love cannot exist
when there is ego. I do not know what love is, but I see very clearly
that attachment to someone means jealousy, possession, fear, anxiety, and me,
I want freedom from all that, but ironically, Narcissus attached to his
reflection; I have attached to the idea of freedom. Whether it is a
woman, a man, an image, a method or an idea, it is still an attachment.
I am very alert now for I have learned something that is to exchange
attachment for something else that is still attachment. I have watched
attachment, what is implied in it, greed, fear, loneliness, etc. and by
tracing it, observing it, not analyzing it anymore but just looking and
looking, I have discovered that my ideas, my thoughts are the main causes of
creating this bondage. Thought has created the attachment. When I
realize it, attachment reduces its force and gradually ceases.
Attachment to the images in my mind has gone. There is no effort made it
all because the moment there is effort to analyze something, conflict is back
again inside me.
through watching my consciousness in awareness, I gradually detach from lust,
bondage, self-love to a higher level of relationship. I try to do all my
best for others’ happiness and give my love to all living beings in order to
help them reduce their suffering and reach the shore of salvation.
Namo Sakyamuni Buddha, may You protect us all!