Thursday, February 21, 2013
A Buddhist View of Romantic Love
Wisdom Quarterly; Leonard Price (Ven. Nyanasobhano), "Nothing Higher to Live For"
If it is possible to live with a purpose, What should that purpose be?
A purpose might be a guiding principle, a philosophy, or a value of sovereign importance that informs and directs our activities and thoughts. To have one is to live seriously -- though not necessarily wisely -- following some track, believing in a hub to the wheeling universe, or a sea toward which we flow, or an end before which all the hubbub of civilization subsides.
What is our purpose, or what should it be?
Perhaps most of us do not come to a clear conclusion on the matter. But this does not mean we have no purpose, only that we do not recognize it, or admit it, or even choose it for ourselves.
In the unhappiest case, nature simply takes its course, which is a turbid meandering through the swamps of desire.
If life means nothing then only pleasure is worthwhile. Or if life has meaning and we cannot get at it then still only enjoyment matters -- such is the view of brutes and even some sophisticated philosophers.
It slips into the unconscious by default when we hold no other, but we are reluctant to entertain it and would rather, if we think about it, take as our purpose: support of family, search for beauty, improvement of society, fame, self-expression, development of talent, and so on.
But it might be fair to say that apart from these or beneath these the fundamental purpose of many of us is the search for love, particularly romantic love. [Or at least sex.]
The love of a man for a woman and a woman for a man is often the floor to which people fall after the collapse of other dreams.
It is held to be solid when nothing else is. And although it frequently gives way and dumps us into a basement of despair, it still enjoys a reputation of dependability.
No matter that this reputation is illogical -- it still flourishes and will continue to flourish regardless of what is said in a book.
Love, or possibly the myth of love, is the first, last, and sometimes the only refuge of uncomprehending humanity.
What else makes our hearts beat so fast? What else makes us swoon with feeling? What else renders us so intensely alive and aching? The search for love -- the sublime, the nebulous, the [all] consuming -- remains sacred in a world that increasingly despises the sacred.
When the heroic and the transcendental are but memories, when religious institutions fill up with [perverts] bureaucrats and social scientists, when nobody believes there is a sky beyond the ceiling, then there seems no other escape from the prison of self than the abandon of love.
With a gray age of spiritual deadness upon us, we love -- or beg for love, or grieve for love. We have nothing higher to live for. More