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What It Really Means To Love Someone, Explained By Zen Master Thich Nhat Han


Love is something that surrounds us and fills our souls with hope. It’s an inexplicable sensation that has the power to drive us crazy, make us happy, sad, miserable, frustrated, exhilarated, special, joyous, wonderful and sometimes even depressed.

It’s a feeling that many artists, writers, philosophers around the centuries have tried to define it, but never found an absolute definition about what does love signifies.

And, you know why?

Because love cannot be easily determined. It’s a force that goes beyond every physical and earthly realm. It is something that exists within the core of the soul, in the very depths of our tiny little, fragile hearts.

And according to Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Han and his book How to Love, “mutual understanding is love’s other name”. In other words, to truly love someone, you have to be able to understand their suffering. To truly connect with a person, you first have to become more compassionate and empathic towards that person.

In his book, Thich Nhat Han explains that most of us are usually focused on the egoistic “I” in the simple “I love you”. He says that most of the people are lost in the idea of self when they say that they love someone.

However, in reality, true love requires letting go of our egoistic identity and realizing that relationships are all about teamwork and compromises.

“Often, when we say, “I love you” we focus mostly on the idea of the “I” who is doing the loving and less on the quality of the love that’s being offered. This is because we are caught by the idea of self.”

“A flower is made only of non-flower elements, such as chlorophyll, sunlight, and water. If we were to remove all the non-flower elements from the flower, there would be no flower left. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower can only inter-be with all of us… Humans are like this too.”

“We can’t exist by ourselves alone. We can only inter-be. I am made only of non-me elements, such as the Earth, the sun, parents, and ancestors. In a relationship, if you can see the nature of interbeing between you and the other person, you can see that his suffering is your own suffering, and your happiness is his own happiness. With this way of seeing, you speak and act differently. This in itself can relieve so much suffering.”

When it comes to love, there is no “I”, no ego trips, no fears, no doubts, no inhibitions. There are no restraints, nor pride. There’s only a realization that the two of you are slowly becoming one wholeness.

“In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person. You are her and she is you. Your suffering is her suffering. Your understanding of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less. Suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters. What happens to your loved one happens to you. What happens to you happens to your loved one.”

It’s literally being there for your significant other in the darkness and on the brightest of days. True love is cherishing them for their flaws and being there for them to glue up their broken pieces when they aren’t capable of doing it on their own.

“In true love, there’s no more separation or discrimination. His happiness is your happiness. Your suffering is his suffering. You can no longer say, “That’s your problem.”

So, tell me, what do you think? Have you found your soulmate, your one, and only love? More importantly, what is your definition of love?

Let us know in the comment section below.

Image: paul davis

Stephanie Reeds