Four Stages of Love

Normally love is created in four steps. The attributes of a person are the result of his nature, and they result in action which creates influence. Similarly, love is of four kinds:

That which is caused by special circumstances associated with another person. So long as this cause remains, love also remains, but it vanishes when that binding factor is removed. It is like a person who has an electric battery device in his pocket to keep him warm. As long as the battery works, he has association with it and a kind of attachment for it; but as soon as the battery is exhausted or cut off, his attachment also vanishes. This means that he did not love the battery, but was in love with the action caused by the battery.

To give another example, a person may be a good artist or painter. Someone else may love him because he may be able to make use of his art by getting from him a beautifully painted picture or an artistically illustrated book. His love is based on this one purpose alone, and as soon as that purpose is fulfiled, his object being attained, his love for the artist is gone. This shows that his love was of a selfish nature and was not for the painter or artist.

The average type of love in this world comes under this category, and is finished as soon as one’s object or motive is fulfiled.

Another type of love is caused by some specific action performed by another person. When that action or work is finished, love also disappears. We shall try to explain this by an example: A man may love his wife only for the fulfilment of his sensual desires. As soon as his desires are fulfiled or the woman becomes unfit for that purpose, his love for the woman ends and he would like to enter into a new relationship with someone else. This would mean that his love was aroused by lower desires and was not for the wife at all.

Similarly, if a servant works well and obeys our orders, we love him. But when he becomes superannuated or indolent, he is turned out. When a horse is beautiful and has a good and fast trot, we love it. When it becomes weak and old, we try to get rid of it. Similarly, so long as a bullock is useful to us in our agricultural work we love it, but as soon as it becomes old, we get rid of it. Our love is not for the servant, the horse or the bullock, but for the work they can do for us.

Someone has truly said,

We love the work done by people, but not the people themselves.

It is even mentioned in the Granth Sahib:

A man of the world has many friends, but the friendships are all instigated by desire for material gains.

The third type of love is that which is caused by the qualities of an object or a person. As soon as the qualities are removed, the love also vanishes. One person may be a beautiful singer and may have a sweet voice. Someone else loves music, so he also loves the singer; but as soon as the voice or the sweetness of the voice is gone due to illness or some other reason, his love also goes. Still another person may be handsome or beautiful and may be loved because of that quality. But if this quality should disappear (because of illness, accident or old age), the love for that person would also disappear, since he was loved for that quality alone. Normally, this is the state of love in the world. People love because of superficial beauty or external show. This is not True Love. Love which is produced by a certain action or due to a quality is of a primary stage, but even this is not of a high degree, because as soon as the work or action is changed or lost, the love is also lost.

Superior to all these is the type of love which is neither dependent on, nor created by any material circumstance, action or quality, and consequently does not vanish with them. True Love remains constant. Such a love is distinguished by one sign. It comes into being spontaneously, without any external cause. This Love comes from the heart with strong currents, and in it there is no motive of gain or selfishness. This is known as natural love, and once experienced it becomes a permanent feature.

Such a love is superior to all other types, because it is neither dependent upon the quality or actions of its object, nor upon its transitory nature. Not only that, it does not cease even after death, because it merges into the soul. This degree of love is not found in the other types.

If a person loves another on account of some kind of circumstance or quality, the love is far from being natural or spontaneous. But if one possesses the natural love, all the other types are included in it, and all the actions, qualities and goodnesses inherent in the beloved are also loved and admired by the lover.

A True Lover would be prepared to sacrifice himself in defence of the beauty of his beloved; he would be enraptured by the beloved’s sweet voice, and any action done by the beloved, would prompt him to surrender himself. He would be glad even to kiss the footprints of his beloved. It is said that wherever Laila used to go, Manu would follow and bow down at every footprint.

If one loves another without any selfish motive, he does not bother about the qualities of the beloved, and is always prepared to disregard the qualities for the sake of love, because the qualities without the beloved have no meaning or value for him. The heart of such a person is brightened by the light of love, and the beloved appears to be the centre of all qualities and attractions to him. He loves for the sake of love alone, and is not dependent on the qualities, which are of no importance to him. He is concerned only with the person of the beloved but not his qualities.

The foregoing is a description of the four types of worldly love. Similarly, there are various types of spiritual love.

Generally, people love God because they are attached to His creation. He is the Sustainer of the universe and looks after sinners as well as Saints. He bestows health, children and various other gifts and comforts. He is the Forgiver of all evils. If one were to love God– not for His gifts but for love alone – then such a type of love would be very high.

Another type of love for God is of a constant or permanent nature, because God Himself is permanent and His influence, qualities and actions or energies are naturally unchangeable. But the True and Real Type of love for Him is that by which the heart is attracted towards Him without any selfish motives. Such a love is produced in the mind of a person who is without any desires. Without any apparent reason the attraction is there. It is beyond description, and even if we were to try to describe it, the description would be incomplete. In fact, it is not possible to describe this lofty type of love within the limitations of worldly words or ideas.

If you were to ask what is True Love for God, and what is the way by which one can be attracted towards Him, it would be difficult to give the answer in mortal language. The flow of tears from the eyes does not reveal the depth of love. The lover’s feeling of restlessness is no indication of the intensity of his love. But if one were to follow the path of love for the Lord, the soul would then perceive a spark of that flame of this love. But the influence that this love exerts in man cannot be described by intellect.

All Saints love God for His sake only. Their love is very different from the love of ordinary people. When conditions are favourable and one is placed in comforts of life, then it is easy to love God. But the Saints do not waver in their love for Him even when they are deprived of comfortable circumstances. They sacrifice their body, mind, wealth and even their lives for the sake of love for the Lord.

Actually, love is not True Love if it varies with changes in conditions, or vanishes in the face of adversities. True Love is everlasting. It cannot be destroyed even by tempests of hardships. Such love is a guiding star for the world and its ignorant people. It cannot be valued in terms of money, but one may nevertheless be able to perceive its greatness and superiority over the ordinary type.

Love is not love, that alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. […] It is an ever fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken. It is the star to every wandering bark, whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

William Shakespeare
(translated by Friedrich Bodenstedt, 1866)

A lover swims happily in the deep sea of God’s love, like a fish in the water. A fish cannot live without water. The intensity of a True Lover’s love for the Lord is of such a nature that it is in every cell and vein of his body – from head to foot. He is always deeply immersed in his love for God, which is for the sake of God alone, and is free from the filth of all selfish desires.