The 3 types of Love | Wisdom from Ajahn Brahm

Published on Oct 27, 2021

People, especially in today’s age, assume that love has something to do with romance. The idea of romantic love should be investigated because when we don’t know it properly, it can create so much suffering inside of us. So often, when you fall in love, what you are really loving is the way the person makes you feel. 

The first type of love: Possessive love

Many of us, even though we think we love our partner, really, love ourselves more. If you really think you love your partner more than your own life, what would you do if your partner runs away with the postman? 

If you really love her, you should be so happy that she’s found happiness and love. You should feel so grateful that she is happy. Isn’t that what love is all about? You want her to be happy, and now she’s happy. 

But you wouldn’t be happy would you? Why is that? That’s because your love is like an attachment. It’s a love, which has ownership. This is the first type of love, and the Buddhist context. The love, which comes from the word “mine” — “I will love you, as long as you are mine.” 

It’s love that creates a lot of problems. Problems because, in this life, the Buddha pointed out that we own precious little. In fact, we don’t own much at all.  If anything, we only rented it for a period of time. We only have our loved ones with us for a very very short time.  Sooner or later, there has to be a separation. 

The second type of love: Love without attachment

But of course, there is a much more wise and deeper type of love, which is the second type of love – “The door of my heart will always be open to you no matter what you do.” 

There’s a sense that you can feel happy when somebody else, someone you care for, is happy.

This is love that frees the other person because it wants the other person to be happy. It does not have any concern about oneself. It is truly a selfless love, which has no strings attached. 

That type of love gives you peace. It’s a love, which embraces reality. The unconditional, selfless love. It allows you to be at peace with other people in the world. It stops arguments, it stops separation. It stops the biggest war in the whole world – the war inside of you. It is a love, which can let go. This type of love is selfless. It accepts. In its acceptance, it is embracing, it is letting go. Love, which leads to freedom rather than love which leads to possessiveness. 

The way to love a person is a way to look after a bird. A bird needs a cage but you should always leave the door of the cage open. Just make sure that the bird stays in that cage because the cage is really beautiful, and the food is really delicious. There, the bird can get lots of love and care. They’d want to always come back to that cage. They may fly off a few days but they’d always come back again because there’s the best food in town, and people are so nice and kind. 

If you put your loved ones in a closed cage, first time that door is open, they’d run away and never come back. So, the love which has freedom is the only love that can really give you what you truly want. If you control and possess, people will always escape. They’d run away and never come back again. 

The third type of love

In the English language, the word love has two meanings. The second meaning of love is zero/empty/nothing. This is what the second type of love inclines towards – where you have a kind of love that doesn’t possess, which lets go. All these things, which you think you truly need to be happy, all these possessions, which are so important to you, you can free them. You will realise that you don’t need anything. It’s inclining towards the emptiness in this world. 

This is the third type of love – the empty love. When I say “empty love”, sometimes people think that that’s very scary, very cold. But that emptiness type of love is far from being cold. It is the emptiness like the sky, which can accept everything, which embraces everything, which surrounds everything. That emptiness type of love is what connects everybody and everything. That’s what love is. It is embracing, accepting, with a deep contentment with what is. 

That you might call is the highest type of love.