There’s no problem with feelings of love and compassion––as long as we don’t have attachment. When we can have attachment-free love toward each other, that is the real love, so to speak.
What we usually call love can be kind of tricky. I think we sometimes feel that love is a positive thing we’re doing for the other person or persons, or beings. But sometimes even though it may look like we’re directing this feeling toward others or giving them love, so to speak, sometimes it’s really for oneself.
There can be so much neediness and self-interest in this feeling we call love, that sometimes it becomes like a trade or a business deal, right? “I give you love, and you give me . . .” or “I give you so much love, but you don’t . . . ” and so on. This is not unconditional love. Our mind is not peaceful and our feelings of love become mixed with disturbing emotions. Of course, these emotions can be extremely positive if we can slowly, slowly begin to experience true love and true compassion.
Loving with self-interest and with some sense of attachment is not actually a problem at all. It’s still very positive. But for these feelings to be completely beneficial for oneself and other beings, we need to be able to experience them without any sense of grasping or holding.
What Is Selfless Love?
The love we’re trying to experience, or connect with, is the unconditional love that shines from our true nature. That love shines from our true state. It’s this sense of gentleness and kindness that’s already there. That love has to be free of self-centricity, free of ego.
Generally speaking, whenever we say selfless or egoless and so on, we freak out. I think that’s OK, we have every right to freak out when we hear that word. Sometimes we feel it’s going to far, this concept of egolessness, selflessness. We don’t see it, we don’t feel it, and we don’t really hear it. It’s like a faraway theory or concept.
But this sense of egolessness is actually something we have been experiencing already, to some degree. Especially when we connect to this gentle, soft experience of our heart, we are already experiencing this sense of selflessness there. When you truly feel love, it goes beyond self. Whether it is love toward ourselves or toward some other object outside such as our partner or family, toward parents or children or others––in the very moment when you feel that love, it is selfless!
Every time you experience this, it’s both a physical and a mental experience, isn’t it? Physically, your hair may stand up, you may get goosebumps, or your eyes may tear up sometimes. When you really feel it, there is no sense of self, initially. So the experience of selflessness is right there. There’s no trouble at that point at all. But what we have to do is sustain it. We have to sustain that original, selfless experience of love.
Love, Peace and Freedom
When you can feel this love, this egoless, selfless, genuine soft spot––when you can feel it and maintain it, that is what we call limitless love. Immeasurable love. Love without boundary. There’s no binding factor, no limitation. When we can experience this love, love is genuinely beautiful.
When you can shine this genuine love toward others, then you can bring the beauty of this selflessness, the beauty of this love, into our world. This not only helps us spiritually, to achieve some kind of awakening or a deeper realization, but it also helps us to genuinely love someone. Being able to love selflessly helps us to bring a sense of love into our world, into our community.
Love Without Grasping: An Exercise
As we develop greater familiarity with selfless love, we experience a natural joy. This contemplation can help us to do that.
1. What do you think of, when you think of love? A person, or a particular feeling? Focus on that for a moment.
2. When you have that “loved one” or “loving experience” vividly in mind, let go of the object and experience the sense of love itself. What is it like?
3. Stay with the sense of love for a few moments.
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche taught on these aspects of attachment-free love and relationships during an Emotional Rescue workshops in Washington DC and at Naropa University in 2016.