A friend teaches me that true love means “compassion”

The compassionate are the richest people, they make this world so much better!
A reader, perhaps spurred by the flavor of the month, Valentine’s, asked me if love is a motivator or is it a responsibility. And I write this post to share what I know of what true love is.

Let us understand that love is fundamentally an expression of energy. The lowest form of that energy is when you make love, have sex; that energy is purely physical. That energy is also called passion. The next level of that same energy is love, where you go beyond the physical and feel for the other. There is give and take beyond the physical state in love and this is what makes people be with each other and thrive. And the third level of that energy is compassion, when there is something deeply spiritual that unites two people. And each only wants to be a giver. Each does not expect anything in return. This is the best and the purest state for a couple to be in. It may be possible that only the giver may be compassionate and the receiver may not reciprocate. But the giver goes on giving, with no expectation, with no complaints. So, the love that we commonly talk about at a romantic level, is mid-way between passion, plain love-making or sex and the deeply spiritual compassion.
Pure love is when all the energy in you transcends the physical, passionate, state, goes beyond the feeling stage and reaches the giving state, the compassionate state.
Let me share with you the story of my friend, who is now 50. I met him earlier this week, many years after he had separated from his wife. His wife actually had dealt with him rather unusually – taking over his property, deserting him and migrating to the US with their child. While she may have had her own reasons for her actions, my friend was devastated. He just could not reconcile, for several months, with what had happened. I remember him telling me: “I loved her and still love her a lot. She could have just told me that she wanted to break away from me and I would have walked away without a question. That she chose not to trust me with her decision hurts me more than her leaving me. And why deny me access to my own child?”
Over time, my friend immersed himself in his work. And all of us around him felt he had managed his emotional state pretty well. When I met him a few days ago, I asked him how he was coping. What he told me blew me away completely and my admiration for him has swelled. Here’s how the conversation went.
Me: “So, how are you coping with Life?”
Him: “Life’s beautiful. I married a Kashmiri woman whose husband died of cancer some years ago and adopted her son as my own.”
Me: “That’s wonderful. How old is the boy? And how has he adapted to you?”
Him: “The boy is 12 now. It’s been three years. He calls me ‘daddy’ and we are great friends. My wife and I are also great friends. To tell you the truth, I have a special and beautiful friendship with her. After her husband’s death, her in-laws were not supportive. They harassed her and blamed her for their son’s death (he was diagnosed with cancer within a few months of their marriage). She even contemplated suicide as she could not handle them nor get over her loss. She loved her husband a lot and did not see a meaning in her continuing to live. We have a mutual friend who asked me if I could consider marrying her so that she could get out of the tyrannical clutches of her in-laws. When I met her for the first time, she told me openly that she did not want to ever physically consummate our marriage. Because she still feels the presence of her husband in her Life. So, she told me that our own marriage may not work out. I liked her openness. And her concern for me. I told her we could still marry and be great friends. That’s how it all started and all three of us are very, very, very happy!”
Me: “That’s such a great choice and gesture. I respect you. But don’t you miss something: maybe physical intimacy? Maybe your first wife?”
Him: “Life’s not about sex and physical relationships alone. I still love my first wife. But she’s gone. What’s the point in pining for her or holding a grudge against her? I decided to channelize my love for her and my first child, who’s with her, toward my second wife and her son. Their presence in my Life keeps me anchored and their friendship keeps me going.”
Even as I recall this conversation here, I feel blessed and grateful that my dear friend reiterated for me a learning that’s so invaluable. Love’s not only about physical intimacy with a partner. There’s a special friendship that’s possible if you make the effort. And if nurtured, through sharing, caring and compassion, as in my friend’s case, it can take Life to a spiritual level, making it beautiful and meaningful!

So, as a Valentine’s Day message, let’s take away the need to evolve and attain the state of compassion, when you are only giving, with no expectation of anything in return. 
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Beyond being a Valentine for a day – the “ashiq”, the “mashouka” and “ishq”!

The true meaning of “I love you” is “I will be there for you – no matter what happens”!
Another Valentine’s Day is here. From FM stations to facebook posts to diner offers, the cliché ‘Love’s in the Air’ is going to rule the world today. But do we even understand what loving someone really means? This question has become both necessary and relevant because everything around us – most of all, relationships – has come to be conditional and is evaluated in material terms. I recently heard the story of my son’s classmate whose mother forced her to break-up with her boyfriend because the family was keen that the young lady marry someone who has the same “social status and business background” as them. In another instance, a lady confessed to me that she had to arrange for 100 sovereigns of gold to marry the man she “loved” because his family imposed that steep pre-condition to approve their match. Another friend walked out on her husband, who, according to her, is a “great human being” but is “incapable of bringing home an income”; she confessed to me that “financial security” mattered a lot more to her than companionship. Someone I know says he doesn’t trust his wife but has decided not to “rake up the issue” because she earns a good salary – I know the family and believe that this gentleman’s perception of mistrust arises from the fact that she earns more than him! Unfortunately, our society is not helping make relationships any better – there’s so much pressure on earning a living, on providing, on buying, hoarding, showing off and owning, that loving has become less relevant and least important. Clearly, demonstrating – often time, proving – in material terms that you love someone has overtaken genuinely, simply, loving that someone!
Loving someone really is about being there unconditionally for that person. There is no way I can explain what loving means in English. But, as I have come to learn, understanding the Persian word “ishq” is one way to know what being loving or loving someone means. “Ishq” means loving someone intensely, when you lose yourself in that feeling, when nothing matters, when a certain madness takes over your whole being. This includes the love that one has for all of humanity – the way Mother Teresa had it or the love that one has for divinity – the way Meera had it for Krishna. “Ishq” makes people soul-mates; it goes beyond mind and body and unites both people at a soul level. With “ishq”, there is no lust, just pure, unadulterated, unconditional love.
The word “ishq” comes from the Persian root “a-shiq-a” which is actually the name of an ivy plant. The import is that, just as the ivy, a  climber entwines itself around other plants, the “ashiq” or lover entwines himself intensely around his “mashouka” or beloved, refusing to look at her shortcomings. The same logic applies vice versa too.  When you are loving, when you experience “ishq”, there are no demands, there are no constraints, and most important, there is no concept of time, space or of physical presence. And the simplest way to experience “ishq” is to go beyond the material trappings of any relationship. So, don’t just be content being a Valentine for a day; go on, find your “ashiq”, or “mashouka”, and be in “ishq”, forever! 

Ishq-wala Love

To love and be loved, at a soul level, is a blessing.
The forgettable 2012 movie “Student of the Year” (Karan Johar) had a simple song which went on to become quite popular – “Ishq-wala Love”. I was reading a discourse by Osho, the Master, and he explains why “Ishq-wala Love” is different from just plain Love. (I am not sure, going by the lyrics of the song from ‘Student of the Year’ if the lyricist had really heard or read Osho’s discourse!) Osho says that contemporary interpretation of love – thanks to hype-driven traditions like Valentine’s Day – implies that you like or adore someone for their mind, their intellect or their body.  He says true love transcends the mind and the body and touches the soul. And he says no English word can ever do justice to describe love that encompasses mind, body and soul – all three dimensions. So, he dips into the Persian language and pulls out the word “Ishq”. It means loving with total intensity. It is often used in a Sufi context and has a celestial, even divine, connotation. “Ishq” is when you lose yourself in love, when love possesses you, when it oozes from your every pore and makes you go mad, turn fanatic – with which the other word with Sufi origins is closely connected, “Fanaa” – which means to be annihilated in divine love! “Ishq” has a level of unbelievable passion and obsession associated with it, that goes beyond the ordinary and is often hard to describe. “Ishq” comes from the Persian root “a-sha-qa” – which really means an ivy plant that winds itself around other plants. Similarly, the “aashiq” or lover gets entwined with his beloved, in an incomprehensible, inscrutable love. When the lovers are experiencing “Ishq” – they are actually mindless – so they are unmindful of pain, of the sentiments of their families, they don’t care for what society thinks and don’t relate to their surroundings or circumstances. They simply lose themselves – “dissolve” in each other at a soul level.
The ancient story of Laila and Majnu has immortalized “Ishq”. Laila was dark-skinned and never considered good-looking. The King of the land who was known to have a harem, which no woman could escape, had rejected Laila. But Majnu loved her. He was in “Ishq” with her. He fought Laila’s rich father valiantly. He ignored the social ostracization that he was subjected to. He refused to forget Laila even after she was married off forcibly. All of this forced the King to send for Majnu. And he asked Majnu why was he so “madly in love” with Laila. Majnu simply replied that the King would “never understand”. Which was the truth. Because “Ishq” does not look at the body, it does not even look at the mind, it does not look at social standing, it is not affected by circumstances. While the King and society looked at Life through all these lenses, Majnu saw only Laila’s soul and saw himself as one with her. So, in the story, Laila dies in another land, succumbing to an illness and Majnu too dies at the same time. (To be sure, there are various versions of this story in circulation – thanks to the creative genius of many story tellers and artists who have tried to bring it alive over the years.) The word ‘Majnu’ has now come to mean someone who is “madly in Ishq”.
Valentine’s Day is a good time, as any other, to reflect on the depth of your own love for another or others. If you have been noticing a growing distance between you and someone you once fell in love with, it’s important to go beyond the flowers and the gifts, and enquire within. Maybe there never was “Ishq”. Maybe it is relevant now that you examine if there’s a role “Ishq” can play in your Life. Maybe there’s a need to break-free from a relationship, where there’s no relating anymore, and open yourself to “Ishq”? Whatever you do, or choose not to do, just know that to love this way, beyond mind and body, at a soul level, is a celebration of Life – and “Ishq-wala Love” indeed is a blessing.

True love is when it is still a verb, as in loving, and not a noun!


To be loving and be loved is a miracle. Celebrate the miracle and, simply, carry on loving!

Today’s Valentine’s Day! And the whole world is agog with suggesting the best Valentine’s Day gift for you to give your Valentine. Roses to perfumes to candle-lit dinners to diamonds to cruise vacations to designer clothes to wallets to smart-phones to motorcycles to SUVs to what not! It makes me wonder if Valentine’s Day has become a Day for Demonstrating how much you love someone? As if love can be measured at all!

True love is when it is still a verb and not a noun. Love is more powerful when it is the loving that you feel, you experience in you for someone and from someone to you. Just love is so static. It can in fact stagnate. And that’s when you need the frills, the bells, the whistles, the roses and the gadgets. I am not against them. I am not impuning the dream merchants too, who hawk them as essentials to make yet another simple date on the calendar so extraordinary and so romantic! But let’s not get carried away and start imagining that professing love is more important than loving!

To me loving is about loving burned toast if your partner offers it to you, even if you hate burned toast! Here’s the story, narrated by an unknown little boy, that I heard years ago, that taught me this timeless moral! 

“When I was a little boy, I remember one day in particular when mom made breakfast food for dinner. 

She must have been very tired. My mom placed a plate of egg and some burned toast in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed.

Yet all my dad did was, he reached for his toast, smiled at my mom, and asked me if I was ready for school the next day. I don’t remember what I replied, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jam on that toast and eat every bit of it!

When I got up from the table, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the toast. And I’ll never forget what he said: ‘Baby, I love burned toast.’

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy and I asked him if he really liked his toast burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, ‘Your Momma works hard day after day and she’s real tired. And besides a little burnt toast never hurt anyone!’ You know, Life is full of imperfect things…..and imperfect people…I am not perfect either!’”

This story and its lesson have stayed with me all these years. Burned toast to me is no longer a story. It is a lesson in loving. And I recall that lesson every time I feel impatient, temperamental and stagnating in love. It’s very recollection makes me feel free, loving and gets the positive energy in me flowing for my partner.


Pause for a while this Valentine’s Day. Think of all the times that you have offered your partner burned toast (metaphorically that is)__inadvertently, mindlessly, in anger, in despair, in grief or in frustration. Think of all the times when the burned toast was loved, accepted and relished. For each of those times, feel grateful for being loved and celebrate that miracle__when the imperfection in you was accepted, tolerated and forgiven. In feeling grateful you will feel even more loving.

This then is the way to being a true Valentine. When you can gift yourself and your partner all the loving in you, from you!

Yoko Ono and John Lennon
On this Valentine’s Day, let me gift you John Lennon’s immortal single (originally released in 1970 and then re-released after his death in 1982) ‘Love’. Follow the link and invoke the loving in you, and feel loved. You will then connect with the miracle called Life!