How can we differentiate between lust and love?

Lust is often equated with the craving for sexual gratification. Apart from such gross lust, spiritual teachers highlight a subtle form of lust: the craving to control others so that they add to our name, fame and glory. Here we use others to gratify our ego, not our senses. 

Sometimes, it’s said that lust takes, whereas love gives. While such sharp contrasts contain some truth, they overlook the reality that give-and-take characterizes all relationships, lust-centered and love-centered. 

Then, what differentiates lust from love? It is the focus in the give-and-take. When driven by lust, we care for others because we need them. As long as they satisfy our needs, we shower them with the greatest care. But when that satisfaction stops, we cast them aside like a disposable napkin. In contrast, when inspired by love, we care for others, so we need them. Only when they are accessible to us can we serve them and express our love in various ways. 

Most relationships in this world are driven by need, not care. Even in non-sexual relationships, lust is thus operational. In contrast, relationships in the spiritual domain are driven by care, not need. In that domain, the topmost exemplars of love are the gopis of Vrindavan: what they give Krishna so supersedes what they take from him that Krishna feels indebted to them (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.32.22). When Krishna leaves them, they are devastated because they can no longer care for him. 

The Bhagavad-gita too demonstrates love. When Krishna expresses his love for Arjuna and invites Arjuna’s love (18.65), he wants to shower his choicest blessings upon Arjuna. Following Arjuna’s example, when we choose to reciprocate with Krishna’s love, we start rising from lust to love. 

One-sentence summary:

Lust means we care for others because we need them; love means we care for others, so we need them. 

Think it over:

  • What are the different levels of lust?
  • What is the characteristic of lust?
  • What is the characteristic of love?

***

18.65: Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.

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3 Comments

  1. Need is lust,care is love

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