It is unfortunate that we have to ask this question. In the natural course of things everybody would know what love-is. But I understand that nobody knows — or only very rarely — what love is. Love has become one of the rarest experiences. Yes, it is talked about, filmed, stories are written about it, songs are composed about it, films are made, on the TV you will see it, on the radio, in the magazines — a great industry continuously goes on supplying you with the idea of what love is. Many people are continuously involved in it, helping people understand what love is. Poets, authors, novelists — they all go on.

But still love remains the unknown phenomenon. And it should be one of the most known. It is almost as if somebody comes and asks, ‘What is food?’ Would you not be surprised if somebody comes and asks, ‘That is food?’ If somebody has been starved from the very beginning and he has never tasted what food is, the question will be relevant. So is this question.

You ask: WHAT IS LOVE? Love is the food of the soul. But you have been starved. Your soul has not received love at all so you don’t know the taste. Your question is relevant, but it is unfortunate. The body has received food so the body continues; but the soul has not received food so the soul is dead, or is not born yet, or is always on its death-bed.

When a child is born he is fully born; he is fully equipped with the capacity to love and to be loved. Each child is born full of love and knows perfectly what it is. There is no need to tell the child what love is. But the problem arises because the mother and the father don’t know what love is. No child receives the parents that he deserves — no child EVER receives the parents that he deserves. Those parents simply don’t exist on the earth. And by the time this child becomes a parent he will have lost the capacity to love.

It is almost like…. In Mexico there is a small valley where children are born and within three months they all become blind. It is a small, primitive society. A fly exists there which is poisonous to the eyes, so the whole community is blind. Every child is born with eyes — perfectly functioning eyes — but within three months there is an attack of the fly and the poison enters the system and the eyes go blind. Now, somewhere later in his life the child will ask, ‘What are eyes? What do you mean when you use the word “eye”? What is vision? What is seeing? What do you mean?’ And the question will be relevant. The child was born with eyes but they were lost somewhere on the way of so-called growth.

That’s what has happened to love. Every child is born with as much love as one can contain, with more love than one can contain, with overflowing love. A child is born as love; a child is made of the stuff called love. But the parents cannot give love. They have their own hangovers — their parents never loved them. The parents can only pretend. They can talk about love. They can say ‘We love you very much’ but whatsoever they do is very unloving. The way they behave, the way they treat the child is very insulting; there is no respect. No parent respects the child. Who ever thinks of respecting a child? A child is not thought to be a person at all. A child is thought to be like a problem. If he keeps quiet, he is good; if he is not a screamer, a primal therapist — good; if he simply keeps out of the way of the parents — perfectly good. That’s what a child should he.

But there is no respect and there is no love. The parents have not known what love is. The mother has not loved the husband, the husband has not loved the wife. Love does not exist there. Domination, possessiveness, jealousy, and all kinds of poisons are there which destroy love. Just as a certain poison can destroy your vision, so the poison of possessiveness and jealousy destroys love.

Love is a very fragile flower. It has to be protected, it has to be strengthened, it has to be watered; only then does it become strong. And the child’s love is very fragile — naturally — because the child is fragile, his body is fragile. Do you think a child left on his own will be able to survive? Just think how helpless man is. If a child is left on his own, it is next to impossible that he will survive. He will die. And that is what is happening to love.

Love is left alone. The parents can’t love, they don’t know what love is, they have never flowed in love. Remember your own parents. And remember, I am not saying that they are responsible. They are victims just as you are victims — their own parents were the same. And so on… you can go back to Adam and Eve and God the Father.

It seems that even God the Father was not very respectful towards Adam and Eve, was not respectful enough. That’s why from the very beginning he started commanding them ‘Do this’ and ‘Don’t do that’ and he started doing all the rubbish that all parents do. ‘Don’t eat the fruit of this tree.’ And when Adam had eaten the fruit, the Father, God, was so angry in reaction that he threw Adam and Eve out of heaven.

That expulsion is always there, and each parent threatens to expel the child, to throw him out. ‘If you don’t listen, if you don’t behave, you will be thrown out.’ And naturally a child is afraid. Thrown out? Into the wilderness of this life? He starts compromising. The child by and by becomes a twister. He starts manipulating.

He does not want to smile, but if the mother is coming and he wants milk, he smiles. Now this is politics — the beginning, the ABE of politics. Deep down he starts hating because he is not respected; deep down he starts feeling frustrated because he is not loved as he is. He is expected to do certain things and only then will he be loved. Love has some conditions; he is not worthy as he is. First he has to become worthy, then the parents’ love will be possible.

So he starts becoming worthy and starts becoming false; he loses his intrinsic value. His respect for himself is lost by and by, he starts feeling that he is guilty. And many times the idea comes to the mind of the child, ‘Are these my real parents? Is it possible they have adopted me? Maybe they are deceiving, because there seems to be no love.’ And a thousand and one times he sees the anger in their eyes, the ugly anger on the faces of the parents, and for such small things that he cannot see the proportion of it. lust for very small things he sees the parents’ rage. He cannot believe it. It is so unjust and unfair. But he has to surrender, he has to bow down, he has to accept it as a necessity. By and by his love capacity is killed.

Love grows only in love. Love needs a milieu of love — that is the most fundamental thing to be remembered. Only in a milieu of love does love grow. It needs the same kind of pulsation around. If the mother is loving, if the father is loving, not only to the child, if they are loving to each other too, if the home has a love atmosphere where love flows, the child will start functioning as a love-being, and he will never ask the question, ‘What is love?’ He will know it from the very beginning, it will become his foundation.

But that doesn’t happen. It is unfortunate, but it has not happened up to now. And you learn the ways of your parents their nagging, their conflict. Just go on watching yourself. If you are a woman, watch. You may be repeating, almost repeating, the ways your mother used to behave. Watch yourself when you are with your boyfriend or your husband — what are you doing? Are you not repeating? If you are a man, watch! What are you doing? Are you not being your daddy? Are you not doing the same nonsense that he used to do? And one day you were surprised — ‘How can daddy do this?’ — and you are doing the same. People go on repeating; people are imitators; man is a monkey. You are repeating your daddy or your mummy, and that has to be dropped. Only then will you know what love is, otherwise you will remain corrupted.

I cannot define what love is because there is no definition of love. It is one of those indefinables like birth, like death, like God, like meditation. It is one of those indefinables — I cannot define it.
I cannot say that this is love, I cannot show it to you. It is not a visible phenomenon. It cannot be dissected, it cannot be analysed; it can only be experienced. And only through experience do you know what it is. But I can show you the way to experience it.

The first step is: get rid of your parents. And by that I don’t mean any disrespect towards your parents, no. I will be the last person to say that. And I don’t mean get rid of your physical parents, I mean get rid of your parental voices inside, your programme inside, your tapes inside. Efface them… and you will be simply surprised that if you get rid of your parents from your inner being, you become free. For the first time you will be able to feel compassion for your parents — otherwise not; you will remain resentful. Every person is resentful towards his parents.

How can you not be resentful when they have done so much harm to you — although not knowingly? They wished all good for you, they wanted to do everything for your well-being. But what can they do? Just by wanting, nothing happens; just by good wishes, nothing happens. They were well-wishers, that is true. There is no doubt about it. Every parent wants the child to have all the joys of life. But what can he do? He has not known any joy himself He is a robot, and knowingly, or unknowingly, deliberately or undeliberately, he will create an atmosphere in which the child will sooner or later be turned into a robot.

If you want to become a man and not a machine get rid of your parents. And you will have to watch. It is hard work, arduous work; you cannot do it instantly. You will have to be very careful in your behaviour. Watch when your mother is there, functioning through you — stop that, move away from it. Do something absolutely new that your mother could not even have conceived of.

For example, your boyfriend is looking at some other woman with great appreciation in his eyes. Now watch what you are doing. Are you doing the same as your mother would have done in the case of your father looking at another woman appreciatively? If you do that, you will never know what love is, you will simply be repeating a story. It will be the same act being played by different actors, that’s all; the same rotten act being repeated again and again and again. Don’t be an imitator, get out of it. Do something new. Do something that your mother could not have conceived of. Do something new that your father could not have conceived of.

This newness has to be brought to your being, then your love will start flowing.
So the first essential is getting rid of your parents.

The second essential is: people think that they can love only when they find a worthy man — nonsense! You will never find one. People think they will love only when they find a perfect man or a perfect woman. Nonsense! You will never find them because perfect women and perfect men don’t exist. And if they exist, they won’t bother about your love. They will not be interested.

I have heard about a man who remained a bachelor his whole life because he was in search of a perfect woman. When he was seventy, somebody asked, ‘You have been travelling and travelling from Kabal to Kathmandu, from Kathmandu to Goa, from Goa to Poona; you have been searching. Could you not find a perfect woman? Not even one?’

The old man became very sad. He said, ‘Yes, once I came across one: once I came across a perfect woman.’
The enquirer said, ‘Then what happened? Why didn’t you get married?’
He became very, very sad. He said, ‘What to do? She was looking for a perfect man.’

And remember, when two beings are perfect, their love need is not the same as your love need. It has a totally different quality.

You don’t understand even the love that is possible for you so you will not be able to understand the love that happens to a Buddha or the love that is flowing from me towards you — you will not be able to understand it.

First you have to understand the love that is a natural phenomenon. Even that has not happened. First you have to understand the natural, and then the transcendental.

So the second thing to remember is: never he in search of a perfect man or a perfect woman. That too has been put into your mind — that unless you find a perfect man or a perfect woman you will not be happy. So you go on looking for the perfect, and you don’t find the perfect, so you are unhappy. And you have a reason to be unhappy.

To flow and grow in love needs no perfection. Love has no-thing to do with the other. A loving person simply loves, just as an alive person breathes and drinks and eats and sleeps. Exactly like that a really alive person, a loving person, loves. You don’t say, ‘Unless there is perfect air, unpolluted, I am not going to breathe.’ You go on breathing even in Los Angeles; you go on breathing in Bombay. You go on breathing everywhere where air is polluted, poisoned. You go on breathing. You cannot afford not to breathe just because the air is not as it should be. If you are hungry you eat something — whatsoever it is.

An alive man simply loves. Love is a natural functioning.

So the second thing to remember is: don’t ask for perfection, otherwise you will not find any love flowing in you. On the contrary, you will become very unloving. People who demand perfection are very unloving people, neurotic people. Even if they can find a beloved or a lover, they demand perfection — and the love is destroyed because of that demand.

Once a man loves a woman or a woman loves a man, demands immediately enter. The woman starts demanding that the man should be perfect, just because he loves her. As if he has committed a sin! Now he has to be perfect, now he has to drop all his limitations suddenly — just because of this woman. Now he cannot be human. Either he has to become superhuman or he has to become pseudo, false, a cheat. Naturally, to become superhuman is very difficult, so people become cheats. They start pretending and acting and playing games. In the name of love people are just playing games.

So the second thing to remember is: never demand perfection. You have no right to demand anything from anybody. If somebody loves you, be thankful, but don’t demand anything — because he has no obligation to love you. If somebody loves, it is a miracle. Be thrilled by the miracle.

But people are not thrilled. For small things they will destroy all possibilities of love. They are not interested much in love and the joy of it. They are more interested in other ego trips. Be concerned with your joy, be utterly concerned with your joy, be only concerned with your joy. Everything else is non-essential.

Love as a natural function, as you breathe. And when you love a person, don’t start demanding; otherwise from the very beginning you are closing the doors. Don’t expect anything. If something comes your way, feel grateful. If nothing comes, there is no need for it to come, there is no necessity for it to come. You cannot expect it.

But see people, see how they take each other for granted. If your woman prepares food for you, you never thank her. I’m not saying that you should verbalise your thankyou, but it should be in your eyes. But you don’t bother, you take it for granted — that is her work. Who told YOU? If your man goes and earns money for you, you never thank him. You don’t feel any gratitude. That’s what a man should do. That’s your mind. How can love grow? Love needs a climate of love, love needs a climate of gratitude, thankfulness. Love needs a non-demanding atmosphere, non-expecting atmosphere. This is the second thing to remember.

And the third thing is: rather than thinking how to get love, start giving. If you give, you get; there is no other way. People are more interested in how to grab and get. Everybody is interested in getting and nobody seems to enjoy giving. People give very reluctantly; if ever they give, they give only to get, and they are almost businesslike. It is a bargain. They always go on watching that they should get more than they give — that it is a good bargain, good business. But the other is also doing the same.

Love is not a business, so stop being businesslike. Otherwise you will miss your life and love and all that is beautiful in it — because all that is beautiful is not at all businesslike. Business is the ugliest thing in the world — a necessary evil. But existence knows nothing of business. Trees bloom, it is not a business; the stars shine, it is not a business and you don’t have to pay for it and nobody demands anything from you. A bird comes and sits at your door and sings a song, and he will not ask you to give a certificate or something. He has sung the song and then happily he flies away, leaves no traces behind. That’s how love grows. give, and don’t wait to see how much you can grab.

Yes, it comes, it comes a thousandfold, but it comes naturally it comes on its own. There is no need to demand it. When you demand, it never comes. When you demand, you have killed it. So give. Start giving. In the beginning it will be hard, because your whole life you have been trained not to give but to get. In the beginning you will have to fight with your armour. Your musculature has become hard, your heart has become frozen, you have become cold. In the beginning it will be difficult, but each step will lead to a further step, and by and by the river starts flowing.

First get rid of your parents. With getting rid of your parents you get rid of society, with getting rid of your parents you get rid of civilization, education, everything — because your parents represent all that. You become individual. For the first time you are part of the mass no more, you have an authentic individuality; you are on your own. This is what growth is. This is what a grown-up person should be. A grown-up person is one who needs no parents. A grown-up person is one who needs nobody to cling to or lean on. A grown-up person is one who is happy in his aloneness — his aloneness is a song, a celebration. A grown-up person is one who can be with himself happily. His aloneness is not loneliness, his solitariness is solitude, it is meditative. One day you had to come out of your mother’s womb. If you had remained there longer than nine months you would have been dead — not only you, your mother would also have been dead. One day you had to come out of your mother’s womb; then one day you had to come out of your family atmosphere — another womb — to go to school; then one day you had to come out of your school atmosphere — another womb — to go into the bigger world. But deep down you are still a child. You are still in the womb — layers upon layers of womb are there. That womb has to be broken.

This is what in the East we have called the second birth. In the born. He has attained to a second birth; he is completely free of parental impression. And the beauty is that only such a person feels grateful to the parents. The paradox is that only such a person can forgive his parents. He feels compassion and love for them, he feels tremendously for them because they have also suffered in the same way. He is not angry, no, not at all. He may have tears in his eyes but he is not angry, and he will do everything to help his parents to move towards such a plenitude of aloneness, such a height of aloneness.

Become individuals, the first thing. The second thing: don’t expect perfection, and don’t ask and don’t demand. Love ordinary people . Nothing is wrong with ordinary people. Ordinary people are extraordinary. Each human being is so unique. Have respect for that uniqueness.
Third: give, and give without any condition — and you will know what love is. I cannot define it. I can show you the path to grow it. I can show you how to put in a rose bush, how to water it, how to give fertilizers to it, how to protect it. Then one day, out of the blue, comes the rose flower, and your home is full of the fragrance. That’s how love happens.


from : Sufis : The People of the Path vol. 1 ch. 14