Conceptions of Love

In our modern age, we use the word love freely and so often. You hear people saying, “I love that cake,” or “I love playing cricket,” or “I love you.” But what do we understand about love? What is love?

Eight Types of Greek Love

The ancient Greeks described eight types of love, of which they valued Philia and Agape the highest. These eight types are:

Agape is compassionate love. This is love for every part of the universe. It is in a spiritual domain, and for the Greeks, this was the highest form of love.

Philia is the love between friends. The Greeks thought this was the second-highest form of love. It was between equals who shared interests and could freely discuss and debate any topic. This love meant that friends would sacrifice their lives for each other.

The other six types of love were Eros (sensual love), Ludus (playful love), Philautia (self-love), Mania (obsessive and unbalanced love), Pragma (committed, long-term caring, and love), Storge (family love).

Ancient Indian Conceptions of Love

Similar to the ancient Greeks, ancient Indian sages described five types of love:

Maitri (compassionate love)

Bhakti (impersonal devotional love)

Atma-Prema (meaning self-love towards an essential universal self)

Kama (sensory love and craving)

Shringara (close intimacy).

Unfortunately, we do not distinguish between these different types of love in our modern world, as they mean entirely different feelings. The ancient Greek and Indian philosophers knew that love included physical, mental and spiritual activities.

Love as a Feeling and as a Verb

A further distinction is between love as a feeling and love as a verb. It is easy to say, “I love you.” However, it is much more difficult and more genuine to take considerate actions and demonstrate that love means doing good deeds for the person or people one loves. In this second sense, love is a verb. It becomes much more potent than a mere expression of a feeling.

We can take inspiration from the following three quotes connected with love:

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”

The philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

The incredible writer, Helen Keller, who overcame the most difficult challenges being blind and deaf, wrote, “The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard but must be felt with the heart.” 

© Kaikhushru Taraporevala