A Zen Master explains the real difference between true love and just being attached

Are you in love with your partner or are you just attached to them? Have you ever been told that to truly love someone you have to set them free?

Love can be complicated, and the line between being attached and genuinely in love is subtle and fraught with danger.

Yet understanding the real difference between true love and attachment is essential if you’re going to experience genuine connections with people in your life.

The spiritual guru Osho explains the key difference in the passage below from The Book of Secrets.

Some of his words are challenging, but you’ll be rewarded if you read right to the bottom.

Love becomes attachment because there is no love. You were just playing, deceiving yourself. The attachment is the reality; the love was just a foreplay. So whenever you fall in love, sooner or later you discover you have become an instrument – and then the whole misery begins. What is the mechanism? Why does it happen?

Just a few days ago a man came to me and he was feeling very guilty. He said, “I loved a woman. I loved her very much. The day she died I was weeping and crying, but suddenly I became aware of a certain freedom within me, as if some burden had left me. I felt a deep breath, as if I had become free.”

That moment he became aware of a second layer of his feeling. Outwardly he was weeping and crying and saying, “I cannot live without her. Now it will be impossible, or the life will be just like death. But deep down,” he said, “I became aware that I am feeling very good, that now I am free.”

A third layer began to feel guilt. It said to him, “What are you doing?” And the dead body was lying there just before him, he said to me, and he began to feel a great deal of guilt. He said to me, “help me. What has happened to my mind? Have I betrayed her so soon?”

Nothing has happened; no one has betrayed. When love becomes attachment, it becomes a burden, a bondage. But why does love become an attachment? The first thing to be understood is that if love becomes an attachment, you were just in an illusion that it was love. You were just playing with yourself and thinking that this was love. Really, you were in need of attachment. And if you go still deeper, you will find that you were also in need of becoming a slave.

There is a subtle fear of freedom, and everyone wants to be a slave. Everyone, of course, talks about freedom, but no one has the courage to be really free, because when you are really free you are alone. If you have the courage to be alone, then only can you be free.

But no one is courageous enough to be alone. You need someone. Why do you need someone? You are afraid of your own loneliness. You become bored with yourself. And really, when you are lonely, nothing seems meaningful. With someone you are occupied, and you create artificial meanings around you.

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  1. Benson Palijah

    Never under estimate radical thinking and it makes sense to me being alone with no responsibilities attached to no one. Let alone values and believes.

  2. deb

    Beautiful article-very timely for me, thank you! (seriously Ellen Frank? Everyone is welcome, and we all have different thoughts and views-all of which are impermanent anyway.) I find it wonderful to talk to everyone and learn from them all. Metta-

  3. Flash! Fareso

    Hello Justine etc,
    All is correct to a certain extent,when people are alone,they find themselves and it is beauty in itself,animals humans always co-exist this is part of life,there is no alone really in this world,becoming one,with oneself also is a natural! Order of life,to be treasured,when wishing to be around people is also good,remember negatives are in your mind sometimes,release them is to be just you,as you were created,there is no Golden rule,the quest in your life,is your’s to be forefilled,enjoy,enhance,be you!
    From “Taò-Master-⚡Flash!⚡”

  4. Nick Ashley

    Absolutely. And I would add a conclusion : you can’t love unless first you love yourself, unconditionally, as you are here and now, without the need of anything or anyone to complete you.

  5. Ellen Frank

    Why go abroad to talk to Zen masters when you could be talking to Christians at home–who know a lot more about love than any Buddhist ever could. Of course a Zen Buddhist is going to say that love is both bad and nonexistent (and never notice that it can’t be both).

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