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World Religion News Celebrates Valentine’s Day: Love According to World Religions

In anticipation of the day of love, Valentine’s Day, we explore the different ways love is described and portrayed in the perspective of various world religions. To each religion it is different, and also depends on what kind of love is being discussed, for example, love between husband and wife or the love between a person and his or her worshipped deity. There is a rich body of literature that the broad subject of love encompasses, and World Religion News will present some of the basic ideas from some of the world’s most prominent religions.

Baha’i Faith

According to the Baha’is, there are four types of love. The first is the love that flows from God to human beings; the second is the love from human beings to God; the third is the love we have for ourselves; and the last is the love human beings have for one another. The love of God is considered the origin of love in all creation; “through this love man is endowed with physical existence, until, through the breath of the Holy Spirit—this same love—he receives eternal life and becomes the image of the Living God.” The love of human beings for God is “the origin of all philanthropy; this love causes the hearts of men to reflect the rays of the Sun of Reality.”

Buddhism

Because Buddhism is known to be the path of freedom, and love nourishes spiritual freedom, Buddhism could be called a religion of love. The Dalai Lama said Buddhism is about kindness. According to the Buddha, “love is one of the paths to full spiritual liberation.” In Buddhism, the kind of love that is taught is one characterized by freedom. “Love that involves clinging, lust, confusion, neediness, fear, or grasping to self would, in Buddhist terms, be seen as expressions of bondage and limitation.” The four kinds of love encouraged in Buddhist doctrine are lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity.

David G. Arenson writes, “authentic love is whole, complete, and in essence, beyond suffering. The absence of love is suffering…True love does not leave a wound when it is lost, because true love can never be lost.” Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, known for his book How to Love, teaches that “understanding is love’s other name,” meaning that loving others is all about understanding their suffering. He writes, “when our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer… but when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others.”

Catholicism

In the Catholic Church, love, or charity, is defined as “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.” The apostle Paul says that love is the greatest theological virtue when compared to faith and hope. “So faith, hope, love abide, these three: but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Catholics also differentiate between four different types of love – storge, philia, eros and agape. Storge is the love for things and animals around us. Philia is brotherly love or love for friends because of mutual compatibility and common values. Eros is passion, not only sexual but also aesthetic and spiritual. Agape is the generous giving of oneself without desiring anything in return.

Hinduism
Love is considered one of the main purposes of life in the theology of Hinduism. It is termed as Kama (love or pleasure), which is also the name given to a god of love with a flower bow and five flower arrows. The Kama “sends desire quivering into the heart.” In a mystic sense, “Kama is the essence of magic love known and preserved in esoteric doctrines, profoundly inspired by the holy mystery of life.” Love in Hinduism is towards a divine purpose, and devotional love is essential in the practice of the religion. “Family love, married love and other secular forms of love are subordinate to the divine love or emotional love of God.”

Islam

Islam teaches that love is in either divine or human form and “belongs only to the precious and valuable things as far as they are so.” It also teaches that love has to be enlightened. “A sacred love is the love which is realistic and insightful.” Love has to be directed by reason in that “one should not let one’s love for something or some person make him negligent of the whole truth.” Islam also expects its followers to love God above all things, similar to the Christian notion of the love of God. “No other love may override one’s love for God; God should be the highest and foremost object of love.”

Jainism

According to Jainism, the highest forms of love are non-violence, sociability, compassion and peaceful coexistence. In the worldly context, love “is the feeling of attachment to and affection for the body or material objects.” Physical love makes possible the institution of the family. Love creates a sense of unity, but there is also a kind of love that causes conflict – bodily love or possessiveness. Possessiveness is classified into three kinds: love for body, love for material objects and imprints of past actions on consciousness. In this sense, love is a combination of happiness and suffering.

Judaism

The Jewish Torah says “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Jewish law is largely about being kind to other people and commands its followers to love both Jews and non-Jews, to bestow (tzedakah) charity to those who need it, and to avoid doing wrong to anyone in what one says or in business. Kindness is a huge part of Jewish law; apparent in the word “mitzvah” which informally means any good deed. The Ten Commandments, central to Jewish law, is also a manifestation of the centrality of kindness in Judaism. The Ten Commandments says “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” also about loving God above all, and “Thou shalt not murder.” Jewish law goes as far as commanding Jews to protect their fellowmen and recognizes the sacredness of life by giving much significance to its preservation.

Scientology

The Church of Scientology has a practical tool for those wishing to keep the Valentine’s Day romance alive. According to the Scientology religion, successful relationships depend on Affinity, Reality and Communication. The interaction of these three factors is represented by what Scientologists refer to as the A-R-C Triangle. It is called a triangle because you cannot raise or lower one “corner” without raising or lowering the other two. If a couple maintains a high level of communication and affinity with each other, they improve the existence of their relationship (its reality). If they fall out of communication and no longer share common agreements, their feelings for each other will decline. The Church also offers a free online course on marriage with technology anyone can apply to bring a failing marriage or relationship back to life.

Shinto

Shinto emphasizes love of nature. Things of nature are regarded as sacred and worshipped as such. The most important deity in the religion is the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, while also respecting lesser gods and goddesses who represent natural objects, creatures and abstract natural forces. The love of nature is one of the four “affirmations” in the Shinto religion, which also includes tradition and the family, which attaches much significance to birth and marriage; physical cleanliness, and “matsuri,” “the expression of worship and devotion to the Kami and all ancestral spirits.”

Sikhism

Marriage is central in the Sikh idea of love and romance. Marriages are arranged in Sikhism; hence dating is treated with disapproval. Premarital sex is not allowed by the Sikh code of conduct; romance is something that occurs post-wedding and behind closed doors. Sikhs are very much committed to family and marriage, which is apparent in the number of divorces in the religion, under 2 percent. (In the U.S., 40-50% of first marriages end in divorce).

Taoism

A major teaching in Taoism is the idea of loving oneself or self-worth, which is called Ch’ang, translated as “self-nurturing.” Verse 10 of the central Taoist text, the Tao Te Ching, reads, “Can you nurture your own spirit whilst holding the unity of Oneness? Can you connect to the Qi of your sensitivity, creative imagination and determination whilst harmonizing with Wu Wei? Can you understand your human-centered mind without corrupting your Tao-centered mind? And can you do all this whilst loving and nourishing yourself rather than indulging your self-interest and selfishness? Then you can truly love all people without harming yourself, allowing others to rise to their fullest height whilst not diminishing your own stature.” Taoism also teaches three major forms of love an individual needs: parental love, love of a partner and universal love (“the love that flows through the Tao and connects all things”).

Wicca

Wiccans employ love spells to attract love or to deal with love-related problems. A spell performed underneath a full moon attracts love, while a spell performed under a waning moon helps an individual “get over” someone. There is an herbal love potion worn like perfume to attract love. Wiccans also have spells to heal relationships and increase libido and sexual experiences. Wicca is a religion that is focused on the idea of fertility, making the concept of sex a prominent fixture in its teachings. Many Wiccan beliefs and rituals have to do with sex, but Wiccans believe that sex is more than just the act. Symbols of fertility and sexuality are ubiquitous in the Wiccan religion, because they reflect the fertility of nature.

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