Is loving an ice cream the same as loving your friends and family? Is loving a sport or art the same as loving money? Is wanting love the same as giving love? Love is an overused word seemingly having both negative and positive connotations depending on how one says it and how one hears it.

Like million others I tried, failed, read a lot about it, and learned a lot from my experiences and especially from others. This meme, worth a thousand words, describes my journey quite aptly

Love Binomial Distribution

When I was young, I was the guy on the left side of the curve. Had a very simple and very idealistic definition of what love meant. It was a very rudimentary understanding but it was quite close to the truth. But as life started chipping away at my soul bit by bit, I started ignoring the heart so it grew quieter and eventually stopped speaking.

The second phase in the middle of the curve, was quite mechanical. Introduced to this sub-culture of self-help relationship books by a very good friend of mine in college, I must have read more than a dozen books by now. I observed a very significant split in the advice given by these books by the era they became most famous in. Pre 2000s were very anti-feeling for lack of a better word. All love was just an outcome of our evolutionary desires, people loved you only because they get something tangible or non-tangible from you in exchange, existence of emotions was negative and any form of attachment was straight up blasphemy! Post-2000s books had much kinder advice, they had much more nuanced takes on different kinds of love, how it can be good and bad for me, what kind of personalities, languages, attachment styles etc are suitable for me. But even they focused too much on serving the self, what I should want. If something didn’t fit according to the equations they provided, then welp! too bad, give up and find someone new who fits the equations we provided! None of the books satisfied my intuition and it all just felt so flawed. Don’t get me wrong, these ideas may work for some people at some point in time, but it feels like an incomplete set of knowledge.

In the meanwhile I was exploring anything and everything, from old Russian and European classics, Abrahamic literature, old Indian texts, Sufism, Bhakti Movement and eventually finding my solace in Sikhi. A lot of modern religious texts from Judaism, Islam (Sufism especially), Christianity and Sikhi have a more holistic idea of love. I am currently somewhere in the middle of the meme, just slightly over the tipping point where I finally see err in my ways and have a vague idea of what the ultimate truth is, but still far off from experiencing it


The lowest rung is Eros & Lust, it’s aimed at only maximizing happiness of the self, lasting for extremely short while (at least for me) and works solely on our biological desires.

When the brain gets involved a bit in Eros, it makes a longer lasting form of love - Ludus. It’s not just the physical traits but also the personality and mannerisms that make you “fall for someone”. Again, the self is still in the focus, but you do start caring for the other person too even if it’s for your gain. If left unchecked though it can easily turn into compulsive obsession to the point of harassment (which oddly enough, is still shown in a positive light in Indian movies!)

The next section I see is less physical but more social in nature. The love we have for our friends, family, parents for their children, and even love for oneself. It’s endearing and can last decades. Although on surface it might seem selfless, but in reality it’s just baked in human subconscious and needed for survival. Self-love can easily turn into narcissism for instance, lots of friendships and familial ties easily broken when it gets tough.

If you have at least 2 out 3 of the above in your partner, you can pretty much survive happily for many years together with some good luck (survive being the key operating word here). But when cracks starts showing up, instead of making things stronger it weakens the love.

सत्य and सच are the foundation of love. The former means truth but there’s no direct equivalent for the latter in English, the closest I could find were sincerity and candor. If and only if one starts being sincere in their affection toward another person can they reach Pragma. It involves great deal of dissolving ego for such kind of love to blossom, the emphasis is on the other person and not on the self. Your happiness lies in the happiness of the other person and it grows fonder over time, lasting for your whole life. And the most difficult part is it cannot be one sided, you need someone who can love you back equally or it will wither away or taken advantage of. It thrives in the tiny everyday moments, you easily adapt to each other, you sometimes don’t even need to speak to understand what the other person is thinking almost telepathic, and is less melo-dramatic so it’s less often spoken or written about, but it is more “real” than any of the previous kinds of love I talked about.

At the highest forms of Pragma, the death of your loved one can cause great deal of pain, almost driving some people to kill themselves. But if you have Agape for someone, your body might involuntarily die on it’s own because the pain is too much to deal with. While it may look like difference is quiet small between Agape and Pragma, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Pragma can still be achieved, maybe through luck or by working on it with someone who has same ideals as you but Agape is rarer of the rarest. It requires not only complete dissolution of ego, but replacing your ego with the ego of something much higher and greater, essentially becoming an image of them. It’s a very difficult path and great deal has been written in different forms about it for thousands of years. But the best thing about Agape is that even walking towards the path of Agape has a lot of positive side-effects - art, music, poetry, meditation, yoga, mental and physical improvements etc. etc.

I have only experienced tiny hints of Pragma here and there, and ofcourse never experienced Agape but even the second/third hand experience of it through NFAK was enough for me to start walking on this path, even if I never fully experience it

ਸਾਚੁ ਕਹੋਂ ਸੁਨ ਲੇਹੁ ਸਭੈ ਜਿਨ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਕੀਓ ਤਿਨ ਹੀ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਪਾਇਓ ॥੯॥੨੯॥