What Is the Definition of Love?
(Click to enlarge photo of Srila Prabhupada)

Prabhupāda: (to guest) Come on. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Come here, forward.

Devotee: This is Ali. He has helped me translate one article on vegetarianism. He's very qualified in that area.

Prabhupāda: Our... He'll understand English?

Devotee: Very well.

Prabhupāda: Our mission is not to make the nonvegetarian as vegetarian. That will automatically be done. Our mission is to teach people how to love God.

Ali: That's right. I've noticed that. I had that conversation with Mahārāja.

Prabhupāda: And to love God we must have definite idea of God, our exchange. Just like materially also, if somebody loves somebody, one must know each other. Otherwise, where there is question of love? Love means direct contact. So they speak of love of Godhead. Just like the Christian people, they say "love of Godhead." But they have no idea who is God. So where is the question of love? It is an impractical proposition, love of Godhead. First of all, you must know who is God. If I love somebody, I must know him, what he is. So this is going on. They speak of love of Godhead, but they do not know who is God or what is God. Therefore they are misguided. Simply it is word. There is no practical value. Do you agree with this point or not? If you have no idea of God, if you have no business with God, then where is the question of love? What is the definition of love, huh? What is the definition of love?

Ali: We talk about love, but I think you should personally... an individual should experience. My definition would be, I think, unworthy.

Prabhupāda: Definition of love... You can explain what is definition of love.

Devotee: I can explain the definition of bhakti.

Prabhupāda: No, you bring another word. But explain it, what is love. In Vedic language you get every definition. Love means two persons, one of... both of them: beloved and the lover. Is it not? The first condition of love means there must be two persons. What do you think? There must be two persons when there is question of love.

Devotee (2): Yes, it's a reciprocation.

Prabhupāda: Ah. Otherwise, where is love? What do you think? Unless there are two persons, where is the question of love? Try to understand one step by step.

Ali: Does that mean one loses himself? Personality?

Prabhupāda: What does he say?

Devotee: He says, "Does that mean that one loses himself?"

Prabhupāda: Why? Then where is love? Why shall I lose? I exist, you exist, then there is love. If I am lost, then with whom there will be to love?

Ali: I didn't mean losing the existence, but losing the self-importance.

Devotee (2) Self-interest.

Ali: Self-interest.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That is very important thing. That is important, yes. But love means two persons, there is exchange: giving something, taking something; feeding something and to eat something; and speaking everything, no secrecy, and to know everything of the other person. When these things are transacted, then there is love.

Dadāti pratigṛhṇāti bhuṅkte bhojayate caiva guhyam ākhyāti pṛcchati
(Upadeśāmṛta 4)

If I love you and if I have got some secrecy, I don't disclose to you, that is not perfect love. I must deal with you open-hearted, you must deal with me open-hearted, then there is love. This is one of the basic principles. I shall invite you to eat with me, and I shall accept your invitation to eat with you. I shall give you some presentation, you shall give me some presentation. In this way love develops. So if you want to love Kṛṣṇa, or God, then these things must be there. Otherwise, where there is question of love? To appreciate God is great, that is not love; that is simply appreciation. But when we actually give everything to God and take everything from Him—you talk with Him of your mind, He talks with you; you give Him to eat, and whatever He gives you'll eat—in this way there is question of love. Simply appreciation of the greatness of God, that is good, in God consciousness, but that is not love. The love stage is different.

Ali: How can one understand God's love?

Prabhupāda: This is the process, I've described. We have got Deity of the Lord, we offer foodstuff prepared very nicely, and whatever leftover is there, we eat. We dress very nicely with flowers, with ornaments; we give Him a nice place to sit down, to sleep. He also looks after our comfort. In this way, exchange of love.

Ali: Just like when there is a mutual understanding, then...

Prabhupāda: No, there must be practical display.

Ali: Practical display.

Prabhupāda: Yes, simply understanding will not do. That is not love; that is appreciation.

Ali: How can I be practical about something without understanding that thing? Because I...

Prabhupāda: Understanding, guhyam ākhyāti pṛcchati (Upadeśāmṛta 4). You try to understand God, and He explains what He is. You try to understand.

Ali: But I have been trained through intellect, trying to discern things the way that intellect functions. And I don't have spiritual training.

Prabhupāda: That training is given here, spiritual training.

Ali: And therefore, how am I to understand?

Prabhupāda: So to understand, you have to take the training, spiritual training. You have to understand the words which God wants to let you know about Him. These are spiritual training. Spiritual training means first of all you must have little faith that "I shall be intimately related with God." Unless you have got this faith, there is no question of spiritual training. If you simply remain satisfied, "God is great. Let Him remain at His home, let me remain at my home," that is not love. You must be eager to know God more and more intimately. Then the next stage is how to know about God unless you associate with persons who are simply busy in God's business. They have no other business. Just like we are training people, they are simply meant for God's business. They have no other business. How people will understand about God, how they will be benefited, they are simply planning in so many ways. So we have to associate with such persons who are convinced about God and trying to spread His knowledge throughout the whole world. You have to mix with, associate with them. First of all, you must have faith that "In this life I shall understand thoroughly about God." Then associate with persons who are busy with God's business. Then you act as they are acting. Then your misconception of material life will be finished. Then you'll have attachment. Then you'll have taste. In this way, you'll develop love of God.

Ali: I already have the faith.

Prabhupāda: That you have to increase. Simply the preliminary faith, that is very good, but unless that faith is increased more and more, then there is no progress.

Devotee: There is danger of losing that faith.

Prabhupāda: Yes. If you do not try to make progress and go forward progressively, then there is danger, whatever little faith you have got, that will diminish.

Devotee (2): Your understanding of God tends to remain somewhat theoretical until one actually does something practical. Then it actually manifests as something solid, as a reality.

Prabhupāda: Theoretical and practical. Scientific knowledge means both: theoretical and practical. (knock on door; someone enters) Yes? If you like, you can sit down there. I have no objection if you sit down.

Devotee (3): It is up to you, Prabhupāda.

Prabhupāda: No, I am... Everyone, you can... Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is practical. They are fully engaged how to make progressive advance in love of Godhead. They have no other business.

Devotee (2): Nowadays, generally, if someone is very religious and he wants to do some practical action, he usually acts on the social platform.

Prabhupāda: No, there, everywhere practical action. Just like all the Muhammadans, they go to the mosque, five times they offer prayer. That is good, very good.

Ali: Even to be attentive, to pay a lot of attention.

Prabhupāda: Yes, but that is also good. But if one is twenty-four-hours attentive, that is better.

Ali: But we tend to forget things that we don't see.

Prabhupāda: Hmm?

Devotee (2): They don't see God, so the tendency is to forget.

Prabhupāda: Why you don't see God? When you see the picture of God, you don't see God? When you see the picture of your father, don't you see your father?

Ali: Yes. If I see a picture.

Prabhupāda: You see or not? Suppose you have got picture of your father. When you see the picture, do you see your father or not?

Ali: Well, I see him physically.

Prabhupāda: Physical, everything is physical, subtle and gross. Suppose I am seeing you face to face. So I remember your face. When you are not here, I am thinking of you, I am not seeing you? This is also physical. I am seeing with the mind, I am seeing with the eyes. So what is the difference between eyes and mind? They are all physical. Why do you take only the eyes as physical, not the mind? There are physical elements—earth, water, air, fire, mind, intelligence, ego. They are all physical. So either see with your eyes or either see with your mind, it is physical.

Ali: Is the seeing important?

Prabhupāda: No, important. No, because if you have no eyes to see spiritual, you have to see physically, and they are all physical. Either you see with your eyes or touch with your hand or smell with your nose or lick up with your tongue, everything is physical.

Ali: I can feel the presence of a thing, dominating things.

Prabhupāda: Presence is there. Because just like a nice mango, so you cannot appreciate this mango simply by seeing. Natural tendency when you get a good mango, you smell. So why not see, sufficient? Why you smell? So these are all misconceptions. Different things have to be realized in different processes. Suppose you are a good singer, I see you. So I cannot appreciate simply by seeing you. I shall ask you, "All right, please sing one song." When I hear you, then I shall appreciate. Is it not? So the physical experience by different senses, gross and subtle senses.

Ali: Our senses are imperfect.

Prabhupāda: Senses are imperfect always. Therefore we have to develop the perfect senses. That is spiritual. Just like you are working with your hands, this is physical. But this hand is not working. The spirit soul within the body, he is working. As soon as he is out, what is the value of your hand? When the spirit soul is out of your body, then I am asking you, "Mr. Ali, Mr. Ali, get up." Who is hearing? Your ear is there, but you cannot hear—finished. Therefore the spiritual senses, that is real sense. Do you follow what I say? You have got ear, but when the spirit soul is out of your body, in spite of possessing this physical ear, you cannot hear.

Ali: I believe in this when... because when I dream...

Prabhupāda: No, believe or not believe, these are facts, that physical senses are not absolute.

Ali: That's exactly what I mean. It's so obvious.

Prabhupāda: Physical senses not absolute; it is the spiritual senses that acts through the physical instrument and utilize it.

Ali: I feel man has already accepted his physical deficiency. I was just watching Olympic, and it seemed so pathetic, they were just trying to jump higher and higher, and they couldn't do it.

Prabhupāda: No, the physical senses are to be spiritualized. You cannot appreciate God by physical senses. But when your physical senses are purified and it is spiritualized, then you can.

Ali: That's exactly what I meant when I said that whatever I perceive...

Prabhupāda: Yes. That is process, how to... Just like iron rod, it is iron rod, but if you put into the process, that means if you put into the fire, a time will come the iron rod will be red hot and it is fire. Similarly, if you engage your physical senses only... (aside:) Here is candle.

Devotee (3): Any matches here?

Prabhupāda: Yes. When you engage your physical senses in the service of the Lord, then the physical quality of the senses will be diminished or gone; your spiritual sense activities will begin. This is practical.

Ali: Are we closer to this practicality when we sleep?

Prabhupāda: Yes, when you are practiced. Sleep means what you do when you are awakened, the same thing you'll dream, that's all. Physical, I've told you there are two phases of senses: gross and subtle. When the gross senses are not working, the subtle senses work. Just like you dream, your mind is working. Although your hands and legs are taking rest, but mind is working. That is dreaming. So there are two phases of physical senses: gross and subtle. When the gross senses are stopped, the subtle senses continue to work. And when you are above even subtle senses, that is spiritual. Sometimes we misunderstand subtle senses are spiritual. No. Spiritual senses are different from the subtle senses.

Ali: These are the different stages.

Prabhupāda: Yes, of coming to the platform of spiritual senses. And when you come to the spiritual senses, then you can understand God, you can understand your relationship with God, you can talk with God, you can serve God, and so on, so on. The same example: Just like iron rod as it is, it is not able to burn anything, but when the iron rod is sufficiently hot, red-hot, touch anywhere, it will burn. Similarly, from this physical platform, if you begin these spiritual activities, then stage will come when you'll act only spiritually; there will be no more material activities. That is the stage of bhakti, that is real platform of bhakti, when one is acting only spiritually, there is no material activity. There is a process. So if we adopt that process, it is possible to come to the platform of spiritual sense activity. That is possible. Sarvopādhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam (CC Madhya 19.170). That is purification process. And when one is completely purified, then he acts with his spiritual senses.

Ali: Is it necessary to get to know the true self before knowing God?

Prabhupāda: Yes. God means spirit, supreme spirit. If you cannot understand what is spirit, then how you'll understand God? You must know what is spirit, what is matter, and when we have little understanding of the spirit, then we can make progress spiritually.

Ali: How does one get to know the true spirit?

Prabhupāda: By knowledge. By knowledge. Just like you are talking. How you are talking? Because the spirit soul is there within you. As soon as it is gone, you cannot talk. Your this body and everything will remain, but you cannot talk, you cannot understand; everything is finished. So this is matter. Body is matter, and the force which is helping you to talk, that is spirit. Now you have to understand it thoroughly.

Ali: Yes, I'm aware of that.

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Ali: But I'm also aware that I'm very ignorant.

Prabhupāda: No, if you are aware of that thoroughly, then there is no question of ignorance.

Ali: But I feel that the presence of the spirit is there.

Prabhupāda: Yes, that everyone knows the distinction.

Ali: But, uh, the relativity...

Prabhupāda: Yes, so that requires the training and guidance of spiritual master. Therefore called spiritual master. You have to... Just like if you want to be an engineer, you must be trained under some engineer. Similarly, if you want to be trained up spiritually, then you must accept a spiritual master. Tad vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet (MU 1.2.12): must, otherwise not possible. Training. So spiritual master trains with these books and explanation, practical demonstration. In this way the student makes progress spiritually.

(Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation, Tehran, August 9, 1976)
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