Human Love & Relationships

Of Love, Egoism and Attachment

A blog by Beloo Mehra

“Attachment is egoism in love.”

This is how Sri Aurobindo once defined attachment (The Synthesis of Yoga, CWSA, Vol. 23, p. 329). Perfect definition, if we deeply, seriously and sincerely think about it.

Attachment, egoism and love — these three have an intimate connection. Let us start with the most immediate, the first circle of our love – love for the family. We are attached to our families and we think it is love. It may be something like love, but it is not really Love. At best, it is a rehearsal ground for us to practice love.

Sometime back I probably couldn’t have said it this confidently, maybe because back then I had only read some wonderful words about love and ego and attachment and had not really experienced some of the truth of those words, had not really felt the intensity of the force of those words. But life has its own ways of making us sit up and learn some important lessons, for real, by making us live the truth of things. Today after going through some life-experiences over the past several years, I have realized how difficult it is to truly love.

[Speaking of love, let me digress for a bit. These days the word ‘love’ is thrown so casually that one might even get a (false) idea that everyone is so full of love for everyone and everything – their friends, families, books, artworks, nature, expensive holidays, hobbies, coffee, designer dresses, fancy hairdos, cool sunglasses, songs and musicians, comedy shows, political satirists, movies and movie stars, — did I miss anything or anyone? I admit I am also guilty of using the word ‘love’ carelessly many times. But at least I never said I love my new sari or the new brand of biscotti I tried today with my morning tea. And I am also quite confident that I never said I love this or that film star — not even the ever-charming Dev Anand (of course, he’s the best)! So I believe I have some sort of right to say that all this overuse or misuse of the word ‘love’ has added to our deep, deep ignorance about love.]

Coming back to the point….

Our minds refuse to accept the truth of the statement “attachment is egoism in love” and our hearts refuse to admit that what we ordinarily speak of as love may be nothing but an attachment because we have long forgotten what Yanjnavalkya said to Maitreyi thousands of years ago, about loving another person for the sake of the Self. Of course, we have forgotten the Self too, otherwise we wouldn’t be in this confused state regarding love, attachment and everything else. We have forgotten, and now only remain in love with ourselves, our ego-selves. And all the love that we say we feel for others is nothing but the love for our egos!

““Not for the sake of the wife,” says Yajnavalkya in the Upanishad, “but for the sake of the Self is the wife dear to us.” This in the lower sense of the individual self is the hard fact behind the coloured and passionate professions of egoistic love; but in a higher sense it is the inner significance of that love too which is not egoistic but divine.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 23, p. 107)

Human love, says the Mother, “is not a need of the soul, but rather a concession it makes for a time to the ego.” (CWM, Vol. 14, p. 120). It may sound startling, even disturbing, to our ordinary intelligence, given that our ideas about love are almost entirely shaped by what our popular culture and popular romantic literature and films tell us about it. We throw the word ‘soulmate’ so casually, without even realizing that we don’t know what is this thing called soul! It is perhaps the false soul of desire in us which creates this illusion.

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