Love or attachment

What is love? What is attachment? How do you differentiate?

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hmm…my lamrim class is currently going through the topic of twelve aspects of dependent-arising (十二缘起).

Based on this article, the 8th aspect is termed as craving or attachment.
The chinese term for the 8th aspect is named as 爱 or love.

So going by the above, can I say that love and attachment are the same?

Hi Adrian, thanks for the reply. My general understanding is also attachment and love is similar. When i was thrown a question “what’s wrong to be attached to your loved ones?” I felt there was a difference between attachment and love but did not have an answer at that time. It stay at the back of my mind till i read this book again recently & got an answer from the explanation.
I hope this explanation would help on the differentiation of attachment and love so sharing what i have learn.

Quote from the book:
The book definition of attachment: To want something and not want to be separated from it; very broadly, this is attachment, also known as desire. Attendant to it is the assumption that having whatever it is we want will bring satisfaction: this is why attachment causes problems.

We may be able to see how attachment to alcohol, drugs, or money leads to problems rather than happiness but we may wonder what is wrong with attachment to people. Wouldn’t life be empty and meaningless without family and friends?
The question arises because we confuse attachment with love. Attachment is concerned with my needs, my happiness, while love is an unselfish attitude, concerned with the needs and happiness of others. Most of the time our love is mixed with attachment because we do not feel adequate or secure on our own and try to find wholeness through another. But when a relationship involves attachment problems inevitably arise. We become dependent on the good feelings and comfort of the relationship and then suffer when it changes. Real, lasting happiness can only be found within ourselves and we will never find it as long as we lean helplessly on others. A relationship free of unrealistic grasping is free of disappointment, conflict, jealously and other problems and is fertile ground for the growth of love and wisdom
Overcoming attachment does not mean becoming cold and indifferent. On the contrary, detachment means learning to have relaxed control over our mind through understanding the real causes of happiness and fulfillment and this enables us to enjoy life more and suffer less." Unquote.

Also, i was confuse with the term 爱 and not 欲 use in the 12 因缘。After going through master’s tape understand why they use 爱 - is to differentiate the 3 types of craving , one for each of the three realm-
Master’s explanation on the 3 types of love in each of the realm.
此中三界有三種愛」,那所謂欲愛、色愛,然後有愛。在欲界的愛,就是像跟欲 相應的,欲貪著的,這個叫欲愛;那麼色界的話呢叫色愛;然後無色界呢,這些東西都沒 有了,但是它還能夠引發後有的,還是有,而不斷流轉。所以這個三愛也就是叫作欲愛、 色愛、有愛。

For the lamrim the term use if “craving” is more appropriate.

Hope above sharing is useful.

Warm Regards


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Thank you Sharon for your sharing. It gave me a new perspective on the difference between love and attachment.

I did some googling and found some definitions.

In 四无量心 (The Four Immeasurables), we have 慈、悲、喜、舍 (love, compassion, joy and equanimity).

I see the definition of love as one of the Four Immeasurables in this article is

Boundless love, in contrast to clinging and attachment, is the wish for everyone everywhere to have happiness and its causes. "
What are the Four Immeasurables in Buddhism? Tricycle

This ties in quite well with what you are saying.

I think I was too quick to see the negative aspect of love and linked the definition of love to that of 爱 (craving) as used in the 12 dependent arising.

I see love can better be equated to 慈 as in 慈悲 (compassion)!慈悲/8955980

Hi Adrian thanks for your insightful sharing too.

The definition helps to have better understanding and also aids in the learning/practice process.

Agree that love can better equate to 慈loving kindness or 慈悲 compassion.


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Venerable Thubten Chodron discusses the difference between love and attachment:

quotes that resonate with me:

love is not so easy because we mix it up with attachment

love: want someone to be happy…simply because the person exists; attachment: wants that for the person because it feeds something in ourselves…there’s some ego benefit that happens and so that builds in partiality that makes us close to some people and distant from others

the whole thing about attachment is that it is not very stable and there is a lot of strings attached


The video sharing was indeed enlightening!.The explanation and examples given definitely helps with the better understanding and reflection between attachment and love.

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