THICH NHAT HANH is a world renowned writer, poet, scholar and Zen Buddhist monk. 

This is an excerpt from his beautiful book on 'HOW LOVE.'



True love is made of four elements: LOVING KINDNESS, COMPASSION, JOY, and EQUANIMITY.

 In Sanskrit, these are, maitri, karuna, mudita, and upeksha.

If your love contains these elements, it will be healing and transforming, and it will have the element of holiness in it. True love has the power to heal and transform any situation and bring deep meaning to our lives.


The first element of true love is loving kindness. The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person.  You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself.  So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishmnent.  Then you have something to offer the other person.


The second element of true love is compassion.  Compassion is the capacity to understand the suffering in oneself and in the other person.  If you understand your own suffering, you can help him to understand his suffering.  Understanding suffering brings compassion and relief.  You can transform your own suffering and help transform the suffering of the other person with the practice of mindfulness and looking deeply.


The third element of true love is the capacity to offer joy.  When you know how to generate joy, it nourishes you and nourishes the other person.  Your presence is an offering, like fresh air, or spring flowers, or the bright blue sky.


The fourth element of true love is equanimity.  We can also call it inclusiveness or non-discrimination. In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person.  You are her and she is you.  Your suffering is her suffering.  Your understanding of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less. Suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters.  What happens to your loved one happens to you.  What happens to you happens to your loved one.


Along with the traditional four elements of true love – Loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity – there are 2 more elements: RESPECT AND TRUST.

These elements can be found in the four, but it helps to mention their names. When you love someone, you have to have trust and confidence. Love without trust is not yet love. Of course, first you have to have trust, respect and confidence in yourself. Trust that you have a good and compassionate nature. You are part of the universe, you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one, you see that he is also made of stars and carried eternity inside. Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence. True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person.