Lust brings out our lower side; love, our higher side
One of the defining delusions of our society is the equalization of lust with love. People who feel physically attracted to each other assume that are in love. But often their attraction is nothing more than lust – this becomes apparent in due course of time when due to familiarity the hormones are no longer secreted and where one was irresistibly fascinated earlier, one starts feeling bored at best or even irritated if other incompatibilities are discovered.
While there are various ways in which love and lust can be differentiated, one prominent way is in terms of their effects on us. We all have a lower side – something within us that impels us to be selfish, shortsighted, and exploitative. And we also have a higher side – a part of us that wants to be selfless, far-sighted, and sensitive. Lust springs from our lower side and brings that side out further. It makes us want to control and dominate others for the sake of our enjoyment. Thus, lust objectifies others, reducing them to their bodies, and reducing their bodies to contours and crevices meant for our pleasure.
In contrast, love springs from our higher side and brings that side out further. When we love someone, we want to become the best that we can be for the pleasure of that person. Thus, love inspires us to combat and control our lower side.
Of course, lust too wants us to put on a better face for impressing the other person, but because the feeling itself is superficial, coming from our body-mind setup, it doesn’t inspire any positive change below the surface. Rather, it impels us to put on a good façade so that eventually our lower side can get a free hand to dominate and manipulate others for our pleasure. Gita wisdom explains that our higher side corresponds with our spiritual essence, our soul. The soul being a part of God is filled with godly virtues. However, it is presently covered by the body and the mind which are filled with negative impressions from past indulgences. These impressions are the source of our lower side. Prominent among these impressions is lust. While lust promises immense pleasure, it rarely lives up to its promise – despite the fantasy it may fan in our mind, it can do nothing to alter the body’s limited capacity for indulgence. Being thwarted thus, lust goads us into believing that the elusive pleasure will be ours if we just seek newer, baser forms of indulgence. Thus, lust pushes us down the slippery slope of degradation. No wonder the Bhagavad-gita (03.39) warns that lust is an enemy that deludes and degrades us.
Findings in brain research also point to the difference between lust and love. When people feel lust, MRI scans show that those areas of their brain light up that are usually lit when they feel emotions of possessing and controlling, as when they desire to get a new cellphone or a new car. In a contrast, when people feel love, those areas of the brain light up which are usually lit when they feel emotions of caring and sharing.
Gita wisdom explains that love in its purest form emerges from our soul, whose nature it is to love the supreme soul, Krishna, and to love everyone in relationship with him. The more we strive to manifest this love by practicing bhakti-yoga, the more the lust that covers and obscures it becomes purged. As we learn to love Krishna, we start relishing a profound non-material enrichment in his remembrance – an enrichment that frees us from the lust-driven need to dominate others for our gratification. Thus, by striving to develop a loving relationship with Krishna, the foundation of even our worldly relationships shifts from lust to love, thereby making those relationships more stable, more positively transformational and more fulfilling.
(Note: This article was initially inadvertently published with the jarringly wrong title: “Love brings out our lower side; lust, our higher side.” As soon as it was brought to my notice, I corrected it. Still, some of you may have got the wrong title in your daily feed – and for that miscommunication, I apologize.)