The God of Amorous Desire

How love differs from lust, and other Valentine's Day questions answered from a Hindu perspective.

What is the difference between lust and love?

Lust involves the selfishness of serving one's own senses, while love involves selfless service to God's transcendental senses. Lust is that selfish desire that passes as love for as long as, and to the extent that, God is not present in the human equation. Krishna represents the transcendental senses of the Godhead. He is the incarnation of the act of love devoid of any selfish desire. He is also known as kama (cupid), but he is kamadeva, the God of amorous desire. Thus he conquers all desire, not by extinguishing it, but by redirecting it to himself. The canvass on which his love play is drawn is the Vedanta of Srimad Bhagavatam. The love play of his lila itself is thus the fullest expression of Vedanta, revealing the most secret esoteric implications of the sober utterances of the Upanisads.

Is sex before marriage acceptable according to Hinduism? (The sexual relationship need not be with a confirmed future wife). Is it written in any of our scriptures that sex is not permitted before marriage? I am a good Hindu and always want to follow what Hinduism says. I believe that God created men and women for enjoying. Is sex before marriage a moral crime?

The material world is not about enjoyment. According to Patanjali's Yoga-sutra (2.15), the wise understand that sense pleasure begets suffering either as a direct consequence (parinama), in the form of anticipation (tapa) of its inevitable loss, or in the form of new craving (samskara) for sense pleasure that arises from impressions of it imbedded in the mind. Thus sense pleasure is mixed with suffering in all three phases of time.


Real joy comes from the culture of selfless action, in which one acts for the satisfaction of God and not one's material senses. Everyone acknowledges that sex life must be restricted in some manner. This sense arises in human life. Marriage is an important part of the culture of selfless action, and sexual indulgence should be confined within marital commitment for those interested in religious and spiritual life, in which real joy can be found.

In Bhagavad-gita 7.11, Krsna also identifies himself with love that is in accordance with scriptural law. While love by nature is lawless, Krsna advocates the taming of material love. The effect of this is the awakening of the soul and its prospect for love on the spiritual plane, real love arising out of self-sacrifice. Although love is lawless, in material life its unbridled pursuit amounts to ignoring obvious laws of nature, which in the least render such love unenduring. Scripture points this out and advocates that material love be redirected in order that it be fullfilled. When love is fully spiritualized, it transcends scripture.

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Swami B.V. Tripurari (Bio)
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