Socrates on Love & Marriage?

Read the two below stories online… Following them are my comments…

What is Love? 

One day, Plato asked his teacher, “What is love? How can I find it?” His teacher answered, “There is a vast wheat field in front. Walk forward without turning back, and pick only one stalk. If you find the most magnificent stalk, then you have found love.” Plato walked forward, and before long, he returned with empty hands, having picked nothing.His teacher asked, “Why did you not pick any stalk?” Plato answered, “Because I could only pick once, and yet I could not turn back. I did find the most magnificent stalk, but did not know if there were any better ones ahead, so I did not pick it. As I walked further, the stalks that I saw were not as good as the earlier one, so I did not pick any in the end. His teacher then said, “And that is love.”

What is Marriage?

On another day, Plato asked his teacher, “What is marriage? How can I find it?” His teacher answered, “There is a thriving forest in front. Walk forward without turning back, and chop down only one tree. If you find the tallest tree, then you have found marriage.” Plato walked forward, and before long, he returned with a tree. The tree was not thriving, and it was not tall either. It was only an ordinary tree. His teacher asked, “Why did you chop down such an ordinary tree?” Plato answered, “Because of my previous experience. I walked halfway through the forest. This time, I saw this tree, and I felt that it was not bad, so I chopped it down and brought it back. I did not want to miss the opportunity.” His teacher then said, “And that is marriage.”


If the stories are true, what did Plato’s teacher (Socrates) mean? That true love is unattainable, that marriage is simply settling with who might not be the best? (Incidentally, Socrates did not have a happy marriage.) The truth is, most, who had the power of choice, who are married, did indeed try to settle with someone who is the best available. For some, their life partners are really the best, even upon hindsight years down the road. Good karma! For some others, it might be a gamble to some extent – which is why some are unhappily married and even get divorced. But is true love unattainable? Love is true only when it is unconditional and for all. There is no need to pick a stalk when the whole field can be loved. Sounds unattainable? This is where spiritual practice comes in – to expand our love to be ever more universal, all pervading and equanimous – like the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’!