Of Friendship, Love, "Sex and the City"

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, May 29, 2008

Dharma-Inspired Movie Review: www.sexandthecitymovie.com

Singapore -- The movie version of this hit TV series furthers the misadventures of the quartet of best friends, offering more intricate insights into the nature of modern urban relationships.

The city of course is New York - where, as Carrie (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) put it, hopeful girls search for labels and love. Nope - not just old fashioned love, but glamourous love in high fashion. Hmmm... would that not be highly conditional love?

While watching the show, a bunch of "koan-like" questions about the complex inter-relationships between friendship, love, sex and lust came to mind... What is love? Does it need to include sex? If yes, what happens when one's lover can't do it any more, or refuses? Will love be lost? If sex is not crucial in love, is friendship not already love? If so, why do we not love our friends the way we love our lovers? Is sex an expression of love, lust or both? Can sex ever be purely about love, not tainted by lust?

If friendship is the basis of love, without friendship, there is no love? Is love just friendship with a dash of occasional sex? Shouldn't we marry our best friends? What if we cannot marry our best friends? Is love then lost? Must love be about having and holding? Holding what? Can love be grasped as something or someone unchanging? If friendship outlasts love, why do we need love? Which is worse - betrayal of trust before or after marriage? Tricky questions indeed - as we define love and friendship differently, while these definitions change over time too!

In Buddhism, the basis of friendliness is Metta (loving-kindness) - the wish for another to be well and happy. Metta extends to be Karuna (compassion) - the action to remove suffering for another. Karuna becomes Mudita (rejoice) too - the ability to be glad that another is happy. Finally, there is Uppekka (equanimity) - the seeing and treating of all beings as equals. "True Love" would include all four sublime states of mind - which become immeasurable when they encompass all unconditionally.

Nurturing True Love seems to be a tall order. But the Buddha himself is proof that it can be done, being the living personification of it, while telling us we can personify them too. All in good time - as long as we continually work at expanding our notions of love! In Buddhism, the first and immediate "friend" or "love" we should have is the Dharma itself, as the Buddha famously remarked that spiritual friendship is all of the spiritual life. For True Happiness, we need to befriend the path that leads us there - the Dharma, and those who can guide us along - our Dharma friends. Below, my friends, is more Dharma to share, as inspired by SATC!

1. Good friends are like Dharma mirrors - who clearly show you your flaws; not hide them.
2. Love that swiftly turns to hate when angry is neither understanding nor forgiving enough.
3. A simple but meaningful ritual to express commitment is better than none at all.
4. We make, break and/or mend our own vows of commitment - in marriage or spirituality.
5. If marriage takes some risk, take only mindfully calculated risks!
6. Marriage should be discussed rationally, not decided emotionally in sudden proposals.
7. A wedding should be a private occasion to commit - not an elaborate show for others.
8. If you don't make love when having sex, you only make lust.
9. Betrayal changes a relationship, but it can change it for the better too.
10. Rushing for love is never lovely.
11. One who has "everything" but fears losing it does not have the peace of Nirvana yet!
12. The only true "happily ever after" that needs no maintenance is Buddhahood!

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