To me re love:
Lately I seem to be continually aware of the most fundamental "decision" I have made in life: The recognition that I needed love, or at least acceptance, and that it was conditional on my providing what was needed or wanted by another. The result can be that I am very supportive for others, but it can also be very manipulative.
My question is: How to best approach this? Make it a sort of inquiry? If so, what to inquire? Does it really matter? Is this all just a distraction?
M., Of course you need love. You are human. There are two sides to this equation: the need to be loved and the need to love.
Personally, I need to have someone to love more than I need to be loved.
When they go together, it is magic.
When I love someone, I just want to do for them all day long. Part of it is I just want them to be happy. Part of it is a desire in to have them love being around me.
Manipulative? Yes, but also natural. When you love someone, you just naturally want to serve them.
I do the same for my animals. Some of my cats ignore me, but I love them anyway. The ones that are shy, the ones that don't come to me, I watch them too, and I notice they are always watching me, meditating on me. They love me, need me, but are shy.
Don't make a problem of it. Just give more and more and more. Service, surrender to the other. This is the Bhaktic path of love and surrender. Follow it diligently. Accept your need to love or be loved and expand it, not analyze it.
The path of love is not a lower path, second to self-inquiry or jnana (wisdom); but it is an emotionally intense path often filled with storm and noise. It is not for the faint hearted. It is a path of full involvement in your life and in those around you.
In fact, most people go into a path of emptiness or jnana to get away from the intensity of love and neediness, and even call the path away from love into beingness, nowness, or the Absolute, wisdom. The idea they convey is that after years of emotional pain and frustration, they recognize they will never be happy in matters of love and bonding and give it up.
That is what Buddhism is all about: having no needs or desires, especially of love or neediness. But this is not really wisdom: usually it is just an escape from the intensity of emotions, grief and lost love.
True happiness is found when all levels of you, your Self, are discovered and owned by you, including your divine aspects, and this is best accomplished through loving, serving, and self-awareness.