What, in the first place, is unconditional love? Each of us is likely to have our own special definition of this phenomenon, while Google would likely manifest a gazillion definitions in about three seconds flat.
For me, as I write this post, it is that perfect love that flows freely minus the expectations of the ego (mini-me), love without strings, love that seeks nothing but the welfare of the recipient, love that surges effortlessly from the infinite abundance of our true nature—not the raucous, limited, limiting, clamoring, two-legged “love” that dies, shrinks or withdraws when its conditions are unmet—or even worse, the so-called “love” that turns into vicious hate when not reciprocated—as when a spurned lover throws acid on a pretty girl’s face, or a jealous husband stabs his cheating wife to death. As Will Shakespeare said so eloquently so many centuries ago, love is not love that alters when it alteration finds.
What about the love of a mother for a beloved only child? A grieving mother ready to trade her life for that of her daughters—as Chloe had claimed she’d been prepared to do, so long ago in Manhattan? A mother who makes endless sacrifices so her child may flourish? Through my particular lens, while this is most certainly a refined form of human love, it does not even begin to approach my ideal of unconditional love—for the love of a biological parent is, after all, a heightened form of egoic love. Think about it dispassionately for a moment—would Chloe have been willing to surrender her own life for Amelia had Amelia been born to other parents? Unlikely, huh?
So what then could be a true source of unconditional love? To me, after decades of questing, it is the perfect guru—or spiritual teacher—who, because he or she has broken through the veil of samsara (relative reality) and has become the blazing love that is the source of the cosmos—can now guide others to find this same love—not in the ephemeral things of the world, but within the cave of the spiritual heart.
I know this to be true because after my experience with the gentle Swami in Manhattan, I began to experience flashes of this higher love decades later in Tiruvannamalai, in the shadow of the sacred hill Arunachala—but only after I’d committed myself to the daily practice of Atma Vichara recommended by Ramana Maharshi, which is the investigation of the true Self, defined as Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss).
Cosmic love comes to me as waves from this mountain, revered by millions of Hindus as the living body of Shiva, the Great God and Destroyer of the Indian Trinity. It comes to me despite the aching doubt I suffered for a good period of my early life here; truth be told, when I first heard folks raving about the power of this hill, I’d snigger at the notion that any sane human could believe this mound of earth could possibly personify liberation. Now I know better, but it’s a form of gnosis that does not easily lend itself to sharing with others—unless they too are diving into their spiritual heart.
Why is Shiva called the Destroyer, and what does He destroy? Shiva, being pure infinite consciousness, transcends all relative limitations—rather, He consumes all duality in his divine fire. What is the focus of Shiva’s destruction? The Ego, or one’s relative identity—because this is the one deadly block to knowing who we really are—beyond body, mind, emotion, gender, IQ, history, lineage, education, status, bank balance and track record.
We are the SELF, proclaims eastern philosophy, we are Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness and Bliss). For those few of us who grok that nothing in mundane life can permanently satisfy us—for samsara is an ever-changing movie produced by Karma in collusion with Maya out of the seeds of our own past karmas—and who then turn our focus from the outside to the inside, it is in sacred dimensions (kshetras) like Tiruvannamalai that one can begin to peel away the layers of false self to uncover our true nature—which is Unconditional Love itself.