In a recent post, I talked about how the base line of the baby boomers’ flower power philosophy was unconditional love being the most important thing in life. On one level this can sound simplistic and naive, but only if our idea of love is simplistic and naive The love at the root of this kind of philosophy is far from simplistic; it is, on its deepest level not only profound, but the basis of all spiritual attainment. How is this so?
The word love in the English language is woefully inadequate for the range of meanings it tries to portray. We have so many different kinds of love – romantic love, the love of parents for their children, the love between siblings, spouses or friends, the love of animals, even of food – but all true love has one thing in common, when we love someone, ( forget the food for a moment) we want them to be happy. The kind of love we are concerned with here is the greatest of all loves, that of unconditional love, where we not only want all beings to be happy, but we are also prepared to do what we can to bring about a state where they all achieve the deepest form of happiness.
Usually we differentiate between friends and enemies, and keep our love for those we deem worthy of the label, friend. Enemies get our scorn and hatred. This is a limited, conditional, ordinary love, but once we break down these barriers and learn to love without limitation, our love has the power to transform, not only ourselves but also others.
Love on this level transcends the ordinary. In order to be able to love unconditionally, we must give up our judgement, and love everyone, no matter who they are or what they have done. Forgiveness is inherent in this kind of love. This is the love of saints, masters, enlightened beings, and of God. It is the love from which compassion springs. At it’s deepest level, holding unconditional love as something to adopt is the path to enlightenment or union with God.
How does this work? Wanting those we consider friends to be happy is not difficult, but wanting our enemies to be happy, or those we dislike or disagree with, is not so easy, some would say impossible, but if we truly search for a way to achieve our goal of unconditional love for all, then we will practice breaking down those barriers until they no longer exist. Once we cease to see others in terms of friends and enemies, we open the way to loving all equally. Once we see others as the same as ourselves or, even better, as part of ourselves, loving them becomes not only possible but also natural.
Of course, breaking down these kind of barriers so that we may love our neighbours as ourselves, is not easy, and that is where the support of religious practice comes in. Both the Christian and Buddhist religions have ways of meditating to help us develop this kind of profound love, and in both cases, they lead to a state of union or, as some would say, the primordial state where there has never been any separation. This is the state free of delusion, where we see things as they truly are, all is sacred. In Christian terms, our eyes are open to the kingdom of God.
So, is unconditional love a simplistic ideal, or a path to the highest spiritual attainment?
If you are interested in developing your capacity for unconditional love, I recommend Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (Shambhala Classics) by Sharon Salzburg.
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