There are many different types of love, but the only kind that really matters is unconditional love.
When Ram Dass first met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, he saw in Ram Dass all of the good and all of the bad; the shameful secrets; the deepest, darkest hidden things that Ram Dass would never have revealed to anyone. Neem Karoli Baba saw all this and he loved Ram Dass anyway. More than this: he loved Ram Dass absolutely and completely, needing absolutely nothing in return. This is how Larry Brilliant describes the wonder of Neem Karoli Baba's love: “what ... staggered me (was) not that he loved everybody, but that when I was sitting in front of him, I loved everybody.”
It’s what a mother and father’s love should be for a child, but too often isn’t.
It’s the kind of love that says: here, in this moment, exactly as you are, you are good enough, you are loved for being exactly this. Regardless of your dark bits, your spiky bits, your goofs and missteps, the things you do wrong, the things you do right, the days that you are dark and the days that you are light. Those things change on a daily basis, but unconditional love does not.
This is the love, I think, that Jesus spoke of.
It is the love that is written of here by St John of the Cross:
How peacefully, how lovingly
You awaken my heart,
The secret place where you alone dwell within me!
Your breath on my face is delicious,
Calming and galvanising at once.
How delicately, how lucidly
You make me crazy with love for you!
Or in this passage from Rumi:
In the religion of love
There are no
Believers or unbelievers.
Love embraces all.
This love is satchitananda (sat=truth/existence chit=consciousness/ananda=bliss). As Georg Feuerstein writes, “this bliss is not a state of mind, but the condition that remains when all psycho-mental phenomena have been transcended”. Yogis speak of this unconditional love lying behind everything; always there. We do not need to ‘find’ it, only to remove the things that stand between us and it; that is the work that we are doing.
We might find this love in another human being... our spiritual teacher, perhaps, or in someone we know who embodies all that we value in humanity and who gives us something strong, yet intangible and asks for nothing in return; we might find it in prayer or during meditation; we might read of it in books from teachers and poets alive or dead; we might see it in the example of people who do good in the world and who ask for no recompense. So many paths to the same source.
The work of yoga is to find it, connect with it, and let it run through us so that we may express it in our lives.
Ram Dass writes, “once you have experienced unconditional love, you have nowhere to go. You can run, but you can’t hide. The seed is planted, and it will grow in its own time. You can only grow into who you truly are.”