In the beginning of the ninth centum of Tiruvāymozhi, Svāmī Nammāzhvār declares that there is no real love in spouse, children, relatives, friends or others. They behave in favorable manner when there is something to take and not otherwise.
Some of us may feel outraged by this suggestion. We may believe we enjoy the true love of someone or we may believe that we truly love someone. How can it be said that this love is motivated and unreal?
Before we lose our composure, let us take a step back (as usual) and look at what this love is. The first question to ask is: Is love conditional or unconditional?
The first answer is that love is conditional. After all, we do love only some people and not others. There is something in them that we like or learn to tolerate. We do not like others the same way. If this is the case, the matter is over. Love is established to be motivated by conditions.
Some fortunate people, who have experienced love in their lives, may claim that love is unconditional. However, this is generally found to be an illusion. What is called unconditional is generally a superior set of conditions. Instead of loving for superficial reasons, if love is developed for slightly higher reasons and if it is developed with a slightly higher sense of tolerance, we think it is unconditional love.
But surely, the love of a mother for her child must be unconditional? Probably. But, even this has its limits and love can quickly turn into emotional excess or over-protective control. Many times, attachment gets confused for love. The mother may just be trying to control and modify the behavior of the child with the idea, "I know what is good for you". Love is something that is beyond attachment. To think, "You are my child. I birthed you. Therefore, I love you." is also a way of attachment. Some parents are distraught when they learn that their children do not reciprocate their love. In reality, their wards did not reciprocate their attachment and left to other attachments. Mothers, who love their children excessively, do not love other children the same way. It appears as if their kids are special. They would wish that their kids should win and other kids should fail. Why? Due to the simply reason that "this is my child".
The mother's dedication and sacrifice is worthy of the highest respect, but if we analyse it deeply, we find that it is a product of attachment. The condition of attachment motivates this love. It is a matter of pride to the mother if her child does well. She has skin in the game.
Can there be love that is truly unconditional? Can there be love that is not motivated by even the highest of conditions?
The answer is as simple as it is uncommon. To experience or provide love unconditionally, we have to get out of the conditions and see ourselves for who we are. As long as we approach the world with conditioned minds, it is not possible to love unconditionally.
This unconditional love is called Bhakti. Bhakti is not the love that grasps (develops attachment to) an individual. It is the outcome of an enlightened state where one sees oneself truly and loses the false ego. The love which is unconstrained by conditions of mind, body, etc. spreads out fully. It expresses itself totally and with respect to the All, the Brahman. When the pettiness of conditions falls apart, the larger picture becomes revealed. The need to grasp this or that fades. The glorious harmony of all entities in the Brahman becomes evident. One does not see the many, but only one, the One - in whom everything is strung like pearls on a twine. Also, truly unconditional love is the Brahman's love. It is His love that gets expressed through multiple channels. Some contaminate that love through attachment. But, it is truly His love. He is mother, father, friend, relative, spouse and child of all of us. An enlightened person is one who is pleased merely by the sight of another soul, by the simple nature around oneself and does not have to grasp something to attain pleasure. That is because there is nothing to grasp but Nārāyaṇa. All these sentient and non-sentient entities are His modes and He is the governor of their reality. They are His bodies, His expressions. 'sarvaṃ brahmātmakam.' Love to Nārāyaṇa is not an outcome of "if"s and "because"s. It is all there is in reality. It is all the love experienced and it is all the love expressed. It is the love woven into the fabric of reality.