The other day, someone I met for the first time asked me an interesting question. Referring to one of my posts on love, she said, “You wrote in your article that unconditional love is very rare. Isn’t a mother’s love for a child unconditional?” Before I tell you what answer I gave her, I would like to share with you a little story.

Once upon a time, there was a couple. They deeply loved each other but the wife could not conceive. She felt guilty for not being able to give a child to her husband. The medical examination, however, showed an alarmingly low sperm count in the husband. The equation suddenly changed. It was his inability to supply a healthy seed that she could not spawn . Eventually, they got lucky one day and she conceived. While she was pregnant, the state came under siege from the enemy forces. In that war, they lost their home and had to go to a rehabilitation camp. She delivered a baby boy while in the camp. Prematurely. Over time, things began to normalize and they got a new home. They doted on their son. Their life revolved around him. Twelve years passed.

Someone knocked on their door one day. It was a lady with a young boy and a couple. As fate would have it, they found out that at the time of the child’s birth, due to the chaos at the rehabilitation camp, the child actually got exchanged in the incubator. Before the staff member could rectify the mistake, she suffered a deep wound in a bomb blast and went into coma for twelve years. She said she had come to give them back their real son. She further informed that the couple accompanying her were the real parents of the boy they thought was their son all along.

The lady and her husband were shocked. So was the boy. The boy didn’t want to go to his new parents. He just wanted to stay where he was. The woman didn’t want to let go off him either, but the moment she took one look at her real son, she faced the greatest dilemma of her life. She felt pulled, attracted and naturally inclined towards him. The dilemma was not about choosing one over the other, it was an emotional turmoil, great confusion about how come she felt a surge of emotions for a boy she saw for the first time in her life. How come she was feeling greater love for her real son, she thought. She did not want to let go off the child she had brought up either. The attachment was too great, too many memories. But she certainly couldn’t give up her real son, she felt. The other woman felt the same about her son.

Just reflect on the story. Take your time. Let it sink in. There is no doubt that a mother’s love for a child is one of the highest types. For a mother, it is full of personal sacrifices. It is one of the purest types because a mother’s primary wish is to see her child well. She’s generally willing to give up anything for the welfare of her children. In the context of her own life and that of her child, a mother’s love is selfless. That said, in the broader context it is a little more complicated. And is it unconditional?

It is love, yes, it is perhaps closest to pure love. It may even be the definition of quintessential love. But it is not unconditional; a human relationship is seldom unconditional. The first condition is the child itself. The child has to be hers. She wouldn’t feel the same intensity with just any other child. It is not about mother and any child but about a mother and her child. Imagine a criminal who brutally raped and killed his victim and is waiting for a sentence. Let’s assume he’ll be sentenced next week where he may be let off with a life sentence or he may be sent to the gallows. The mother of even such a criminal prays to her god for his protection and pardon. She doesn’t want her son to die. She knows he ruined a life besides causing irreparable damage to the victim’s loved ones. Yet, she still wouldn’t want her son to be punished.

Why is a mother often willing and able to forgive even the gravest acts of her children? The attachment she has with her children, the love she feels for them far exceeds in ardor and fullness compared to any other relationship. Why? Let me offer you my perspective. As follows:

The truth is a mother and her child are not separate entities. A child is a part of the mother in every aspect. He literally comes out of her body, they are created from her very own egg, in the womb he partakes of the same food. A child is a mother’s life walking outside, an extension. In fact, a mother achieves immortality through her child. She lives on beyond her own years through that child. She rejoices in seeing her child outdo her because she is not competing against him. You cannot compete against yourself.

So, if you cannot compete against yourself, why is it not uncommon to see mother-daughter envy though. It’s simple. A daughter is a part of her mother, a living derivative. What you see in such a scenario is mere internal conflict projected on the relationship outside. It is not competition leading to conflict, it is the other way around. The harder a mother’s own life, the greater the chance of such conflict. Often conflict is merely a reflection of the degree of attachment one may have to a certain viewpoint, object, or person, themselves including. Both a mother and her daughter are potent carriers of civilization, of love, of care, compassion and genetic signature.

It is for this reason that the love a mother has for her child is beyond classification. I may say that it is not unconditional but in all honesty, I would prefer to stay away from categorizing it as selfless or selfish, conditional or unconditional and so on. It simply is beyond words. No one is smart enough, no words so profound, no intellect so great to even begin understanding the divinity of a mother’s love, much less encapsulate it.

If you have not hugged your mother and expressed your love and gratitude to her, if you have never sat by her feet thanking her for all she has done for you, you have not yet discovered the divine side of love that is latent in you. We shouldn’t be celebrating just mother’s days but mother’s years and mother’s lifetimes. Such is my view, you are free to have your own.
It so happens that it’s Mother’s day tomorrow. Make it a special one.

Peace.
Swami
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