Love begins with reason: 'I love you because...."
All of us have this reasoning imbibed within us - love is like any other commodity we dispense and hence should have a quid pro quo. Often these reasons are wordly, or even spirtual such as 'I love her because she loves me' or 'I love him because he can take me close to the divine'. In all these cases, there are two things worth noting - i) love exists for a reason and ii) the love is specific to the person who identifies with the reason. The lowest form of love - Stage Zero.
Love progresses to: 'I love you....."
Unconditional love goes beyond all reasons and loves for the sake of love itself. It is 'love without reason'. This is the foundation for further stages of love. In this stage, we may reason 'I love you inspite of...." - this would again move into the Stage Zero since even 'inspite' is a reasoning. True 'love without reason' just gives - without any thought, without any expectation, without any fear. The next stage of love - Stage One.
Then it moves to: "I love...."
Even in stage one - the love is 'specific' i.e. to the object of love. Although without reason, this love is bounded - a distinction between the 'loved one' and other no-so-worthy ones. In the next stage, man annihilates the differences and bestows the universal love on everybody. Without reason and limitations, love becomes unconditional, universal - Stage Two.
And finally: "Love...'
The annihilation of the self, where the lover merges with the object of love. The stage where he drops the "I", the ego and even the acknowledgment of his own existence. There is nothing indeed except the universal whole and the "I" is only a part of the whole. In this stage, the realisation occurs that only love can exist; nothing else. In this stage, he starts personifying love - everywhere he goes, he merely loves- unconditionally, universally, unknowingly. This is the final stage that man must aspire to reach - Stage Three.
May all of us be guided to these progressive stations in the journey of love. Amen.