The nationalist, the musician, the parent the depth of their feelings hints at the power of love of God.

I could foresee during my pregnancy that I was approaching a turning point in my life. I went through those days mentally noting. "I won't be able to do this. I won't be able to do that." I observed mothers struggling with hefty babies, strollers, and diaper bags. "That will be me," I shuddered. But somehow I never expected the cadence of my life to alter dramatically. I supposed that I would remain unchanged, except for the additional baggage.

Well, I was so wrong. From the day my daughter was born I realized how superficial my previous conceptions of motherhood had been. Sure there were the well-publicized endless chores, a lot of ga-ga-ing, and discussions on diaper rash things that had been totally disdainful before. But how those changes were dwarfed by the revolution in my heart as I became increasingly enamoured of the tiny girl. Those weary first days spent rocking, pacing, and pampering seemed to flow along in one great wave of affection. However tiresome the activities, they seemed so sweet because of my love for my daughter.

Having come to understand, with some chagrin, what little I knew of maternal love before becoming a mother, I can also comprehend that there are many varieties of love of which I have no experience. I can't tell you. for instance, of the fierce patriotism that inspires someone to die for his country. Nor can I understand why anyone would spend hours a day playing the violin. From my dispassionate vantage point, I can't penetrate the core of such heartfelt emotion.

These examples of love for a nation or music or a child flourish here in this world. But they are not perfect love, because they depend on circumstantial arrangements by which the lover extracts pleasure from the beloved object. I love my daughter because . . . well, because she's my daughter. It's a happenstance of our bodily relationship. In material love, which is dependent on the body, when the intimacy arranged by circumstance is lost, the emotion eventually evaporates.

Someone might protest that one person can love another for an entire lifetime, and that death itself cannot severe the attachment So how can you call it temporary, material love?

When speaking of the eternal spirit soul. we have to consider that there are many, many lifetimes. We may fondly recall our beloved even after his or her body perishes, but what about our loved ones in our previous life? Or hundreds of lives? Who can remember all those distant relationships? The spirit soul is propelled into innumerable bodies, each with its particular passions, yet all is ultimately forgotten. Such is the nature of material love.

Beyond this fundamentally ephemeral love is real, spiritual love, the natural love every spirit soul feels for the transcendent Supreme Lord, Krsna. Although every living entity has the potential to develop deep, eternal exchanges of love with the source of all pleasure Himself, such love is rarely seen in this world. Yet the scriptures offer a glimpse of how intimately the Lord deals with the pure-hearted souls who reserve all love and affection for Him alone.

A famous example is the five Pandava brothers. The story of their pastimes as Lord Krsna's cousins is magnificently told in the epic Mahabharata. Srila Prabhupada explains their special relationship with the Lord:

Lord Krsna is everything to unalloyed devotees like the Pandavas. The Lord was for them the Supreme Lord, the spiritual master, the worshipable Deity, the guide, the chariot driver, the friend, the servant the messenger, and everything they could conceive of. And thus the Lord also reciprocated the feelings of the Pandavas . . . . The Pandavas were so malleable to the will of the Lord that they could sacrifice any amount of energy for the service of the Lord, and by such unalloyed determination they could secure the Lord's mercy in any shape they desired. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.6.16, purport)

Although such sublime love is also our own spiritual legacy, it can be regained in full only when the heart is cleansed of all conflicting lovable objects. How can we join the Lord, unhampered, in His spiritual pastimes, if we are yearning after the lesser pleasures offered in the material arena?

Furthermore, simply to announce one's love for the Lord is but a hollow declaration unless one is indeed dedicated to His glorification and service above all else. The example of the Pandavas indicates that the Supreme Lord may be served in many ways, but always in accordance with His will.

The scriptures show us the pure devotees' love so that we might reverently worship them, not so that we can attempt superficial imitation. We might as yet be unable to taste the sweetness of pure love for God, but we can still derive true spiritual benefit by submissively hearing of that pure love. "Simply by appreciating the dealings of the Lord with His pure devotees." Srila Prabhupada writes, "one can attain salvation."

Still, what is the fate of those of us deeply entrenched in temporal, illusory relationships? Should those real feelings be denied, repressed, abandoned? Well, that's hardly a realistic solution, since love is a primary nutrient of the human psyche. And even more than that, it is intrinsic to the soul. We won't be awarded transcendental love for God simply by denying feelings of affection, or by harboring them secretly. The apparent absence of overt material attachments doesn't necessarily indicate spiritual consciousness; it may simply be material neurosis. A better choice would be to accept the feelings of love in perspective. As my love for my daughter has so enriched my life, despite the pains of self-sacrifice, how much more would love for God enhance my existence? What unimaginable magnitude of pleasure must there be in that sublime relationship with Him! We can crave that experience and strive for it earnestly. And when we and those with whom we have material relationships embrace devotion to Krsna as a common goal, our union becomes a powerful, transcendental vehicle toward the ultimate realization of love of God.

Today I am entranced by my little girl's activities, always thinking of her needs and desires. This love of the mother for the child was cited by Srila Prabhupada as the closest thing in the material world to pure love. Compared to other kinds of love in this world, it is selfless, unconditional, fulfilling. Yet even this is not the real love of the spirit soul. not the love that will free me from misery and death. That pure, spiritual love, which is infinite and eternal, is the special benediction of the Supreme Lord upon one who qualifies himself through sinless service. It is for a taste of that love that I pray.