Three Stages of Love

Love develops in three stages. We begin in a condition saturated by the antithesis of love: selfish lust. In this state we must make effort to cultivate pure, selfless love. The term for this stage is sādhana-bhakti. As these practices become deeper and more sincere we will more and more deeply experience the two hallmarks of sādhana-bhakti: eradication of distress (kleśa-ghnī), and acquisition of auspicious traits (śubha-dā).

The second stage dawns when love ceases to be an effort and begins to become a reality naturally present within our hearts. The term for this stage is bhāva-bhakti. When divine love begins to become a reality within us, we experience its two hallmarks. The first – disinterest in anything else, even liberation (mokṣa-laghutā-kṛta) – arises from the second: cognizance that we are becoming recipients of the rarest and most valuable thing in existence (sudūrlabhā).

The third stage begins when love completely saturates our soul and becomes the essence of our being. The term for this stage is prema-bhakti. This stage also has two hallmarks: It causes unprecedented, unimaginably intense ecstasy (sandrānanda-viśeṣātmā), and it is so limitlessly beautiful and attractive that even All-Attractive Krishna becomes attracted and subservient to it (śrī-kṛṣṇa-karṣiṇī).

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