Parents do not expect to be challenged about their love for their children, but most mothers and fathers inevitably expect their children to repay their care and kindness, especially since the younger generation is nourished by the strength of its forebears. This is by no means an unreasonable expectation, and every rational child will work to repay their debt to their parents as they mature. As sensible as this “temporal contract” of filial love is, however, it is not truly unconditional. Precisely because it is an unspoken agreement made between good parents and upright children, it is not exactly the same unconditional love of the Buddha.
Practically, the exercise of unconditional love requires the practice of non-attachment. Non-attachment from self-centered motivations is the mark that gives a disciple the lucidity and direction to fulfill his or her potential to love unconditionally. This means that Buddhist compassion really means detached and “disinterested” affection. These words can be easily misconstrued. Of course, non-attachment does not mean that one becomes aloof or unfeeling. Unconditional love involves non-attachment because there can be no self-centered motivation in a life of true love. It is a self-less expression of care, which pertains to the Buddhist striving to destroy the attachment to the self-illusion. By transcending all conditional loves, we reach the love that the Buddha teaches. And this love is cultivated via behaving and thinking in a non-attached manner. Through the exercise of this discipline, one will begin to discover that her love is not limited to several. It will grow to encompass more and more people, and the conditions of her love will seem to fall away.
Unconditional love is not the only manifestation of beneficial love. It is, however, the most powerful. But all Buddhist traditions teach that it is possible for sentient beings to achieve. This cosmic affirmation is a powerful encouragement that should bring great hope to those who feel that their practice of Buddhism is somehow inadequate. The Buddha Himself would beg to differ.
Source: Buddhistdoor International