The other day in my Gopala Champu class, I said the following:
"We can't understand the love of God without knowing love in this world. It has to reflect reality. You won't find love of God through failure of love in this world."
This comment did not pass unnoticed and one of the students asked Babaji for clarification. He said he disagreed and the student asked us if we were willing to debate the issue. Since we have been doing Nyāya and Babaji is something of an aficionado, he presented his point of view as a logical syllogism, making that the center of debate rather than my original statement, which made the discussion a little untidy. I was not prepared to answer his argument directly, but many in the audience were disappointed by the radical bifurcation of kāma and prema.
At one point Babaji says that desire is not in the soul. Frankly, I think that there is a bit of confusion in the sampradāya due to the Hindu world-view arising from Mayavada and Yoga. This is why at one point I objected that the Yoga-sūtra should not be considered a final authority, pace the mention of īśvara therein. The goal of Yoga-sūtra is kaivalya, not prema. And though it may be argued that it is useful for individual uplift, it does not give absolute value to love, either in this world or the next.
Nevertheless, if we follow the Yoga-sūtra, we still cannot agree with his idea that kāma and prema cannot exist in the same substratum, even though that existence cannot be simultaneous. YS 3.9-14 discusses precisely this problem in the context of yoga: How do the saṁskāras of samādhi and vyutthāna exist in the same substratum, i.e., the mind of the sādhaka.
Babaji at one point admits that initiation changes the situation, and this is also what I was saying. Once a devotee enters the path of devotion, it can no longer be claimed that he is untouched by the svarūpa śakti, though the material saṁskāras will remain. Otherwise, what need would there be for sādhanā?
Babaji said that the desire to serve Krishna is the product of the svarūpa śakti. We agree, but if desire for material sense pleasure is the character of the conditioned soul and desire to serve Krishna is that of the pure soul, then how is there an absolute break between the two? Desire is common to both; it is only the object of desire that changes. It is Yoga philosophy that denies all desire to the puruṣa itself. The Upanishad says, "...a person (puruṣa) consists of desires. And as is his desire, so is his will; and as is his will, so is his deed; and whatever deed he does, that he will reap." (kāma-maya evāyaḥ puruṣa iti | sa yathā-kāmo bhavati tat-kratur bhavati | yat-kratur bhavati tat karma kurute | yat karma kurute tad abhisampadyate || BAU 4.4.5).
The problem here is that if you deny an essential quality or characteristic that is present in both the conditioned and liberated states, then you fall prey to the same kind of logical inconsistency that is attributed to the Buddhist kṣaṇika-vāda.
Babaji objected to the quotes that I used to open my talk, which were from Taittiriya Upanishad. He quoted the commentary of Shankara saying that ānanda in these texts means Brahman. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, but it obfuscates the meaning of the word ānanda itself, which he also equated with love later in the discussion. This equation is found in Priti Sandarbha 61. The association of pleasure (both giving and receiving) with love is a firm base of my argument.
Brahman is ānanda, of this there is no doubt. But if we understand ānanda as love, then the understanding of Brahman and these quotes changes. And do we not have the right to interpret the scriptural statements in a way that opens the discussion rather than closing it? "The world was created out of love." Why else would the One become Many? This is made clear from other Upanishadic passages.
And without the presence of God, not simply as an underlying force, but as experienced through love, however pale the reflection, would anyone survive or remain alive? Those who are without the experience of love feel no will to live. And those who are inspired to experience life in its fullest are motivated by the desire for love, knowingly or unknowingly. When that desire is fully understood, one seeks the answer to love in God.
In the end one enters into love -- that is the telos, the ultimate end of creation, the prayojana. So we have no quarrel with Shankara here, we simply say, "Let us expand on the concept of Brahman."
On another level of understanding, the world is maintained by the presence of love in it means that God always makes arrangements for the presence of the svarūpa śakti to exist in some form within the world to establish in the conditioned souls the faith that love does indeed exist, by God's grace.
And lastly (from the top of my head) the fundamental idea that runs through my argument is that there is a concept of pure love that exists in the minds of humanity. For the word "love" exists. A word must have an object, without which this entire discussion would be moot. There would be no possibility of speaking of love at all, even though we may be able to discriminate between higher and lower loves. Therefore there are different systems in the world in which human beings by various processes both recognize the primordial need for love and strive to move towards that as the standard of human perfection. Christianity is a good example and I will write about C.S. Lewis' "Four Loves" as an example of the discourse as he presents it, which I think will be a valuable addition to the discussion. But this is not the only one. I have for instance talked about Martin Buber on this blog on more than one occasion.