Why does a devotee love God? Because He is good, merciful, omniscient…? Or just out of love?
This seems to be one of the moot issues between the two currents within the form of Vaiṣṇavism later to be known as Śrīvaiṣṇavism, since Piḷḷai Lokācārya (13th c.) stresses that loving without reason is superior to loving with a reason, just like Sītā’s ungrounded love for Rāma is superior to that of Lakṣmaṇa, who loves Rāma for his good qualities (see Mumme 1988, p. 150).
In fact, one might add, Lakṣmaṇa would stop loving Rāma if he were no longer good, or might even start loving someone else, if that other person had better qualities than Rāma. Thus, one who loves with reasons is like a mercenary who is ready to serve a new warlord. Similarly, one might further speculate, one who loves God for His qualities is in fact in love with the qualities, not with God as a person. By contrast, when one loves a person, even her defects seem attractive to one.
This all makes sense, perhaps even a lot of sense. Yet… this means that there is no intrinsic reason to say that loving God is better than loving a demonic being who demands from us that we kill and torture living beings. If we love the latter, we will encounter consequences among human beings, such as jail, and possibily also in the after-life, since God is more powerful than demonic beings and will punish the people whe are not His devotees. Yet, there is no reason whence loving God should in itself be a reason for distinguishing better people. In fact, theoretically there might even be people who love a saintly being who is even ‘better’ (more compassionate, for instance) than God. And yet, they would not be compensated for choosing the more morally perfect being, since God would only compensate His devotees…
What is then the alternative to mercenary love and indiscriminate love for whomsoever? (I guess Amod (or Justin) could say “not loving any god”…).
(cross-posted, with minor modifications, on my personal blog).