QUESTION: If i understood it right… consciousness develops various existences to experience a superior type of bliss that is produced through the interaction and merging between the parts within itself, then… is this not ultimately a kind self-love?
QUESTION: Is the difference between conventional love and bhakti only about the scope of it (interpersonal vs universal)? What is the real difference between conventional love and divine love?
I think that “conventional love” is not actually love. I think bhakti is actual love. Let me explain why…
What is love? Let’s say it is “giving oneself to please another.”
If I am not sure who I am, and not sure who you are, how do I give myself? and to whom? I do not know. And what would please that person? I don’t know that either. And what do I even have to offer? I am not sure. And why should I truly care? This is also a mystery, to be honest. My natural instinct is towards self, not others.
So, with our avidya (lack of self-knowledge), love is not possible. We just imitate love, like children imitating adults.
Without avidya, love becomes possible. This is why jñāna is the foundation for bhakti. This is why śānta is the foundation of prema.
QUESTION: Should we relate to god primarily as his beloved, or his lover, or both?
Subject and object are two aspects of one thing: consciousness. So, every being is both a lover (subject) and beloved (object). But different entities have different balance between these two, which can also fluctuate depending on the relationship, and even within a single relationship depending on whatever serves the ultimate cause (the beloved’s pleasure) best.
Romantic love is one type of love for Krishna. In it there is a full spectrum of individuals at all ranges of the scale between lover and beloved, and Krishna reciprocates with each in a complementary way. But we should remember that the BASIC underlying relationship is that Krishna is primarily the lover and we are primarily the beloved. In that context, to serve and augment that, different beloveds can act in different ways at different times, expressing different balances of the lover/beloved roles.
QUESTION: Is love between jivas/atmas an opportunity to train our capability to love the paramatma?
Yes. We should look at it this way.
People without avidya treat everyone with the same care and affection as if they were interacting with the Divine Beloved directly.