Do Indian traditions claim that the Universe is an expression of God’s intention?

If we want to grasp the nature of the discussions in the Indian traditions, there is much we need to do beforehand: (a) identify the entity they were talking about; (b) identify the specific questions they were answering; (c) identify the generic questions that defined both the outlines of the acceptable answers and the formulation of the specific questions; etc. (The ‘cetera’ indicates that I do not know how to enumerate all the things we need to grasp.) In the case of the propositions you have formulated, I assume that ‘God’ is Vishnu (or even Krishna) and not, say, Shiva or Brahma because you are talking about the Madhvas. However, to keep the discussion faithful to your formulations, I will use the word ‘God’ to refer to Vishnu.

Your proposition 1: “Creation is a spontaneous activity of God, just like a blissful person spontaneously breaks into a song without any rhyme or reason.”

Apparently, this is answering the specific question ‘why’ (in the sense of ‘KaaraNa’, mostly translated as ‘the reason why’) God created (the Universe?). The analogy to a blissful person is a very strict one. That is, in exactly the same way a blissful person does not break into a song for a reason, God does not create for a reason. The underlying thoughts are these: normally, one sings a song to express some emotion or the other or even because he/she is feeling some motion or another (love, sorrow, devotion, or whatever else), that is, the person “intends” to express something. The blissful person does not need to express anything; he/she is not in need of anything, including the need to express the bliss. That is what bliss (ananda) is all about.

So, the assumption is that ‘bliss’, something we human beings experience, is what God also feels. The only difference is that God feels this all the time, whereas only some of us can (either occasionally or after some tremendous effort) feel that bliss. (Additional claims that God’s Bliss is our bliss raised to “the power of infinity” and such like tell us the same thing: there is no difference in kind but, at best, a difference in degree, between God’s emotion and ours.)

In other words, the analogy explicates the nature of spontaneity (and the meaning of that word), whether it is God’s spontaneity or human spontaneity: doing something not because one is in need of (or lacks) something. There is no difference in kind between us human beings and God but only one of degree. Your next proposition elaborates on this.

Your proposition 2: “The creation of the world does not serve any purpose of God. He is “AptakAma” – there is nothing he does not have nor is there anything he will ever need.” (The ‘he’ here must also be read strictly: Vishnu is sexed and he is a ‘male’.)

This further tells us that creation (of something by human beings) serves some purpose or another. Consequently, one might be inclined to say that God is “in need” of something that he does not have, and hence the creation. This proposition tells us that God has “everything”: he is more beautiful than the most beautiful; stronger than the strongest; richer than the richest; the teacher of teachers; braver than the bravest, etc. Again, these are all differences in degree: he has more of everything we “desire”, he is “more” than any of us or other ‘gods’; and so on. He really does not need anything; he is bliss personified. Therefore, creation should not be seen as making up for some or another lack in God. In this sense, creation does not serve any purpose: one should say that God has “no purpose” in creating. He just creates. In other words, there is no intention behind God’s creation. Spontaneity is the absence of intention or purpose of any sort, and the analogy drawn in the first proposition shows that action without intention is typical of a blissful person. Because God is bliss personified, God’s creation does not exhibit his purpose or express his intention. (Should it do so, then God needs to express his purpose, which makes God into someone “in need” of such an expression.) Hence the notion of creation as God’s “lila”. That is to say, creation is completely without purpose. To use a modern terminology, to speak of the universe as an expression of God’s intention or God’s purpose is to commit a category mistake.

Your proposition 3: “The ‘creation’ of the universe is just the transformation of the prakriti from its “avyakta” state to “vyakta” state. All the laws of the universe are an expression of prakriti‘s innate triguna svabhAva.”

Therefore, God ‘functions’ as a catalyst (to use this term from high-school Chemistry) in the process of creation. This function enables the ‘potentiality’ of Prakriti to become ‘actuality’. The laws of the universe, consequently, do not express what God ‘desires’ or God ‘wants’ but express the ‘nature’ of prakriti. That is, the universe retains its character of not being the product of God’s intention or God’s plans or God’s purpose. Universe expresses what universe is like, what it always has been and always will be: namely, “it is in the nature of the universe to be what it is”. God has added nothing to the universe that was not already there, nor has he taken away something that was there earlier. “This is the way universe has been, is, and will be, because it belongs to the nature of the universe to be the way it was, is, and will be.”

Your proposition 4: “God is at all times impartial and as an antaryami immanent spirit, He is the power behind all the ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ (ie, expression of their individual svabhAvas) of souls as well as prakriti“.

Because God is bliss personified, he cannot be attached to anything or anybody. Therefore, he is strictly impartial. He is the ‘power’ behind everything and is everywhere: both in the individuals and in ‘the universe’ (using ‘the universe’ for ‘prakriti’). He must be an ‘antaryami’ (present internally in everything and everywhere) because he would not “have everything” if he was not. Were he not to be in a gnat or an ant, he would lack something, namely “what it feels to be like a gnat or an ant”. So, he has to be everywhere.

Now, we can begin to sense the generic question behind these propositions: If this is what ‘bliss’ is, that is, not lacking anything, and if this entity is bliss personified and is present in each one of us (and elsewhere too) are ‘we’ not, in reality, or in our essence, also identical to this entity? Tat Tvam Asi, ‘thou art that’: is not this what one of the mahAvAkya tells us? ‘Aham Brhmasmi”, as another of the mahAvAkya also tells us. Does it really matter what you call this ‘blissful entity’ as? And so on.

From these propositions, if you draw the inference, which you want to, “hence, he governs the Universe”, you need to understand ‘governing’ as (a) an impartial act; (b) by the ‘power’ in the ‘core’ of each one of us and (c) present in the rest of the Universe. One could also identify oneself with one’s ‘core’, and hence with the ‘power’ present in that ‘core’, and become an advaitin. Alternately, one could differentiate this ‘power’ from oneself and postulate ‘another’ entity: and hence the dvaita traditions.

In other words, the generic question behind these propositions brings us to the Indian debates and Indian traditions, which are far, far removed from the Semitic theological debates. The Biblical God is distinct from, and alien to, the creatures He has created; he has plans and purposes in creation; His intention (or will) expresses itself as the laws of the Universe; we cannot know (or ask) why He created the Universe; even when He tells us (through His revelation) why He did what He did, we do not understand it adequately, and so on and so forth.