With so much fighting going on in the name of God, one might wonder, "Whose side is God on?"
A QUICK WORLDWIDE poll of assorted fundamentalists as to whether or not God is partial would no doubt indicate that He is - extremely. The only question would be Partial to whom? In Northern Ireland He sides exclusively with either the Catholics or the Protestants, depending on whom you talk to. In India He is adamant to have built in His honor either a Muslim mosque or a Hindu temple, again depending on whom you ask. And on street corners just about anywhere, preachers inform passerby that He is sending most of them to hell.
To all these claims of His favor and disfavor, Lord Krsna replies that He is partial to no one.
samo 'ham sarva-bhutesu na me dvesyo 'sti na priyah
"I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all." (Bhagavad-gita 9.29)
This doesn't mean that there aren't some perks for piety. There are. But those perks are only the results of our own past deeds under the three modes of nature - goodness, passion, and ignorance - in this and previous lives. The Gita clearly explains (14.18) that the pious, conducted by goodness, rise to higher places of material enjoyment, earning future advantages such as prosperity and knowledge. Those of passionate natures occupy the middle of the road, getting a mixture of persistent misery and the fleeting pleasures of sense gratification. And those addicted to intoxicants, sleeping, meat-eating, and other acts in ignorance descend to madness and illusion, in human and lower forms of life.
We choose our mode or mixture of modes, we get the results of our choices, and the Supreme Lord, though the creator of nature and its modes, takes no sides.
Krsna designs nature's laws to act life fire. Touch fire and get burnt: meddle with the modes and, whatever your religious ties or philosophical outlook, get your reaction. This is impartial. From hellish conditions to heavenly ones, living entities are only living out the results of their previous actions. Krsna has no need even to act as judge, since the impartial workings of the modes proceed merely by His will, leaving Him externally free to enjoy transcendental exchanges with His pure devotees.
As the father of all living things, Krsna further shows His impartiality by arranging for material nature to supply the needs of life to everyone, whatever their modes. Even the animals are His children and so get what they need. Without offering so much as a prayer, the elephant receives its tons of edibles and the ant its tiny grain. In human society too, both theist and atheist get sunlight, air, water, food, and shelter. God is like a rain cloud that pours water everwhere, even on rocks and oceans. Shortages of essentials may occur, but they show no preference for the denominations of their victims. The shortages are reactions to our dipping into the grossly ignorant mode of nature, not signs of the Lord's direct hand. Krsna, the supreme enjoyer, has better things to do than punish and reward us for our escapades. He assigns such duties to the material nature and reamains aloof.
Yet God's impartiality is only half the story, or half of the Gita verse quoted above. The full verse says:
samo 'ham sarva-bhutesu na me dvesyo 'sti na priyah ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktya mayi te tesu capy aham
"I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him."
While asserting that He is impartial, Krsna also proclaims Himself an intimate friend, or in other words very partial, to His devotees. This contradiction appears to take us back to square one, since most everyone has a valid claim on being devoted to God. Protestant and Catholic, Hindu and Muslim, could all, if so inclined, quote the Bhagavad-gita, or similar lines from other scriptures, and go on feuding. ("God says He's a friend to His devotee - me.")
But Krsna's partiality is transcendental, or confidential. The samo 'ham verse occurs in a chapter of the Gita entitled "The Most Confidential Knowledge." In the beginning, the first two chapters of the Gita, confidential knowledge means understanding the difference between your self and your body: the body is perishable and the soul is not. More confidential still is knowledge of the Supreme Soul and how to attain Him, as described in the seventh and eighth chapters. And most confidential of all is understanding that the kinship and love we now repose in our bodily relations is but a dim reflection of our eternal kinship with God.
If the very beginning of confidential knowledge is understanding that we are not these bodies - not Hindu, Catholic, Muslim, or any other bodily designation - then how can Lord Krsna's partiality have anything to do with our material bodies? It can't. Krsna doesn't say He is partial to His Hindu devotee or His Protestant devotee. He says He is partial to anyone who renders HIm service with devotion. With His partiality too, then, He is impartial.
The devotee's kinship with Krsna is not figurative. God is the original master, friend, lover, and child and thus the natural object of our every thought and action. Material friendship and love now absorb our minds and motivate our actions - and yield as their counterpart our material enmities, including religious ones. But such friendship and love are but passing reflections of eternal spiritual templates. Krsna therefore encourages us, a few verses after the partiality verse, "Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me."
With the constantly devoted souls, Krsna reciprocates as a friend. He does not merely reward them, from a great distance, through the agency of His material energy, He directly returns their love, because their pure devotional service, like His supreme self, is above the three modes of material nature, beyond ordinary goodness and piety.
The pure devotee of God, while not inattentive to routine familial and religious duties, knows that they are born of material friendship and love. So he rejects all bodily designations and identities and identifies himself exclusively as an eternal servant of the Supreme Person. Upon such devotees Krsna bestows His intimate and eternal friendship. That is His partiality.
So when that quick worldwide poll reaches your doorstep, asking whether or not God is partial, tell the pollster that this is the most confidential knowledge but that, yes, He's partial to those who are impartial, who see no difference between Catholics and Protestants, between street preacher and passerby, and who practice and promote transcendental loving service to Him.
Mathuresa Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has written many articles for Back to Godhead and other publications. He and his wife and their four children live in Alachua, Florida.
BTG (Jul/Aug 1994)