When it comes to humanity’s conception of God, it seems that each religion and culture describes the character of God differently. In some we find God described as an angry and jealous God. Or we find the God of the Old Testament of the Bible with lots of rules but little mercy. Or in other religions we read about a God who is heartless to any nonbelievers, even if they merely lack understanding. In other cultures, God recommends killing all that do not wish to surrender to the local faith. Others may describe that there is a just and loving God watching over you. So, what are we to believe?
Naturally, God will reveal Himself differently to those who are more devoted. He will reciprocate to the degree in which we love Him. But we are all parts and parcels of Him, so He is our Supreme Father who should have unconditional love for His children, even if we do go astray or get confused. So, it makes no sense how a God who is supposed to be all loving and merciful can send His children to an eternal hell or some damnation without the means of retribution or correcting themselves. Of course, we often find mankind putting his own fears and tendencies into the character of God, without true understanding. However, we find a very different and more loving God in the Vedic tradition in the form of Lord Krishna. So, let us find out the nature of this more loving form of the Supreme Being.
Lord Krishna describes His ever-loving nature towards one and all, but especially for those who engage in loving Him. This is not favoritism but a natural reciprocation with those who are filled with loving feelings for Him. Lord Krishna explains Himself this way:
“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. Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is considered saintly because he is properly situated. He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti [Arjuna], declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes. Those who take shelter in Me, even though they be of lower birth, or women, or simple merchants, or ordinary workers, all can approach the supreme destination.”
This is further explained by Narada Muni in his talks with Maharaja Yudhisthira. He says that Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Personality, is the supreme controller and Supersoul within all living beings. Because He has no material body, he has no false conception of who He is, or of “I” and “mine.” So, it is not accurate to think that He feels pain when blasphemed or happy if offered prayers. This is impossible for Him. He has no enemy and no friend in that respect. When He chastises the demons or the envious it is for their own good. When He accepts the prayers of the devotees, it is also for their own good. He is affected neither by prayers or blasphemy. Therefore, by enmity or by devotional service, by fear or affection, or even lusty desires, if the materially conditioned soul can concentrate his mind on the Lord by any method, the result is the same for one’s benefit. The Lord, because of His blissful position, is never affected by enmity or friendship.
So, if the conditioned souls somehow or other think of Krishna, who is sac-chit-ananda-vigraha [the eternal form of knowledge and bliss], they will become free from their sins. Whether thinking of Him as their worshipable Lord or enemy, because of constantly thinking of Him they will regain their spiritual bodies.
In this way, it does not matter how we think or focus our attention on Krishna, He is nonetheless all powerful and purifying. His form alone and any thoughts of Him will uplift our spiritual awareness and purity.
When Akrura was praying to Lord Krishna, he also asked what learned person would approach anyone but Him for shelter, since He was the affectionate, grateful and truthful well-wisher of His devotees. To those who worship Krishna in sincere friendship, He rewards them with everything they desire, even His own self (which is the rarest of attainments).
It is explained by Sri Havir to King Nimi that the Supreme Personality is so kind to the conditioned souls that if they call upon Him by chanting His holy names, even unintentionally or unwillingly, the Lord is willing to destroy innumerable sinful reactions in their hearts. Therefore, when a devotee who has directly taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord chants the holy name of Krishna with genuine love, the Supreme Lord will never give up the heart of such a devotee. One who has captured the Supreme Lord within his heart is most exalted, and called a bhagavata-pradhana devotee.
Sudama, the garland maker, also prayed to Lords Krishna and Balarama when They went to see him at his house because They are the well-wishing friends and Supreme Soul of the whole universe. They regard everyone with an unbiased vision. Although They reciprocate Their devotees’ love and worship, They always remain equally disposed toward all living beings.
As Lord Krishna says in this regard, “To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me. Out of compassion for them, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.”
Lord Krishna loves His devotees so much that He doesn’t descend into this world without them. They all appear in the world to make preparations whenever He is ready to descend. And they all leave this world whenever the Lord again wraps up His pastimes. He gives Himself to them in such a way that no one feels neglected, and they actually feel that they are getting extra and exclusive attention from the Lord.
In His instructions to Durvasa Muni, the Lord explains how much He loves His devotees. He says that He is completely under the control of His devotees. He is not independent of their love. Because His devotees have no material desires, He sits within the core of their hearts. But not only His devotees, but those who are devotees of His devotees are very dear to Him. Without the saintly persons, for whom He is the only destination, He has no desire to enjoy His own transcendental bliss or supreme opulences. Since these devotees give up so much for Him, such as homes, families, even riches and their own lives if need be, how can He give up such devotees at any time? So, just as a chaste wife brings their gentle husbands under their control by service, such pure devotees also bring Him under control.
The Lord explains that His devotees are simply satisfied by engaging in service to Him. They are not even interested in liberation, though this is automatically achieved by their service. And they are certainly not interested in the perishable happiness of reaching the heavenly planets that exist within this universe. The pure devotees are always in the core of His heart, and He is always in the heart of His pure devotees. His devotees do not know anything else but Him, and He does not know anything else but them.
When instructing the brahmana ladies who came to render service to Him, Lord Krishna said that those expert personalities who can see their own true interest in life, render unmotivated and uninterrupted devotional service to Him, because He is the most dear to the soul.
In discerning Krishna’s love for us in this life, it is said that if Krishna likes us, He will give us everything. But if Krishna loves us, He will take everything away from us. This does not necessarily mean that He leaves us with nothing. But what gets in the way of our devotional life and spiritual advancement may be taken away. As Krishna Himself explained to Indra, the proud King of Heaven, that a man who is blind with the intoxication of power and opulence cannot easily see Him with the rod of punishment in His hand. If He desires someone’s real welfare, He will drag such a person down from his materially opulent position.
When a person is deprived of unnecessary material benefits, he will at first become morose, but then he will have little else to distract him from understanding his real position in life and the spiritual purpose behind it. This is extremely fortunate, otherwise a person with power and money is often preoccupied with the materialistic aspects of life all the way until the moment of death. Then he still loses everything. So, it is better to be deprived of such preoccupation before then so that a person can make inquiries into the Self and thus have a chance to prepare oneself for leaving the body. That way one can take care of death before death takes care of him. The joyful process of spiritual advancement is the real benefit that Krishna wishes for everyone, and not the blindness that comes from the preoccupation of a materialistic lifestyle. As Lord Krishna Himself says, “the wealthy hardly ever worship Me.” 11 In other words, having many dollars or many rupees usually means many lives. An intelligent person will try to prevent that.
Krishna continues to explain this aspect of His display of love in His instructions to the gopis, the cowherd girls of Vrindavana. He explains that the reason He does not always immediately reciprocate the affection or worship of living beings is that He wants to intensify their loving devotion. Then they become like a poor man who had gained some wealth but then loses it, and who then becomes so anxious about it that he can think of nothing else. This does not mean that Lord Krishna stops loving us, and we should certainly not harbor any bad feelings toward Him.
We need to understand that in the broader picture of things, He never stops loving and caring for us, but He understands what is best for us and what we need to learn through the experiences that are sent our way. Our progress toward higher understanding is all that we take with us into the next life, while everything else must be given up or forcibly taken away. For most people it is hard to understand this, which is why we sometimes must learn it by force of nature, or the deliberate arrangement of Krishna.
Lord Krishna further explains this point wherein He says that if He especially favors someone, He gradually deprives that person of his wealth, at least if it is getting in the way. Then someone who was wealthy but becomes poverty-stricken will be abandoned by his relatives and friends. So, he suffers one distress after another. When he becomes frustrated in his endeavors to make money and instead befriends the Lord’s devotees, then the Lord bestows His special mercy on him. Such a person then can become sober and fully realize the Absolute as the highest truth. Realizing the Supreme Truth as the basis of his own existence, he is freed from the cycle of birth and death. However, Krishna admits that because He is difficult to worship, people often avoid worshiping Him and instead worship the other demigods who are more easily satisfied. Then when such people receive rich opulences from these deities, they become arrogant and intoxicated with pride, and then even neglect their own duties. They may even offend those who gave them their blessings.
One point to remember is that Lord Krishna’s teachings are for anyone. His love and affection showers down like the sunshine from the sun planet. Yet, if someone persists in living in a cave, the sunshine cannot reach that person. Similarly, if someone insists on living in ignorance of the Lord, or without devotion to Him, how can such a person feel the Lord’s love?
The Lord showed everyone the path of spiritual progress, which is the way to follow dharma, the balanced path to righteousness and personal well-being and development. Lord Krishna never exhibited special attachment toward one person over another. When Duryodhana wanted Krishna’s army to fight for him, Krishna gave it to him. And when Arjuna wanted only Krishna on his side, Krishna accepted that but told Arjuna He would not take up arms during the battle. He would only act as Arjuna’s charioteer. But that was enough for Arjuna.
The same thing goes for the reason why Lord Krishna killed Kamsa, the demon king, even though Kamsa was Krishna’s own uncle. Kamsa used everyone for his own agenda and terrorized the area of Vrindavana. He could not stand the thought of dharma. He made so many arrangements in his attempts to kill Krishna until finally Krishna killed him. But ultimately only the body was destroyed while Kamsa’s soul not only lived on but was purified by Krishna’s touch and attained immortality. So, this is also Krishna’s ultimate level of mercy and care. If Krishna gave His mercy even to the demoniac like Kamsa, then we can understand how much more He will give His love and care to His devotees. So, all we really have to do is to become and act as one of Lord Krishna’s devotees, and soon we will experience Krishna’s loving nature.