“When plant life is green, there is grazing. When it becomes old, it turns into fuel for fire. When it grows and bears fruits, people grab at it with an open hand. Tulsi says that all are friends only when a personal interest is met, but Shri Rama meets the supreme interest.” (Dohavali, 52)
hare carahiṃ tāpahiṃ bare phareṃ pasārahiṃ hātha |
tulasī svāratha mīta saba paramāratha raghunātha ||
“I’ve reached a conclusion about the people of this world. Besides eventual death, there is one thing they share in common. Everybody hates everybody. It seems silly to say, but I really have no doubt anymore. Every person I meet, I feel shy to mention any other person in front of them. If I say that I like this person on the radio, they will tell me how much they hate him. If I tell them about time spent with family members, they will bring up so many bad moments from the past.
“I’m at the point where I don’t even bother anymore. We’re not just talking children here. We don’t expect a child to have so much intelligence. They are in the process of learning etiquette anyway. I’m including adults in this declaration, spanning all the way up to grandparents. It’s just the sad state of this world. No one gets along. They sometimes fake it, but deep down they have issues. It makes me think that I don’t belong here. What could be causing this? Why so much hate?”
There are two corresponding Sanskrit terms noteworthy for this discussion: svartha and paramartha. Artha is an interest. It can also translate to “economic development.” That which is profitable in one degree or another is artha. Since rules and guidelines help me to be successful in something, they too can be defined as artha. That which goes against the desired objective becomes “anartha.”
The “sva” prefix means self. So svartha is the interest of the self, i.e. personal interest. Right away we see that svartha cannot be uniform. This is because people find themselves in all sorts of situations. One person is running an established company that sells footwear. Another person decides to open up their own store since they have interest in the same field. The svarthas thus clash. The individuals both hope for the success of their respective stores. They don’t want their competitor to succeed. Therefore meeting one person’s self-interest automatically means making the other person unprofitable.
If the stores merged, the svarthas combine into one. But there are so many living entities to consider, each one going through different stages of life. Svartha is always there, which means that the combination of things that help in profit and things that don’t will also always exist. That which helps in meeting the self-interest becomes liked. This is the actual basis for friendship, though we rarely think of it in these terms.
Goswami Tulsidas gives examples to show how this works. In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, he mentions plant life. When it is green, there is grazing. When it produces fruits, people approach it with an open hand. When it dries up, it gets burned; used as fuel. Tulsidas says that all friends act like this. As long as there is some personal interest being met, there is friendship.
We can take other examples to see the same concept. The cow that grazes on the green pastures is friendly for as long as it produces milk. When it is done loving its children, the only use seen to fulfill self-interest is death. The death of the cow brings beef, which is to be eaten.
The parents help us during our youth. They provide for us. They give us protection. We constantly ask them for things. When we become adults, from time to time we invite them over to take care of our children. This allows us to get a break, a chance to leave the house occasionally. When the parents become too old to take care of themselves, when they cease serving our self-interest, we send them to a nursing home.
Svartha is based on the body, which is temporary. This means that as the body keeps changing, so do our likes. This guarantees the situation of disliking so many people. As my interests are bound to change, the people I consider to be friends will as well. The people who formerly helped me are no longer of use to me, so why should I consider them to be friends? If they are obstacles in my path, why wouldn’t I dislike them?
Tulsidas mentions this truth about friendship for a reason. Paramartha is more important. The “param” prefix means supreme. Unlike svartha, paramartha is the same for everyone. It is what is best for the soul, which is the essence of identity. Tulsidas says that Shri Rama, the lord of the Raghu dynasty, meets the paramartha of everyone. Whether I am an insect, a dog, a child or an adult, my paramartha does not change.
That singular supreme interest is the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is always my well-wishing friend. He does not hate anyone. He has no interest to be met, so there is no concept of friend or enemy to Him. Every living thing is His child, so there is only love from Him always. He loves so much that He does not interfere with free will. He does not force anyone to seek His association or maintain it.
samo 'haṁ sarva-bhūteṣuna me dveṣyo 'sti na priyaḥye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyāmayi te teṣu cāpy 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.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
The wise souls who follow devotion to Him inherit a similar disposition. They rise above the duality of friendship and hatred. They see all individuals as spirit souls whose supreme interest is identical. They understand that even svartha can be met with God’s association. In both the short and long terms, devotion to God pays off. It brings happiness, which is what the soul seeks. Bliss is the natural disposition of the living entity, and supreme bliss is found in devotion to God the person.
Concluded that everyone for everyone has hate,
Regret to say, but this the world’s current state.
Why has this come to be,
Why as friend or enemy to see?
Svartha the short-term interest of mine,
Always to change, thus enemies to find.
Paramartha for all time and people the same,
Met by God, having personal form and name.