“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 ||
Why do we see so much conflict? Why can’t people get along? What would drive a person to do despicable things? Why can’t couples stay together? In a short couplet describing the difference between svartha and paramartha, Goswami Tulsidas gives the answer. Svartha is always changing, and the relationships it makes are based on exploitation. Even with that attitude, everything can be made right, as paramartha is there for the taking through the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Self-interest - people act for this. We can get angry that a person buys so many expensive things after succeeding in a business venture, but if we were in their situation we’d likely behave the same way. After all, who goes into an endeavor hoping to fail? Even someone who works for a non-profit looks for a return on their work. That return gets categorized differently according to the tax code, but the self-interest is met nonetheless.
Self-interest corresponds to desire, and we know that desires change. Also, we know that when something is undesirable, we try to avoid it. This behavior is a kind of exploitation, though since everyone does it we don’t really look at it that way.
Tulsidas gives some examples of how this works. The grass gets eaten when it is green. When the grass dries out and dies, it gets used for fuel. Extending the concept to all plant life, when there are fruits people approach with an open hand.
From these exchanges relationships form, which can be easily mistaken for friendship. The bond is only through self-interest. Once that is gone, the friendship is no more. Think of the professional athlete. When he is performing well, fans purchase the jersey with his number on it. They praise him and watch every one of his games. As soon as he loses abilities, he ceases being desirable. Likely the team doesn’t even keep him. The link with the fans gradually fades also.
The Supreme Lord meets the supreme interest, paramartha. This is what is good for us in the end. The end doesn’t have to mean the next life. It is the core of the issue, what remains after we are done jumping from friendship to friendship based on svartha. Paramartha is what will be ultimately beneficial to us.
Only God meets the supreme interest. This fact clears up so many misconceptions. The Supreme Lord is not for meeting svartha, as we understand it. That toy we wanted as a kid - we didn’t need to pray to God for it. When we want good health, fortune, or top performance on an exam, it is not the Supreme Lord’s place to deliver. He surely can, as He creates this and every other universe effortlessly. He can grant anything in a second, but trivial things relating to the temporary body are handled by the inferior material nature and the personalities managing it, who are gods in their own right.
The Supreme Lord is there to give eternal bliss to the soul. His personal presence is the best gift anyone can ask for. We are never devoid of that presence, only consciousness of it. He rests within us as the Supersoul, but the personal form with features distinguishable to the conditioned eye is a better gift. Rama is one such personal form, and He comes to anyone who wants His association. Even if we can’t see Him and think that He is far away, He arrives through the sound of His name. This is why the wise souls always chant His names, such as those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Are we not exploiting God in this way? Are we not only making a friendship with Him to meet our supreme interest?
Even if the attitude is there in the beginning, there is nowhere to go beyond supreme interest. It is not as if God meets our interest now and then later on that interest should change. Through His association, the consciousness transforms for the better. The desires in the individual start to transform to the point that they only want to do more and more to serve and please the personal God. They realize that everyone has the same supreme interest, and so they try to share the association of the Divine with others. They know that this is the best service to man.
Nation against nation and husband with wife,
Why the discord, why do people fight?
Svartha, from self-interest this comes,
Always changing, of steadiness none.
For supreme interest to personal God go,
Gradually the oneness of paramartha know.
Then to others this precious gift giving,
So that everyone in perfect harmony living.