“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि
जन्मानि तव चार्जुन
तान्य् अहं वेद सर्वाणि
न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
“How should we view God? What is His actual position? At what times should we turn to Him? The general tendency is to look towards the heavens during times of distress. A national crisis, for instance. Demons are on the verge of taking over. They lie, cheat and steal. They even kill, if they feel it necessary. They keep people locked in their homes, for no good reason.
“We know that only the Almighty can save us. But is this the proper way to view Him? Isn’t it selfish? Should not we turn in His direction on a daily basis, regardless of the circumstances?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada uses the term “order-supplier” in this regard. No different than the online retail outlet, when we are in need of something we go shopping. Place an order, make sufficient payment, and hope that it gets fulfilled.
Religion often follows the same pattern. Visit the house of worship. Submit a humble prayer. Then wait for it to come true. As desire is something like a raging fire that only grows in intensity with each iteration, the sequence of religious activity repeats.
There are several issues with this process. For starters, someone else could be offering the same prayers, desiring the identical outcome. Yet success on both sides is incompatible. Sort of like the online retailer being out of stock of a particular item, how would the Supreme Lord reconcile the conflict? Is it first-come, first-serve?
The acharyas in the parampara connected to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, explain that God is indeed a person. He is both personal and impersonal, but the latter is due to the second. Something like seeing only the shadow instead of understanding the sun. Without the sun there is no such thing as a shadow.
In the same way, without the personal as the basis, there is no such thing as the impersonal energy, which is known as Brahman. Without a real, living person, there is no such thing as atheism, which is denial of the reality.
The superior and genuine form of religion is to connect with God the person. In this connection there is potential for a variety of relationships. One of those is friendship, as exhibited by Krishna and Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita. The Supreme Lord explains that both He and His close friend have appeared many times in the manifest world. The distinction is that Krishna can remember each janma, whereas Arjuna cannot.
While this highlights a defect in the individual, it also reveals the eternal nature of the relationship. A friendship with Krishna is one never to be broken. Not even all-devouring time can make a dent. A large sum of money is not required and neither is a specific sacrifice, observed on a repeating basis.
The same desire that previously focused on material objects can create the connection and maintain it. The material desire, kama, merges into devotional service, bhakti. Kama is temporary, while bhakti is eternal. Material desire relates to prakriti, while devotion to God is part of the very definition of purusha, or spirit in a distinguishable identity.
A friendship with Krishna means that we want the best for Him no matter how He treats us in return. He will always be our well-wisher, regardless of the circumstances at present. The friendship is natural, occurring after learning more of Him and staying by His side, upasana.
An eternal friend to be,
Best well-wisher for me.
Past forgetting though,
In future situated so.
When in devotion to sit,
Fearing not body to quit.
Since that bond not to break,
Shri Krishna best friend to make.