“The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.21)
तितिक्षव: कारुणिका: सुहृद: सर्वदेहिनाम् ।
अजातशत्रव: शान्ता: साधव: साधुभूषणा: ॥
“I have often heard it said that devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead have no enemies. The famous example is Maharaja Yudhishthira. One of his many other names is Ajata-shatru. The literal translation is ‘one whose enemy is never born.’
“Then you have a verse from Shrimad Bhagavatam which describes the qualities of a sadhu. Included in the list is ajata-shatravah. This is basically the same meaning. One of the ways to identify a saintly person is to notice how many enemies they have. If the count is zero, you are on the right track.
“This seems well and good in theory, but how does the reality ever materialize? Yudhishthira fought in one of the greatest wars in history. The opposing side would have to be considered enemies. I doubt Duryodhana thought favorably of that leader of the Pandava brothers.
“Then you have Prahlada Maharaja. He qualifies within the sadhu definition, as he taught about removing the distinction between friends and enemies. At the same time, his own father considered Prahlada such an adversary that ghastly measures were used to eliminate the threat from the kingdom.
“What I am trying to say is that devotees do have enemies. You cannot deny it. There is the saying that if you are not making enemies, you are not really speaking anything meaningful. You are basically going along to get along.
“Do you see what I am getting at? It is easy to avoid creating enemies. Simply keep quiet. But if you are quiet all the time, how will anyone learn anything from your example? How do we resolve the contradiction?”
There are several ways to understand. One is that in the general course of things, devotees behave in ways that do not create enmity with others. They are not involved in a struggle for existence for the sole purpose of sense gratification. Rather than succumb to the control of the senses, they withdraw like the turtle. They use the senses whenever necessary, when the purpose aligns with the interests of the Supreme Lord.
अवश्यं विनशिष्यन्ति सर्वे रावण राक्षसाः|
येषां त्वं कर्कशो राजा दुर्बुद्धिरजितेन्द्रियः||
avaśyaṃ vinaśiṣyanti sarve rāvaṇa rākṣasāḥ|
yeṣāṃ tvaṃ karkaśo rājā durbuddhirajitendriyaḥ||
“O Ravana, inevitably all of the Rakshasas will be completely destroyed, for they have a person like you, who is stupid, lustful, and unable to control his senses, for their king.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 48.22)
Another way to understand is to know that saintly people like Yudhishthira and Prahlada never view others as enemies. As much as Hiranyakashipu deserved to be shunned and punished, Prahlada never harbored resentment. There was no envy and no lingering desire for retribution. In the typical circumstance, the child might hold a grudge through to adulthood, where they resent the pain and torture they had to suffer during childhood.
Yudhishthira was fighting for dharma. He was the leader of the good guys. He was against war, but it fell in his lap. He reluctantly followed through, and even after winning he felt no satisfaction upon examining the large death toll.
In the world of sense gratification, everyone is either a friend or an enemy. They are either helping me in my pursuits of personal interest or they are preventing me from moving forward. The roles may switch depending on the circumstance. Today, I dislike someone because they interfere in my progress, but tomorrow that same person aligns with me for a mutual benefit.
The saintly person is above such dualities. They see that every living entity is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, that they are spirit soul at the core, and that devotional service is their birthright. They understand the influence of the illusory energy of maya, to the point of suppressing innate intelligence. They are fully aware of why someone would view them as an enemy, and they harbor no ill-will towards those dominated by ignorance.
समो ऽहं सर्व-भूतेषु
न मे द्वेष्यो ऽस्ति न प्रियः
ये भजन्ति तु मां भक्त्या
मयि ते तेषु चाप्य् अहम्
samo ‘haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu
na me dveṣyo ‘sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā
mayi 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)
This quality descends from Bhagavan. He does not envy. No person has more than He does. No individual is a threat to His existence. He forgives countless lifetimes of sinful activity and forgetfulness of dharma. He would have to in order to make good on the promise to deliver the surrendered souls, to provide perfect shelter.
In whatever direction to wade,
Such that enemy never made.
Since personal interest not taking,
And distinctions not making.
Others as inimical may view,
Interfering with me are you.
But the sadhu with the Divine vision,
Never succumbing to division.