“Demons think of everyone as a friend or enemy, but Vaishnavas say that since everyone is a servant of the Lord, everyone is on the same platform. Therefore a Vaishnava treats other living entities neither as friends nor as enemies, but instead tries to spread Krishna consciousness, teaching everyone that we are all one as servants of the Supreme Lord but are uselessly wasting our valuable lives by creating nations, communities and other groups of friends and enemies.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.12 Purport)
“Based on the teachings of Prahlada Maharaja, as found in Shrimad Bhagavatam, do I need to get rid of my friends? Not in the physical sense, but in terms of association, should I entirely remove such designations? This is from learning that making such distinctions is neither wise nor necessary.
“At the same time, I am a little confused. In the Ramayana, Shri Rama, who is an avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, makes several friends along the way to rescuing His missing wife, Sita Devi.
“In fact, at one time Sita asks a messenger named Hanuman if Rama is indeed keeping good relations with His allies. Are the alliances solid? Are they working together for a common interest? This means that alliances are beneficial, and such alliances are rooted in friendship.
कच्चिन्मित्राणि लभते मित्रैश्चाप्यभिगम्यते।
कच्चित्कल्याणमित्त्रश्च मित्रत्त्रैश्चापि पुरस्कृतः।।
kaccinmitrāṇi labhate mitraiścāpyabhigamyate।
kaccitkalyāṇamittraśca mitrattraiścāpi puraskṛtaḥ।।
“I trust that He is getting friends and also been approached for friendship. I trust that He has auspicious friends and that His friends are giving Him first priority.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.18)
“Which one is it? Are there good people and bad people, or is everyone the same? Are atheists really against God? It seems that Prahlada did not view with distinctions. How can the atheists be considered worshipers, connected to the Supreme Lord?”
The idea is that each person is worshiping to the extent of their knowledge. They can only approach based on what they know. In the state of perpetual ignorance, the summit of knowledge is the surrounding material nature.
Such a person knows only eating, sleeping, mating and defending. They know only what is available to them, and in that respect the natural pursuit is to enjoy. To remove any limitations on enjoyment, there is exploitation, which can expand to the highest degree.
When there is a Prahlada, there is a Hiranyakashipu. One person understands the source of strength in everyone. They appreciate all that has been provided to them. They know the purpose to the essentials of life and the very duration of existence within that circumstance.
The other person, represented by Hiranyakashipu, seeks to extend the potential for as long as possible. If there is strength in the world, why not acquire as much as possible? If there is the ability to influence, why not utilize it to the absolute highest level? If there is enjoyment, why place any limitations?
The latter person is also worshiping God, but in an indirect way. They are paying homage to the material energy, which is like the back portion, if viewing the Almighty as a person standing upright. Material nature is like the shadow, which is ultimately rooted in the sun.
This is worship to the extent of their knowledge, and such worship has a corresponding outcome in the long-term. Just as two trains are headed in different directions, so the worship with limited knowledge has a particular destination, and the same applies to the worship with complete knowledge.
As far as our situation, we should not be satisfied with limited knowledge. The position of Prahlada Maharaja is superior. He does not see friends and enemies precisely because he understands the inherent link every person has to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This means that he offers everyone respect, even if it appears that they don’t deserve it.
At the same time, the wise person is neither naïve nor foolish in terms of carrying out responsibilities. It is the duty of a leader of men to form alliances, for the proper administration of a community, state, nation, or kingdom. There are aggressors in this world. They must be dealt with appropriately. Defense of righteous principles aligns with righteousness itself.
The Hiranyakashipu-like person takes these distinctions to the extreme, in trying to outright eliminate any opposition. The mere presence of devotion to the Supreme Lord is the greatest offense in their scheme, and so they consider that removal of so-called enemies will benefit them in the long run, in the pursuit to exploit indefinitely.
The destination for the knowledgeable is the shelter of the Divine, exemplified by Prahlada’s unbreaking link in consciousness with Vishnu. The destination for the ignorant is continued rebirth, which includes the tragic destruction of their schemes for world domination, which eventually succumb to the forces of time.
Eventually to time succumbing,
Destroyed schemes becoming.
Where only the back side knew,
Like shadow from sunlight too.
Such that worship taking place,
But again the miseries to face.
Aim for understanding full and complete,
And the supreme destination meet.