Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #48 – Only the Ignorant Have Enemies

November 28th, 2022

Only the Ignorant Have Enemies[1]


“In former times there were many ignorant fools like you who did not conquer the six enemies that steal away the wealth of the body. These fools were very proud thinking, ‘I have conquered all enemies in all ten directions.’ But if a person is victorious over the six enemies and is equipoised toward all living entities, for him there are no enemies. Enemies are merely imagined by one in ignorance.” (Bhāgavatam 7.8.10, emphasis mine)


These are the words of the young saintly Prahlada to his powerful demonic father, Hiranyakasipu. When I read this verse today, I was particularly struck by the last line. It claims rather emphatically that enemies are envisaged, not real. I pondered the point. How can that be? People have enemies all the time. After some time, a resolution came.


We generally think of the term enemy as a person who hates us, but the term here has a broader meaning. It refers to anyone who opposes our goal. That became clear when I checked Srila Prabhupada’s English translation of the Sanskrit word for enemy, paraḥ, which is also glossed as “opposing elements.”


The resolution was thus clear. If an enemy means one who opposes our aim and the aim of life is self-realization, then we have no enemies, because by the law of karma everything that comes to us, even the enmity of others, is meant to bring us closer to God. To see another as enemy, opposing our welfare, is thus imagined only in ignorance. Here are some examples to make this clear:


Vidura was harshly insulted and unceremoniously banished from the palace by its ruler, his evil-minded nephew, Duryodhana. He was deeply hurt. Rather than see Duryodhana as the enemy, however, Vidura saw within his nephew’s cruelty the hand of God giving him a message. Advanced in years, he was being advised to renounce home and leave for pilgrimage. Being saintly and wise, Vidura understood that despite the hate in people’s hearts, ultimately there are no enemies, including his nephew. He knew that everyone, good or bad, is carrying a message from God for our own spiritual development.


When Maharaja Pariksit was informed that a bull had been beaten by a low-class rogue, he immediately left his palace to find and punish the culprit. When he found the stricken bull barely left standing on one leg, he inquired who had beaten him. To his surprise, the bull refused to identify the perpetrator. By the bull’s answer, or lack thereof, Maharaja Pariksit recognized the bull’s identity and declared, “You are dharma!” He understood the bull’s position, for the foundation of dharma is to see God’s hand in everything, and the height of that vision is to view not even one’s oppressor as one’s enemy.


This same point was made to me about twenty-five years ago in a very personal way during a casual visit with my friend Bhurijana Prabhu in Vrindavan. He knew that for the sake of cooperation and loyalty, those in institutions sometimes have to tolerate people who abuse their authority due to immaturity. Knowing my situation, he suspected that I may have had a cause to be resentful and wanted to try something that perhaps could be helpful for me. He asked me to visualize the face of the person with whom I felt I had cause to be most angry and express my feelings toward him. He even egged me on to rouse my anger. After a few minutes, he told me to replace that person’s face in my mind with my own. My feelings subsided, and I got the message. Only the ignorant have enemies, for by the law of karma, we are ultimately the cause of the enmity that is coming toward us.


An unusual thought suddenly came to my mind: this concept is probably most succinctly expressed by Pogo, the namesake of a famous comic strip that I read in the ’60s. I will leave you to ponder his famous words:


“We have met the enemy and he is us.”


[1] Originally published November 19, 2018.


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