Is Krishna’s love conditional or unconditional?
Question: If Krishna loves us unconditionally, then why can’t we experience his love now? If we can experience it only after becoming pure, then doesn’t that make his love conditional, for it is dependent on the condition of purity?
Short Answer: Krishna’s love is unconditional; our experience of his love is conditional. And the fact that our experience of his love is conditional is also an evidence of his love for us. Let’s see how.
First we need to understand the difference between the objective fact of Krishna’s love and our subjective experience of his love.
Objectively, Krishna loves all of us irrespective of whether we act piously or sinfully. No matter what misdeeds we do, he still keeps residing in our heart and helping us as much as we allow him. He never ever quits our heart and abandons us. Just as the sun gives light to everyone irrespective of their moral or immoral behavior, so does Krishna. Thus, his love is definitely unconditional,
But just as our eyes need to be open to see sunlight, our heart needs to be pure to experience Krishna’s love. So what is conditional is not Krishna’s love, but our experience of his love.
At the same time, the requirement of open eyes is not really a condition, for that is the natural state of the eyes. Similarly, the requirement of a pure heart is not really a condition, for that is the natural state of our heart.
To understand this point better, let’s get a sense of two related but distinct meanings of the world “condition.” Firstly, it can refer to a demand that needs to be met for something to be valid, as in “Your college admission is conditional to your timely submission of the relevant legal documents.” Secondly, it can refer to the state of a thing, as in “In the condition of unconsciousness, people can’t see what’s happening around them.”
Krishna’s love is not conditional in the demand sense of the word. He doesn’t place any demands that we have to first meet before he starts loving us. He loves us, whatever our condition.
Is Krishna’s love conditional in the state sense of the word? No and yes. No because Krishna loves us irrespective of the state of our heart. Yes because we can experience his love only when our heart is in a particular state.
We might argue, “Krishna unlike the sun is omnipotent, so he can give us experience of his love even when our heart is not in the right state. Why doesn’t he do that?”
Because he loves us. That Krishna doesn’t force us to experience his love in our present state is a sign of his love. Out of his love for us, he has given us free will. By our past misuse of our free will, we have chosen to love not Krishna but various substitutes for him. When we have thus shown our apathy or even antipathy towards him, for him to force the experience of his love would be to disrespect our free will. And respect is a basic pre-requisite for love. Due to his respect for us as individuals with independent will, he never forces the experiences of his love upon us. Thus, Krishna’s respecting our free will is also a sign of his love for us.
At the same time, he does use his omnipotence to help us love him, if we express the desire to him. He uses his omnipotence to manifest himself in innumerable expansions as the Supersoul, who resides in each heart and acts like Krishna’s personalize incarnation for each and every one of us. He waits for us to voluntarily express our love for him or at least our desire to love him. We express this desire by rendering devotional service according to scriptural guidelines. When he sees our sincere desire, he reciprocates by using his omnipotence to remove the roadblocks on our path to purity and to protect us from dangers on the path. This is evident in his celebrated assurance in the Bhagavad-gita (9.31): “Declare boldly that my devotee shall never perish.”