samo ’haḿ sarva-bhūteṣu
na me dveṣyo ’sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu māḿ bhaktyā
mayi te teṣu cāpy aham
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 9.29
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.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
One may question here that if Krishna is equal to everyone and no one is His special friend, then why does He take a special interest in the devotees who are always engaged in His transcendental service? But this is not discrimination; it is natural. Any man in this material world may be very charitably disposed, yet he has a special interest in his own children. The Lord claims that every living entity—in whatever form—is His son, and so He provides everyone with a generous supply of the necessities of life. He is just like a cloud which pours rain all over, regardless of whether it falls on rock or land or water. But for His devotees, He gives specific attention. Such devotees are mentioned here: they are always in Krishna consciousness, and therefore they are always transcendentally situated in Krishna. The very phrase “Krishna consciousness” suggests that those who are in such consciousness are living transcendentalists, situated in Him. The Lord says here distinctly, mayi te: “They are in Me.” Naturally, as a result, the Lord is also in them. This is reciprocal. This also explains the words ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham:
“Whoever surrenders unto Me, proportionately I take care of him.” This transcendental reciprocation exists because both the Lord and the devotee are conscious. When a diamond is set in a golden ring, it looks very nice. The gold is glorified, and at the same time the diamond is glorified. The Lord and the living entity eternally glitter, and when a living entity becomes inclined to the service of the Supreme Lord he looks like gold. The Lord is a diamond, and so this combination is very nice. Living entities in a pure state are called devotees. The Supreme Lord becomes the devotee of His devotees. If a reciprocal relationship is not present between the devotee and the Lord, then there is no personalist philosophy. In the impersonal philosophy there is no reciprocation between the Supreme and the living entity, but in the personalist philosophy there is.
The example is often given that the Lord is like a desire tree, and whatever one wants from this desire tree, the Lord supplies. But here the explanation is more complete. The Lord is here stated to be partial to the devotees. This is the manifestation of the Lord’s special mercy to the devotees. The Lord’s reciprocation should not be considered to be under the law of karma. It belongs to the transcendental situation in which the Lord and His devotees function. Devotional service to the Lord is not an activity of this material world; it is part of the spiritual world, where eternity, bliss and knowledge predominate.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
“You liberate and give yourself to your devotees, but not to the non-devotees. But then do you not show prejudice, arising from attraction and repulsion?” The Lord refutes this in this verse.
“The devotees exist in me, and I exist also in them.” There is nothing special in this statement since the whole universe exists within the Lord, and the Lord exists everywhere in the universe. Thus the statement should mean “As the devotees are attached to me, so I am attached to them.” This takes into consideration the statement “As they surrender to me I respond to them.”
To compare the Lord to a kalpa vrksa, which gives to all without discrimination, is only partially correct. Those who take shelter of that tree do not become attached to it without desire for the fruit. Nor is the kalpa vrksa attached to those who take shelter of it. Nor does it hate the enemies of those who have taken shelter. But the Lord kills with is own hands the enemies of his devotee. The Lord says to Prahlada:
prahradaya yada druhyed dhanisye ‘pi varorjitam
I shall kill Hiranyakasipu immediately, despite the benedictions of Brahma. SB 7.4.28
Some persons explain that the word tu indicates a different intention. “I am equal to all, but still I favor my devotee.” Thus it means that the Lord has some prejudice, classed as affection, for the devotee. But, they explain, in the Lord, this is an ornament or enhancement, not a fault. The affection of the Lord for his devotee is an accomplished fact. He does not have affection for the jnani or the yogi. Just as other persons have affection for their own servants and not for the servants of others, the Lord also has affection for his devotees, and not for the devotees of Siva or Durga.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
9.29 Being a refuge for all, I am the same to all creation, be they gods, animals, men or immovables, who exist differentiated from the highest to the lowest according to their birth, form, nature and knowledge. With regard to those seeking refuge, none is hateful because of inferiority in status by birth, form, nature, knowledge etc. No one is discarded as an object of odium. Likewise, it is not that one who has resorted to Me is dear to Me on account of any consideration like birth, status etc. That he has taken refuge in Me is the only consideration. The meaning is no one is accepted as a refuge for reasons like birth. But those who worship Me as their sole objective I like, because I am exceedingly dear to them, and because they find it impossible to sustain themselves without My worship. So they abide in Me, irrespective of whether they are exalted or humble by birth etc. They abide in Me, as if they possess qualities equal to Mine. I also abide in them, as if they are My superiors. Moreover:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
One may speculate that since Lord Krishna grants moksa or liberation from the material existence to His devotees then the Supreme Lord as well is partial through attachment and aversion. This is being addressed now to negate any such speculation Lord Krishna states: sama’ham sarva-bhutesu which means He is equal to all beings. Yet even though He considers no one as His enemy and no one as His comrade; yet still to those who bhajanti tu mam bhaktya or render loving devotion to Him with love, He reciprocates with equal affection. It is seen that fire which destroys the misery of cold and darkness does this for anyone who tends it and wish fulfilling trees bestow desired objects to whomever sits under them they are not partial and in the same way anyone can first be initiated by a Vaisnava spiritual preceptor and become a devotee of Lord Krishna. Although the Supreme Lord favours His devotees it is certainly not because of partiality but rather due to the super excellent glory of bhakti or loving devotion to Him.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
As Lord Krishna is equally disposed to all beings then one could mistakenly believe that bhakti or loving devotion was not needed. He clarifies this with the words mayi te tesu capy aham meaning as His devotees are to Him that is how He is to them. Because He is favourably disposed to His devotees He awards benedictions even if the service is not perfect and to those who bear malice against Him there is not the least dislike towards them from Him whatsoever. It is a fact that everyone is subservient to and under the shelter of the Supreme Lord even if they are unable to realise this fact. As one matures in spiritual wisdom under the guidance of a Vaisinava spiritual preceptor then will be able to perceive the reality of all beings dependence. Otherwise one will become arrogant and belligerent puffed up by the pride of power, wealth or fame. The Paingi texts state that: Because of ignorance such beings do not realise their dependence in the beginning but after learning how to meditate upon the Supreme Lord they too can come find refuge in Him.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
The doubt may arise that if the Supreme Lord only guides His devotees towards atma-tattva or soul realisation and shuns those who are not His devotee then He is influenced by attraction and repulsion also and cannot be justified to be the impartial Supreme Lord of all. To mitigate this doubt Lord Krishna states samo’ham sarva-bhutesu meaning He is equal to all beings, due to the fact that He is paramatma or the Supreme Soul residing within all beings which includes divine beings, humans, animal, plant, bird and fish each characterised with the innate qualities of their species graded by best, normal and mediocre none being more disagreeable or more agreeable to Him. Whenever bhakti or loving devotion is offered to Him from whatever level of society He accepts. He is not degraded if worshipped by one from the lowest position of society neither is He upgraded if worshipped by one from the highest position in society. Such external considerations are not of importance. Whoever worships Him with bhakti from any class be it high or low He reciprocates in communion with them and they are never seperated from Him. Just like Gajendra who was an only an elephant prayed to the Supreme Lord and was rescued by Him. The Sabari who were simple forest women who seeing His footprints in the forest smeared the dust from them on their bodies and experienced bliss. Guha the tribal king who rendered service to Rama and became His friend. The hero Hanuman who although a monkey was able to aid Rama in finding Sita and became endeared to Him eternally. All these were lowly class yet they still received the Supreme Lords sublime mercy. Contrarily Bhishma, Srutadeva, Bahulasva, the Pandavas being Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva all belonged to the highest class and being devoted to the Supreme Lord received His sublime mercy.
The Supreme Lord Krishna blesses His devotees equally regardless of class or position but to the envious like Duryodhana and the non-believers who are not His devotees He is neutral and they do not receive His blessings. So there is no partiality and contingency of inequality on the part of the Supreme Lord. As fire gives heat and light to whoever comes near to it, as wish fulfilling trees fulfil the desires of whoever sits beneath them and neither are liable to partiality or inequality to those who do not approach them. In the same way the Supreme Lord’s extending His grace to His devotees who have approached Him does not exemplify partiality. In Srimad Bhagavatam X.LXXII.VI it is declared by Emperor Yudhisthira that: As Lord Krishna is the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence, the absolute truth, paramatma the supreme soul within all sentient beings, who experiences self bliss and beholds all with an equal eye; with Him there is no difference of feeling between one form and another. Just like the heavenly desire trees, He blesses all who properly worship Him granting their desired rewards according to the service they render unto Him. There is no contradiction in doing this.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
9.29 Aham, I; am samah, impartial, equal; sarva-bhutesu, towards all beings; me, to Me; na asti, there is none; dvesyah, detestable; na, none; priyah, dear. I am like fire: As fire does not ward off cold from those who are afar, but removes it from those who apporach, near, similarly I favour the devotees, not others. Tu, but; ye, those who approach near, similarly I favour the devotees, not others. Tu, but; ye, those who; bhajanti, worship Me, God; bhaktya, with devotion; te they; exist mayi, in Me-by their very nature; [‘Their mind becomes fit for My manifestation, as it has been purified by following the virtuous path.’] they do not exist in Me because of My love, Ca, and; aham, I; api, too; naturally exist tesu, in them, not in others. Thus there is no hatred towards them (the latter). ‘Listen to the greatness of devotion to Me:’
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
9.29-31 Ksipram etc. I swear etc. This result (or subject), has logic [as its strong basis] and now being promised by the Bhagavat, it becomes established most firmly.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
samo ’ham sarva-bhutesu
na me dvesyo ’sti na priyah
ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktya
mayi te tesu capy aham
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
samaḥ — equally disposed; aham — I; sarva-bhūteṣu — to all living entities; na — no one; me — to Me; dveṣyaḥ — hateful; asti — is; na — nor; priyaḥ — dear; ye — those who; bhajanti — render transcendental service; tu — but; mām — unto Me; bhaktyā — in devotion; mayi — are in Me; te — such persons; teṣu — in them; ca — also; api — certainly; aham — I.