As you take your seat with your family or friends in a restaurant, you expect to hear the above question. You may then ask for the menu card, or if you know exactly what you want you may proceed to tell the waiter what he is supposed to do.
Many of us think of a benign God in exactly the same way. We in India have a term for it – manokamana-pürti (fulfillment of mind’s desires). Many devotional songs (bhajanas), especially the modern variety, extol God as someone who fulfills all your material desires. And why shouldn’t He? After all, He is the creator and maintainer of this entire cosmic manifestation. Isn’t it His duty to fulfill our desires?
There is a Vedic mantra that describes God as someone who fulfills everyone’s desires since time immemorial. Since He has the capacity to do so, many feel He is obliged to do so. However, our material desires are innumerable and they never seem to end. The Bhagavad-gita (3.39) states that material desires cannot be satisfied by any amount of sense enjoyment, just as fire is never extinguished by a constant supply of fuel.
Srila Prabhupada brilliantly explains this as follows: “Material desires in the mind are the trash of material contamination. By such contamination, the living being is faced with so many compatible and incompatible things that discourage the very existence of spiritual identity. Birth after birth, the conditioned soul is entrapped by so many pleasing and displeasing elements, that are all false or temporary. They accumulate due to our reactions to material desires, but when we get in touch with the transcendental Lord in His variegated energies by devotional service, the naked forms of all material desires become manifest, and the intelligence of the living being is pacified, having seen things in their true colors. As soon as Arjuna turned his attention towards the instructions of the Lord, as they are inculcated in the Bhagavad-gita, his true color of eternal association with the Lord became manifest, and thus he became free from all material contaminations.” (Bhagavatam 1.15.29, purport)
Before the battle of Kuruksetra began, Arjuna was sitting in his chariot with Lord Sri Krishna as his charioteer. Arjuna said, “O Acyuta, place my chariot in the midst of the two armies, for I wish to see who has come to fight with us.” And just as your waiter carries out your order, Krishna dutifully obliged. Some of us may ask, “Then why doesn’t Krishna carry out my orders?” Well, Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and He is nobody’s order supplier. But joyfully, He agrees to do these menial tasks for His pure devotees. No yogi, demon, demigod or any other powerful person can make the Lord bend down to his wishes. But for those who, like Arjuna, are not envious of Him, He gladly carries out any order given by them.