Many people say that the God of Abrahamic religions is a “jealous” God. However, they don’t ask: If we can be jealous, then why can God also not be jealous? Similarly, if we can be non-jealous, therefore, God must also be non-jealous. This contradiction makes it very hard to understand God’s nature.
Fortunately, this conundrum is resolved in the Bhagavad-Gita, where Lord Kṛṣṇa makes two seemingly contradictory statements—one that is non-jealous followed by one that is totally jealous.
The jealous statement is BG 18.66, where Kṛṣṇa says:
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
The “jealousy” here is the use of the term mām ekaṁ or “only Me”. This is further affirmed by the abandoning of all other varieties of religion—sarva-dharmān parityajya. Clearly, Kṛṣṇa doesn’t like people practicing all varieties of dharma (duties and religions) other than Him. He is therefore jealous.
However, contrary to this statement, is the statement in BG 18.63:
guhyād guhya-taraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
Thus I have explained to you the knowledge still more confidential. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.
Anybody can analyze the scriptures all over the world, and I can assure you that you will never find a single scripture that says: “I have explained to you this knowledge, now do as you please”. Scriptures either describe without prescribing or definitively prescribe something. Often, they might prescribe contradictory things. But there is nothing that says: “do as you please (after deliberating)”. Since Kṛṣṇa makes this nonchalant statement before the jealous statement, therefore, Kṛṣṇa is also non-jealous.
In fact, Kṛṣṇa clarifies this contradiction further in BG 18.67 and BG 18.65:
na cāśuśrūṣave vācyaṁ
na ca māṁ yo ’bhyasūyati
This confidential knowledge may never be explained to those who are not austere, or devoted, or engaged in devotional service, nor to one who is envious of Me.
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te
pratijāne priyo ’si me
Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus, you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.
In short, I’m making the jealous statement to you (i.e., surrender only to Me) because you are my dear friend. And don’t teach this knowledge of exclusive surrender to those who might be jealous.
Therefore, God is also jealous, however, He reveals His jealous nature only to the intimate devotees. For everyone else, you can do whatever you please. This “jealousy” is the intimacy between the Lord and His devotees. Just like a wife may tell her husband—“If you look at other women, I feel jealous, so only look at me”—but she would not say that to acquaintances, because there is no intimacy. So, an increase in intimacy demands exclusivity, and a decrease in intimacy leads to nonchalance. God shows His desire for exclusivity only to those who are intimate. With those who are not intimate, He remains nonchalant.
This jealous nature of God is present in Kṛṣṇa, but the other forms of God are nonchalant. And this jealousy in Kṛṣṇa is the feminine nature present in the masculine form. Those who love Kṛṣṇa must be prepared for this jealous nature—He doesn’t like His devotees loving anyone other than Himself. But those who want a nonchalant God can worship other forms of God. If you want to love a nonchalant form of God, then you cannot become intimate with Him. After all, He is nonchalant. But if you want to become intimate, then you must be prepared for exclusivity in the love. In this way, God has a jealous aspect and a nonchalant aspect. But depending on the intimacy, He reveals different aspects.
Since Kṛṣṇa demonstrates both jealous and nonchalant forms, therefore, His jealousy is not to force anyone to love Him. Rather, it is reserved for those who love Him, to ask them to love Him exclusively!
In this way, deep aspects about God’s nature and intimate rasa are indicated even in Bhagavad-Gita. The basic principle of intimacy is jealousy—you cannot have any other preoccupation or interest. Therefore, as long as there is even a single alternative interest, there cannot be intimacy. In fact, even at the point of liberation, the intimate rasa cannot be understood. Liberation is the epitome of nonchalance. A liberated soul, who has no understanding of spiritual intimacy, will only wonder: Why is God being jealous? Why can’t I have a relationship with others, along with a relationship to Kṛṣṇa? Since this jealous exclusivity cannot be appreciated or accepted until deep intimacy is established, therefore, one must not try to perform any rasa mental gymnastics prematurely. It is reserved for extremely advanced souls who can be spiritually in an exclusive relationship.