सम: प्रिय: सुहृद्ब्रह्मन् भूतानां भगवान् स्वयम् ।
इन्द्रस्यार्थे कथं दैत्यानवधीद्विषमो यथा ॥ १ ॥
samaḥ priyaḥ suhṛd brahman
bhūtānāṁ bhagavān svayam
indrasyārthe kathaṁ daityān
avadhīd viṣamo yathā
śrī-rājā uvāca — Mahārāja Parīkṣit said; samaḥ — equal; priyaḥ — beloved; suhṛt — friend; brahman — O brāhmaṇa (Śukadeva); bhūtānām — toward all living entities; bhagavān — the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu; svayam — Himself; indrasya — of Indra; arthe — for the benefit; katham — how; daityān — the demons; avadhīt — killed; viṣamaḥ — partial; yathā — as if.
King Parīkṣit inquired: My dear brāhmaṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, being everyone’s well-wisher, is equal and extremely dear to everyone. How, then, did He become partial like a common man for the sake of Indra and thus kill Indra’s enemies? How can a person equal to everyone be partial to some and inimical toward others?
In Bhagavad-gītā (9.29) the Lord says, samo ’haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu na me dveṣyo ’sti na priyaḥ: “I am equal to everyone. No one is dear to Me, nor is anyone My enemy.” In the previous canto, however, it has been observed that the Lord sided with Indra by killing the demons on his account (hata-putrā ditiḥ śakra-pārṣṇi-grāheṇa viṣṇunā). Therefore, the Lord was clearly partial to Indra, although He is the Supersoul in everyone’s heart. The soul is extremely dear to everyone, and similarly the Supersoul is also dear to everyone. Thus there cannot be any faulty action on the part of the Supersoul. The Lord is always kind to all living entities, irrespective of form and situation, yet He took the side of Indra just like an ordinary friend. This was the subject of Parīkṣit Mahārāja’s inquiry. As a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, he knew very well that Kṛṣṇa cannot be partial to anyone, but when he saw that Kṛṣṇa acted as the enemy of the demons, he was somewhat doubtful. Therefore he posed this question to Śukadeva Gosvāmī for a clear answer.
A devotee cannot accept that Lord Viṣṇu has material qualifications. Mahārāja Parīkṣit knew perfectly well that Lord Viṣṇu, being transcendental, has nothing to do with material qualities, but to confirm his conviction he wanted to hear from the authority Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura says, samasya kathaṁ vaiṣamyam: since the Lord is equally disposed toward everyone, how can He be partial? Priyasya katham asureṣu prīty-abhāvaḥ. The Lord, being the Supersoul, is extremely dear to everyone. Why, then, should the Lord display unsympathetic behavior toward the asuras? How is this impartial? Suhṛdaś ca kathaṁ teṣv asauhārdam. Since the Lord says that He is suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānām, the well-wisher of all living entities, how could He act with partiality by killing demons? These questions arose in the heart of Parīkṣit Mahārāja, and therefore he inquired from Śukadeva Gosvāmī.