“Bhakti, or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all the senses (Hrishikesha). When the spirit soul renders service unto the Supreme, there are two side effects. One is freed from all material designations, and, simply by being employed in the service of the Lord, one’s senses are purified.” (Narada-pancharatra)
Demigod worship is an important tradition amongst Hindus, or the followers of the Vedas. Householders and young children regularly worship the various demigods out of a sense of duty and also to achieve desired fruitive results. Nevertheless, one should never mistakenly think that the demigods possess the same power and potency as the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. God is superior, and the demigods are His chief subordinates.
There are millions of devatas, or demigods, but a few of them are very well known and considered the primary demigods. Lord Shiva is one of the three guna avataras of Krishna. He is in charge of the mode of ignorance. The material world is governed by three gunas, or qualities: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Lord Brahma is in charge of passion, Lord Shiva is in charge of ignorance, and Lord Vishnu is in charge of goodness. Of these three, Lord Vishnu is superior because He is the same as Krishna. One may wonder why there would be a demigod for people in the mode of ignorance, i.e. people that are less intelligent and lazy. God is so nice to us that He made the Vedas applicable to everyone. Though not every person will automatically take to bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service to God, there still exist other subordinate systems of religion that people can take to. The idea is that as long as everyone follows some sort of religious system, hopefully they will be able to gradually advance in their current and future lives, up to point where they can finally achieve true knowledge and wisdom.
Lord Shiva is known as Mahadeva, or the greatest demigod. By nature, he is a great devotee of Vishnu, but the Lord has given him the task of providing boons to anyone who worships him. If we pray to Lord Krishna or Vishnu for something, the Lord may or may not grant our wish. He judges our request and decides whether or not the item in question will actually be good for us or not. This is the Lord’s mercy upon us. This isn’t the case with the demigods. They are required to provide boons to anyone who properly worships them. The reasoning behind this can be explained by studying the type of people that worship demigods. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna declares demigod worshipers to be less intelligent.
“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)
This isn’t a slight at the demigods. They are only carrying out the Lord’s orders. Lord Rama, Krishna, Sita, Lakshmana, and other great incarnations and expansions of God all worshiped various demigods during their time on earth. So why would Krishna declare such worship to be second class? By definition, demigods can only offer material boons. Material rewards fall under four distinct categories: dharma (religiosity), artha (economic development), kama (sense gratification), and moksha (liberation). These rewards are considered material because they are aimed at fulfilling one’s personal desires. While that is generally not a bad thing, especially considering the fact that everyone has desires, material rewards are still temporary in nature. They have a beginning and an end. Even the hope for liberation is considered on the material platform because it involves a selfish desire to be free from miseries.
Devotional service, or bhakti yoga, is the eternal occupation of man. We all love God at our core, but somehow or other we lost touch with Him. If we act towards rekindling that lost relationship, then such acts are considered spiritual. Krishna is the supreme enjoyer. If we work towards pleasing His senses, then we don’t become bound by any material reactions.
We may pray to a demigod to grant us great wealth, but such a gift is only temporary. Our bank balance doesn’t come with us at the time of death. Great wealth can also be a ticket straight to hell because it can lead to greed and miserliness. If one is a miser in this life, they will surely have to suffer the consequences in the afterlife. This same principle holds true with any type of material reward. One should realize that Krishna is actually the source of everything, and He sanctions all the benedictions bestowed by the demigods.
“I am in everyone’s heart as the Supersoul. As soon as one desires to worship the demigods, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to some particular deity. Endowed with such a faith, he seeks favors of a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.21-22)
The less intelligent take to demigod worship because they don’t have faith in God. Vedic literature is full of historical incidents of demons taking to demigod worship. The great Rakshasa, Ravana, was a devout worshiper of Lord Shiva. He prayed for many boons relating to the accumulation of great wealth and prowess. He became so strong that those same demigods became fearful of Him. Lord Krishna had to personally come to earth in the form of a human being, Lord Rama, to alleviate the situation by killing Ravana. A similar incident occurred with the demon Vrikasura. He performed great austerities in hopes of pleasing Lord Shiva. Shankaraji eventually appeared to the demon and granted him any boon of his choosing. Vrikasura asked for the power to be able to kill any person whom he would touch on the head. Lord Shiva obliged and the demon immediately began to chase after Shiva, trying to touch Mahadeva’s head. This is a great example of the difference between strict demigod worshipers and the devotees of the Lord Krishna. Vrikasura and Ravana had no care for Lord Shiva whatsoever. They viewed him strictly as an order supplier. As soon as their product arrived, they tossed aside their concern for him. Going beyond just indifference, these demons thought themselves to be more powerful than Shiva.
Once again, Lord Krishna had to come to the rescue. In His form as Narayana (Vishnu), the Lord intercepted the demon during his chase of Lord Shiva. Appearing in the guise of a brahmachari, Narayana tricked the demon into killing himself.
“’I myself cannot believe that Lord Shiva has in truth given you such a benediction. As far as I know, Lord Shiva is not in a sane mental condition. He had a quarrel with his father-in-law Daksha, and he has been cursed to become a pishacha (ghost). Thus he has become the leader of the ghosts and hobgoblins. Therefore I cannot put any faith in his words. But if you have faith still in the words of Lord Shiva, my dear king of the demons, then why don’t you make an experiment by putting your hand on your head? If the benediction proves false, then you can immediately kill this liar, Lord Shiva, so that in the future he will not dare to give out false benedictions.’ In this way, by Lord Narayana’s sweet words and by the expansion of His superior illusion, the demon became bewildered, and he actually forgot the power of Lord Shiva and his benediction. He was thus very easily persuaded to put his hand on his own head. As soon as the demon did that, his head cracked, as if struck by thunder, and he immediately died.” (Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 33)
During His youth, Lord Rama was set to be installed as the new king of Ayodhya, the successor to His father, Maharaja Dashratha. Due to the nefarious work of His step-mother, Kaikeyi, Rama was instead ordered to leave the kingdom and spend fourteen years roaming the forest as a recluse. Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, was very angered by this treatment shown to Rama. He tried his best to persuade Rama to stay and usurp the throne by force. Lakshmana was willing to fight anyone and everyone who would stand against such a suggestion.
“What to speak of our father, neither all the demigods nor all the people of the three worlds combined could thwart the installation of Rama as king." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.21)
Lakshmana was a pure devotee, an incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga, the king of serpents residing in the spiritual world with Lord Narayana and Lakshmi Devi. Rama was intent on following His parents’ orders, so Lakshmana had to use every argumentative trick at his disposal to hopefully convince Rama to stay. Lakshmana boldly declared that no one, including their father or any of the demigods managing the three worlds (bhur, bhuvah, svah), would be able to thwart the Lord’s installation. With this statement, Lakshmana is reiterating the fact regarding Lord Krishna’s potency. God is the original source of everything, and master of all the demigods. If God wants something to happen, no one can stand in His way.
Lord Rama appreciated Lakshmana’s sentiments, but He still decided to go to the forest, taking His wife, Sita Devi, and Lakshmana with Him. The Lord had higher purposes to fulfill, so usurping the kingdom at that time wasn’t necessary. The lesson here is that we should still respect the demigods, for they are authorized agents of the Lord. Nevertheless, we should always remember that there is only one Supreme God. If we do want to worship the demigods, then we should do so for Krishna’s benefit. He is so kind to us, that we should take every chance we can get to repay that kindness. Everything in this world should be done as a sacrifice for Vishnu. We should all hope to one day worship the Lord in the same manner as Lakshmana.
Categories: glories of lakshmana