“They [the demoniac] say that this world is unreal, that there is no foundation and that there is no God in control. It is produced of sex desire, and has no cause other than lust.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.8)
From the Vedas we get two corresponding Sanskrit words of vital importance: sura and asura. Sura is translated to mean “devotee.” At the more basic level, a sura believes in God. They know that there is a supreme controller in charge of everything. They know that not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. They may not remember this influence at every moment of every day, but even their forgetfulness is somewhat innocent. At their core, they believe in God and want to do things to please Him.
The word asura is generally translated to mean “demon,” but the “a” in front is a negation. This means that the demon is simply “not a devotee.” In Vedic texts, which are the oldest in the world and which feature the Sanskrit language, we are given clear examples of the behavior of asuras; lest we think there is any innocence in their defiance of the Supreme Will. They are demons because they are convinced that there is not a God, and as such their philosophy leads them to do all the things that we would consider bad.
If they don’t believe in God, then how do they explain the creation? What do they say the goal of life is?
Since they don’t believe there is an intelligent being guiding everything, the asuras consider everything to be the product of sex desire alone. To them, life comes from the meeting of a man and a woman. There is no other cause. Somehow or other the universe came into existence. Somehow or other it will dissolve in the future, or it may not. Their philosophy is based only on sight. Whatever they see is what they believe. Of course that is not entirely true. They never saw themselves emerge from the womb, and yet they accept so and so as their mother. They never saw past history unfold, and yet they believe in the accounts presented in history books. They never witnessed past scientific experiments conducted, yet they believe the theses presented in scientific journals.
If you consider their philosophy to be valid, that everything is more or less unreal, just a series of random movements, what conclusion must you come to? You would have no choice but to think that the aim of life is to “get yours.” “Let me eat, sleep, mate and defend as much as possible. Who cares about right or wrong? Since everything is created from sex anyway, destroying something shouldn’t harm me at all. If I kill another human being, I might get in trouble with the law, so I’ll steer clear of that. Instead, I’ll kill innocent animals to satisfy my desires for eating. I’ll have sex with whomever is around. If I get into trouble, we’ll get the unwanted pregnancy terminated. If someone objects, I will call them intolerant. I will label them a sexist, someone who doesn’t support the reproductive rights of women. Though I believe everything is due to random sex, somehow I will come up with the term ‘reproductive rights,’ as if suddenly I believe in a code of ethics.”
Indeed, if you take the asura philosophy you have no choice but to be completely selfish, ignoring future consequences. Another point to consider is that the principles of the asuras do not apply universally. My selfishness will conflict with your selfishness. My desire to kill the innocent child in the womb conflicts with the child’s desire to live. My desire to kill the innocent cow for food conflicts with the cow’s desire to remain alive to feed its calves. Milk cannot be produced any other way. It is a product of love, a love which is increased when the mother is together with her children. I would never want the same to happen to me, but since I don’t believe in a God, what do I care what happens to others? And yet others will apply the same logic towards my interests, leaving me in a perpetual state of fear.
The principles of the suras, however, apply to everyone. Whereas the asuras teach only to exploit, the suras teach to serve. Service is beneficial for both the individual doing the service and the object receiving the service. Serving is when one is most happy. Setting aside the spiritual component for a moment, take a look at any awards ceremony and see what are the most common things said. Thanks are given to mentors, teachers, coaches, teammates, and cast members. The honoree tries their best to deflect attention away from them, for they are happier when others are praised. The award itself is a way for a group of individuals to pay honor to someone else.
This tendency is inherent to spirit. In the individual it is inherited from the Supreme. He does exist. There is intelligence to His creation, which is an energy separated in interest from Him. In a land where asuras and suras constantly struggle, the Supreme Lord keeps out until asked for help. If one person wants to become very rich and someone else wants to live the simple life, what is the real difference? On the other hand, if someone wants to be devoted to God and someone else is preventing that from happening, then the Supreme Lord pays extra attention, offering His direct help if necessary.
The godly principles say to be devoted to God in thought, word and deed. This is why the sannyasis, those in the renounced order, who worship a personal God carry a danda made of three rods. That danda is symbolic of their full devotion to God. This devotion is beneficial for everyone. It is a principle that applies for every single person, just like the laws of science. We don’t hear that the general consumption of certain foods is good for only certain people. If something is good, it is good for everyone; the same goes for something that is bad.
The highest godly principle is to be God conscious. To make this consciousness a reality, one should change their behavior. Rather than exploit, which is a trait of the demoniac, one should limit their sense interaction as much as possible; take the bare minimum to remain focused on God. If there is material abundance, use it in your service to God. Use your large estate to invite members to come and worship together. Use your car to drive to places of worship. Use your ears to hear the glories of God, as they are sung in mantras like “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Use your intelligence to understand the science of God, as presented in works like the Bhagavad-gita. Use your potential for action to serve the Supreme Lord in the nine different methods of bhakti-yoga. From these principles understand that the demoniac way of life is the animal way of life, teaching us absolutely nothing.
If from sex only this universe came,
In knowledge what will be my gain?
Exploitation of others then a must,
Competition means in others not to trust.
Thus only in animal life to stay,
Therefore no meaning from asuras’ way.
Godly principles to all to apply,
No harm if to understand God I try.
Thus know asura path one that is wrong,
Follow the suras, in devotion remain strong.