“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness – these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.42)
You can tell that the path of the asuras is not rooted in righteousness based on their general lack of honesty. Asura is a Sanskrit term to describe those who are against the godly principles. Compassion, austerity, cleanliness and truthfulness are the four basic virtues of a righteous person. The asura is ultimately after the post of ruler of the universe, though they may be unaware of it. At least within their small circles, they are after the post of top enjoyer.
The asura is not compassionate. They have no problem stepping over the helpless and innocent in order to get ahead. Indeed, in the field of business, one of the key ingredients to success is lack of emotion. The more you can stay detached from the human aspect of the business, the better off you will be. The goal of the business is to earn a profit, and in this area it is better not to let everyone know how much profit you are making. It is advisable to keep a good public face, where you discuss your support of various social causes. Behind the scenes, however, you are only interested in getting ahead, which often times means destroying the competition.
There is hardly any austerity in the asura. This accompanies their attitude of “enjoy as much as possible before death arrives.” Since death is the great eraser, another accompanying pursuit is the extension of life. “Try to find any way possible to stay alive, for you can’t enjoy anything when you are dead.” The lack of austerity also facilitates exploitation. “Eat more than you should. Spend more time frivolously than you should. Enjoy as much as you can, for otherwise someone else will enjoy and you will lose out.”
“If a bag of rice is placed in a public place, birds will come to eat a few grains and go away. A human being, however, will take away the whole bag. He will eat all his stomach can hold and then try to keep the rest in storage.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Nectar of Instruction, 2 Purport)
The example of goods falling in the street illustrates this perfectly. If pigeons see a pile of food in the street, they will take what they need and then move on. The human being, especially one of the asura tendency, will likely hoard all the goods lying in the same street, considering it a boon to safeguard against future destitution.
The asura cannot have cleanliness due precisely to the way they think. In order to compete with their fellow man for resources, they must cast aside empathy. I know that I have trouble with life, with its many ups and downs. I have a difficult time dealing with attachments. I, too, have worries over the future, in how I will support myself. But if my sole desire is to exploit, I will not have the time to consider that others have the same issues to deal with. Therefore my mind is unclean; it cannot perform optimally.
There is also no honesty in the asura. Under the model of “exploit as much as you can from this world,” honesty is not helpful. The snake oil salesman does not say, “Hey, what I’m selling you here is worthless. It has no value whatsoever. You could get the same thing from the nearby river. That water doesn’t cost anything. I’m selling this to you because I want to make money. I know that people are innocent and gullible, so by giving my pitch, it will be easy for me to rake in profits.”
The politician is especially hurt by being honest. They will say that such and such program will help such and such people, but they never reveal the unintended consequences. They never discuss the effect their legislation will have on the budget. Nor do they bring to attention the past history of similar legislation. Rather, the primary objective is to stay in office, and in a democracy the best way to do that is hand out money. Anyone who calls them out on this duplicity is immediately taken to task. The dissenter is destroyed in the public arena, giving warning to others of what they will face should they speak the truth.
The sura, on the other hand, is quite open about their objectives. At the highest level, they think only of God, who is the author of everything great in this world. Honesty is a representation of Him, for He is the Absolute Truth. He is always God. He is not the supreme controller only some of the time. He is not the strongest person only on a particular day. His achievements last a lifetime. When He lifts a bow of considerable mass in the assembly of King Janaka, others know that He is the strongest person in the world. But actually, He was the strongest before that incident occurred. And He is still the strongest today, even if others are not aware of that historical incident.
The devoted soul has one objective: to be God conscious. They direct all of their activities towards meeting that goal. They are generally honest, for honesty does not hurt them, nor anyone else. If others feel threatened by the sura’s pursuit, they can easily take up the same mission, for every spirit soul is meant to be God conscious. My God consciousness will not threaten yours. In fact, the more I chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” the more spiritual benefit there is for those around me. The Supreme is limitless, so there is not only so much of Him to go around. He can reside in my consciousness as well as yours.
In my head He may stand tall in His transcendental form of Shri Ramachandra, the protector of Janaki and the loyal son of Maharaja Dasharatha. In your mind He may be resting in His four-armed form of Lord Vishnu, being massaged by the beautiful Lakshmi Devi. In another’s mind He may be playing His transcendental flute in His original form of Shri Krishna. In another’s mind He may be in His childhood form drinking milk from mother Yashoda. In the mind of another He maybe on the battlefield of Kurukshetra delivering the king of education to the distressed warrior Arjuna, who relates with all the conditioned souls by exhibiting doubt as to the proper course in life.
In others, the consciousness may be only of a nameless, faceless person who is acknowledged to be the proprietor of everything. Even this limited understanding is so beneficial and qualifies as God consciousness. In all such cases, the fortunate soul having consciousness of God can be honest with others, even if it may give rise to negative reactions. A five year old boy during an ancient time was taken to the woodshed for his honesty in this area. Still, everyone around him, including the aggressors who tried to kill him, were ultimately benefitted. Real honesty starts with acknowledging that we are spirit souls, part and parcel of God. In truth, we are meant to serve Him; all other service derives from this truth.
Conversely, dishonesty begins with denying the true position of the soul. From that dishonesty we get speculations as to the meaning of life, whether there is a God, and what identifies someone. In the asura mindset, honesty is not helpful, which means that it cannot be the righteous path. The devoted souls are always honest about their mission in life, and so others can offer their full trust, which is to their ultimate benefit.
Full honesty of intention in one,
In another not a trace, there is none.
Asura of God does not know,
So their personal fortune try to grow.
Their success to come at another’s expense,
So dishonesty to them a worthwhile defense.
Devoted soul truthful in their motives to tell,
Success for all to take, most valuable is what they sell.