“Maharaja Nanda observed fasting for the whole day, and just early in the morning of the Dvadashi, the day after Ekadashi, he went to take bath in the River Yamuna. He entered deep into the water of the river, but he was arrested immediately by one of the servants of Varunadeva. These servants brought Nanda Maharaja before the demigod Varuna and accused him of taking a bath in the river at the wrong time.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 28)
One of the more controversial topics discussed in the Bhagavad-gita is demigod worship. When Shri Krishna speaks there shouldn’t be any controversy. He is the final word, after all. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract. He is the face beyond the light of transcendence that is Brahman. He is the intelligence behind the seemingly impersonal material nature.
There is controversy only due to man’s ignorance, which is rooted in forgetfulness of Krishna, or God. In the pursuit to try to achieve God’s position, man offers tribute to many different personalities. Outside of the realm of religion there is the flattering of the boss and the clients. There is money exchanged for services. Without offering in this way, there is no chance to get ahead.
Demigod worship is for getting the cooperation of more elevated beings. You can’t call your utility company and ask them to make it rain. You can’t make a campaign contribution to the leader of the nation to have them increase your luck throughout life.
Demigods can help you with these things. If you are intent on material advancement, then you’re likely following strict rules already. As an example, if you want to run a marathon, you’ll put your body through rigorous training. The same goes for losing weight. For passing medical school, there are so many hours of studying, past the point that your body normally allows.
Demigod worship is ideal for those who already follow strict rules to get ahead. Pick your worshipable personality of choice and adhere to the standards laid down. You must worship at the proper place and time. You must come up with the proper offering. You must say everything correctly. Only then will you get your reward.
In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that the less intelligent follow this path. They take up demigod worship because they don’t know that there is a higher purpose in life. Worship of a divine figure for material rewards is no different than working just as hard for those rewards in the material realm. The means of exchange is the only difference; the result is the same.
antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
devān deva-yajo yānti
mad-bhaktā yānti mām api
“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)
The higher purpose to the human life is devotion to God. That discipline is not so strict. The reason is the beneficiary. The Supreme Lord is the most merciful. He forgives all souls who have forgotten Him at one time or another. He sees every offense ever committed and He only keeps with Him the good deeds done in His favor. By advising against demigod worship, He is looking out for the best interests of the devotee. He knows that there is a better utilization of time and effort, a way that is free of regrets.
From Krishna’s earthly pastimes there is the lesson from Govardhana Puja. This took place in Vrindavana at Krishna’s insistence. It was noteworthy because it was done in place of the Indra-yajna, which was an annual occurrence. Govardhana Puja was devotional service, while the Indra-yajna was demigod worship. Despite having done it many times previously, since the yajna was skipped just one time Lord Indra became angry. He sought revenge on the innocent people, but Krishna was there to save the day.
Another instructive example came shortly after Govardhana Puja. Krishna’s foster father, Nanda Maharaja, observed Ekadashi, which is fasting on the eleventh day in the moon cycle. On the morning of the twelfth day, he went to take bath in the sacred Yamuna river. The problem was that the time was not exactly auspicious. Varuna, the demigod in charge of the waters, had Nanda arrested for his mistake. In this instance Nanda was not even taking part in demigod worship, but by accident it looked otherwise.
Once again Krishna saved the day. He and His elder brother Balarama visited Varuna, and immediately Nanda was released. That incident again shows the risk involved in demigod worship. The reward is not worth it, either. Material benedictions last only for the present lifetime, and they are achieved after hard and risky work. Merits earned for the afterlife similarly expire at some point. The spiritual benediction of Krishna’s mercy carries less requirements. Indeed, in pure devotion there are no restrictions, as devotion to God cannot be checked by any means. Therefore it is the path recommended for every person, regardless of their mindset going in.
Varuna’s assistants to underworld to take,
Since Nanda choosing bad time for fast to break.
Not even demigod worship observing,
Still getting punishment undeserving.
Like with Govardhana Krishna there to save,
Lesson that pure devotion way to behave.
Less risk and reward a lasting one,
For time and place restrictions none.
Categories: krishna pastimes