“Lord Shiva’s worshipers sometimes appear more opulent than the worshipers of Lord Vishnu because Durga, or Sati, being the superintendent in charge of material affairs, can offer all material opulences to the worshipers of Lord Shiva in order to glorify her husband, whereas the worshipers of Vishnu are meant for spiritual elevation, and therefore their material opulence is sometimes found to decrease.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.4.21 Purport)
Bhakti-yoga, which is equivalent with the concept of Vishnu worship, is unique amongst all styles of religion. Indeed, it really has no comparison with any popularly practiced faith, since the discipline is both scientifically based and constitutionally sound. In other words, the soul’s real business is devotional service, performed without interruption and without motivation. The practice sometimes brings unexpected results in the beginning.
“Oh God, I have no one else to turn to. I don’t ask for much. Can you help me out this one time? I promise to be good. I won’t do bad things anymore.”
Who hasn’t found themselves in this situation at least once? The scene is commonly inserted into storylines of movies and television shows. When all else fails, turn to the man upstairs. He is the Almighty for a reason. He can do anything. He can fix any problem. He can provide anything to any person and take away anything that might be causing them trouble.
In the Vedic tradition, Vishnu-worship certainly involves prayer. Vishnu is one name for the Almighty. It means “all-pervading.” There is a personality to go with the attribute. There are identifiable features that accompany the personality. In other words, you don’t have to speculate as to what God looks like, where He lives, or what pleases Him.
In bhakti-yoga, you can certainly approach Vishnu and offer the same prayer as that mentioned above. The interesting thing is that He might not come through. It is not that He is mean. He is not vengeful and old and bitter at the many sinners living in this world. Rather, He is full of sweetness and compassion. He has nothing to do, and so He is always taking rest on the serpent bed known as Ananta. While resting, He is getting massaged by His beautiful wife, Lakshmi Devi, who is the goddess of fortune.
Why is the wife in control of fortune and not Vishnu Himself? Why doesn’t Vishnu always come through for those who worship Him?
Indeed, there is another divine figure who is known for being easily pleased. His primary name is Shiva, and the secondary name of Ashutosha speaks to his tendency to quickly deliver on prayers. If you want wealth, he can grant it very quickly. He doesn’t even take into account the character of the person. Just do the worship in the right way and you’ll see results fast. In the historical incidents described in Vedic literature, it is often the case that the Shiva worshipers are wealthy and prosperous, while the Vishnu worshipers are poor.
Vishnu is the Supreme Godhead due to the very fact that He sometimes refuses requests. Material opulence can be like poison if not utilized properly. The mind itself already has this dual-sided nature. It can be the best friend of the living entity, but also its worst enemy.
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5)
Lord Shiva is Ashutosha for a reason. He knows that material opulence is not that important. He himself is a Vishnu worshiper. He doesn’t keep much around him; just the bare essentials. In ability he is amazing, but he doesn’t misuse that ability. His worshipers often don’t know any better. Caught in the fever of acquiring this thing and that, they approach Shiva and forget to study his characteristics, his way of life.
But then why is Shiva-worship authorized? Isn’t approaching him a trap?
Worship of a divine figure is better than rejecting spiritual life altogether. The hope is that one day the person will realize that material opulence is not everything. The true definition of progressive life is the advancement of consciousness. The consciousness pervades the entire body, and so one who is conscious of the right thing will feel pleasure throughout. They will experience a level of bliss that money and power can never bring. Vishnu’s association automatically purifies the consciousness, so through His mercy one makes advancement very quickly. In bhakti-yoga, which is dedicated to God the person, the worship never stops, since there is nothing temporary or miserable to seek after. Just as Vishnu is eternal, so is the worship that maintains the link to Him.
Shiva known to be easily pleased,
Character of the person not he sees.
His worshipers sometimes with a lot,
And those going to Vishnu much not.
Because Supreme Lord prayer to assess,
And whether in consciousness to progress.
Personal God merciful in this way so,
Highest benefit whenever towards Him to go.