“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)
antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
devān deva-yajo yānti
mad-bhaktā yānti mām api
Though brief in comparison to other important Vedic texts, the Bhagavad-gita still covers a wide variety of topics. Included in the discussion is the worship of divine figures. This practice is notably attached to Hinduism, though the real meaning isn’t widely known, even to the people engaging in the worship. There are many heavenly personalities with great abilities. They can offer tremendous boons to their worshipers, but there is still one Supreme Godhead. He is always worshiped by them; the benefactors have a benefactor.
In His original form of Shri Krishna that supreme benefactor speaks the Bhagavad-gita. In delivering words of wisdom to the disciple, cousin, and friend named Arjuna, at one point Krishna describes worshipers of other divine figures to be less intelligent. The Sanskrit words are alpa medhasam. The literal translation is “less brain substance.” Su medhasam describes an intelligent person.
Upon hearing this, a worshiper of a divine figure other than Krishna may take offense.
“How can you call me less intelligent? That is ridiculous. Krishna is not mean in this way. There are many gods in the Vedic tradition, and they are all equal. You can approach any one that you like. There is no insistence. All paths lead to the same destination. You are needlessly dividing people. Just because you support Krishna doesn’t mean that people who don’t are less intelligent.”
Shri Krishna even says in the Bhagavad-gita that when a person desires to worship a particular god, He gives them the necessary faith through His feature in the heart of the Supersoul. Therefore it is not surprising that there would be disagreements borne of sentiment on the issue.
A good way to make a proper assessment is to remove the personalities from the picture. In the objective analysis, just study what the worshipers ask for and what the gods are capable of giving. We can equate worshiping the different gods to going to a store. In one store there is variety in the products offered. In one aisle there is good health. Another aisle has money. In a different section altogether is increased learning, such that will bring good grades on an exam. In a secret area, which is dark and away from everything else, you can get abilities used to hurt people. Think of it like a section for people into witchcraft.
Then there is another store altogether. In this one you don’t find different aisles. There aren’t objects for you to pick and choose. All you get is increased devotion to the proprietor. You get their association guaranteed in the future, as long as you stay close by. You don’t have to physically remain in the store; just keep the proprietor in mind; be conscious of Him.
With the first store, you can keep going back, lifetime after lifetime even. With the second store, you only need to maintain the connection within the consciousness. This is known as yoga. Visiting the first store is the equivalent of worshiping the many gods of the Vedic tradition. The second store is approaching the Supreme God, Shri Krishna. He is also known through His forms of Vishnu, Rama, Narasimha, and other avataras.
Krishna is also Hari. This name means that He sometimes takes things away from devotees. You’re going to one store to get wealth, and by visiting the second store in the proper mood, you might lose everything that you own.
Without any bias for personality, we see that going to the first store isn’t the best use of time. That is because the items for purchase are all material. The animals already get everything they need to survive, and they don’t engage in any kind of worship. Why should the more intelligent human being put so much effort into getting objects of temporary value?
Moreover, by worshiping Krishna directly there is the chance for happiness in any situation. Every good quality automatically comes about through following bhakti-yoga. The price is sincerity and steadiness. You don’t have to stress yourself out to get Krishna’s favor. You just need the guidance of someone who is already devoted to Him to show you the way. The person who understands the verse from the Bhagavad-gita about alpa-medhasam can properly explain it to you. They know that the many gods are all servants, who fulfill the role of benefactors, but who have their own benefactor in Krishna.
The valuable human form of life is meant for getting out of the cycle of birth and death. This release is known as moksha, or liberation. There are different kinds of liberation, but with the highest one association of the all-attractive Supreme Lord is maintained. God the person is the best companion to keep, and the only way to get His association and maintain it is through bhakti-yoga. Even if a person has many other desires, when they approach Krishna everything sorts itself out.
In any other kind of worship, the exchanges are like a business transaction, where there is no love. Krishna assesses what is asked for. If the desired object will hinder a devotee’s further progress in the purification of consciousness, He will deny the request. This is another feature that distinguishes bhakti-yoga from the worship of other gods. From assessing the rewards themselves, we see how worship of God the person is superior.
For particular god having affinity,
Why insist on only one divinity?
From any one you can choose,
All leading to same, nothing to lose.
Truth from Bhagavad-gita be blessed,
Worshipers of demigods with intelligence less.
A sober assessment, away the personality take,
See what asked for, judge on future’s sake.