“Narada could understand the plan of the demon, and he advised him, ‘You had better worship Lord Shiva; then you will quickly get the desired result. Lord Shiva is very quickly satisfied and very quickly dissatisfied also. So you try to satisfy Lord Shiva.’ Narada also cited instances wherein demons like Ravana and Banasura were enriched with great opulences simply by satisfying Lord Shiva with prayers.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 33)
He is known as Ashutosha. This means that Lord Shiva is easily pleased. It doesn’t take much to get benedictions from him. If there is a strong hankering for something, wanting it delivered quickly, Mahadeva is the person to approach.
The wise take note, however. They understand that if something can arrive quickly, it can vanish in the same amount of time. Material desires are known to increase the more they are indulged; something like trying to put out a fire by giving it more fuel. The intensity of the fire will only increase.
Lord Shiva does not discriminate. He accepts the requests of any person. In this regard even asuras, people of bad character, have worshiped him. The end result was not always as expected, however.
This bad character requested to know which of the three presiding deities of creation should be approached for fulfilling a desire. Vrikasura had the good fortune of bringing his question to Narada Muni, who is a travelling devotee of Vishnu. Narada easily could have told the asura to follow the same path, to take up devotion to Vishnu, who is God the person.
Instead, Narada directed him to Lord Shiva. It was understood that there was a material desire, and in this case the fulfillment of that desire would increase the glories of Vishnu. Vrikasura next underwent tremendous austerities, close to the point of sacrificing himself in a fire. Lord Shiva finally appeared on the scene, being pleased with the worship. Vrikasura asked for the benediction that he be able to kill anyone simply by placing his hand on their head. Request granted.
A good person would be appreciative upon receiving such an amazing ability. After all, it didn’t come about through personal effort. Someone else had to grant the favor. The someone else in this case was Lord Shiva, who is always to be respected. The ungrateful Vrikasura then proceeded to chase after Shiva, hoping to touch his head, kill him, and take his beautiful wife, Parvati Devi.
This is the famous asura with one thousand hands. He pleased Lord Shiva one time and received tremendous fighting prowess as a result. Despite ruling over a city and having the demigods live in fear of him, Banasura was not satisfied. He approached Lord Shiva and asked to get a worthy adversary with whom to engage in combat. Lord Shiva then chastised him, saying that such a swelling of the pride would bring about his doom. A person with such benedictions should be living peacefully, but instead the asura personally invited danger.
Ravana was an asura in spirit, being against God at the core. This wicked character in the body of a Rakshasa got his name from Shiva. The son of Vishrava created such a terrifying scream one time that Mahadeva gave him the name Ravana. This was after the Rakshasa tried to agitate Lord Shiva. Essentially, Ravana’s respect and worship came after being defeated by Mahadeva.
The common bond shared between these three infamous asuras is that they each ended up finding defeat at the hands of Lord Vishnu. Brahma creates, Vishnu maintains, and Shiva destroys. But Vishnu is not a demigod. He is the deva deva, or the god of the gods. He is not as easily pleased, since He has no interest in giving material benedictions to worshipers. He is known as Mukunda, which means the giver of mukti, or liberation. Even when Mahadeva gives liberation, it is through the vehicle of one of Vishnu’s names: Rama. Vishnu uses discrimination with the requests of the devotees, since His desire is to free them of material desires.
In the case of Vrikasura, while chasing after Lord Shiva there was intervention by Vishnu, who appeared in the guise of a holy man. In a funny scene, Vishnu said some negative words about Mahadeva, about how the great god could not be trusted. He asked Vrikasura to test the boon on his own head, as the disguised Vishnu said He did not believe such a power could exist. Sure enough, Vrikasura touched his own head and died as a result.
In the case of Banasura the equal in terms of fighting ability arrived in the form of Lord Krishna, who is non-different from Vishnu. In the great struggle Lord Shiva was called upon to help, but even that didn’t work. Krishna emerged victorious, and as a favor to Shiva He didn’t kill Banasura. The arms were lopped off, however, leaving Banasura with only four.
In the case of Ravana there was the famous fight with Lord Rama, another incarnation of Vishnu. Ravana had ten heads, twenty arms, a huge army of very capable Rakshasas, and an island kingdom that was far away from land. None of those things were able to protect him from the wrath of Rama, who arrived to take back His beautiful and innocent wife Sita.
It is interesting to note that both Ravana and Banasura had previously tried to win the hand of Sita, during the svayamvara arranged by her father, King Janaka of Mithila. The contest was simple. Lift a heavy bow and win Sita as a wife. Neither Ravana nor Banasura could even move the bow.
This bow originally belonged to Lord Shiva. This means that their great benefactor could not help them in the contest. They had material strength, but something else was required in this special case. Sita Devi is an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi, who is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Only Vishnu could win the contest, which He did in the form of Rama. The benedictions offered by Shiva were only good in a material existence, but when faced against the Divine will they were no match.
As Ashutosha Mahadeva is known,
Quickly favor to worshipers shown.
Those of bad character advantage taking,
Worship only in short term making.
Like Banasura and Ravana with power much,
And demon to kill with hand to touch.
Each match against Vishnu finally met,
Sufficient help from nowhere to get.
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