“Lord Shiva told the goddess Durga, ‘My dear Devi, although the Vedas recommend worship of demigods, the worship of Lord Vishnu is topmost. However, above the worship of Lord Vishnu is the rendering of service to Vaishnavas, who are related to Lord Vishnu.’” (Padma Purana)
Friend1: Service to Narayana is different.
Friend2: From what?
Friend1: Service to anyone else.
Friend2: And everyone is serving in some capacity.
Friend1: That is the meaning of dharma at the individual level.
Friend1: Narayana is the source of all naras, or men. That is why service to Him is unique.
Friend2: He is God the person. Vishnu is another name. Krishna is the same. So is Rama. The idea is that you’re going to the source, not wasting time in other paths, which bring only temporary benefits.
Friend1: I’ve heard it said that there is something superior to service to Narayana.
Friend2: You have? Who said it?
Friend1: Lord Shiva.
Friend2: I know where you are going with this.
Friend1: That service to the devotee of Narayana is even better.
Friend1: Is that true?
Friend2: Mahadeva doesn’t lie.
Friend1: Isn’t that convenient, though?
Friend2: How so?
Friend1: A person claims to be a servant of Narayana. They relay this quote from Lord Shiva. That is a convenient way to get others to serve them. “Look at me. I am directly engaged in the service of God. If you serve me then you will be engaged in the highest work there is.”
Friend2: There is always the possibility of being cheated by cheaters. The genuine servant never thinks this way of their service. They always think that others are serving better. It is usually someone else, like a disciple, who understands the close relationship the genuine representative has with Narayana.
Friend1: Okay, I get it. What about the Lord Shiva angle, though?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: We know that many people worship him. Some of the most famous asuras in history were great devotees of Mahadeva.
Friend2: And asuras are atheists, so how can that be allowed to happen, is what you want to ask?
Friend1: Not even that. Aren’t such people engaged in the highest worship there is. Mahadeva is considered the greatest Vaishnava. These people are serving Mahadeva.
Friend2: I see what you are getting at. The thing is, these people aren’t really serving.
Friend1: How so? They perform worship. They offer the appropriate items. They sit in meditation. They undergo austerity.
Friend2: It is more of a business transaction. They want something from Lord Shiva. Once they get it, they forget about him until the next time they need something.
Friend1: They are not really devotees, then?
Friend2: To some people, but not in truth. You go to the local store as long as they continue to stock the products you want. Once something goes wrong, you’re likely to go somewhere else. The servant of Narayana is not like this. They stay in the bhakti path no matter what. They view bad fortune as a chance to reclaim their thoughts, which may have gone astray. They view good fortune as a blessing to continue in the path with peace of mind.
Friend1: What about other demigods? Ganesha gets first honor in every Vedic ceremony. Parvati is so powerful. Many other demigods are there, too. Are they not servants of Narayana?
Friend2: They are. They are always associated with Him. Still, there are dual functions. In the material world they give out benedictions to worshipers. Like I said before, this isn’t exactly service. It’s more like payment. Service of the Vaishnava is helping them with their mission. The primary mission of the demigods is to glorify Narayana. Anyone helping the demigods do that is engaged in the highest service. The spiritual master is like a demigod on earth, representing God in the human form, spreading His glories to everyone. Service of the bona fide spiritual master pleases Narayana so much. Worshiping a demigod for temporary benefits does not please Him as much. It’s as simple as that.
Friend1: I see. I can imagine people arguing this point endlessly.
Friend2: Of course. “How can you say that my god is lesser than your god.” Obviously, that’s not what we are saying. It’s a giant family in the spiritual kingdom. If worship of the devas were superior then folks like Hiranyakashipu and Ravana wouldn’t have met undesirable ends. They would have been lauded for their service.
Teaching to goddess wife delivered,
That highest worship considered.
When to servant of Vishnu directed,
Not like business where something expected.
Since Shiva as greatest Vaishnava known,
What about worship from asuras shown?
Not service in real, since interests competing,
Why God as time their influence defeating.