“The demoniac conclude that the world is phantasmagoria. There is no cause, no effect, no controller, no purpose: everything is unreal. They say that this cosmic manifestation arises due to chance material actions and reactions. They do not think that the world was created by God for a certain purpose. They have their own theory: that the world has come about in its own way and that there is no reason to believe that there is a God behind it. For them there is no difference between spirit and matter, and they do not accept the Supreme Spirit. Everything is matter only, and the whole cosmos is supposed to be a mass of ignorance.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 16.8 Purport)
Since before anyone can remember, prior to recorded history, known only through aural tradition passed on from generation to generation, there has been a constant struggle. The good against the bad. The pious pitted against the sinful. Devotees versus demons.
The Sanskrit words are sura and asura. There are many definitions; some more refined than others. At the basic level the sura is a believer in God. The asura is not; hence the negation of the first word. True belief leads to certain qualities, and the absence means that inverse qualities will emerge.
One area of obvious divergence is the consideration of the creation. The origin. The starting point. The present is known to everyone; no dispute there. What happened before anyone can remember is left up to speculation for those who do not accept the authority of the Vedas.
1. No cause
The asuric mentality is that there is no cause. Everything happened randomly. Surely the same never happens today. There is no experience of amazing intelligence resulting from a lack of intelligence. Even parents of ordinary intelligence giving birth to a child prodigy didn’t act randomly. They have more intelligence than the animal species.
And yet for everything we know, the entire manifest world, the speculation is that there is no cause. Lack of a karanam. Just stuff bouncing around and somehow resulting in the amazing nature around us, with laws so predictable that disciplines of science emerge to study them.
2. No effect
If you don’t have a cause, you obviously are lacking an effect. That tree lying on the ground fell down at some point, since it was standing tall the day before. There was a cause, leading to the effect of falling. Something had to happen.
Since the asuras don’t believe in a cause for the creation, there was no effect that led to everything we see around us. Randomness is not the complete answer, since even then there is some action. As Lakshmana states in the Ramayana, the results of work are unseen and indefinite in duration, but there is still always some initial action taken.
“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)
3. No controller
Without a cause and effect, certainly there is no controller. Everything continues to occur randomly. In the same way that the creation lacked intelligence, so too the continuing maintenance is without a controller. This makes for an easily identifiable goal for an individual. Try to become a controller yourself. The asura thinks that the post is vacant and can be filled by someone who will outsmart the nature created by randomness.
4. No purpose
Human beings and animals are just here. There is no purpose to anything. Surely there are stages of life. The human being understands mortality, whereas the animal does not. The human being can actually inquire into the origin, while other species are lacking this ability. There are similarities in the areas of eating, sleeping, mating and defending.
Without a purpose, the default choice is to simply enjoy the senses. Enhance the enjoyment of eating. Find ways to increase sleep. Chase after sex life, despite the reality that repeated indulgence does not increase the level of satisfaction. The desires only rise in intensity, like placing additional logs onto a burning fire.
One may ask that if everything is a mass of ignorance, with no difference between body and spirit, what is the harm in accepting the reverse ideas? That is to say how are the pious, those following the ways of the sura, harming themselves? They take great comfort in knowing of the controller. At the highest levels of practice, there is no such thing as belief. There is firm acceptance. Just as knowledgeable people don’t “believe” in gravity, so the devotee understands with certainty the principles of the spiritual science.
The cause is the cause of all causes, sarva karana-karanam. The effect is His glancing over the unmanifest material substance, of which He is also the origin. He controls everything, though maybe not with direct supervision and intervention. The purpose is to facilitate reformation, like giving a child punishment so that they will hopefully correct their ways. Those who accept these four principles begin to make the most out of the precious human birth, which was not easy to achieve.
Only after many births to receive,
Human form not easy to achieve.
For inquiry into spiritual meant,
Not for wasted time spent.
Where asuras speculating on this and that,
No controller, no God, no understanding exact.
Amazing nature by Krishna controlled,
His servants secrets of the world to hold.
Categories: the four