“There are instances in history of many asuras – Ravana, Kamsa, Hiranyakashipu – to whom the Lord appeared in various incarnations just to kill. Therefore God’s mercy is shown to the asuras if they are fortunate enough to be killed by Him.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 16.20 Purport)
If you are really good, the reward is a human birth. No more settling for scraps thrown to you out of mercy. No more helplessness against the more powerful species. No more limitations based only on the body type.
The opportunity is now. The urgency is there, but the reward is great. Follow the way of the sura, the good guy, and you could be rewarded with a stint in heaven afterwards. Enjoy unlimited delights, for a considerable period of time, and then return to earth in an auspicious form.
The bad guy, the asura, gets punished. To the hellish realm after life and then repeatedly cast into lower species. Though appearing to be a punishment instituted by a strict coordinator, it is actually a sign of mercy. The individual gets what they want; their innermost desires direct them to future destinations.
तान् अहं द्विषतः क्रूरान्
क्षिपाम्य् अजस्रम् अशुभान्
आसुरीष्व् एव योनिषु
tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu
“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)
All hope is not lost for the asura. Though they are far away from the finish line, so to speak, sometimes they receive special mercy in the form of a direct meeting with the Divine Himself. He arrives for the purpose of ridding the world of their negative influence, and in this endeavor He has a one hundred percent success rate.
The footnote in the biography is that the specially favored asuras have a connection to the spiritual world. The Supreme Lord does not spar with just a random person. They are devotees descending from the highest realm in order to get entangled in the material energy of maya. They illustrate key principles through behavior; namely, what not to do. For accepting this role they are handsomely rewarded.
Hiranyakashipu belonged to the Daitya species of asura. Notice that you can be a very bad person and yet still be highly successful in the material field. The entire world can envy your position. Enough gold to purchase whatever you want. The softest cushions on which to sleep. No worries about the basic necessities of life.
Success does not necessarily make you a good person. Hiranyakashipu sunk so low as to try to kill his five-year old son, multiple times. These weren’t anomalies, fits of rage that the king regretted after cooling down. They were calculated, intentional attacks, meant to remove any sign of Vishnu-worship in his kingdom.
The boy was a staunch devotee of Vishnu, and so the Supreme Lord protected him. Vishnu arrived in the unique incarnation of a half-man/half-lion, Narasimha. Hiranyakashipu was fortunate to be killed directly by God and thus earn liberation.
The ten-headed one had a similar mentality. He was of the Rakshasa species, which is a kind of man-eating ogre. The father was a brahmana, but none of those qualities emerged in the son. The Rakshasa-side dominated, and so there was the worst kind of behavior in the person who would go on to become the leader of Lanka.
Devoted to Mahadeva only for the purpose of claiming material benedictions, Ravana still has many sympathizers today. They lament the fact that he was killed at the hands of Shri Rama, another incarnation of Vishnu. They absolve the one of a terrifying scream of any blame for stealing Rama’s wife, killing innocent messengers, and ill-treating the younger brother Vibhishana.
Ravana’s saga is told in most detail in the Ramayana of Valmiki. The villain was also originally from the spiritual world, so the display was for teaching mankind the difference between dharma and adharma. Through slipping so far down the hole of sinful life, he received the favor of Rama’s arrow serving as the deathblow.
Hiranyakashipu tried to kill a five-year old boy, who was his own son. Ravana harassed innocent women, ordered raids against brahmanas, and would even consume human flesh. Kamsa’s uniquely impious behavior was taking newborns and throwing them against a stone slab.
The reason was paranoia. A voice from the sky had told him that Devaki’s eighth child would be his end. Devaki was Kamsa’s cousin-sister. The king of Mathura would not take any chances. He imprisoned his sister and her husband, Vasudeva. Every child that was born got immediately handed over to Kamsa.
Of course the Divine will cannot be denied. The eighth child was the incarnation of God known as Krishna. He escaped Mathura, but would return years later to fulfill destiny. Hiranyakashipu was torn apart and Ravana struck with an arrow empowered by Lord Brahma, his previous benefactor.
Kamsa received a single punch. The Supreme Lord’s fist is so powerful that it can eliminate even the most well-protected person. The consideration should be made that if the worst characters earn liberation by remaining conscious of Vishnu in an inimical way, what lays in store for the devotee who passes on to the next birth with a loving mood? They are rewarded in a superior manner, staying close in association for as long as they desire.
For as long as enmity lasting,
Again into lower species casting.
But receiving special favor one,
That by Lord’s hand undone.
Like Hiranyakashipu torn apart,
Ravana through arrow to depart.
Punch to Kamsa death blow received,
Fate of devotees even more now believe.
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