“As the director of different kinds of clouds, Indra called for the samvartaka. This cloud is invited when there is a need to devastate the whole cosmic manifestation. The samvartaka was ordered by Indra to go over Vrindavana and inundate the whole area with an extensive flood. Demonically, Indra thought himself to be the all-powerful supreme personality.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 25)
“I want to earn money and become powerful. Please tell me how to do it. Not just enough wealth to take care of basic necessities. Not early retirement. Not a bank balance sufficient for purchasing a large home or that top of the line sports-car.
“I want enough power to wield absolute influence over the world. Where I can travel to any destination at a moment’s notice. Where the political party in charge of government will not make a difference. Where I will be able to buy off any politician in order to shape the laws to favor me.
“Is this possible through spiritual life? What is the method? To which direction should I travel? Has there ever been such a person within this world?”
The closest equivalent would be a devata. This is a Sanskrit word that refers to the devas, who are divine beings, or gods. Every individual is spirit at the core, jiva. This specification of the spiritual energy has the distinction of vulnerability to illusion.
The jiva is situated somewhere like on the edge of a beach. Sometimes the waves wash over. Sometimes the waves don’t reach. It is almost by chance the resulting situation. The jiva can fall to the material world, being under the spell of illusion known as maya. It can also remain in the spiritual world, immune to the debilitating effects of time, maintaining a singular identity between body and spirit.
A devata is a jiva within the material world, so even though there is a heightened position of power and influence, there are limits. The devas are not absolute in their wielding of authority. They fall under the rule of not being the doer, as nicely expressed by Shri Krishna in Bhagavad-gita.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
1. They accept oblations from the sacrificial fire
You become a devata through penance, austerity, and sacrifice performed on earth. The resulting travel is in the category of elevation. The jiva moves on to another life, which is destined to occur regardless. That person on the radio cannot stay in the seat behind a golden microphone forever. Eventually, they will no longer be able to entertain their millions of listeners.
Karma determines the future destination, and within fruitive and prescribed activity a person can follow rituals meant to please the residents of the heavenly region. Accompanying the worship is hopefully an ideal character. Honesty. Cleanliness. Compassion. Overall good qualities.
The accumulation of pious credits, punya, guarantees birth in the heavenly realm, svarga-loka. This is the equivalent of becoming a devata. You can wield control over the different elements of nature, such as wind, fire, and water.
The devata is still a dependent. You need food, which arrives in the form of oblations offered into the yajna fire on earth. In other words, though the human population relies on the demigod for rain, the demigod requires a reciprocal benefit in order to remain in their position.
2. They sometimes meet defeat against the asuras
Within the earthly experience, there is the opportunity to rise to power and influence. In fact, the demigods themselves can enable the pursuit of power, wealth and fame, without an accompanying good character.
From Vedic literature we have the infamous characters of Hiranyakashipu and Ravana. They rose to prominence through boons received from Lord Brahma, who is the original demigod. These two were in the category of asura, or those who are against godly qualities and the godly way of living.
Despite being so powerful and influential, sometimes the demigods see defeat at the hands of the asuras. It is said that the suras and asuras have been at odds since before anyone can remember. The never-ending struggle between good and evil. We require a strong military force not for the enjoyment of using high-grade weapons, but to protect against the criminal element, if it should happen to gain in strength.
Hiranyakashipu and Ravana are something like the byproducts of a Dr. Frankenstein making a mistake in the laboratory. The result of the experiment ends up harming the scientist himself. The demigods have to provide benefits to whoever worships them properly, irrespective of the underlying motive. It is something like the technology company selling smartphones to a person who wants to do harm to the population.
3. They sometimes meet defeat against their benefactor
The benefactor of the entire universe is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The asuras tend to be so miserly that they forget even the direct link in their accrual of benefits. In other words, Ravana and Hiranyakashipu become proud over their boons, never taking the time to thank or appreciate Lord Brahma for his role.
Since they are within the material world, the demigods sometimes forget God. They should know better, since He is always their protector. When the asuras rise in strength to an intolerable level, it is Vishnu who arrives on the scene to correct the situation.
It was in this light that Vishnu descended to earth as Shri Krishna, the darling child of Nanda and Yashoda in the farm community of Gokula Vrindavana. Indra, the king of heaven, who relied on Krishna to stop the suppression of brahmana activity by asura-like characters such as Kamsa, once became envious of Krishna.
It was a head-scratcher, but no one is immune from petty politics and infighting, even if you are the king of heaven. Indra became so incensed that he retaliated against innocent people and cows. He thought he was teaching Krishna a lesson, but in the process, he became an attempted mass-murderer on the grandest scale.
Shri Krishna, giving the vision of an attractive youth, lifted up a massive hill and held it up as an umbrella to protect the people. Indra’s rain would normally wash away an entire area, but it was no match for the mighty Govardhana and its lifter.
In spite of our ambitions and the dream of total dominance, within the material world no one is able to be the topmost person. Shri Krishna’s influence is always here, though only the wise can detect it. They understand that He is on their side, so there is no need for competition.
Krishna is on my side,
In Him only to confide.
Whereas even after heaven earning,
Demigods into adversary turning.
Like Indra targeting with rain,
Devastation to Govardhana came.
But thwarted because all-power lacking,
Protected by Krishna though attacking.