“Lord Brahma said: O son of Kashyapa Muni, please get up, please get up. All good fortune unto you. You are now perfect in the performance of your austerities, and therefore I may give you a benediction. You may now ask from me whatever you desire, and I shall try to fulfill your wish.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.3.17)
उत्तिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भद्रं ते
तपः-सिद्धो ’सि काश्यप
वरदो ’हम् अनुप्राप्तो
व्रियताम् ईप्सितो वरः
uttiṣṭhottiṣṭha bhadraṁ te
tapaḥ-siddho ’si kāśyapa
varado ’ham anuprāpto
vriyatām īpsito varaḥ
1. You go away upset
The initial impetus could be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you desperately want to score in the top percentile on the upcoming standardized test. In the place where you live, financial contributions don’t help very much in getting around the rules. This is with respect to college admission.
If you want to attend the top schools, you need high scores on the exams. It’s as simple as that. Well, so many factors go into success. You could be the smartest person in the world but not show it when measured. Perhaps you get nervous when confronted with written questions and a set time-limit. Maybe you didn’t eat well the night before or have other things distracting your attention.
To help the chances of success, you approach a demigod. Known as a deva in Sanskrit, the literal translation is “god.” Further refining the meaning, we have someone with extraordinary abilities, who resides in the heavenly region. From Vedic understanding, dying and going to heaven means transitioning to a higher planetary system and receiving a godly body.
You pray to the respective deva assigned for learning. They have the power to help you. The problem is the reward sought is finite. Only a certain number of people fit into the top percentile. What if all the test takers make the same plea? What if they all ask for the same thing?
Then it comes down to proper worship. Is the standard met? Is every rule followed? Is there sufficient purification beforehand? Is the deva impressed enough to care?
Suppose everyone meets the standard. By definition, some people must be turned away. This is where you will leave upset. You worshiped for nothing. You did not make it to the top. The endeavor was basically a waste of time. Why believe in a higher power when they don’t come through for you, especially when you desperately need it?
2. You win the reward
We can look to the example of Hiranyakashipu, as described in Shrimad Bhagavatam. That Daitya leader approached Lord Brahma, the creator, whose attention is not easy to catch. Hiranyakashipu underwent tremendous austerities. He was on the verge of self-destruction, as there was barely anything left to offer.
Brahma arrived on the scene and agreed to give the leader practically anything he asked for. The limit was immortality, as Brahma does not enjoy that benefit himself. He can’t very well offer it to one of his worshipers. Hiranyakashipu decided to work around the restriction; assemble immortality through individual pieces.
Hiranyakashipu won. He took the boons of protection and used them to dominate the world. Everyone lived in fear of him, including other devas. Brahma was a distant memory; no further attention necessary. Why worship again when you are practically immortal?
It may not be obvious upon initial review, but the two aforementioned outcomes are identical. Whether you get the reward or not, you really haven’t gained anything. If you fail, you lose faith in a truth relating to nature, that the individual is not the doer.
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)
If you succeed, you will either forget the deva or return for another benefit in the future. Like an infinite loop of behavior, there is no advancement of the consciousness. You haven’t really learned anything about life, and the human being is best equipped for learning through such pattern recognition.
On the other hand, if you approach Vishnu, you are always a winner. There is a benefit, no matter the outcome. He may deny my request. Not just because of a limitation in stock, but because what I am asking for may end up harming me in the future. Sort of like the toddler asking the parent to play with scissors or climb that bookshelf in the living room.
If I get what I want, it is okay in the short-term, and I may return in the future. Either way, I have had association with the Almighty. This is purifying. This is the real meaning to dharma. This association matches my essential characteristic. Hopefully, with enough interaction I will return to the proper position of servant and look to meet Vishnu’s interests instead, which will always make me happy.
Going there no more,
Benefit what for?
Either in outcome to succeed,
Or as scorned worshiper to proceed.
Now with Vishnu going through,
Who my requests to review.
A better choice indeed.
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