“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
“I understand that the demons are always trying to challenge God. Though they should inherently know better, they have this spirit of opposition and skepticism. They don’t want to believe what everyone around them advises. Though they may be trusted advisors, the drive for power is too strong in specific people.
“They are foolish enough to try to test the limits and yet wise enough to understand that they need help. We have the classic examples of Hiranyakashipu and Ravana. They underwent austerities to a significant magnitude. They knew that specific empowered beings would be able to help them.
“It is something like the customer taking full advantage of the coupons offered by the store. The proprietor is interested in turning a profit; obviously. The coupons and sales are ways to bring more customers through the door. The discounts hopefully lead to future business, wherein more sales take place at the full price.
“But there might be a clever customer or two who manages to combine the various discounts together, timing everything just right so that the owner loses a lot of money. The store essentially gives away items at a major loss, never considering that a purchaser would be so clever.
“Hiranyakashipu and Ravana tried to take advantage of Lord Brahma. Though that four-faced creator lacks immortality himself, they tried to ask for it. He wanted to live forever and then use that advantage for his benefit, for installing himself as the king of the world and perpetually remaining in the seat of power.
“Brahma could not offer that benediction, and so the demons tried to assemble it through individual components. They knew of Brahma’s position in offering boons, and so they took advantage. The demons asked for immunity from a variety of beings; practically every type they could think of.
“Brahma agreed, but in Ravana’s case there was a huge mistake. He forgot to list human beings. The oversight is understandable; if even demigods would not be able to kill him, why worry about mere mortals? It was this omission that Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, exploited. He would later descend as Rama, a human being, a prince in the Raghu dynasty. Shri Rama would take care of the terror to the world known as Ravana.
“I get it that Brahma couldn’t give immortality, but why not some advice? Why didn’t Brahma guide Ravana and Hiranyakashipu in what to ask for? If Ravana forgot to mention human beings, Brahma could have reminded him. Then the vulnerability would be plugged.”
For starters, the whole scheme was Ravana’s idea. Why should Brahma take any blame for simply being a participant in the ridiculous quest to topple Vishnu and everything genuine brahmanas stand for? Why should Brahma help anyone to rise to a stature that no one else possesses?
Brahma was already kind enough to fulfill the role assigned to him by Vishnu. Vidhata does not discriminate. Proper austerity and penance are enough. Brahma showed kindness in agreeing to the requests of Hiranyakashipu and Ravana. He knew to challenge Vishnu is a losing proposition, but in this particular role as demigod the jurisdiction is the material world. Up and down are ultimately the same, and so whether someone wants a donkey or a royal airplane really makes no difference to the benefactor.
The more important question is why Ravana would require any help at all. If he is trying to become God, then prove on your own strength that you are the best. If you make a mistake in the boons requested from Brahma, that indicates fallibility. If you want to become God, you must be infallible, or Achyuta.
Vishnu already has that superior standing and no one helped him get there. He was at the top prior to Brahma, He remains so for the entire duration of the universe, and He is there after everything gets annihilated.
अहम् एवासम् एवाग्रे
नान्यद् यत् सद्-असत् परम्
पश्चाद् अहं यद् एतच् च
यो ऽवशिष्येत सो ऽस्म्य् अहम्
aham evāsam evāgre
nānyad yat sad-asat param
paścād ahaṁ yad etac ca
yo ‘vaśiṣyeta so ‘smy aham
“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.33)
To pique our interest in the historical tale it appears that Ravana made a simple mistake, that if only he remembered to include human beings everything would have worked out for him. In truth, Vishnu always finds a way, as there would be at least a one percent vulnerability. Hiranyakashipu made no such mistake regarding human beings, but as Narasimha the Supreme Lord still managed to kill the demon and maintain Brahma’s boons at the same time. There is only one God and no one can become Him, no matter how much they try.
Despite much to try,
And on creator to rely.
Immortality seeking where,
Never completely there.
Ravana making a mistake,
Accidentally humans to forsake.
But not up to Brahma to correct,
If God then yourself detect.