“We see materialistic persons busily engaged in economic development all day and all night, trying to increase their material opulence, but even if we suppose that they get some benefit from such endeavors, that does not solve the real problem of their lives. Nor do they know what the real problem of life is. This is due to a lack of spiritual education.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.6.4 Purport)
“The issue of demigod worship requires a sensitive touch; in my opinion. This is with respect to teaching the science of self-realization, which every person needs. Dharma is eternal, sanatana, and it is the same for every living being, regardless of the species in which they inhabit at present.
“Talking about the devas is like walking a tight rope; there is a delicate balance that has to be maintained. The devas are, after all, conditioned living entities. They are really no different than you or me; they are jivas who are susceptible to the elements, to time, to karma, to the birth and death found in the material world.
“At the same time, they are empowered beings. Someone living on earth can become a deva in the next life. It is the equivalent of dying and going to heaven. You become a celestial, having enhanced enjoyment, and gaining access to every amenity found in svarga-loka.
“Nevertheless, if I am honest in the presentation, I will tell you that becoming a deva is not that important. It is not the highest achievement, purushartha. You should strive for what will bring you the most happiness, for the longest period of time.
“That is worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. We should still respect the devas. There are statements within Bhagavad-gita that stress the importance of yajna, which satisfies the demigods, who in turn provide rain necessary for crop production.
“In that respect, shouldn’t we offer a similar level of respect to other living entities? They may not be demigods, but they produce amazing innovation. The keyboard, the computer, the monitor, the internet, the smartphone – these were produced as a result of a spirit of ingenuity, of striving for perfection and progress in a particular field.
“We typically hear such pursuits described in a negative light. To pursue material advancement is to waste the valuable human form of life. The benefits derived do not satisfy the true purpose of life, according to saints like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. How do we square the contradiction between misapplication and substantial benefit?”
The idea is not to simply criticize someone for their chosen vocation or pursuit of perfection in a particular field. The easiest thing to do is find fault with others, applying derogatory terms such as “karmi”, “fool”, “materialist”, and so forth.
The person propagating the message of Divine love, who explains the science of self-realization, emphasizes the full and complete picture. Man has ability; paurusham. Though that ability is essentially on loan from God, there is still some pride from the exercise and output.
We should use the ability for furthering the best interest of the individual. That interest is glorifying God. There is no better use of our potential as a human being, both in terms of intelligence and physical output of effort. The innovations of man are certainly amazing. They must be so, as the ability is rooted in the origin of everything. Man is made in the image of God.
We can appreciate the innovation without accepting it as the highest achievement in life. I am thankful for the keyboard since it allows me to glorify the Almighty, who is originally a person. I am fortunate to utilize the computer to store volumes of information about the Supreme Lord, His associates, His appearances in the manifest world, His direct instruction [vani], and the tales of those devoted to Him [sadhu].
I appreciate the demigods who make life in the material world possible. I am thankful to the forefathers appearing previous to me in the family line, and without shastra I would be like someone wandering through a dark room.
The wise person appreciates everything that helps them along the path of liberation, but they never mistakenly consider pursuits on the material playing field to be equivalent with spiritual life. They can be a component, but they do not provide a lasting benefit on their own. Whereas something basic like a sound in the Sanskrit language can propel me to the heights of existence: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
From rain demigods to give,
Producing food on which to live.
Technology appreciating so,
With time saved in work to go.
But not alone everything all,
Still another as source to call.
Who with most potency profound,
Known through holy name’s sound.