“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)
antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
devān deva-yajo yānti
mad-bhaktā yānti mām api
Friend-One: Let me ask you about the demigod thing.
Friend-Two: That’s perpetually a hot topic.
F1: I’ll come at it from a different angle this time. Trust me, I know who the demigods are.
F2: They are godlike, but not God Himself. They are elevated, advanced beings, living in the mode of goodness, sattva-guna. They reside in the heavenly realm, which sees delights similar to what we experience here, except the duration is much longer. The people live for a long time, and they enjoy for just as long.
F1: And being empowered, the demigods can grant anything material. If I want money, wealth, success in a profit-loss venture, or education, I can approach a demigod and have my wishes fulfilled.
F2: Exactly. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise you the frequency with which these divine figures are worshiped. They are quite popular.
F1: That’s what I was getting to. I mean so many people worship them. If you put that worship on a scale against any other kind of spirituality, the side of demigod worship would tip over immediately.
F2: Even religions where they don’t have the concept of a demigod, you see basically the same practice. “God, give me this. God, give me that. Please save me.” He’s been made out to be exactly like a demigod. Whereas in the Vedic culture there is some effort required to make the worship fruitful, in the “generic God” concept all you have to do is pray.
F1: If so many people are following this line, don’t you think it’s risky to call them unintelligent? I understand that Krishna says so in the Bhagavad-gita. I know that He thinks people who worship the demigods are of small intelligence, alpa-medhasam.
F2: What’s the problem, then? The whole point of the Bhagavad-gita is to follow Krishna. The person who heard the Bhagavad-gita directly was told by Krishna moments prior to worship Goddess Durga for success in battle. Then in the ensuing discussion, Krishna tells the same Arjuna that demigod worship is for the less intelligent. Contradictions appear here and there, but the key is to always have faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the chief deva.
F1: Okay, but if you’re going to play the faith game, you’re on my turf. I can battle you without a problem, since each faith says that theirs is superior. Their leader is the one and only, and everyone should follow.
F2: Well, you can prove Krishna’s statement through logic. Applying a little intelligence you can reach the same conclusion yourself.
F1: How so?
F2: Think of it like this. By calling the demigod worshiper less intelligent, He’s just describing how they are going to feel in the future.
F1: You mean they will realize that they were less intelligent at some point later on?
F2: Recall the incident of Govardhana Puja. This was Krishna’s lila meant to instruct, which it did in so many ways. The people of Vrindavana annually worshiped Lord Indra, the king of heaven. They did this to get sufficient rainfall for their crops and grass, which in turn supported the cows. The Indra-yajna was a staple in the community, and the people followed it without deviation.
F2: Then one year Krishna advised them to skip it. He told them to worship the neighboring Govardhana Hill instead, since it did so much for the cows. Like happiness and sadness, rain and drought come on their own, so what need is there to explicitly ask for them? In such an endearing childhood form, the Supreme Lord could not be denied.
F1: So they skipped the Indra-yajna, right?
F2: Yes. Indra then retaliated. He got so mad that he tried to destroy the whole town with rain. Just think about that for a second. He didn’t show any appreciation for the past worship. He showed no concern whatsoever for the people, his past worshipers.
F1: And Krishna protected them?
F2: Absolutely. He lifted Govardhana Hill, making an umbrella out of it. So any person in that situation would surely consider themselves unintelligent for having worshiped Indra all that time. It was only until they felt Krishna’s protection that they came to the realization.
F1: So by doing demigod worship, I am on a risky path?
F2: Let’s say that you are successful. Since you’re asking for material things, you won’t derive long-term satisfaction. Someday you’ll realize that the stuff you’ve been asking for isn’t necessary. You’d rather get something else. Krishna is there to offer that, in the form of prema-bhakti.
F1: Devotional service.
F2: Exactly. If you worship the generic God, you run into the same problems mentioned previously. One day what you ask for will not come. Then you’ll get angry at the God you’ve made and turn away from Him. Then you’re actually worse off compared to where you started.
F1: Will people be patient enough to hear this presentation? I can’t see them sticking around long enough to get over their anger at being offended. Once they’re called less intelligent, they’ll stop listening.
F2: Whether or not they accept does not matter in the end. Shri Krishna will not bend the truth in order to accommodate the obstinate. He gives them demigod worship to start, for at least it creates some culture, some austerity. In the Bhagavad-gita, He speaks the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The wise person seeks His shelter, for they know that even when asking Him for material things, there is no loss.
F1: Why is that?
F2: Because Krishna sometimes says “no.” He sometimes denies requests. If the desired object will lead to further forgetfulness of Him, He saves the devotee from the potentially harmful situation. Therefore worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always the wisest choice, one made by those with the highest intelligence.
Demigod worshipers of intelligence small,
Is not risky with this insult to call?
Worshipers with this impression left,
When after time of happiness still bereft.
And appreciation from demigods lacking,
Like when Vrindavana’s people Indra attacking.
His devotees Krishna always protecting,
Like Govardhana, shelter for them projecting.