“Men in this world desire success in fruitive activities, and therefore they worship the demigods. Quickly, of course, men get results from fruitive work in this world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.12)Download this episode (right click and save)
The Sanskrit word karma translates to “fruitive activity” in English. The comparison is made due to the frequent pairing of the word phala with karma. There is the work and then consequences, or fruits. Like the act of planting a seed and then waiting for the appropriate time for the tree to manifest and bear fruits, in karma the actions are taken and then at the right moment, which may occur in a future lifetime even, the just reward or punishment arrives.
In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that those who are in karma get their results quickly. The statement is made when discussing worship of the devas, who are gods. The religiously inclined person knows that they can’t do everything on their own. They understand that certain things are out of their control. Therefore they worship the devas for success. There are reasons why the success generally comes quickly.
1. The demigods are so deputed
There is the single source, the one entity from whom everything has come. The Sanskrit phrase is janmadya asya yatah. “From the Absolute Truth has come everything.” The less intelligent person relying only on mental speculation comes up with the theory that all we see around us evolved from a single cell. Through collisions, the passage of time, and the mixing of certain elements, evolution occurred to produce the many species.
Of course, missing from the discussion is the origin of that single cell. From where did it come? More importantly, why was it there? The single cell is essentially the atheist’s version of God. The Vedas provide more clarity, assigning names and attributes to the origin. One of His names is Krishna, which means “all-attractive.” The same Krishna appears in the manifest world from time to time, remaining changeless and supreme, above any kind of evolution.
“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)
For karma-phala, the devas are there. They are assigned this role by Krishna Himself. The devas are not to ask questions. They simply look for the appropriate worship. That worship can come from any kind of person, the worst character even. If the worship is done properly, then the result comes. In this sense the demigods are running something like an online retail outlet. They look for payment only, and they have many things in stock, from good health to powerful abilities.
2. It is in the nature of a temporary land
The material world is temporary and miserable. Since the world itself is subject to eventual destruction, so is everything achieved while living in it. Results come quickly; otherwise the nature of the land would be violated. A simple example is the moving of the hand. I make the decision to move my hand. The decision is so quick that I don’t have to think long about it. Quickly after making the decision, the hand moves.
In a similar way, by worshiping the devas for fruitive results, the higher powers get into gear to make sure the results manifest. Sometimes the results don’t come, due to limitations in the world. One person asks to land a job, and a competitor seeks the same boon. It is impossible for both to get the desired result. Nevertheless, since the world is temporary, the temporary objects and abilities sought from the demigods tend to arrive quickly.
3. The rapidity is based on the grand scheme
Do you know time? Obviously there is past, present and future, but what about beyond that? In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that the person who really understands time knows about the day and night of Brahma; namely how long they are.
“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma's one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.17)
Lord Brahma is the creator. He is like the first living entity of the material world. He uses the three modes of material nature to create the various species, which are then inhabited by spirit souls like him. Individual souls are all equal; they simply take up different body types based on karma.
The results of fruitive activity arrive quick in comparison to the length of Brahma’s day. Billions of years is a long time, but that is only a short period of time for the creator. So if my worship of a deva bears fruit in ten years, that is actually nothing in the grand scheme. Even the length of human life is but a blip on a chart of the time continuum.
4. It facilitates illusion
By results arriving quickly, the living entity’s illusion gets strengthened. The illusion is that I am this body and that with this body I am the doer. Though there is worship of a higher power involved, it is the individual who takes up the worship. Therefore they feel proud when achieving this result.
“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)
The material nature actually must cooperate for any results to manifest. The illusion is beneficial in the sense that it fulfills the desire of the living entity to enjoy separate from God. It is something like sitting in a cinema hall and becoming upset over something that happens in the movie. Obviously, the film is scripted and not real, but the viewer intentionally falls into illusion to get the enjoyment they desire. In a similar manner, the desired enjoyment in the material world is to forget God. An easy way to do that is to get the results to fruitive activity quickly.
5. Gods like Shiva are interested in something else
Just because the demigods facilitate the results to karma, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are interested in the temporary. Mahadeva, the great god, is constantly worshiping Krishna in His form of Rama. One of Mahadeva’s many names is Ashutosha, which means “easily pleased.” He does not dedicate much time to his materialistic devotees. They are not really devotees in fact; they are just doing business.
If the results to karma were to arrive after a long time, men would lose faith in the process. That would defeat the entire purpose of coming to the material world. The Supreme Lord grants the desires of the living entities. By seeing the behavior of Shiva and other pious souls, whose association is auspicious, hopefully a light bulb goes off. Maybe there is something more to be achieved in this life. Maybe there is something beyond karma, which brings gains that are erased by the passage of time. Maybe it is better to worship the Supreme God, who uses discrimination. Maybe it is better to approach someone who looks out for the spiritual welfare of the devotees; someone who will deny requests that are not of long-term benefit, paramartha.
When worship of demigods properly done,
The results then quickly to come.
To the illusion of identity strength giving,
That I am the doer, with false notion living.
Gods like Shiva diverted elsewhere in mind,
Focus on Rama, for worshipers not much time.
Land is temporary, so are things which to get,
Better if in devotion to Supreme Lord set.