“It is said that one who has unflinching faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which means unflinching faith in the Vaishnava or the pure devotee of the Supreme Lord, develops all the good qualities of the demigods. Yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akinchana/ sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah (SB 5.18.12). Prahlada Maharaja also said, naisham matis tavad urukramanghrim (SB 7.5.32).” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.21.43 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
The Sanskrit word is deva. The simple translation is “god.” Since the capitalized version of the same word indicates a single being supreme amongst all others, deva can also translate to “demigod.” There are many devas, and since many cannot be supreme, we know that there is a person above the demigods.
“The Vedas say, nityo nityanam: God is one. Ishvarah paramah krishnah. The Supreme God is one-Krishna-and the demigods are delegated with powers to manage this material world. These demigods are all living entities (nityanam) with different grades of material power. They cannot be equal to the Supreme God-Narayana, Vishnu, or Krishna.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.12 Purport)
Among all the eternals, there is a chief eternal. One key distinction is that the chief eternal is maintaining all the other eternals. Indeed, we are eternal as well; that is the makeup of the spirit soul. As part of its constitution, the soul can never be killed.
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
The devas are a special kind of eternal. They have amazing abilities. They enjoy in a region featuring much less disturbances and anxieties. Indeed, they are one of the sources of misery in this world. Adhidaivika - these are natural disasters and the like. The devas do their duty and provide this punishment to those wanting to live separate from God, in the land of forgetfulness.
The demigods are eternal living beings, spirit souls. This means that any person has the potential to become like the devas. There are different ways to achieve the distinction, to be of the same stature as the celestials.
1. Pray to them
Pretty simple, if you think about it. Just pray. Ask to have a long duration of life. Don’t be shy. No need to feel embarrassed. Everyone is afraid of death to some degree. It is a painful end to the temporary existence, an end guaranteed as soon as there was birth.
There are instances documented in Vedic literature of ordinary people becoming extraordinary through prayer. Hiranyakashipu and Ravana are two of the best known examples. They were hardcore in their prayer. They approached the creator himself, Lord Brahma.
“O my lord, O best of the givers of benediction, if you will kindly grant me the benediction I desire, please let me not meet death from any of the living entities created by you.” (Hiranyakashipu praying to Lord Brahma, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.3.35)
Hiranyakashipu achieved such a high status through the favor of the deva Brahma that the other devas feared him. They assumed disguises to avoid his subsequent reign of terror. Ravana was similarly feared, having the terrifying scream.
2. Act in the mode of goodness
One way to define material is to say “not Brahman.” Brahman is spirit soul, so material also means that which is not spiritual. The difference between matter and spirit is consciousness. Matter is dull and lifeless. To identify with matter is a sign of ignorance or illusion, also known as maya.
The living beings in the material world are spirit souls covered by gross and subtle elements. Those elements have a specific nature. There are three main ingredients used by the aforementioned creator, Brahma.
Goodness, passion and ignorance. These three, in different proportions and combinations, constitute the bodies of the many species. There is variety up to 8,400,000 in number. Not only body types, but activities can be in these modes as well.
The mode of ignorance is akin to doing stupid things; behavior which has no real benefit. Passion is the default mentality. Work hard for a fruitive result, only to be left wanting more. In the mode of passion a person neither advances nor regresses.
The mode of goodness is doing things the right way. More than just building a home properly or passing an exam, the overall pious behavior brings advancement reflected in the afterlife. A person ascends to the heavenly region through strict adherence to recommended activities in goodness. By achieving residence in the heavenly realm, the individual becomes a de facto demigod.
3. Practicing bhakti-yoga
This is above the three modes of material nature. Devotional service to the Supreme Lord, done without motivation and without interruption, is above karma. There are no future consequences related to a temporary body. There is no concern over residence in the heavenly realm or a better situation in the next birth.
Almost an afterthought to the person immersed within the nectar of devotion is the acquisition of the qualities of the demigods. These abilities are not explicitly sought after. The idea is that God the person, who is the beneficiary of activities in bhakti, gives to the devotee what they need to continue in their devotion.
“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)
Famous examples of devotees showing amazing abilities are Hanuman and Prahlada. It is not that every person will suddenly live very long or enjoy materially. The qualities in goodness appear automatically and when needed, and the Supreme Lord provides direct supervision to ensure that whatever qualities are required remain.
This last option is indeed the best one. It is much easier than undergoing tremendous austerities like Ravana. It is safer than waiting for the benefits to arrive in the afterlife. Bhakti-yoga is automatically the most pious behavior, and it brings detachment from the material simultaneously.
To become demigod ways three,
In goodness mode heaven to see.
Or with sincere dedication pray,
Then to receive whatever to say.
To practice bhakti easiest of all,
Commensurate qualities, large or small.
Like with Prahlada and Hanuman shown,
Supreme Lord taking care of His own.