In our pursuit of wealth, knowledge, or power – what do we really want?
We’re all thinking, “How can I be happy in this world? What do I have to do? Who can I approach for happiness, peace, and prosperity? Can our teachers and professors help us obtain happiness? Perhaps religion or government?” We might ask if our boss can help. If we received a larger salary, surely that would help. Some might even follow the Vedic injunctions and approach the demigods as the Supreme Lord Krishna advises in the Bhagavad Gita.
Krishna, the origin of all beings, planets, and universes, has created an elaborate system to facilitate the wayward souls, meandering in the material world, searching for happiness. In the Bhagavad Gita 3.10, Krishna explains, “In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Viṣhṇu, and blessed them by saying, ‘Be thou happy by this yajña [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you all desirable things.'”
Krishna is speaking to the warrior prince Arjuna. Krishna goes on to explain that when the demigods are pleased by our offerings, they will reciprocate by pleasing us and providing us with the necessities of life. We just have to abide by the injunctions of the Vedas and follow the Vedic rituals and sacrifices. In this way, we can receive a variety of gifts to be prosperous and live happily.
Krishna tells us that the demigods and influential personalities are very easily pleased. In this connection, there is a story about the demon Vrkasura in the tenth Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Vrkasura wanted to possess great powers. In a meeting with Narada Muni, he asked the sage, “Which of the three deities, Vishnu, Brahma, or Shiva, are most quickly pleased?” The sage replied, “If you want some quick blessing or gift, Shiva would be the one to approach.”
So Vrkasura journeyed into the Himalayan mountains, and every day, he worshipped Shiva, cutting flesh from his own body and throwing it into the sacrificial fire. After the sixth day, there was still no response from Shiva. On the seventh day, the demon became frustrated and decided to cut off his own head and let it fall into the fire. Shiva, like all devotees of Lord Vishnu, is very compassionate. He appeared before Vrkasura and told him, “There is no need to take such extreme measures. Please, ask for whatever you like, and I will certainly grant your wish.”
The demon asked, “Grant me this power: if I want to destroy someone, as soon as I touch them on the head, let their head crack into a thousand pieces, and let them fall dead before me.”
Srila Prabhupada explains that many demoniac, materialistic personalities of the world are working very hard to create wars, slaughterhouses, weapons, tanks, and bombs. And they are engaged in so much cheating, all this just to increase their wealth. The demons are so greedy they are prepared even to destroy the balance and well-being of the Earth. They think, “Everything is disposable as long as I get my wealth and my power.” This is their mentality.
But instead, why not use one’s intelligence to benefit humanity? Shiva was very sorry about this situation. He had made a promise to grant the demon his request. It was a horrible request, but Shiva kept his word nonetheless.
Now, the demon was supremely happy with his gift. And he looked around to see who he could test his new power on. There was only Shiva. And Vrkasura slowly approached him with his hand outstretched. This was something Shiva had not expected. Shiva backed away and quickly took off. He ran over the earth, into the sky, and across the universe. The demon was in hot pursuit. Shiva sought help from his friends. He went to the abodes of the various demigods to seek their protection. One by one, they shut their doors on him and remained silent, hoping the demon’s attention would not be drawn to them.
Finally, Shiva made his way to Svetadvipa, the spiritual planet of Lord Vishnu, situated at the topmost place in the material universe. Viṣhnu/Krishna is the Lord Within the Heart who guides the wanderings of all living entities. He also makes Himself available to the demigods when they turn to Him for help.
Vishnu, already aware of Shiva’s plight, appeared before them as a young boy. The boy offered Vrkasura all respects and politely asked him, “My dear sir, what brings you to this remote corner of the universe? Please sit down and relax. Tell me, what is going on?”
The demon, impressed by the boy’s greeting, explained how Shiva had given him the power to crack open people’s heads. Upon hearing this, the boy only laughed out loud. He told the demon, “I wouldn’t believe a word Shiva says. Shiva is a madman who befriends ghosts and hobgoblins. He is incapable of giving any such gifts or blessings. Just touch your head, and you’ll see for yourself. Then, for everyone’s good, you can kill this liar.”
Vrkasura, bewildered by the boy’s flattery, touched his own head. And his head shattered into a thousand pieces, and he fell down dead. Thus, Vishnu saved His devotee, Shiva. Krishna tells us in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita that he appears in this world to protect His devotee and to destroy the demoniac (4.8).
Often, the gifts and blessings we receive only entangle us further in material life. We don’t know how to use gifts properly, and usually, we use them for our own material enjoyment. In Bhagavata Purana (10.88.11), Krishna warns us that He is not so quick to give material blessings. And thus, people generally avoid Him.
So, instead, as explained in the third chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, people approach the demigods and great men who are easily flattered and will more readily reciprocate. And often, people become intoxicated with their wealth, fame, and opulence. They become arrogant, and they readily forget from where the gifts or blessings came. They fancy themselves, “I am a self-made man.”
However, the conclusion of the Bhagavad Gita is quite different from Krishna’s earlier advice in the third chapter. Krishna tells Arjuna (18.64) that He is giving this confidential knowledge to him “because you are My very dear friend.” Krishna continues (18.65), “Always think of Me. Become My devotee.” And Krishna proclaims (18.66), “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
The Bhagavad Gita is actually a departure from demigods, Vedic injunctions, and rituals. Krishna tells us who He actually is, and He offers us the secret underlying message of all religious teachings: to reawaken our intimate, genuine, loving relationship with Him, the Supreme Lord Within the Heart. Arjuna is Krishna’s friend and is thus receiving His gift, in the form of the Bhagavad Gita, of the most confidential, transcendent knowledge of all the Vedas. We should not neglect or abuse this special gift of Krishna. And Krishna is also inviting each one of us to become His dear friend. This is the greatest gift of all.
About our Author
Sankirtana Das, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, is a longtime resident of the New Vrindaban Community and an award-winning author and storyteller. His most recent book, Hanuman’s Quest, is acclaimed by scholars and has received a Storytelling World Resource Honors. At New Vrindaban, he offers sacred storytelling and scheduled in-depth tours. For more info about his work, visit www.Mahabharata-Project.com.
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