Can Devata-Worship Grant Liberation?

Devata Worship of Lord Ganesha

Aphorism – 49 | Shandilya Bhakti Sutra-17

मुख्यं तस्य हि कारुण्यम्

The main purpose of the Lord’s advent is His compassion alone.

Purport of Aphorism 49

It is important to understand the main difference between the Lord and the common man. Unfortunately, the word “compassion” is grossly misused by the world. When we see a beggar we say we have compassion. “We feel for the beggar”. Is that compassion or pity? When you see a relative struggling with everyday life “we feel compassion”. Is that compassion? What happens when that relative starts doing well? Will you feel compassion or will you envy him?

Human beings, are essentially not capable of any compassion. Only when a person has reached a certain level of consciousness, like a sage or a seer can one feel compassion. This means only a liberated being can feel compassion. How can compassion or genuine feeling for the other arise at all when you are in a bound state?

We are being tormented by material energy 24 hours a day. Where is the scope of compassion? But, this is not true in the case of God.

The Lord is the Supreme Being. His advent into the world is driven by compassion alone.

Lord showers His grace on Putana and other Demons

Bhagawan reveals: “My descent is aimed at strengthening the spiritual vitality of human life. I can kill demons sitting in my spiritual abode, simply by wishing so. But, I physically come to the material world to give solace to man. I do it to improve his spiritual alignment. I sustain purity and stimulate the progress of human civilization. My advent is to curtail the growing animalism in man.”

Further the Lord says: “My ‘killing of Asuras or demons’ is not a violent act. Instead, it is an act of extreme compassion for these unfortunate beings. Since there is no chance of purification in them, I slay them and directly transcend them to My Abode of everlasting peace and contentment. Thus, Mukti is secured by such fallen and cursed beings.”

Putana, the demoness sent by Kamsa tried to kill Lord Krishna by smearing poison on her breasts. She tried to feed the baby form of Lord Krishna. But, inspite of her ill intentions the Lord showed His extreme compassion. By sucking her life out, He gifted her the highest position of His mother in the spiritual abode. Such is the compassion of the Lord. This is compassion.

Compassion Cannot be Momentary

For compassion, one needs to be in a position of power and grace. Then, can ordinary living entities feel true compassion?

There is a possibility that the Lord feels compassion for a living entity suffering heavy Karma. The Lord expresses Himself through the limbs of a common man who happens to donate clothes and food to a dweller of the road, due to the inspiration of Bhagawan.

There is an important thing to note however. It is not ‘compassion’ that is driving the individual to help the poor. That compassion that he seems to exhibit is verily the compassion of the Lord. The man who donates clothes and food to the poor is an instrument.

We can understand this fact by the experience that follows after the help is rendered. Not always does man feel to donate. This disinclination itself proves that the compassion which he once displayed was not his. He was used by the Lord to help the poor. This proves that whatever he felt for the poor man was “reflected compassion” and not his own.

True Signs of Liberation

On the other hand the Lord and the sages have compassion for the common folks 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day and there is no dip in the degree of compassion at any time. If the mood of compassion is not momentary but the very way of one’s creation, it is genuine. It is rare to find such people today. All other forms of pseudo-compassion on the part of man is just pity. It is driven by the sense of individuality and Ego.

The Bhagavatham says: “The Lord descends to grant liberation to people surrendered onto Him. Out of His infinite causeless mercy He sports with His devotees. He happily distributes liberation. He feels most compassion for people bound by Maya.”

Unfortunately, such people have themselves blocked the channel of Grace. Hence, people like Duryodhana could never have the Lord on their side. Because, the Lord only supports genuine beings who have a soft heart and have placed the Lord in their hearts like the great uncle of Duryodhana, Vidura.

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Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism – 50

प्रणित्वान्न विभूतिषु

Loving attachment shown to the Vibhutis, persons possessing introspective greatness, glory, might, sublimity, beauty or loveliness and many more qualities of great living beings can never be called Devotion and are of no use if the goal is to attain Liberation.

In this great work Rishi Shandilya has mentioned in Aphorism 46, that if we perform Bhakti to any form of Sri Vishnu (such as Sri Rama, Krishna, Narasimha or Varaha), Liberation is guaranteed. That alone is Bhakti.

Men with a limited fund of knowledge may assume that if this is the case, performing Bhakti of other elevated and powerful beings can also grant liberation. This seems logical, but far from it.

Are Devatas and other Incarnations of Lord Narayana the same?

We must understand that powerful beings possess a miniscule portion of Bhagawan Vishnu’s potencies. They represent the Vibhinamsa (विभिन्नाम्शा separated powers) of the Lord. However, Sri Rama, Narasimha, Vamana, Narasimha etc are Sva-amsa (स्व-अंशा), the very same Lord.

They displayed some limited potencies in their pastimes as their goal was to teach a specific lesson to man.  They came for a particular cause and displayed the necessary potencies to achieve their purpose of incarnating.

We must understand that all Sva-amsas are capable of displaying all potencies of Sri Vishnu. Sri Krishna is the direct form of the Lord who displayed all His potencies. Sri Rama is capable of displaying all those potencies which Sri Krishna displayed.

But, in His Avatar, he chose to display only some of them. His goal was to set the ideal values that man can follow. If he had supernatural pastimes (displaying all his powers), common man would feel that ideal set by Sri Ramachandra are inapplicable for them. But, this would negate the purpose of the Lord. Hence, to meet up the requirements of the world, the Lord incarnates to guide man through His pastimes.

What do Shastras say on Devata worship ?

Therefore, Shastra proclaims worship of Sva-Amsha and Sriman Narayana as legitimate. But, worshipping an entity possessing a body made up of the Panchabhootas is not acceptable. Such an approach is not according to the Vidhi. Vidhi means ‘in line with Shastra’.

Therefore, those who bear allegiance to Devatas or gurus, singularly, with unwavering faith, violate the revealed scriptures. They do not follow the right methodology of worship. They are said to be completely deluded by the Lord’s external potency known as Maya.

Devatas are repository of specific virtues. Like Lord Surya is Knowledge and Vibrance, Chandra Dev represents the Mind, etc. However, they too are temporary. They possess these qualities only till the time Bhagawan reflects through them. So, worshipping them alone cannot grant one liberation.

Devatas have material significance of prosperity, wealth, fame, etc which are extremely short-lived. The wise respect Devatas because they are attendants (sevakas) of Bhagawan, but their Nishtha is towards Sriman Narayana and His Sva-Amshas alone.

Does Guru Nishtha grant Liberation?

Worshipping Guru was extremely common in prior Yugas (Saty, Dwapara and Treta Yugas). But, in Kali Yuga, due to heavy influence of Maya and Kali, it is advisable to worship the Supreme Lord Narayan directly. Because, every person falls under the grip of changing times, place and circumstances.

Having respect for one’s guru is important for progress. True Gurus have the experiential knowledge of Bhagawan and this becomes an important lesson for the Sadhaka to receive. A disciple can at best know about God either through the words of a completely enlightened master or through the golden words of the scriptures. One must remember that the ultimate object of devotion has to be Bhagawan.

Many people get stuck to the Guru as a person and they fail to recognize the Guru-Tattva. This becomes a cause of bondage. It stunts the spiritual growth of the Sadhaka.

Therefore, people who engage in Devata worship or hail their gurus without surrendering to Bhagawan do not qualify for liberation. Their allegiance to other powers keeps them away from the ultimate goal of Liberation.

The Lord assures His devotees: “Those who surrender unto me, attain my eternal Abode without fail and are not subject to birth and death any more.”

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