Yesterday I caught a part of Srimad Bhagavatam class on Mayapur TV and people were discussing how demigods can commit sinful acts. As is becoming usual some smart cookie in the audience raised the question that the speaker couldn’t adequately address. I remember another one of those but will save it for another day.
Again, as usual, the better answer, I believe, lies not in knowing some obscure passages from shastras or utterances by Srila Prabhupada, but in understanding the question. Once you understand the question properly the answer appears well within our range of knowledge.
Anyway, the speaker tried to answer the question posited like this – if demigods live on heavenly planets only to enjoy results of their good karma, how come they occasionally engage in sinful activities. I didn’t hear what activities were referred to specifically and how exactly the question was originally worded, but this is how the speaker heard it and, posited like this, it is indeed a bit perplexing.
The clue to untying this knot, I think, lies in the assumption that only human beings on this planet can create karma. This is one of the very first things we learn about it, about the importance of human form of life. I don’t think we should take it in absolute sense and blindly employ this principle in each and every situation.
What does it even mean – create karma? The living being is not a creator of anything in this world, karma is created by material bodies acting under the influence of the modes of nature. Every time something happens in this world it’s bound to have reactions in the future. Perhaps the real meaning of “creating karma” lies in putting our consciousness into it.
Again – what does consciousness mean in this context? Does it mean that only human beings possess consciousness so that only human beings can create karma? That’s absurd, every living entity possesses some degree of consciousness.
This is where I think the answer lies – how much freedom to apply our consciousness is given in different forms and conditions of life. Some humans have better conditions to develop spiritual consciousness, some worse. Even in Bhagavat Gita Krishna mentions that – people in distress, for example, are more likely to turn to God than people enjoying their senses to the full.
I believe it’s not correct to assume that there’s a clearly drawn line between forms of life and the ability to project consciousness but rather that in certain conditions certain human beings appear to be more conscious than others of their kind, or of lower or higher species. Relatively speaking, not absolutely.
Thus even the demigods can commit sinful acts or worship the Lord. They can also express envy or greed and act on those urges, they certainly have the capabilities. I suspect that those a just petty crimes in the great karmic scheme of things. They are not genocidal, they don’t rape and pillage, they are far to civilized for that. And so are some of the people living on this planet right now.
Perhaps their sins are like taking home a pencil from the office. Sinful? Yes, but not the maha raurava level of sin.
Conversely, demigods live in far too opulent conditions to surrender their lives to serving the Lord, but there are exceptions, too, when they decide to descend on earth and take part in Lord’s pastimes. They don’t do it because our local sweet rice is so irresistible, though it’s often a treat deserving demigods.
We are not so much different after all, we just have different levels of help or distractions provided by the material nature.
Imagine being suddenly transferred to New York’s Upper East Side, into a family of immense wealth, and given dozens of platinum credit cards and an obligation to appear like an ordinary member of New York’s elite. That would throw anybody’s sadhana off the balance for a while. So is transferral to the heavenly planets.
I think arguing in this direction would have satisfied the person asking the question much better.
Thought for the day – devotees live their lives in conditions tailored by the Lord to provide the best chance at self-realization, there’s no greener grass on any other side, let’s make the best use of what is given.