yāvān artha uda-pāne
tāvān sarveṣu vedeṣu
All purposes served by a small well can at once be served by a great reservoir of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them. Bhagavad Gita, verse 2.46
The “White Tiger” ambassador of the ignorant and misdirected modern Hindu community, our scripturally-illiterate Aarvind Adiga misrepresented 33 million demigods as 36 million “Hindu” gods in his well known book. He was short of uneducated derision just by a few more sentences. A few more sentences spilling from his Vedically-uneducated brain would have caused more damage to his consciousness than to the reputation of 33 million demigods. An organization has a managing director or a CEO—whatever he or she may be called. The CEO has several specialized sub-organizations under him to run respective functions expertly. The concept of hierarchy was first described in the Vedic scriptures. Each of the 33 million demigods has a role to play, a task to accomplish. Indra, for instance, manages the rains, Varuna is the predominating deity of water, Agni controls fire, and so on. (It’s a separate subject why we don’t get these things in proper measure.) Arvind Adiga didn’t know that all the demigods serve Lord Krishna. He mistook them to be equal to God, and his misunderstanding confused him. Thinking himself to be more intelligent that the Vedic philosophers and practitioners, he went on jokingly implying in his book how the ignorant Hindus worship 36 million Gods (who to keep, who to leave…). A friend sent a conversation between someone called David and Gopal Das, a Krishna devotee. Here is a snippet:
David: But in the Hinduism there is even more confusion, there are so many Gods.
Gopal Das: The ones who are confused are only the ignorant people who do not read the scriptures. The Vedas say God is one, there are no two Gods. The Sastras describe 33 crores of demigods (God empowered beings), who are all engaged in management of universal affairs under the guidance of one Supreme Lord; Krishna. It is just like in the government where you have many ministers but ultimately one prime minister above them all. There are not two Gods. Ekale iswara Krsna.
David: All those devatas with elephant heads and many arms look to me like imagination.
Gopal Das: Those are beings superior to us and they have different powers, abilities and different bodies. The same thing you will find in the Bible, the angels – humans with the wings.
Arvind Adiga’s ignorance and over-confidence correctly represent the contemporary “Hindu” community. The Aryans who practiced the Vedic philosophy disappeared long ago. We’re Hindus; who live on the other side of the river Sindhu, as the Persians said*. That’s all.
In the verse 2.45, Krishna said that the Vedas deal with the subjects of the three modes of nature and that Arjuna should transcend the Vedas. The three modes of nature are the immediate cause of pleasure and pain that we experience in the material worlds. By worshiping demigods, we can fulfill our short term transient aspirations. Their worship helps us evade some painful experiences for some time. However, the ultimate purpose of the Vedas is to help living beings transcend the modes’ drama and become eternally blissful. The ultimate purpose of the Vedas remained implied and never became explicit. This serious flaw in the Vedas destroyed Vedavyasa’s happiness. So, his teacher Narada inspired him to write Srimad Bhagavatam which focuses only on the ultimate goal of the Vedas. It glorifies Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And therefore, Srimad Bhagavatam is known as the ripened fruit of the tree of the Vedas.
Krishna is the great reservoir, and 33 million demigods are small wells. He is the infinite ocean of all that exists. In this verse Krishna gives the analogy of a small well and a great reservoir to help us understand how He can fulfill all the needs and desires of a pure devotee, without needing the devotee to worship 33 million demigods. Why a devotee doesn’t have to follow the hierarchy of demigods? Because the devotee knows that the ultimate purpose of the Vedas is to serve Krishna with unconditional love and become eternally blissful. So, the devotee focusing on the goal of pure love gradually comes to the point where he stops caring about the pleasures and pains caused by the three modes of nature.
In the verse 4.31.14 of Srimad Bhagavatam, Suta Goswami enlightens the Rishis of Naimisharanya, “As pouring water on the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, twigs and everything else, and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the senses and limbs of the body, simply worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead through devotional service automatically satisfies the demigods, who are parts of that Supreme Personality.”
Srila Prabhupada explains that by worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead one can satisfy all the demigods, but by worshiping all the demigods one does not completely worship the Supreme Lord. Therefore worship of the demigods is irregular, and it is disrespectful to the scriptural injunctions. In the verse 9.23 of Bhagavat Gita, Krishna says, “Those who are devotees of other gods and who worship them with faith actually worship only Me, O son of Kuntī, but they do so in a wrong way.” Srila Prabhupada explains in his purport, “…when a man pours water on the leaves and branches of a tree without pouring water on the root, he does so without sufficient knowledge or without observing regulative principles. Similarly, the process of rendering service to different parts of the body is to supply food to the stomach. The demigods are, so to speak, different ofﬁcers and directors in the government of the Supreme Lord. One has to follow the laws made by the government, not by the ofﬁcers or directors. Similarly, everyone is to offer his worship to the Supreme Lord only.”
Aarvind Adiga laughed at the idea of worshipping 36 million Gods. Krishna says it’s improper and unintelligent to worship demigods because those demigods are subordinate to Him. Apparently both Arvind and Lord Krishna may be saying the same thing; however, intent and knowledge make the difference. Arvind didn’t understand the difference between demigods and God. He didn’t know why there are 33 million demigods. He misrepresented them due to his ignorance. Whereas Krishna—being the Absolute Truth Himself—speaking from the platform of transcendental knowledge. He is asking Arjuna to transcend the Vedas and focus on the ultimate goal of pure devotion. The human birth is the only opportunity to transcend our temporary but cyclic nature and to revive our eternal nature which is currently in the dormant state. Our eternal nature is to serve God with unconditional love (and stay blissful eternally). In doing so, we naturally serve humanity and creation because everything is a part and parcel of God. This verse is Krishna’s one of the many verses that instigate and inspire us to achieve the highest elevation ever possible.
* “Hindu” is not a Sanskrit word. It is said that the Persians used to refer to the Indus river as Sindhu. Indus is a major river which flows partly in India and partly in Pakistan. The Persians could not pronounce the letter “S” correctly in their native tongue and mispronounced it as “H.” Thus, for the ancient Persians, the word “Sindhu” became “Hindu.” The ancient Persian Cuneiform inscriptions and the Zend Avesta refer to the word “Hindu” as a geographic name rather than a religious name. When the Persian King Darious 1 extended his empire up to the borders of the Indian subcontinent in 517 BC, some people of the Indian subcontinent became part of his empire and army. Thus for a very long time the ancient Persians referred to these people as “Hindus”. The ancient Greeks and Armenians followed the same pronunciation, and thus, gradually the name became the norm.