If you meet Krishna and Rajan Zed on the road…

As a Megami Tensei fan, I’ve been following news of the most recent game – Shin Megami Tensei IV Final – ever since it was announced in October of last year. But there’s one recent bizarre story about the game that unfortunately I completely missed until this week: the story of how Hindus have apparently gotten pissed off that game.

There’s a Hindu “statesman” called Rajan Zed who doesn’t like the fact that Krishna appears as a major character in the game. Specifically he doesn’t like that Krishna looks very different from his traditional depiction, pointing out that his fedora and brown skin (particularly the fedora), and the fact that in the game Krishna is one of the deities and demons that you can summon and thereby command within the game, which of course contradicts the beliefs and tenets of orthodox Hindu tradition. The fact that there are other Hindu deites in this game and previous games that you can summon and control seems to have missed him, as has the fact that there are two games in the series with heavy Hindu themes that have you play as characters who can turn in into versions of Hindu deities and wind up fighting major deities and eventually kick the ass of Brahman (the Hindu concept of the Absolute, or God) itself. In this game, Krishna is the leader of a new faction of polytheistic deities who interrupt the conflict between the forces of Law and Chaos and oppose both in order to “save” mankind by manipulating humans and having them relinquish their souls to basically use as ammo against both factions.

Naturally, Zed demanded that Sega (who currently own Atlus, the series’ developers) not include Krishna in Shin Megami Tensei IV Final. Considering the game has already been released in the days after he began complaining, with Krishna still in it, that’s an impossibly tall order for Sega to fill, as if they care about what some religious butthurt who isn’t even part of the game’s target audience thinks.

That’s Krishna as depicted within the game.

A little something about Rajan Zed: this guy tends to get butthurt over depictions of Hinduism and Hindu entities in non-religious entertainment media. He’s previously protested the depiction of the goddess Kali in a game known as SMITE, he’s protested Angels and Demons because of it’s age-rating and for playing with religious beliefs (which is odd considering the movie has nothing to do with Hinduism), he’s protested the bomb of a movie known as The Love Guru by waging a spam email campaign, and more recently he’s complained about how the villain of the upcoming film X-Men Apocalypse compares himself to Krishna. He even tried to appeal to the state of Arkansas to get a statue of the Hindu deity Hanuman built on the grounds of Arkansas State Capitol in response to the Ten Commandments being erected in Oklahoma. Also, much has been made of Zed’s status as a Hindu statesman, particularly back when he was at the center of some kind of controversy about a Hindu prayer being invoked at the US Senate, but the Indian Embassy states that Zed has never held any sort of diplomatic office at all. And for all his talk about Hindus in general being outraged at entertainment media for their Hinduism-related content, and about his biggest gripe being about supposedly playing the sensitivities of believers, other Hindu leaders suggest that all the commotion is coming only from Zed himself and his Universal Society of Hinduism in Nevada.

Now back to Shin Megami Tensei IV Final. There’s something odd about this whole thing. The Christians and Jews have pretty much not caused a fuss about the Shin Megami Tensei games like Zed has, despite the notable presence of YHVH – the Jewish and Christian God – as a major antagonistic force and as an extremely negative personality, with Lucifer having a comparatively positive role. A lot of religious people managed to be cool about it enough not to throw a hissy fit and urge Atlus to change the games to suit their religious sensitivities, so why’s Rajan Zed been urging Sega to change Final to suit Hindu sensitivities (or rather his own)? I’m a Satanist/Luciferian and I don’t necessarily agree with the way I know that Lucifer, and Satan, are depicted in the game, but I don’t give enough of a rat’s ass to complain to Sega or Atlus about it, partly because I actually like the games and generally find myself forgiving of the developers anyway. I think it never occurred to Zed that the game is not about Hinduism, and has little to do with Hinduism (at least alone) other than the inclusion of Hindu deities and demons as characters whom you can summon or fight. The games are not really about any of the religions of the world either, despite the presence of major themes from those religions. They are about the gods and the demons of those religions and other mythologies to be sure, but they are moreso about mankind’s relationship with them, particularly the relationship of the individual, and about the never-ending competition between deities, demons, religions, philosophies, and ideas. Those concepts ares more important in the games than what hat Krishna is wearing. But more importantly, it’s about taking names and kicking ass with gods and demons. What’s not to like?

Plans for esoteric study

Recently I feel motivated to conduct more detailed study of occult books, particularly Michael W. Ford’s books on Luciferianism and Luciferian magick. Lately I have been feeling like I could benefit from some study on ritual in order to produce greater results in the realm of magick and achieve the results that I intend to produce.

Some of the books I plan to look at include the following:

  • Adversarial Light: Magick of the Nephilim by Michael W. Ford
  • Bible of the Adversary by Michael W. Ford
  • Luciferian Witchcraft by Michael W. Ford
  • Adamu: Luciferian Tantra and Sex Magick by Michael W. Ford
  • Liber HVHI by Michael W. Ford
  • The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey
  • The Satanic Rituals by Anton LaVey
  • The Seven Faces of Darkness by Don Webb

The Ford books will be studied in a certain order beginning with Adversarial Light and ending with Liber HVHI. I also plan to look into a few books on Hindu Tantra, Buddhist Tantra, Japanese esoteric Buddhism, and ritual pertaining to all three of those areas where I can find them, unless some of the listed books from Michael W. Ford cover the bases from Eastern lore. That, and I can always use more Satanism books, and not just LaVey’s books either.

I have already been reading at most three of the books (Seven Faces of Darkness, a little bit of Adversarial Light, and another little bit of Bible of the Adversary), and perhaps I could read more. I’ve read some interesting things so far, and I plan to take notes along the way. To be honest, I may have to crystallize my magical direction from all this and generate a more refined and defined system that’s still true to my desires and nature, only better at getting what I want out magick.

The lord of consciousness and the destroyers of consciousness

I watched a video from Thomas LeRoy, who you may recognize as the founder of a Left Hand Path organization known as the Sect of the Horned God, and in the video he talked about how he felt the Hindu deity Shiva was the best representation of the Left Hand Path in general. He feels that Shiva represents the consciousness of the individual (which he equates to the concept of Atman), in contrast to Vishnu’s connection with the consciousness of the universe (which he identifies as the concept of Brahman), and as the traditions of the Left Hand Path highly stress the importance of the consciousness of the individual, .

If you want, you can see the full video below.

In a sense, Atman referring to the individual consciousness can be a way of interpreting the concept of Atman, but while Atman is viewed as referring to the essential self, in Hindu tradition that same essential self is viewed as identical with Brahman, the consciousness of the universe. Shiva being the lord of individual consciousness in a Left Hand Path context is still an interesting way to elevate the individual consciousness and its importance in a Hindu context, and it definitely keeps Shiva interesting. In fact, it might be part of why my interest in him has stuck.

I don’t think I could come to dislike him.

This interpretation also brings to my mind a Buddhist myth concerning Shiva. Shiva does appear in the Buddhist tradition as Mahakala, but that’s not his only iteration within Buddhist lore. There’s a story in Buddhist scriptures where Shiva appears as Maheshvara (one of his names which he often goes by) and is defeated by a bodhisattva named Vajrapani. In the story, the cosmic Buddha Vairocana wants to construct a mandala and requests Vajrapani to generate his adamantine family in order to do so, but Vajrapani refuses to cooperate with Vairocana because of Maheshvara “deluding beings with deceitful doctrines and engaging in criminal activity”. In response Vajrapani’s complaint, Vairocana permits him to bring Maheshvara and his entourage to Mount Meru in order to force them to comply with the doctrines of the Buddha Gautama. Vajrapani uses a mantra to drag Maheshvara and company to Mount Meru, and orders all of them submit to the Buddhist teachings, to which all of them comply except Maheshvara, who refers to Vajrapani as a “pathetic tree spirit”. The two challenge each other in magical combat, and after a series of battles Maheshvara eventually defeated by Vajrapani, and along with his wife Uma (clearly a reference to the goddess Parvati) he is tread upon by Vajrapani after his defeat. After Vajrapani’s victory, all of Maheshvara’s entourage submit to the teachings of Buddhism and become a part of Vairocana’s mandala, except for Maheshvara, who is killed, but he is reborn in another realm as a Buddha named Bhasmesvara Nirghosa, who is described as “Soundless Lord of Ashes”.

In Japanese Buddhism, there is a similar myth centering around Gozanze Myo-O (aka Trailokyavijaya), one of the Five Wisdom Kings (a powerful group of wrathful emanations of the Five Buddhas of Wisdom, intended to represent the overcoming of passions and all threats to the Buddhist faith). In Japan, Gozanze Myo-O is the one who subjugates Maheshvara (known in Japan as Daijizaiten) and his wife Uma, thus they are depicted as trampled beneath Gozanze Myo-O’s feet in representations of him. But rather than killing Maheshvara, as Vajrapani did, Gozanze Myo-O converts him and Uma into protectors of the Buddhist faith.

A representation of Gozanze Myo-O.

The story of Maheshvara’s defeat and/or subjugation is obviously a way of illustrating the purported superiority of Buddhism next to Hinduism, and thus the superiority of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas over the Hindu pantheon of deities, but I feel that if we are to consider Shiva as a deity representing individuated consciousness, then beings like Vajrapani and Gozanze Myo-O, in the act of killing or subjugating Maheshvara, become the destroyers of individuated consciousness. This of course ties in to the fact that the goal of Buddhist practice is, ultimately, the extinction of individuated consciousness.

It’s a shame too, because I don’t really look at beings like these the same way after thinking about it that way. The wrathful beings of Buddhist come across to me as expressions of powerful will and strength, so it is a shame when that becomes directed against individuated consciousness in support of religious doctrine.

Mythological Spotlight #2: Shukracharya

 

Shukracharya as depicted by Pieter Weltevrede 

Description

In Indian mythology, Shukracharya is the guru and preceptor of the Asuras (the antigods of Hindu myth) and one of the Navagrahas of Hindu astrology. The Navagrahas are a group of deities associated with the planets, the Sun and Moon, and the north and south lunar nodes, and Shukracarya was the deity associated with the planet Venus, which is sometimes believed to be the most benevolent astrological influence. As the lord of the planet Venus, he was associated with pleasure, romance, wealth,  jewellry, reproduction, comfort, passion, art, music, dance, love, and the spring season, and he presides over Fridays. Shukracharya also goes by the name of Asuracharya, due to him being the guru of the Asuras. Shukracharya also seems to be a devotee of the deity Shiva, and by performing penances or austerities to Shiva he gained the power of the Sanjivani Mantra, a magical formula capable of resurrecting the dead. Shukracharya is described as handsome, as being of agreeable countenance, and as being proud of his knowledge and spiritual power, but also as having a hatred for the devas and the deity Vishnu, and as the guru of the Asuras he is at odds with a being known as Brihaspati, the guru of the devas associated with the planet Jupiter.

History

Shukracharya was said to have been the son of Bhrigu, who was one of the seven great sages or Saptarishi and is credited with being the father of Indian astrology. At some point in his life he went on to study the Vedas under a sage named Angirasa, but was repulsed by what he saw as favoritism towards Brihaspati, who happened to be one of his sons, and decided to study under a sage named Gautama (not to be confused with Siddhartha Gautama) instead. After the time in which Shukracharya learned the Sanjivani Mantra, Brihaspati become the guru of the Devas. Due to Shukracarya’s hatred of the devas, and his hatred of Vishnu (due to the latter’s killing of Shukracharya’s mother), he become the guru of the Asuras. In this capacity, Shukracharya would use the power of the Sanjivani Mantra to revive the armies of the Asuras. The Devas would kill the Asuras, but Shukracharya would revive them.

Shukracharya would come to be the advisor of many Asura kings, including Mahabali, Jalandhara, and Vishiparva. When Vishnu incarnates as Vamana in the story of Mahabali, Shukracharya instantly recognizes Vamana as Vishnu and tries to warn Mahabali about Vamana, but Mahabali did not listen and chose to grant Vamana’s request, leading to him being crushed by Vamana when he becomes gigantic in size. Shukracharya is also the one who appoints Jalandhara as king of the Asuras after seeing his power, and tells Jalandhara of how Vishnu deceived the Asuras out of their right to some gems that were churned out of the ocean, inspiring him to go to war with the devas.

The Devas were, naturally, feeling threatened by Shukracharya’s knowledge and power, particularly his power to resurrect the dead. After pressured their guru Brihaspati to come up with a way to resurrect their armies, but Brihaspati told them that he did not know any formula that could do this. Brihapati’s son, Kacha, offered to go to Shukracharya in order to learn the art of resurrection and the Devas allowed him to do so. Shukracharya could not send Kacha away for seeking to learn the Sanjivani Mantra, so he accepted him as his disciple and allowed him to stay in his ashram, and in return Kacha served Shukracharya with all his heart. However, over time, the Asuras knew of Kacha and became suspicious, sensing that Kacha was sent from the Devas so that they could learn the Sanjivani Mantra and resurrect their armies in battle. So they killed Kacha, but Shukracharya figured out this had happened and resurrected him, and every time Kacha was killed he would be resurrected. After six attempts, the Asuras killed Kacha again, this time powdering his bones and mixing it in Shukracharya’s favorite drink (somarasa), and so when Shukracharya drank it he unwittingly ingested the mortal remains of Kacha. Eventually, Shukracharya realized what had happened, and initially lamented that he could not resurrect him this time. But his daughter Devayani, who had fallen in love with Kacha, persisted, and eventually he chanted the Sanjivani Mantra and sprinkled water on his body. Kacha was resurrected, but he tore out of Shukracharya’s stomach in order to come back to life. Shukracharya died, but since Kacha had learned the Sanjivani Mantra, he was able to revive Shukracharya. Having completed his studies, and having become frustrated with the Asuras killing him constantly, he requested that Shukracharya allow him to leave, which he did. Kacha was now able to teach the Sanjivani Mantra to the devas, but he could not use it himself due to being cursed by Devayani for rejecting her offer of marriage.

There’s not much more for me to say other than there are some who believe that Shukracharya is the same as Allah, the supreme being of Islamic belief, but that seems like it’s basically the same as saying Freemasonry is the same thing as Baal worship, and there’s no evidence of any link between Shukracharya and Allah. Also, the people who make the claim also try to point out that the mythological Asuras are in fact referring to Muslims. You don’t need me to tell you that that’s down right nutty.

Conclusion

Shukracharya seems like an interesting character, and he seems to have been very powerful and influential among the Asuras. That he was able to see through Vishnu’s tricks is pretty telling with regards to how intelligent he must have been. I find it very interesting that a being associated with love and benefic influences is also a being intensely motivated by his hatred toward Vishnu and the devas, and he seems to have been happy to impart his knowledge to those who seek it in earnest, even when it was someone who was helping the enemy (though he may not have known that). It’s also funny that such a being was associated with Venus. I’m not saying Shukracharya was the Indian equivalent of Lucifer, but there’s a lot about Shukracharya that I think can be related to Lucifer, if perhaps superficially. All-in-all, I think there’s a lot about him to be interested in.

Karma

Karma is a concept common in Eastern religions and culture, but is interpreted very differently here in the West by many people. Our understanding of karma is largely based on the Hindu and Buddhist concepts of karma, so these are the concepts I’ll focus on here. When most people think of karma, they tend to think of something like this:

But in reality, the concept of karma has nothing to do with this sort of thing in its actual context. People like to think that karma means you “get what you deserve” in this life through some force in the cosmos, possibly because it suits their desire for vengeance without them actually claiming their vengeance for themselves, but that’s not what karma is.

In the West we tend to think of karma as the invisible moral force of reward and punishment, but in the Hindu context karma refers to the action or deeds of a person. In fact, the word karma literally means “action”, “deed”, or “work”, referring to the actions or deeds of a person, and any reward or punishment would thus refer to the result of said actions. However, karma is tied to the concept of reincarnation in which the soul enters a new physical form after death, which means your actions in this life are more or less tied to the next life. In this sense, karma in Hinduism tends to play out more like this:

In addition, Hindu belief stresses that there is only one Self, but instead of the individuated self there’s a single consciousness or Self tying all life together. This means all life is connected, and every individual is not only part of all others but also part of the divine consciousness of the universe, in fact but a piece of this consciousness, thus the goal of Hindu spirituality is for each piece to reunite with this single underlying consciousness, often identified as either God or by the concept of Atman (this itself tends to depend on what school of Hindu thought you answer to). It also means that it’s not you being reborn in a new body, but rather Atman. It also means that the bad things can happen to other people as a result of one person’s karma, which is horrible. In fact, this was one of the ways that people tried to explain the tsunami that happened in Southeast Asia near the end of 2004, and it may sound glib but it’s not an unreasonable interpretation of Hindu belief. Either way, I feel that since your consciousness is not your own in Hindu belief and since reincarnation entails someone or something else inheriting the fruits of your past actions, someone or something else is going to get screwed over by your actions, which is just illogical and wrong.

It works much the same in the Buddhist faith, except that in Buddhism there is neither a single divine consciousness nor individuated consciousness. Reincarnation is still based on karma or actions, but karma was also defined by Siddhartha Gautama as intention itself. This means that even mental action, the thought or impulse to perform physical and verbal actions and that influences such actions, can affect the next life. In broad terms, it also means that even a good action motivated by personal desire can be impure and lead to an impure rebirth, and the highest states of being, along with enlightenment itself, hinge on selflessness, which is stupid.

The wheel of the six desire realms.

In general, karma just means actions, but it’s funny how even though the concept of karma entails actions rather than a justice system designed to reward or punish them, the theme surrounding the concept of karma in many religions seems to be that your actions will be punished after this life rather than within, and I can’t seem to agree with the idea that the cosmos dispenses any sort of reward or punishment for actions that, if reincarnation is to be believed, you are no longer technically responsible for. And the thing is, if Hinduism and Buddhism are to be believed, you either don’t have an individuated consciousness, or your consciousness is not your own anyway, so how the hell are you responsible for actions that aren’t even yours either way?

The evils of Vishnu (and the devas), and the case for the asuras

In past blog posts written on the subject of Hinduism I have often mentioned the mythical conflict between the devas and the asuras, and have not written favorably about the devas. However, I don’t feel I’ve written a lot about why the devas are particularly bad, or why the asuras sometimes didn’t deserve being dominated by the devas in a whole lot of detail. I’ve also come to find examples of why Vishnu is actually a dishonorable and contemptible deity. For the purpose of this post, instead of commenting on the narrative itself like I did only last year, I choose to refer to specific mythological cases that point to the devas being far from the good guys and the asuras not always being evil. For the case of Vishnu and the devas I won’t try and cover every story, since that would be insane, just the ones I feel highlight their devious character. I already talked about one myth: the myth of the churning of the milk of oceans, in which the devas and the asuras “collaborated” to churn out the nectar of immortality using the serpent Vasuki, but there are some myths I have not written my personal take on, and some myths I may have mentioned before not written about in any detail to speak of.

Vishnu helps the devas cheat the Asuras in the form of Mohini

Although I said I wrote about the myth of the churning of the ocean of milk, there’s an aspect of that myth I did not write about before in previous posts. After the devas and the asuras churn the sea of milk, the heavenly physician Dhanvantari (who was actually a form of Vishnu) arose from the ocean of milk and he carried the nectar of immortality in one of his hands. The devas and the asuras fought fiercely to possess it, until eventually the asuras won the nectar from the devas. While the asuras celebrated, the devas pleaded with Vishnu to help them take the nectar of immortality from the asuras. Before the asuras managed to drink the nectar of immortality, Vishnu took the form of an enchanting woman named Mohini, who distracted the asuras with her dancing, which led to them becoming totally enticed by here beauty and allowed her to snatch the nectar of immortality from the asuras so she can distribute it among the devas.

Mohini takes the amrita from the asuras while she dances.

However, not all the asuras fell for this trick. The asura Rahu figured out that Mohini was actually Vishnu, and that her dancing was but a devious ploy to steal the Amrita from them. In order to get a share of the nectar of immortality, he disguised himself as one of the devas in order to drink some of the nectar of immortality, but the gods Surya and Chandra saw through Rahu’s disguise and informed Mohini. Mohini then decapitated Rahu before he could finish consuming the nectar, which mean that his head was somehow immortal but not his whole body. By the time the pitcher was empty, the devas got more of the nectar than the asuras. Vishnu had successfully cheated the asuras out of the nectar of immortality, and when the asuras tried to attack the devas, the devas defeated them in battle. Only the devas gained the nectar of immortality in the end, not through honorable means but because they complained to Vishnu about losing it to the asuras, who won it from them in the first place.

By the way, the churning of the oceans and the fighting for the nectar all started when Indra, who was a deva and not an asura, insulted the sage Durvasa when his elephant threw down a garland of flowers offered by the sage, which led the sage to curse the devas so that they lose their strength.

The subjugation of Mahabali by Vamana

Vamana stepping upon Mahabali

Mahabali, or just Bali, was an asura who, unlike most asuras, was highly regarded among the people. He was actually known as one of the most virtuous asuras of all, who once governed Kerala as a benevolent king. He was known to be very generous, charitable, and righteous, and even gods such as Brahma recognized this. After defeating the devas in battle with the help Sukracarya, the teacher of the asuras, Mahabali extended his rule to the realm of the devas. During that period of time Mahabali invited his grandfather Praladha to heaven to accept a very honorable seat there, after which he was appointed the same position Indra held for the devas, and he then asked Praladha for advice on how to be a proper ruler and carry on the government of the heavens, and Praladha told him “Only virtue will always win. Rule the kingdom without deviating from virtue.”. Following his grandfather’s advice, he did indeed establish a kingdom based on virtuous rule in which everyone was happy and content, and there was no corruption, crime, or discrimination based on class or caste. Of course, not everyone was happy about this. The devas didn’t like it at all that they were defeated by an Asura, no matter how righteous he was, and Indra was particularly upset that Mahabali not only defeated him and claimed his position in heaven, but he also showed the devas how much of a proper ruler he was. So Vishnu incarnated as a dwarf, named Vamana, and requested three paces of land from Mahabali as measured by his feet. Despite the warnings of Sukracarya, who tried to tell him that Vamana was deceiving him, Mahabali granted him this request. After which, Vamana grew in size to cosmic proportions, and covered the whole world and the realm of the heavens with his first two steps, and Mahabali offered his head as the place of his final step in order to prevent the destruction of the world, which led to him being pushed into the netherworld and losing his status as the ruler of the three worlds.

Vamana revealed to Mahabali that he was actually the god Vishnu (in his fifth avatar), of whom Mahabali was a devotee, and he claimed that he was testing Mahabali. But in actuality, Vishnu was actually trying to remove Mahabali from power through deceit and trickery, and Sukracarya knew that all along. It was nothing more than deviousness on the part of the Vishnu at the request of the devas, and through that trickery the devas did reclaim lordship over the heavens.

Parashurama, the genocidal warrior avatar of Vishnu

I have a distinct feeling that some of you who know me may look at just the above image and ask me “how can you not like this guy?”, and my answer would be because he’s a genocidal maniac, and for an avatar of Vishnu no less (the sixth to be exact). Some time after Parashurama received an axe and martial arts training from Shiva, his father Jamadagni was visited by the king Kartavirya and hosted a grand feast for the king. Kartavirya asked how Jamadagni managed to do this, and showed him a calf of the Kamadhenu, a sacred cow said to provide its owner with whatever he/she desires, that was given to him by Indra and had the power to grant wishes. Kartavirya became jealous when he was denied the calf, and stole the calf. What does Parashurama do when he finds out? He kills Kartavirya and his guards before retrieving the calf. Naturally, some time later, Kartavirya’s sons discover his corpse and work out that Parashurama killed him, so while Parashurama was gone they travel to the hermitage of Jamadagni, surrounded him, and killed him with arrows before decapitating him and taking his head with them. When Parashurama returned from a pilgrimage and discovered his father’s murder, he was enraged, and hunted down the sons Kartavirya in revenge, then took his fathers head in order to conduct his cremation. You’d think that this would be over, but after this whole mess Parashurama goes way over the top and vows to kill all members of the Kshatriya caste. He travels across the land and murders all members of the Kshatriya caste, regardless of whether they were innocent or guilty of anything. The Kshatriya caste constituted of the military elite who wielded secular authority, as opposed to the religious authority held by the Brahmin caste. According to the Mahabharata, the Kshatriya caste had become arrogant and corrupt, oppressing the people instead of protecting them, but this means nothing because Parashurama doesn’t simply kill the tyrannical members of the Kshatriya caste, he kills all of them even the ones who weren’t evil. Parashurama also gives power to the brahmin priests after the end of his campaign of genocide, and performs a sacrifice, so if anything the story has that undertone of “Vishnu comes to earth to murder all the secular rulers, regardless of their crimes, to give power back to religious leaders” so any morality of his tale is lost.

I’d also like to mention that Parashurama’s father, Jamadagni, wasn’t such nice a character on his own. When he found out that his wife Renuka felt physically attracted to the gandharvas she saw in the sky and briefly lost devotion to her husband, he became enraged and ordered one of his sons to decapitate Renuka. When his son refused, Jamadagni petrified him. He did the same with each of his sons except for the young Parashurama, who submitted to his commands and decapitated his mother Renuka. This pleased Jamadagni. However, because of this act of obedience, Jamadagni offered two boons to the young Parashurama, who requested the resurrection of his mother and that his brothers no longer be petrified. I don’t like how that aspect of his story turns out, because just think of it: imagine if you’re forced to decapitate your own mother by your angry and jealous father, but because you obeyed his commands, he revives your mother and then everybody’s happy? That’s horrible! This is Old Testament standards! Come to think of it, the whole story of Parashurama doesn’t feel entirely different to a lot of the violent stories of the Old Testament. Not to mention, since Parashurama was an incarnation of Vishnu, Parashurama was Vishnu the entire time. So Vishnu in the best interests of the cosmic order and all that is good beheads his mother rather than oppose his father, which you’d assume he’d be capable of doing since Parashurama is actually Vishnu (and don’t give me anything about how Parashurama was just a boy; look what Vishnu is capable of as Krishna when he was young), and later in his life he murders the entire kshatriya caste regardless of whether anyone it was good or bad and regardless of what they did to him, and justifies it with his own quest to avenge his father’s death, which he had already done by killing Kartavirya’s sons? There’s no reason to think of any of this anything other than totally wrong and totally mad, unless you are fucked up on religion.

Krishna

I’ve talked before about how Krishna was basically a hypocrite who thinks everyone should abandon their self-desire and worship him as God Almighty while he got to do whatever he wanted for himself, but it turns out I only scratched the surface back then. In the Mahabharata, Vishnu in his eighth avatar is as manipulative and dishonorable as it gets, all supposedly in the name of upholding goodness in the world. In one instance, Krishna weakens Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas, so that he may lose in battle against Bhima, who was supported by Krishna. It started when Duryodhana’s friend Karna was killed on the battlefield. Duryodhana was usually said to never shed a tear for anyone, but he shed a tear for Karna because he held Karna in high regard. His mother, Gandhari, saw Duryodhana losing confidence, and wanted to bestow a blessing unto him to make his body virtually invincible. For this blessing to work, his body had be exposed and unclothed. Apparently Krishna must have been aware of this because he urged Duryodhana to cover the area of his privates before meeting his mother, which meant that now Duryodhana’s body was virtually invincible except for his thighs and private parts. When Duryodhana challenged Bhima, his rival from the Pandavas, to a mace fight, Bhima almost lost to Duryodhana until Krishna signaled him to strike the area of his thighs, which was not blessed by Gandhari, which mortally wounded him. The problem? Hitting someone at the thighs or below the waist is against the rules of mace fighting, and Krishna encouraged Bhima violate the warrior code and defeat Duryodhana by fighting dirty in the name of bhakti (devotion to God).

Bhima standing over the defeated Duryodhana.

Speaking of cheating, I should mention how Karna died. During the war of Kurukshetra, one of the wheels of Karna’s chariot sank into a deep pit in the ground. Since his charioteer refused to lift it out of the ground, Karna had to do it himself. Arjuna, Karna’s opponent, delayed in killing him because it was dishonorable and against the rules of war for Arjuna strike Karna down while his chariot is unable to move. But Krishna urged Arjuna to kill Varna while he was still struggling with the chariot anyway, which is dishonorable according to the rules of war. On top of that, Krishna at one point even praises Karna as a great warrior and a virtuous man, this is before ordering Arjuna to kill him. Before all this, Krishna sent Karna’s mother, Kunti, to try and persuade Karna to join the Pandavas, but Karna denied this offer. Kunti requested that Karna promise not to harm any of the Pandavas in battle and not to use his celestial weapons twice, and so Karna promised to not harm any of the Pandavas except Arjuna and to only use his celestial weapon once. Krishna knew this, and he knew that Karna’s celestial weapon would be a threat to Arjuna, so he provoked a rakshasa named Ghatotkacha to attack Karna and his forces, which caused him to expend his celestial weapon. Karna also had celestial armor and earrings which might have led him to victory against Arjuna, but Indra convinced him to trade them for the celestial weapon previously mentioned, and Indra did so at the behest of Krishna in order to exploit his reputation as a charitable and honorable person. What kind of deity who promotes good would manipulate the outcome of a battle by exploiting the honor and character of his opponent?

There is an important event in the Mahabharata in the Pandavas and the Kauravas have a game of dice, after the Pandava leader Yudhisthira is challenged by Duryodhana’s uncle Shakuni. Yudisthira gambles everything: their wealth, their brothers, his wife Draupadi, and the lives of the Pandavas, and he lost every single time. Krishna did not seem to reprimand the Pandava for betting on human lives in a game of dice, nor stop them from doing so. All he did about the dice game was prevent Draupadi from being totally disrobed by granting her an infinitely spawning fabric to cover her body. Draupadi herself criticizes Yudhisthira for gambling the Pandava’s kingdom to Duryodhana and Shakuni, especially considering he was unskilled at gambling, but Krishna does not. Instead, he uses the incident against Duryodhana, who points out to Krishna that Yudhisthira accepted the challenge of his own free will, that it wasn’t their fault the Pandavas were defeated, and that Duryodhana ordered the return of the wealth the Pandavas had lost (through Yudisthira gambling it away) in the dice game, as well as releasing. Krishna himself starts the war of Kurukshetra by mouthing off to Duryodhana rather than reprimanding Yudhisthira for his reckless behavior, and he doesn’t seem to care about the point of view of the Kauravas or that Yudhisthira considered human beings an object of betting. This to me reveals Krishna as not just biased, but as a being who thinks humans being gambled is not as important as how bad he thinks the Kauravas are, or as important as his conception of a greater divine order or greater dharma. Or you could just say, nothing is more important for Krishna than his own egomania. Speaking of which…

The killing of Shambuka by Rama

Shambuka was an ascetic who was killed by Rama, Vishnu’s seventh avatar. Why did Rama kill Shambuka? Apparently it was because Shambuka wanted to attain the state of devaloka and attain godhood. He didn’t kill anyone, he didn’t rape or molest anyone, he didn’t steal anything, as far as I know he didn’t commit any moral crimes. All he did was perform penances for the purpose of attaining a level of divinity normally reserved for not just Indra, but Shiva as well.

Rama killing Shambuka (the guy who’s hanging upside down)

By this point, Rama had supposedly reigned as a benevolent king, but I personally would think that killing a man for unorthodox religious practices is not something a benevolent king would do. This would be like Jesus killing one of those Gnostic practitioners of the Left Hand Path for attaining a level of godhood equivalent to the Christ, or like Zeus killing an Orphic practitioner for seeking to deify his soul and join the gods and heroes in the afterlife. Rama killed Shambuka for the same reasons that YHWH destroyed the Tower of Babel or why the Greek gods punish humanity for reaching to the heavens or besting them in competitions. It is pure egomania unbefitting of a supposedly benevolent king.

Apparently, according to some sage named Vashishtha, Jambuka’s penances were forbidden except during the Kali Yuga and that his penances inadvertently caused the premature death of the son of a brahmin. Not only are believers supposed to buy that (which would be bullshit enough), but apparently after Shambuka is killed by Rama, the boy suddenly returns to life (which is even more bullshit). Are people actually expected to find that right? Why should the bizzare religious practices of an ascetic lead to the death of a young boy, with no explanation at all as to how? And why can’t the gods come up with a way to revive the boy without killing the equivalent of a Left Hand Path ascetic? This story makes no sense when examined and only shows Vishnu to be the same kind of tyrant as YHWH and Zeus.

The three asuras

This is the last story pertaining to Vishnu or the devas. Three asuras named Vidyunmali, Tarakaksha, and Viryavana perform austeries, and this pleases the god Brahma so much that he wants to grant them any boon they desire (except for immortality, which he can’t grant). They grant Brahma a very specific and unusual request: they requested three forts be built, with the first one gold, the second one silver, and the third one iron. They further requested that they would live in each fort for 1,000 years, that these forts would be place in different realms (the heavens, the sky, and the earth), align once every thousand years, and that death shall come to them when one can destroy all three forts with a single arrow. Brahma granted this request and asked an asura named Maya to build the forts, after which the three asuras lived in the forts prosperously. The devas didn’t like this at all, even though they weren’t essentially doing anything wrong, so they demanded Brahma do something about it. Brahma couldn’t do anything since he granted them the boon in the first place. Then they turned to Shiva, but he wouldn’t do anything because he knew the three demons weren’t doing anything wrong, and because they still worshipped the Shiva linga and followed the Vedas. Then they turned to Vishnu, who suggested that since they weren’t doing anything wrong, they should be persuaded to deviate from the religion of the Vedas. Apparently the gods think non-belief justifies murdering innocent beings. So Vishnu created a man to go and spread a materialistic teachings that contradict the Vedas and convert the three asuras to it, so that they can justify destroying them. After the three asuras were converted, and after 1,000 years, Shiva was convinced to destroy the forts of the three asuras.

Shiva destroying the three forts.

Why? What kind of god or person would conceive this? Why should these three asuras who didn’t do anything wrong be destroyed for not following the religion of the Vedas, or be persuaded to deviate from their religion just because they’re asuras who got a break for performing austerities? There’s no way this makes any moral sense whatsoever. After being converted, there are no evil actions alluded to at all. All the three asuras did was stop following the teachings of the Vedas and stop worshipping the Shiva linga. That can’t possibly merit any kind of destruction! All it proves is that, in Hindu myth, the asuras are automatically worthy of destroy for doing no wrong, that the gods are perfectly OK with destroying apostates (or at least as long as they are asura), and that Vishnu is enough of a bastard to openly suggest that three asuras who have done nothing wrong can be destroyed as long as they don’t believe the Vedic religion.

The case for the asuras

Statue of Mahishasura

Not all of the asuras are necessarily good, but when they are good, they seem to be more good then the devas. There are specific examples of asura rulers who are said to have ruled with benevolence, justice, virtue, and nobility, while I have not found a single example of a deva doing so. In fact Indra, the king of the supposedly good and orderly devas, tricked women into having sex with him about as much as Zeus did. There is little to say about the Asuras as a whole however, and in fact I’ve found that most of the well known Asuras did little or nothing to deserve being called “evil” other than fight the devas for control of heaven. For instance, Mahishasura. Mahishasura is considered to be a symbol of evil to be defeated by good, but I have not found any specific actions he may have done to warrant being called evil. In fact he was pious in his austerities, despite his ultimate desire for power. The only real character flaw I’ve found about him is that he considered women to be weak (which is the reason he allowed himself to be vulnerable only to women). Other than that, all he did to earn the emnity of the gods was attack the devas and fight for control of the heavens, which is the same trait ascribed to all of the asuras in Hindu mythology, but ultimately his most egregious “sin” was that he challenge Indra and the devas to a fight and won. Just like with Mahabali.

Or how about Raktabija, the asura slain by Kali? I’ve searched high and low for any evil actions on his part, and found nothing. No character flaws, no evil actions, all I’ve found out about him is that he fought against the gods and received a boon that meant that if a drop of his blood be spilled then more asuras would multiply out of him. What about Sumbha and Nisumbha, the asuras whom Raktabija fought alongside? There’s no real evil deeds to speak of for them. There’s one case where an asura named Karambha is brutally killed in the water by Indra in the form of a crocodile, but Karambha was doing nothing more than performing austerities for the god Varuna, thus did nothing to deserve it. Really all the asuras usually do is fight against the devas and their established order while seeking power for themselves. The only truly bad or nasty asuras I can think of are Vritra (for stealing the world’s waters), Hiranyaksha (for kidnapping the earth goddess), Hiranyakashipu (for trying to kill his son just for being devoted to Vishnu, and killing anyone who didn’t worship him), and Narakasura (for apparently kidnapping 16,000 women).

Hindus sometimes stress the ideas that the asuras, partiuclarly the more powerful asuras, represent ego because they challenge the devas and the gods, who represent the moral/religious order ordained in the heavens. In my opinion, since the order of the devas was established by cheating the asuras out of the nectar of immortality, which they won through sheer force of will against the devas, so ultimately the asuras are rebelling against a moral order that is unjust, biased against them, and was only established through dishonest means. Whenever the asuras defeat the devas it feels like the asuras manage to do it through sheer force of will and after performing austerities to the gods usually Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva, and the devas only defeat the asuras with the help of the same gods and Durga. It’s rather strange how Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva grant boons to the asuras after being pleased by the austerities they perform, but are still willing to let the devas coax them into knocking them down to restore their order! As a matter of fact, the asuras so often come so close to defeating the asuras that without the help of Vishnu or Shiva they would lose. For instance, when the asura Jalandhara arranged that Vishnu make his home in Ksheera Sagara (the ocean of milk) after almost being defeated by Jalandhara, the devas where defeated by Jalandhara and his army without Vishnu’s aid. It was only after Vishnu weakened Jalandhara by having sex with his wife Vrinda while disguised as Jalandhara that the devas were able to defeat Jalandhara, having lost the power derived from his wife’s fidelity and devotion. To me this still means not only are the devas weak on their own or don’t bother to become stronger on their own, but it also cements Vishnu as a dishonest prick (to be fair, Jalandhara tried to do the same thing to Parvati, but I don’t believe that justifies a supposedly all-good Vishnu doing the same thing).

Sometimes the Asuras are painted by interpreters as the individual ego fighting to oppose the outer supreme consciousness of God in addition to the moral order created by the devas. That only seems to make the asuras more sympathetic to me becuase (a) they represent the isolate and individuated existence promoting its own existence apart from the order established by religious belief, and (b) this supreme consciousness seems interested in making sure all follow its will or become harmonious with it and forcefully incorporate all that dares to elevate itself to the level of the divine.

Ultimately the asuras in Hindu myth are vehicles for the Hindu concept of self versus God and the established order, but I also feel that the concept of the asura can be an Indian expression of that which is Left Hand Path: immortalizing the self and creating your own order as opposing to obeying God’s order.

Devas and asuras: my problems with the myth

Asuras and devas churning the ocean of milk. Depicted at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand.

Remember just three days ago I posted about that book I read and how I realized or remembered many of my disagreements and/or problems with Hindu thought? Well today I realized there was one area of Hindu thought I forgot to cover: the myth of the conflict of the devas and the asuras.

Traditionally, the devas represent order and the asuras represent chaos, although the devas are also said to represent the forces of the mind and spirit and the asuras represent elemental forces and vital passion. In the Vedic religion, the devas used to represent the forces of nature and the asuras the forces of human society. According to that book I read, the conflict between the devas and asuras is supposed to be a cooperative rivalry and a dynamic equilibrium. In other words, they’re supposed to be forces that struggle with each other as a form of balance. The problem with that is there are several things undermining this idea of what the struggle means.

The first is the respective origins of the devas and the asuras within Hindu mythology. The asuras were born from a goddess named Diti, the limited one, while the devas were born from Aditi, the limitless one. That alone suggests a bias towards the asuric forces by suggesting they were born of ignorance and limited vision while the devas of truth and infinite vision, and this certainly undermines the idea that these are forces of mind and matter struggling for equilibrium with each other.

The second is the churning of the ocean of milk. Vishnu advised the devas to seek diplomacy with the asuras, and they formed a temporary alliance with the asuras so that together they may churn the nectar of immortality by using the serpent Vasuki as a churning rope, with the promise that the devas and the asuras would share the nectar. But what Vishnu actually intended was for the devas to have the nectar all to themselves, and he managed to convince the asuras to yank the head while the devas yank the tail, thus the asuras are subject to its hot and toxic breath with the devas in safe company. This seems very odd to me consider that most of the time Hinduism values self-abnegation and self-sacrifice, or at least that’s what the myths imply, and since the devas are supposed to embody dharmic ideas of truth and virtue, wouldn’t they be the ones subjecting themselves to Vasuki instead of letting the asuras get coaxed into suffering for them? And speaking of supposed self-sacrifice, Shiva swallowing the poison that Vasuki released in the process is widely said to be a sign of self-sacrifice, but is also really weird when you consider that, for Shiva, this is not really a dangerous or fatal thing to do at all. We wouldn’t be able to handle Vasuki’s poison, and the devas and asuras would likely have reason to worried about it (in fact the main worry was that the poison would contaminate the ocean of milk and destroy creation), but Shiva could easily swallow that poison and all that would happen to him was his throat would turn blue. That aspect of the myth doesn’t really represent self-sacrifice because Shiva could easily go through with it with no real danger to him, it actually represents Shiva’s power to prevent premature destruction and to take in everything that no one else can.

Shiva drinks Vasuki’s venom, because he can.

That aside, let’s move on from the samudra manthan (the ocean of milk story) and move on to other aspects of the problem with the conflict. For instance, if the conflict was really supposed to be about a balance of two forces both integral to the cosmos, why is there so much emphasis of the “good” devas winning over the asuras? The occasions when the asuras defeat the devas don’t seem to be treated with any equality, or any manner other than negative. Besides that, the devas only seem interested in maintaing their control and hegemony over the universe, and in preserving the Hindu faith. For instance, the whole reason Vishnu becomes Kalki is because of the faith being in decline and people no longer worshipping. And stories such as the story of Mahabali show that, even if an asura was benevolent, that doesn’t matter because the devas won’t tolerate losing control of the universe even once.

Now, to be honest, I like the idea of the asuras and devas as forces struggling in equilibrium with the asuras representing elemental energy and vital passion with devas representing structure and order, which would actually leave room for evil spins on both the asura and deva principles (for instance, animalistic passions turning rotten or structure being based on evil or made dishonorably), thus balance would be emphasized as an important virtue for the individual. That would certainly be how I would use the deva-asura paradigm, though it would rely less on the actual mythology and its hegemonic wars. However, this post is not about how I use the paradigm, it’s about the Hindu use of the paradigm, and in the Hindu faith, this is not what happens. Even if it was like that in Vedic Hinduism, it is not how it is in post-Vedic Hinduism, in other words the Hinduism you know. Once you look into it, you see that it’s basically just another “good” and “evil” conflict.