The Bhagavad Gita, chapter 16 lists the attributes of Devas or Asuras.. not as if they were different clans or different kinds of beings, but as if they are humans who display different kinds of behaviour.
In the article : Devas: Human or Divine?, I have put together various interpretations of the Devas that range from luminaries of the Vedas, heroes of the puranas, elements of nature, indriyas or senses, human, stars, planets and other forces of nature, spiritual or abstract concepts or symbols, divine beings, holograms of terrestrial or extra-terrestrial superior technology, the Vedas themselves and so on. I have concluded that who the Devas are depends on the context and text that we are reading at that time.
In the article : Asuras : I have put forward the researched idea of Prof. P.L. Bhargava who says that in the most of the ancient Vedic hymns, the word Asura is always used as an adjective meaning powerful or mighty. In fact “The word Asura including its variants asurya and aasura occurs 88 times in the Rg Veda, 71 times in the singular number, 4 times in the dual, 10 times in the plural, and 3 times as the first member of a compound. In this the feminine form asuryaa is included twice. The word asurya has been used 19 times as an abstract noun, while the abstract form asuratva occurs 24 times, 22 times in each of the 22 times of one hymn and twice in the other two hymns.” – P.L. Bhargava in the book ‘Vedic Religion and culture’.
People whom we call as Asuras today are generally Daityas, Danavas and Rakshasas.. who are all different from one another, though sometimes related to each other as well as to the
Devas (Adityas and others). This article : Aditi and Kasyapa, Adityas – Suras, Daityas, Danavas discusses their inter-relationships. The Daityas are the sons of Kashyapa Prajapati and step brothers of the Adityas. Since their mothers, Aditi and Diti are sisters and daughters of Daksha Prajapati, they are also first cousins besides being step brothers. They are genetically of the same stock.
In 16th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagwan Sri Krishna describes those attributes in us that may be recognised as Divine or Asuric. (It is not surprising that the Paramatma would distinguish beings based on their attributes and not based on their birth!)
The fifth sloka and sixth slokas together tell us, that there are two kinds of beings in this world – daiva and aasura. The attributes of the devas lead to liberation (mOksha) and the the attributes of the asuras lead to bondage. I agree with Gandhiji that all of us are a mix of both, we have some divine attributes and some aasuric attributes. The game is to divinize ourselves in the course of time.
Attributes of the Devas, which lead to Liberation:
Fearlessness, courage, purity of heart, steadfastness in knowledge, charity, self-control, worship, sacrifice, study of the Vedas, austerity, uprightness, non-injury, truthfulness, tranquility, freedom from slander, kindness, non-covetousness, gentleness, modesty, no fickleness, forgiveness, fortitude, absence of hatred and conceit.
Attributes of the Asuras, which lead to bondage:
Ostentation (even in worship), arrogance, self-conceit, anger, rudeness, ignorance, bad conduct, absence of truth, inabillity to know what should be done and what is not to be done, atheistic, diminished intellect, fierce deeds, born to contribute to the destruction of the world, hypocritical, proud, arrogant, impure, deluded, insatiable, lustful, angry, always strive to accumulate vast wealth by unsavory means, beset with immense cares ending with death, elevates sensual pleasure to the highest. Non-cleanliness and non-AchAra (proper conduct as per scriptures), atheistic.
The Asuras think : This is all, I am great, I am rich noble, I did this, I got this, I am successful, powerful. They hate Krishna (the Self) who resides in their bodies and in those of others. They sink further and further.
Naraka : (A kind of hell)
Individuals with these aasuric attributes fall into Naraka. And are sent to aasuric wombs for their next birth.
Kaama (Desire), Anger, and Greed are gates to Naraka and are destructive to the Self. He who is free from these practices what is good for him and attains the supreme goal.
He who sets aside the scriptures and acts under the impulse of desire attains neither perfection, nor happiness nor the supreme goal. The scriptures will tell you right from wrong. Having known the scriptures, you need to do your Karma.
I think most of us have been exposed to the ideas of what constitutes good, fair and compassionate behavior and many of us try to practice it. Our problem is chiefly aham-kAra or doership. Western countries give people a better feeling of “I can do what I want” and India gives a better feeling of “By God’s grace I managed to accomplish something”.. largely because living in close proximity to one sixth of humanity means, you have much fewer degrees of freedom. Its harder to have ahankaara in India. But I suppose, the rest of the attributes you have an equal chance in India or abroad!
To me Naraka sounds like a mental hell and not a physical one if what can send you there are greed and anger and desire.
Also, if you want a divine mother in your next birth – its a good idea to cultivate daivic attributes and give up aasuric ones!
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