[Advaita-l] Asuras and Dharma

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Dec 22 00:55:52 CST 2015

On Fri, 20 Nov 2015, Santosh Rao via Advaita-l wrote:

> Namaskara,
> In the shastras we read about how some asuras were given knowledge by
> certain preceptors, for example, shukra is known to have been the guru of
> the asuras, while brighu was the preceptor of the devas.

Brhaspati as per your correction.

> My question is, what exactly were these asuras learning? Was it the Vedas,
> or some other type of knowledge? If it was the Vedas, doesn't that mean
> there was adhikara for that to take place to begin with? How was that
> defined?  If there was adhikara, then why would the lord have to incarnate
> to mislead them with a false doctrine (buddha), instead of correcting them
> in their errors?

It is Vedas.  The Devas and Asuras are half-brothers being the children of 
Kashyapa Prajapati by his two wives Diti and Aditi.  So they have the same 
adhikara. It is what they do with it which separates them.  The names of 
the mothers give a clue.  Diti means finitude.  Aditi is its opposite e.g. 
infinity.  So the problem with the Daityas is not necessarily that 
they don't know dharma (there have been some virtuous ones such as 
Prahlad, Baliraja, Vibhishana etc.) but they do not put it to proper ends. 
The example of Indra and Virochana from Chhandogyopanishad has already 
been mentioned.  Another is Ravana who was a great Shivabhakta but on 
acquiring siddhis became drunk with power.

In the Shatapathabrahmana of the shuklayajurveda there is a meditation on 
Prajapati as the year and the devas and asuras as days and nights which 
alternate in succession but neither prevailing over the other.

These two sets of concepts, light and darkness, finity and infinity are 
brought together in Ishopanishad which also belongs to shuklayajurvda. 
In (rk 3) the worlds won by karma are called asurya which means asura 
because they ar finite and limited hence.  The oposite is path symbolized 
by the sun (rk 15.) Sun is surya and aditya.

> I also read somewhere that the carvaka atheistic philosophy has it's
> origins with rishi brhispathi....is this true? If so, was it's purpose to
> mislead a certain group of people similar to what we are taught about
> buddhism? Sorry if this is offtopic, I've been curious about it for a while.

In the arthashastra of Kautilya the name of Brhaspati is given as a 
founder of that vidya and same in the Kamasutra I think.  So it may just 
be that Brhaspati is associated with "worldly" pursuits of all kinds not 
necessarily just heretical ones.

Another possibility is that it is just a big joke.  Atheists may have 
wanted to ridicule astikas by pretending that the origin of their 
philosophy is from the guru of the very Gods their opponents believed in.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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