“The sattwic worship the gods, the rajasic worship the yakshas and rakshas. The others, the tamasic men, worship the dead and the hordes of nature spirits” (Bhagavad Gita 17:4).
Several types of beings are mentioned here and should be defined. We will rely on our old friend, A Brief Sanskrit Glossary.
- Devas are “shining ones,” in the evolutionary hierarchy they are semi-divine or celestial being with great powers, and therefore “gods.” Sometimes they are called demi-gods. Most devas are the demigods presiding over various powers of material and psychic nature.
- Yakshas are of two kinds: semidivine beings whose king is Kubera, the lord of wealth, or a kind of ghost, goblin, or demon. The rajasic worship the first kind to gain material advantage, and worship the second kind to get them to harm those standing in their way of material gain.
- Rakshas are also of two kinds: semidivine, benevolent beings, or cannibal demons or goblins, enemies of the gods. The rajasic worship them for the same reasons as they worship the yakshas.
- Pretas are ghosts–spirits of the dead. Sometimes these are just wandering earthbound “tramp” souls, but they may be famous people or one’s own ancestors.
- Bhutas are of two types: some are subhuman nature spirits or “elementals”, but some are earthbound human spirits–ghosts. Bhutas may be either positive or negative.
- Ganas are usually part of groups of spirits that wander together–usually of various types. The term is also used as a kind of “miscellaneous” category for entities that have not otherwise been identified. A gana may be benevolent or malevolent, but is usually disorderly, chaotic, and wild in the sense of untamed or unruly, and potentially dangerous (hazardous). A gana’s appearance is usually deformed, repulsive, or frightening.
We will certainly end up in the worlds of the kind of beings we habitually have contact and interchange with.Although Krishna speaks of “worship” in connection with these beings, it means any kind of intentional supernatural involvement or contact. This should be kept in mind.
It is not enough to just move into the world of the invisible; we must know where we are going to end up. And we will certainly end up in the worlds of the kind of beings we habitually have contact and interchange with.
Inconceivably vast as the physical universe is, the astral world is inconceivably larger than the physical plane. Not all beings in the astral realms can be contacted by human beings, but innumerable ones of numberless classifications or levels of evolution can be–often to the detriment or distraction of the human. Yet, since each one of us acts according to his dominant nature, so it will be in our supernatural involvement.
Since their very nature orients them toward higher realms of consciousness and impels them to evolve upward into and even beyond those realms, Krishna tells us that the sattwic worship the devas whose nature is Light. From deva we get the word “divine.” In its highest sense it means God the Absolute.
In a secondary sense it means all who consciously dwell in and reflect the divine light as “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). These include the various forms of God that are manifestations of the infinite divine attributes as well as the “gods” who wield divine powers for the assistance of those beneath them on the evolutionary ladder. Such beings include angels, saints, departed masters, and a host of other “holy helpers.” Since their entire will and consciousness is focused on God, interchange with them will elevate our consciousness toward the Divine as well. Communion with them will strengthen our aspirations toward God-realization.
The rajasic are quite different. Hungering for material things (including power) which they regard as the only source of happiness, pleasure, or fulfillment, they resort to “gods” and spirits that are ego- and greed-oriented like them.
Such “gods” demand offerings of various kinds and, though they conceal this fact from their devotees, at the time of death those who worship or traffic with them will be taken into their worlds and made their servant/slaves for aeons upon aeons. Some will be quickly shunted back to earthly rebirth to again become their devotees and supply them with what they want.
The awful thing about this is that most of the time these “gods” really have little power, and it is the offering of their worshippers that gives them their power. So in reality it is the “gods” that are dependent on the worshippers, not the other way round, however it may seem.
Higher and lower bondage
The yakshas and rakshas can make life miserable or even terminate it–all according to the karma incurred by their petitioners. And this is how it is with the “positive” ones!The yakshas and rakshas are divided into higher and lower types, but all are in bondage to ignorance and rebirth in some form, and contact with them can never really work to the ultimate good of the human who deals with them.
The higher yakshas and rakshas are much more evolved than humans and can do things for them on a mundane level. They have good will, but still look upon humans as servants and demand offerings of some kind. They are never altruistic, and do not consider that they should be. They look upon themselves as merchants or suppliers of services. They can be angered and refuse to give the requested help, and often–very often–wreak vengeance on those who anger them or refuse them something. They can make life miserable or even terminate it–all according to the karma incurred by their petitioners. And this is how it is with the “positive” ones!
Some yakshas and rakshas are degraded, demonic beings, avid for worship, gifts, and power, lying and deceitful, always scheming to injure and deceive those who approach them, though for a while they seem benevolent in order to ensnare their devotees.
Their only intention is to delude and plunder. Filled with pride they despise those that approach them and from the initial contact intend to lie and loot them. These, too, will harm and destroy those that offend them.
Both these types, higher and lower, are the “gods” worshipped by greedy, egoic religionists of all types–some quite openly deal with such beings while others do so in a secret or deceitful form. And of course these entities continually introduce themselves as gods, saints, and great masters.
The tamasic naturally gravitate to the pretas and bhutas. The pretas are the spirits of the dead. Ancestor worshippers and spiritualists openly seek out these spirits. Some degraded Spiritists do the same, but the followers of Alan Kardec, being sattwic, communicate with higher spirits, and often with holy spirits of the level of the saints and angels. (The Spiritism of many is an augmentation of their Christian–usually Catholic–spiritual practice.)
Beside the pretas are the bhutas that range from earthbound ghosts to elementals and subhuman nature spirits. Some of these are deluded, evil, or just plain stupid. Some of them, being completely outside the stream of human evolution, do not really know what is going on, but play with humans the way tame animals would. Nothing good can come of any of this.
Fire elementals urge people–and especially children–to play with fire in hopes of a conflagration.Many of these spirits demand offerings of all sorts and they have a very real power to do harm–and a predisposition to do so. Some even kill human beings, not realizing that they are doing so. Air elementals often urge people to jump out into the air, thinking they will fly with them. Water elementals urge swimmers to keep swimming further and further from shore until they become exhausted and drown–though that is not the elementals’ intention. Fire elementals urge people–and especially children–to play with fire in hopes of a conflagration, though destruction is not their purpose. Earth elementals urge people to continually go underground and often try to keep them there by cave-ins and other mishaps. Again, they have no concept of death, so the elementals have no malicious intent. They just want to be friends.
There is no use warning the rajasic and tamasic away from their playmates. It is their nature to interact with them. Krishna is just giving us this information so if we have any pockets of rajas or tamas lingering in us we will be warned and not indulge them. Mostly he is wanting to show us how we can determine the guna of a person–or a religion–by scrutinizing their supernatural contact. What about those that have no supernatural contact of any kind? We should consider them non-existent.