The scholars concealed their anger and approached Vena, placating him with gentle words. “Great and beloved king,” they said, “we would like to reveal something to you. If you accept and understand it, your health, wealth, power, and fame will greatly enhance.”
“Speak,” said the king.
“Religion is a most important thing,” the scholars explained. “A citizen who is religious does not cause problems with their intellect, body, desires, or words. And religion also bestows immortality to those who are detached from externalities. O hero, you should not outlaw religion, for it calms and governs the people. A king who abolishes religion easily falls from majesty.
“A king deserves to accept taxes in tribute and thus enjoy great wealth because he protects the from the likes of thieves and manipulative ‘guidence.’ A king also deserves to enjoy in his next life, because he helps the citizens of his kingdom to worship the All-Attractive Personification of Sacrifice by carrying out their four social and religious roles.”
The king’s smile faded and his eye began to twitch.
“Most blessed Lord,” the scholars continued, “all people, all kings, even all the gods up to and including the masters of the masters of the universe, pay tribute to him with great affection. For he is the All Attractive Maintainer of Existence and the Soul of All, and is completely satisfied by anyone who follows his orders. When he is satisfied with someone, nothing is impossible for them to achieve. He is the one who grants entry to the god’s paradise. He is the essence of knowledge. He is the essence of wealth. He is the essence of discipline. Therefore it would be best for everyone if you would enjoin your people to worship him according to their various desires and conceptions.
“If the priests in your kingdom worship the demigods, who are expansions of Hari, the gods will feel properly respected and will be very pleased to give you everything you desire. It would be best for you not to disrespect them.”
Vena’s face had grown sour, despite his efforts to appear calm. When the scholars finished their sermon, the King scoffed. “Ha!” he spat disdainfully. “You are so childish! You think immorality is morality. You want people to ignore their true husband, and have an affair by worshipping some other protector!
“Any jackass who does not acknowledge the Supreme Master in the form of their king will not receive anything auspicious in this life, or after death! Who is this ‘All-Attractive Personification of Sacrifice’ you love so much? You are like sluts who adore some lover more than their own husband!
“Viṣnu, Brahmā, Śiva, Indra, Vāyu, Yama, Ravi the sun, Parjanya the rain-giver, Dhanada the lord of wealth, Soma the moon, Kṣiti the earth, Agni the fire, and Varuṇa the lord of waters – all of them, and all the other wise gods, entrust the King with their powers to bless or curse. Thus the King is known as the essence of all the gods!
“Therefore, scholars, the priests should dedicate their ceremonies to me, without envy. They should bring their offerings to me. Who but me should be the first to enjoy all things?”
– Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 4.14.13 ~ 28
Translated by Vraja Kishor dās