On hearing this inquiry from Kṛṣṇa, Mahārāja Nanda replied, “My dear boy, this ceremonial performance is more or less traditional. Because rainfall is due to the mercy of King Indra and the clouds are his representatives, and because water is so important for our living, we must show some gratitude to the controller of this rainfall, Mahārāja Indra. We are arranging, therefore, to pacify King Indra, because he has very kindly sent us clouds to pour down a sufficient quantity of rain for successful agricultural activities. Water is very important: without rainfall we cannot farm or produce grain, and without grain we cannot live. Therefore rain is necessary for successful religious ceremonies, economic development and, ultimately, liberation. So we should not give up this traditional ceremonial function; if one gives it up, being influenced by lust, greed or fear, then it does not look very good for him.”
After hearing this, Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the presence of His father and all the elder cowherd men of Vṛndāvana, spoke in such a way as to make the heavenly king, Indra, very angry. He suggested that they forgo the sacrifice. His reasons for discouraging the sacrifice performed to please Indra were twofold. First, as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, there is no need to worship the demigods for any material advancement; all results derived from worshiping the demigods are simply temporary, and only those who are less intelligent are interested in temporary results. Second, whatever temporary result one derives from worshiping the demigods is actually granted by the permission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is clearly stated in the Bhagavad-gītā: mayaiva vihitān hi tān. Whatever benefit is supposed to be derived from the demigods is actually bestowed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Without the permission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot bestow any benefit upon others. But sometimes the demigods become puffed up by the influence of material nature; thinking themselves all in all, they forget the supremacy of the Personality of Godhead. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is clearly stated that in this instance Kṛṣṇa wanted to make King Indra angry. Kṛṣṇa’s advent was especially meant for the annihilation of the demons and protection of the devotees. King Indra was certainly a devotee, not a demon, but because he was puffed up, Kṛṣṇa wanted to teach him a lesson. He first made Indra angry by stopping the Indra-pūjā, which had been arranged by the cowherd men in Vṛndāvana.
With this purpose in mind, Kṛṣṇa began to talk as if He were an atheist supporting the philosophy of Karma-mīmāṁsā. Advocates of this philosophy do not accept the supreme authority of the Personality of Godhead. They put forward the argument that if anyone works nicely, the result is sure to come. Their opinion is that even if there is a God who gives man the result of his fruitive activities, there is no need to worship Him because unless man works He cannot bestow any good result. They say that instead of worshiping a demigod or God, people should give attention to their own duties, and thus the good result will surely come. Lord Kṛṣṇa began to speak to His father according to these principles of the Karma-mīmāṁsā philosophy. “My dear father,” He said, “I don’t think you need to worship any demigod for the successful performance of your agricultural activities. Every living being is born according to his past karma and leaves this life simply taking the result of his present karma. Everyone is born in different types or species of life according to his past activities, and he gets his next birth according to the activities of this life. Different grades of material happiness and distress, comforts and disadvantages of life, are different results of different kinds of activities, from either the past or present life.”
Mahārāja Nanda and other elder members argued that without satisfying the predominating god one cannot derive any good result simply by material activities. This is actually the fact. For example, it is sometimes found that in spite of first-class medical help and treatment by a first-class physician, a diseased person dies. It is concluded, therefore, that first-class medical treatment or the attempts of a first-class physician are not in themselves the cause for curing a patient; there must be the hand of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Similarly, a father’s and mother’s taking care of their children is not the cause of the children’s comfort. Sometimes it is found that in spite of all care by the parents, the children go bad or succumb to death. Therefore material causes are not sufficient for results. There must be the sanction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Nanda Mahārāja therefore advocated that in order to get good results for agricultural activities, they must satisfy Indra, the superintending deity of the rain supply. Lord Kṛṣṇa nullified this argument, saying that the demigods give results only to persons who have executed their prescribed duties. The demigods cannot give any good results to the person who has not executed the prescribed duties; therefore demigods are dependent on the execution of duties and are not absolute in awarding good results to anyone. So why should one care about them?