Thursday, July 30, 2009

God is the Most Magnanimous

Rama Lakshmana deities "O Lakshmana, do you together with me rule this earth. You are my second self; and this good fortune has taken possession of you as well. Do you, O Sumitra's son, enjoy every desirable thing and the privileges pertaining to royalty. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone." (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, Sec 4)

Every now and then God personally comes to earth to deliver His devotees, giving them protection from the asuras. According to Vedic teachings, since the beginning of creation, there has been an ongoing war between the daivas and asuras. The daivas are those who believe in God and the asuras are God’s enemies, the atheists. The atheists are very attached to sense gratification, taking this gross material body to be the be-all end-all. They view the daivas as a threat to their sinful way of life, thus they are always harassing them. The attacks of the asuras take various forms, sometimes they declare that God is dead, other times they say that He is impersonal and that we are all God, so we have no need to worship a Supreme Being. When they really feel threatened, the asuras revert to using force against the devotees.

This was the case many thousands of years ago, when a demon named Ravana had risen to power. A Rakshasa by birth, Ravana performed the severest of penances to gain the favor of the demigods. The devatas, or demigods, are God’s deputies in charge of running the material world. One of their prime duties is to grant material benedictions to those who please them. These boons are granted to anyone who properly worships them. Lord Shiva known as Mahadeva, or the great demigod, has a reputation for being easily pleased. Regardless of the person’s character, Lord Shiva will grant boons to those who pray to him and perform austerities. Ravana pleased not only Lord Shiva, but many other demigods. He received various boons, such as having ten heads, and being invincible in battle against any demigod. In his haste for acquisition of power, Ravana neglected to ask for immunity from human beings, thinking there was none who existed that could defeat him. Taking advantage of this oversight, the demigods went to Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Lord Himself, and asked Him to relieve their distress by ridding the world of Ravana.

The Lord kindly obliged and took birth as a human being by the name of Rama, the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha. Ravana was not only very powerful, but he used his strength to harass the great sages living in the forests. During that time, the saintly people, the rishis, mostly lived in the forest, for that environment was better suited for their spiritual activities. Ravana and his band of Rakshasa demons went after these saints, killing them and then feasting upon their flesh. The atheists are always merciless, having no compassion even on the kindest of people. Lord Rama was born in a very famous family, known as the Ikshvakus. Not only were they all great kings, but they were terrific fighters, the highest of the kshatriya race. God specifically chose to take birth in this dynasty due its reputation and high standing.

When He reached an appropriate age, Lord Rama was set to be installed on the throne as the new king of Ayodhya by His father. Rama was eldest son and the most beloved of all the people, so the king desired very much to pass down the kingdom to Him. The news was spread throughout the city and everyone become very excited. When Rama was told of the news, He went to His younger brother Lakshmana and spoke the above mentioned verse. When God comes to earth, His closest associates come with Him. In Shvetadvipa, a planet in the spiritual world, Lord Narayana takes rest on Ananta Shesha, the serpent who holds all the planets of the universe on his unlimited hoods. Narayana is served by Goddess Lakshmi, His eternal consort. When the Lord took birth as Rama, Shesha and Lakshmi also took birth in the forms of Lakshmana and Sita respectively. From their childhood, Lakshmana was inseparable from Rama, for he would always follow his elder brother like a shadow.

Lakshmi Narayana Shesha When we devote ourselves completely to God, He recognizes our love and reciprocates. Being installed as the new king was the highest of honors bestowed on Lord Rama, but He made sure to include His younger brother. He never wanted Lakshamana to feel slighted in any way. Obviously Lakshmana was also very happy on this occasion and needed no consolation, but the Lord, out of His generous nature, told Lakshmana that the two would rule the earth together. Sometimes when one ascends the ladder of fame and fortune, the “little” people are sometimes forgotten. The new fame and celebrity can cause relationships with friends and family to change. But God always loves His devotees, no matter what. Lord Rama wanted to assure His younger brother that he would also enjoy all the luxuries associated with being king.

Even though God separates Himself from His devotees from time to time, they are never without Him. Lord Krishna had to leave the gopis of Vrindavana and later on He had to leave His friends Arjuna and Uddhava. Lord Rama was forced to abandon His wife Sita, who had done no wrong. Sometimes His duties require Him to follow a certain path, but He never forgets His devotees. They are always thinking of Him and He is always with them in spirit.

“The yogi who knows that I and the Supersoul within all creatures are one, worships Me and remains always in Me in all circumstances.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.31)

God is always looking to glorify His devotees first, thus this behavior on the part of Rama towards Lakshmana wasn’t very surprising. Lord Krishna delivered the message of the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, so as to give him everlasting fame as a great devotee. Hanuman was deputed to find the whereabouts of Sita and to destroy Lanka at the behest of Lord Rama. For this reason, he is loved and adored to this very day. Bhishmadeva’s devotion to Krishna was rewarded at the time of his death, when Krishna granted him the opportunity to give spiritual instruction to Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers.

“Krishna wanted the Pandavas to hear from Bhishma, who alone was able to give such great instructions even at the time of his death. So, Krishna likes to glorify His devotee.” (Shrila Prabhupada)

Though we may suffer through hard times or witness the calamities of others, we should never forget that God is nice. Any service rendered to Him never goes to waste.