Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Brotherly Love

Rama Lakshmana “Even from early youth, that enhancer of auspiciousness, Lakshmana, was ever attached to his eldest brother Rama, that delight of all. Like to another life of Rama, Lakshmana furnished with auspiciousness was in everything attentive to Rama’s wishes, even at the neglect of his own person. That foremost of persons did not even attain sleep without Rama’s company, nor did he partake of any sweetmeat that was offered, unless Rama partook of it with him.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Bala Kand)

There is nothing like having a brother, someone with whom an immediate bond can be formed. A brother is someone that we can automatically love without having to think about it. Lakshmana, an incarnation of Lord Baladeva (Lord Krishna’s immediate expansion), was the younger brother of Lord Rama and His dearmost friend.

According to the Vedas, God is one even though He has many names and forms. The original form of God is Krishna, who is also known as Vasudeva. Vasudeva’s immediate expansion is Sankarshana or Baladeva. Baladeva has other expansions as well, the most notable one being Ananta Shesha Naga, whom all the planets in the universe rest upon. Krishna’s four-handed form of Narayana resides on the island of Shvetadvipa, where He lays down upon Shesha Naga while being served and worshiped by Goddess Lakshmi. When the Lord incarnates on earth, Baladeva and Lakshmi usually come with Him.

“Baladeva, Lakshmana, Advaita Acharya, Lord Nityananda, Lord Shesha and Lord Sankarshana taste the nectarean mellows of the transcendental bliss of Lord Krishna by recognizing Themselves as being His devotees and servants. They are all mad with that happiness, and they know nothing else.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 6.105-106)

Krishna and Balarama stealing butter When Krishna appeared on earth around five thousand years ago, Baladeva also took birth as His elder brother Balarama. Around five hundred years ago, the same Baladeva appeared in the form of Nityananda Prabhu, Lord Chaitanya’s most beloved God brother. When Vasudeva incarnated as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya, Baladeva took birth as His half-brother Lakshmana. Rama had two other brothers, but Lakshmana was the one with whom He spent the most time. In fact, it can be assumed that throughout His entire time on earth, no one spent more time with Rama than Lakshmana did.

We sometimes see that brothers can get into arguments and fights over issues of jealously and attention from their parents. Known as sibling rivalries, an older brother can sometimes get jealous at the preferential treatment that the younger brother receives. The younger brother can become resentful of the authority that the older brother wields. Sometimes the older brother can get annoyed at having the younger brother tag along with him wherever he goes. The eldest brother or sister is the leader, the one who sets the example for the other siblings. Parents invest greater responsibility in the eldest, so that naturally can get in the way of the friendships formed with younger siblings.

There was no such fighting between Rama and Lakshmana. Lakshmana was attached to Rama from birth and would always follow his elder brother around. He worshiped Him like a father and would never leave His side. Usually younger siblings require more attention from their parents. The young ones are often referred to as the babies of the family, and they require the protection and assistance of their elder siblings. In Lakshmana’s case, he always looked to protect Rama first. He would think to himself, “Rama is too nice. He doesn’t see that others are taking advantage of His kindness. It is my duty to always protect Him and look out for His best interests.”

When Lord Rama was banished to the forest for fourteen years by His step-mother Kaikeyi and His father Dashratha, Lakshmana insisted on going with Him. Lakshmana’s mother, Sumitra, tried to dissuade her son by telling him that it was his duty to stay and protect his father in the absence of Rama. Lakshmana replied, “Devotion to Rama is the highest dharma for any man. To always serve my elder brother is the only duty that I know of.” Early on in their exile, Sita, Rama and Lakshmana were visited in the forest by Bharata and Shatrughna, Rama and Lakshmana’s two other brothers, who tried to convince Rama to return to the kingdom. Upon first seeing them, Lakshmana thought maybe the two brothers had come to attack Rama, so he immediately went on guard to protect his brother. Now this wasn’t necessary since Bharata and Shatrughna were pure devotees of Rama as well, but it illustrated Lakshmana’s devotion to Rama.

While dwelling in the forest, Lakshmana would keep vigil at night while Rama and His wife Sita were sleeping. When traversing the wilderness, Rama would walk in the front and Lakshmana in the back, with Sita in the middle. This way, Lakshmana made sure to protect Rama’s wife, whom he treated as his own mother.

Sita Rama Lakshmana in the forest Lakshmana was often quick tempered and would go outside the bounds of propriety in defending His brother. Lord Rama excused this from him because He knew that it was done out of love. Sometimes our devotion may not be perfect but God is so merciful. In whatever we do, He always takes into account our love for Him.

Lord Rama was God Himself, so He required no protection whatsoever. Nevertheless, Lakshmana showed us the proper way to serve the Lord. We generally like to ask God for things. “Please let me have this. Please let me have that. Please take away my pain.” While that is an acceptable form of worship, since it involves focusing the mind on God, it is still second class. The first class form of worship is the one shown by Lakshmana. “God, how may I serve you? You are too nice to me and to everyone else. Yet still people do not become Your devotees. I will serve You with all my thoughts, words, and deeds. I will protect Your good name.”

The highest form of worship is to become God’s devotee and to always try to protect Him. In this age of Kali, people are constantly trying to rewrite history and give their own atheistic interpretations of the great Vedic scriptures. They are saying that God is dead, or that God is impersonal and that we are all God. It is up to the bhaktas, the devotees, to protect God’s good name from these attacks by teaching others the real meaning of the Vedas. God doesn’t require this service from us, but He loves us for our sincerity and our concern, the same way He loves Lakshmana.