Sunday, September 13, 2009

God is Standing Guard

Lord Rama fighting a Rakshasi“Deer, lions, elephants, tigers, sarabhas, and other animals which have not seen you before, seeing you, O Raghava, will stand off, for they all fear you.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

In the Treta Yuga, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, descended to earth in human form as Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya who was the most valiant of kshatriya warriors. According to the Vedic system, society is divided up into four classes of people based on their gunas, or qualities. The kshatriya division is entrusted with the duty of providing protection to the other three classes. A kshatriya is trained in the military arts and is expert at administering justice fairly and equally.

Lord Rama, having grown up in the kingdom of Maharaja Dashratha, was trained from His childhood in the military arts. Carrying around His bow and arrows, the Lord would regularly practice hunting with His three brothers: Bharata, Lakshmana, and Shatrughna. Lakshmana especially was close to Rama and followed Him wherever He went. Lakshmana wouldn’t partake of any meals or even take rest unless Rama was by his side. After reaching a mature age, the great sage Vishvamitra Muni came to Dashratha’s kingdom and asked to take Rama and Lakshmana with Him to the forest. The very powerful Rakshasa demon Ravana was wreaking havoc across the world and disrupting the sacrifices of the venerable rishis residing in the forests. This is the nature of demons; they are gluttons for material sense gratification, namely in the form of meat eating and intoxication. Rakshasas were known for feeding off the flesh of other living entities, and they were so against religious principles that they viewed pious men as their greatest threat. It is for this reason that they would disturb the sacrificial performances of the munis, for the Rakshasas knew that their downfall would only come through the activities of the brahmanas, or saintly class of men.

Rama and Lakshmana attending to Vishvamitra Dashratha hesitatingly agreed to let his two sons accompany Vishvamitra. While in the forest, the sage initiated both Rama and Lakshmana, teaching them the most expert of archery techniques. They were invested with very powerful mantras. In the modern age, warfare takes place with advanced nuclear weaponry involving missiles and bombs. During Vedic times, men were so pure that they could harness the same energy into their bows and arrows simply through the chanting of mantras. Mantras are sound vibrations that have tremendous powers when uttered perfectly and with conviction. Lord Rama and Lakshmana became well acquainted with these mantras, making them the greatest of archers. They could create nuclear blasts simply by shooting their arrows. Countries are investing millions of dollars in missile defense systems, but Rama and Lakshmana could provide defense against the most sophisticated weaponry by the use of their arrows.

As time passed, King Dashratha decided he would install Rama as the new king. However, on the day of the to-be coronation, the plans suddenly changed, and the Lord was instead ordered to be exiled into the forest for fourteen years. His younger brother Bharata would be installed as the new king, and Rama had no problem with this. Being married at the time, the Lord went to inform His wife, Sita Devi, of the bad news. Sita insisted on accompanying the Lord into the forest. The Lord tries His best to make Sita desist in her request, but she countered with her own arguments. In the Vedic times, women weren’t given a formal education in their youth, so they were considered less intelligent, along with the shudras. Still, Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the husband of Lord Narayana. She was the most intelligent person based on her single qualification of being completely devoted to Lord Rama, who was God Himself. Having such a high level of intelligence, she was naturally expert in the art of debate and argumentation. As part of her plea, she scoffed at the Lord’s suggestion that forest life would be dangerous. She reminded Him that He was the greatest kshatriya in the world, and that everyone would fear Him in battle. This being the case, how could the lowly animals in the woods pose any danger to them? This was her line of argument, and it was flawless in every respect. Lord Rama was God Himself, so naturally no one could harm Him. Sita, being under the protection of such a great warrior, would thereby have nothing to fear.

Goddess Lakshmi The more important point raised by Sita Devi is that God gives full protection to His devotees. That is God’s true nature. He is by default neutral towards all living entities, as He says in the Bhagavad-gita.

“No one is envied by Me, neither am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all; yet whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me; and I am a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bg 9.29)

We see that He makes an exception for His devotees. The bhaktas are the most dear friends of the Lord, and He takes special care of them by protecting them from all calamities. There are many examples of this in history. In the Dvapara Yuga, the Lord descended in His original form as Lord Krishna. The Lord’s paternal aunt, Kunti Devi, along with Her family known as the Pandavas, were under constant assault by Dhritarashtra, the head of the Kaurava family. The Pandavas were put into all sorts of precarious conditions, having had their house burnt down, being exiled to the forest, and having their kingdom taken away from them. Yet they survived all of these calamities since they were purely devoted to Krishna. Kunti Devi even prayed to the Lord that “May I always suffer through difficulty, for in those times, I’m always reminded of you (Krishna).” This was a very nice prayer and exemplified her pure devotion.

Narasimhadeva coming to kill HiranyakashipuIn a previous age, there was a very powerful atheist demon by the name of Hiranyakashipu, who ruled over the world. He had acquired great wealth and all the demigods were afraid of Him. However, his son Prahlada was a great devotee of Krishna from his very birth. While in the womb of his mother, Prahlada Maharaja heard instructions on devotion to Krishna from the great sage Narada Muni. Imbibed with devotion from a young age, Prahlada would regularly speak on the principles of bhakti yoga to his classmates. At only five years of age, Prahlada had knowledge that surpassed that of his own teacher. Hiranyakashipu was very angered by this devotion from his son, for he wanted Prahlada to worship him instead of Krishna. This is the nature of atheists; they want mere mortals to be glorified and they scoff at the slightest utterance of praise for God. Hiranyakashipu was so fed up with Prahlada’s unabashed love for Krishna that he tried to kill his son in so many ways. Throwing him in a pit of fire, pushing him off a cliff…these were the various attempts of Hiranyakashipu to kill Prahlada, but the boy miraculously survived all of these attempts. They seem like miracles to us, but they actually weren’t. Prahlada prayed to God prior to each attempt, and more than simple prayer, he focused his mind completely on Lord Krishna. Through pure devotion, he actually didn’t fear his father at all. The Lord eventually had enough and personally appeared as Lord Narasimhadeva to kill Hiranyakashipu.

Sita and Rama in the forestSita Devi, being the perfect devotee, knew all of these facts and thus had no fear of forest life with Lord Rama. The Lord eventually was forced to relent and allow His wife to come. Now while in the woods, Sita Devi would eventually be kidnapped by the demon Ravana while Rama was diverted by another Rakshasa in the guise of a deer.  This was predestined, for Rama needed an excuse to slay Ravana. Sita never wavered in her devotion to the Lord and was thus able to survive through the most difficult of times. The lesson is that we should all be devoted to Krishna and at the same time be confident in our devotion. We should always be rest assured that God will never let us down, and know that He will always allow us to love Him.