Thursday, October 15, 2009

Breaking the Rules

Radha Krishna “All purposes that are served by the small pond can at once be served by the great reservoirs of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.46)

Children love to imitate their parents. When a person is young, it is very common for them to view their parents as heroes. Unlike the child, the mother and father are all grown up and completely independent, which means they are in charge. People have a need for self-esteem and a feeling of self-worth, and this holds true even for young children. We see our parents doing something and we want to be able to do the same thing, whether it involves driving a car, cooking in the kitchen, or playing sports. We see our parents going somewhere, and we naturally want to tag along.

Mother Yashoda with baby Krishna Our parents usually don’t allow us to partake in many of these activities. It is up to the parents to provide complete protection to their children and this means shielding them from activities they are not ready for. However, from time to time, we’ll see parents acquiescing and letting their children do things they aren’t necessarily supposed to do. This rule-breaking is allowed due to the love a parent has for their child. Children are the essence of innocence and the love a child shows for his or her parent is completely pure and free of any selfish desire. Parents understand this, so they excuse bad behavior and allow the rules to be bent from time to time. The idea is that “My son or daughter loves me so much, so naturally I am endeared to them as well.”

“I had requested you, O my lord, many times before in this house to take me to the forest with you for enjoyment, and you were pleased to agree.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

When Lord Rama, God’s incarnation in the Treta Yuga, appeared on this earth in the guise of a prince, He was ordered into exile by His father, the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha. Rama was extremely pious and devoted to dharma, or religiosity. He was to be installed as the new king, but as events played out, Dashratha was instead forced to offer the throne to one of his other sons, and at the same time, he ordered Rama to live in the forest for fourteen years as a recluse. The Lord was married to His wife Sita Devi at the time, and He had to break the bad news to her. Sita desperately wanted to accompany the Lord for the term of His exile, but Rama recommended that she stay in the kingdom. Sita put forth a series of arguments in her favor, with one of them being that Rama previously had allowed her to accompany Him to the forest without any resistance. Her basic point was, “You took me to the forest before many times, so why are you so hesitant to take me now?”

Sita Rama Sita Devi was an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, who is God’s wife and pleasure potency in the spiritual world. Lakshmi is always serving the lotus feet of Lord Narayana, so when she came to earth in human form, she performed the same task. As any good wife would do, she requested to always be in the company of her husband, and to spend as much time with him as possible. Lord Rama was born and raised a kshatriya, or warrior. According to the Vedas, society should be divided into four classifications based on one’s qualities. These divisions are the brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, and shudra. The kshatriyas represent the warrior or administrator class, similar to military servicemen in today’s world. As a kshatriya, Rama was trained to be an expert archer, and for this He required going to the forest often to practice. In Vedic times, the killing of deer by kshatriyas was sanctioned for the purpose of improving one’s fighting skills, which were needed by the kings to provide protection for their citizens. Sita, being the royal princess and wife of the heir to the throne, lived a life of great pomp and luxury. Naturally, she also wanted to get a taste of the forest life that her husband was so accustomed to.

According to Vedic injunctions, forest life is reserved for the beasts, wild animals, and for those who have their senses completely under control. Amongst human beings, only the greatest of yogis, or those in the renounced order of life, sannyasis, would even think of living in the forest. The wilderness is a place of peace and tranquility with few material distractions, so it was a popular place for the ascetics to go and contemplate on the Supreme. They had no attachment to eating fine foods or being entertained by others. They were self-satisfied, thus they lived off meager fruits and roots while in the forest. Rama knew very well the difficulties of such a life, so He wanted to shield His wife from them. However, from Sita’s statement, we can understand that Rama would often oblige her requests to spend time in the forest. He bent the rules and allowed her to come for the same reasons that parents let their children break the rules from time to time. Sita Devi was completely devoted to Rama, who was God Himself. Sita’s love for Rama was completely pure. Her only reason for wanting to go to the forest was to spend more time with her husband in an intimate setting. The Lord knew this, so He wanted to see her happy, even at the expense of dharma.

Yashoda with Krishna and Balarama In a good marriage, a husband requires only one thing from his wife, devotion. Whether the wife nags him all the time, or is constantly criticizing him or correcting him, the husband ultimately will not be bothered as long as he is sure of the wife’s devotion to him. In fact, if the wife is supportive, the husband will do anything for the wife. God is exactly the same way with us, His children. If we love Him purely and without any motive, He will excuse all our shortcomings and go to any length to ensure our happiness. We simply have to love Him, and in return, He’ll break any and all rules that He’s made.

There are many examples of this in the Vedic literatures. Sita was eventually allowed to accompany Rama to the forest, and while serving the exile term, she happened to be kidnapped by the evil demon Ravana. In searching for Sita, Rama enlisted the help of the Vanaras, a human-like race of monkeys that lived in the forest at the time. The head of the Vanaras was Sugriva, and he requested a favor from Rama prior to providing any help. Sugriva had been forced out of his kingdom by his brother, Vali, due to a disagreement that the two had. Sugriva wanted to reclaim his kingdom and wife but knew that he wasn’t strong enough to defeat Vali. He asked Rama to help him, and the Lord obliged by shooting Vali while he was engaged in fighting Sugriva. Now according to the code of conduct for kshatriyas, such an act by Rama was considered abominable. When two warriors are fighting, it is the etiquette that no outside party should interfere. Lord Rama broke this rule because Sugriva was devoted to Him.

Rasa Lila The rasa lila of Lord Krishna is another example of the rules being broken. The Lord descended personally in His original form in Vrindavana around five thousand years ago. As part of His pastimes as a youth, He would spend many nights dancing with the cowherd girls of the town, known as the gopis. The gopis were all married and Krishna wasn’t, so such an intimate act was strictly prohibited. Mundane scholars and those not devoted to Krishna, mistakenly take the rasa lila to be a sinful lusty activity. It was in fact just the opposite. The gopis represented the highest form of devotion to God since they renounced everything simply to serve Him. The Lord lectured them on the impropriety of their proposed acts, but He nonetheless acquiesced and performed the dance with them. The gopis only wish in life was to have conjugal love with Krishna, and the Lord granted them this wish.

One may ask “What is the importance of all the rules of dharma if God Himself is willing to break them?” Herein lies the key point. Dharma, or religiosity, only exists as a means of aiding one to come to the platform of loving God. The rules are certainly important and should be followed by neophytes, but simply going through the motions of Vedic rituals and chanting mantras is a waste of time unless it leads to devotion to Krishna.

“The rituals and sacrifices mentioned in the karma-kanda division of the Vedic literature are to encourage gradual development of self-realization. And the purpose of self-realization is clearly stated in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita (15.15): the purpose of studying the Vedas is to know Lord Krishna, the primeval cause of everything.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bg. 2.46 Purport)

God is the ultimate Supreme Controller and by definition, He is not capable of practicing adharma, or committing acts in violation of religiosity. He is the very definition of religion, so how can something material touch Him?

Sita Devi with Lava and Kusha Sita Devi was the perfect devotee of God, and for this reason, the Lord bent over backwards to make her happy. He allowed her to accompany during His exile, though He knew it was a bad idea. When she was kidnapped, He went to great lengths to rescue her. We should all follow Sita’s lead and raise ourselves to the highest spiritual platform by taking up the process of devotional service. If we commit ourselves to lovingly chanting the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, then we can rest assured that the Lord will excuse all of our shortcomings and love us no matter what.