Thursday, May 20, 2010

Harmless

Sita Rama “My husband Rama is famous throughout the world. He is pure, truthful, and very gentle. He is mighty-armed, has wide eyes, and is always busy working for the welfare of all living beings [sarva-bhuta-hite-ratah].” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.11)

There is no reason to be antagonistic towards God. He is kind, pure, truthful, and very merciful towards everyone. More than anything else, He is a friend to all. This means He views everyone equally, and doesn’t play favorites in relation to anyone’s fortunes and misfortunes. Therefore, there is no reason to hold any animosity towards Him or His devotees. Since God is so great, those who engage in His service, the devotees, also inherit His good qualities.

Lord Krishna - Shyamasundara In the above referenced quote, Sita Devi is describing the virtues of her husband, Lord Rama, to the Rakshasa demon Ravana, who appeared before her in the guise of a brahmana. The Vedas tell us that God is indeed a person and that His original form is that of Shyamasundra, the beautiful Lord Shri Krishna whose complexion is like that of a dark rain cloud. Krishna is always beautiful, and He always appears as a youth. Some people depict God as an old man, and while the Lord can certainly accept any form at will, the Vedas tell us that God is indeed the most beautiful person in all of the universes. He not only possesses beauty, but also every other admirable attribute known to man. Since He possesses all opulences to the fullest degree and at the same time, He is known as Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

“Shukadeva Gosvami said: The son of Maharaja Khatvanga was Dirghabahu, and his son was the celebrated Maharaja Raghu. From Maharaja Raghu came Aja, and from Aja was born the great personality Maharaja Dasharatha.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.1)

Krishna directly expands Himself into various forms in order to enact pastimes and other transcendental activities. One of His most celebrated incarnations is that of Lord Rama, the prince of the Raghu dynasty. The Vedas give us the lineage of mankind for the first few generations starting from creation. Included in this list are the names of some of the earliest kings who appeared on earth. The first kings that ruled the earth all traced their lineage back to either the sun-god, Vivasvan, or the moon-god, Soma. Those following in the line of Vivasvan were deemed to be part of the solar dynasty. Maharaja Ikshvaku was the first king in this line, but many other famous kings followed, one of whom was Maharaja Raghu. To alleviate the burden put on the brahmanas of the time, Lord Krishna decided to descend to earth in human form as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. Rama was born in the dynasty of King Raghu, and was thus often referred to by the names of Raghava, Raghupati, and Raghuvira.

Sita Devi As part of His pastimes, the Lord travelled through the forests of India for fourteen years accompanied by His wife, Sita Devi, and His younger brother, Lakshmana. Sita was an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune. Though God is one, He appoints many elevated living entities known as demigods to manage various departments of creation. Lakshmiji is in charge of doling out good fortune and wealth. Naturally, God is the richest person in the world and thus it shouldn’t surprise us that He is Lakshmi’s husband. In this way, we see that God is the greatest recipient of the fortunes bestowed by Lakshmi. In fact, all wealth and prosperity that exists in this world is intended to be used in God’s service, for this is exactly how Lakshmi views things.

Just as God is the most beautiful man, His wife is the most beautiful woman. In Sita Devi, the world saw first-hand the most beautiful woman to ever have lived. She was the eldest daughter of the King of Mithila, Maharaja Janaka. As fate would have it, she would marry Rama after Janaka held a wonderful bow-lifting contest to decide her nuptials. While Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana were roaming the forests, they decided to set up camp in Janasthana. At the time, there was a Rakshasa demon by the name of Ravana who had ascended to power. He had set up shop on the island of Lanka. Having tremendous fighting strength and great wealth, Ravana was a devout atheist. He had hundreds of wives, but one day he heard about this beautiful woman living in the forest of Janasthana with Rama. He hadn’t seen her personally, but just based on the descriptions given to him by his sister, Shurpanakha, Ravana made up his mind that he could not live for another moment without having Sita.

Up to this point in his life, Ravana had gotten everything he ever wanted. First he performed great austerities to please various demigods. Pleased with his tapasya, the devatas granted him extraordinary powers. Ravana used these powers to then conquer other demigods. His strength was so great that the devatas feared that he would soon rule the world. Rakshasas are rangers of the night, meaning they assume various shapes at will and terrorize the innocent. There is no one more innocent than a priest, or a devotee of God. At the time, the priests, or brahmanas, were living in the forests and performing austerities. The Rakshasas would sneak their way towards the sages, disrupt their sacrifices, and then kill and eat them.

It was also customary during this time for kings to quarrel with one another. To the victor go the spoils, and thus Ravana, after defeating many kings in battle, would carry away their wives as a reward for himself. In this way, he managed to marry hundreds of the most beautiful princes in the world. Yet simply by hearing of Sita’s grace and beauty, he immediately forgot about the other beautiful woman with whom he used to regularly cavort. Ravana was warned, however, that he would not be able to defeat Rama in battle or carry away His wife while in His presence. Therefore, Ravana set up a diversion whereby both Rama and Lakshmana would leave Sita by herself in the cottage.

Ravana approaching Sita Ravana’s diversion worked, as both Rama and Lakshmana went chasing after Ravana’s Rakshasa friend, Maricha, who had assumed the guise of a deer. Still, Ravana knew he couldn’t approach Sita in his original ghastly form, which consisted of ten heads. Therefore he assumed the guise of a mendicant and humbly approached Sita, who was by herself. Sita Devi, who was a perfect person in all regards, immediately offered the brahmana some nice food and a place to sit. Ravana then propositioned her, and in response, Sita identified herself and gave a brief summary of her current circumstances.

Sita was a little disturbed by the mendicant’s advances, so she made sure to quickly inform her guest about her husband. In the above referenced statement, we see that Sita identified Rama as having all good qualities. Not only were these statements of fact, but they were also intended to let the brahmana know that there was no reason for there to be any enmity or confrontation. In essence, Sita was saying, “My husband possesses all good qualities. He is a friend to all, so He will certainly give you whatever you want. There is no need for any hostility or any breaking of the rules of propriety.” This message applies not only to Ravana, but to all of us.

Sometimes bad things happen to us, and at the same time, we see good things happen to others. Sometimes even the impious seem to have everything go right for them. In these instances, we may become angry with God. “I’ve done everything the right way for You, but I get nothing out of it. Others, who don’t even believe in You, acquire wealth, fame, beauty, and prosperity. Why have You abandoned me and rewarded the miscreants?” From Ravana’s example, we see that the acquisition of material wealth doesn’t necessarily mean that God has granted any particular favors.

Lakshmana This particular scene in the Dandaka forest makes for an interesting study. On one side, we have Ravana, a miscreant who had no problem killing sages and kidnapping women. He also possessed extraordinary wealth and power. On the other side, we have Sita and Lakshmana, two of the most pious people to ever have lived. Yet all that their dedication to dharma got them was banishment from their kingdom of Ayodhya. In essence, they were wandering around the world like homeless people. So who was more fortunate, Ravana or Sita and Lakshmana?

Obviously the correct answer is that Sita and Lakshmana were more fortunate because they were directly in God’s association. Ravana’s material life was essentially a mirage, for he would lose everything after he kidnapped Sita. Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and Sugriva’s army of Vanaras would eventually march to Lanka, destroy the city, and kill Ravana in the process. Ravana lived what appeared to be a charmed life, but in the end, his uncontrolled senses did him in.

Shri Rama Darbar The lesson here is that God is certainly nice to us, and especially to His devotees. Lord Chaitanya tells us that there is no difference between God and His names and forms. This means that simply by thinking of Krishna, or one of His direct expansions like Lord Rama, we get direct association with God. This is the highest benediction in life. This gift is so valuable that one cannot put a price tag on it. As Sita Devi states, God is of pure character. Those who regularly associate with Him also become purified. In this age, if we constantly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, we can rest assured that God will always be with us.