“Keeping in mind the work that needed to be done for the demigods, sadhus and vipras, bringing Rama with him the mahamuni proceeded ahead towards the bow sacrifice.” (Janaki Mangala, 39)
bipra sādhu sura kāju mahāmuni mana dhari |
rāmahiṃ cale livāi dhanuṣa makha misu kari ||
The saintly class, which includes both the celestials in the heavenly realm and the devoted souls living on earth, a long time back needed a specific job to be completed. They were being harassed by a miscreant class that was tremendously powerful, capable and willing to assert their dominance. With strength comes responsibility. Just because one entity is superior in both wisdom and physical dexterity doesn’t mean that their influence should be negatively exercised. Parents are the best example in this regard. They can do whatever they want to the innocent child, especially to the newborn that just emerged from the womb. Yet with a proper mindset the good parent uses all of their mature abilities to protect the child, granting guidance and imparting wisdom. This particular miscreant class that roamed the earth many thousands of years ago lacked sobriety of mind. They thought their powers were products of their own work, so they decided to wreak havoc around the world and try to eliminate the pious class altogether. Not surprisingly, they were wrong in thinking that they could continue in this path without opposition.
"Day after day countless living entities in this world go to the kingdom of death. Still, those who remain aspire for a permanent situation here. What could be more amazing than this?" (Maharaja Yudhishthira speaking to Yamaraja, Mahabharata, Vana-parva, 313.116)
Why would someone think they can dominate everyone and never have to suffer the consequences? Well, why does someone mistake a rope for a snake? Why does someone think that they will live forever? Maharaja Yudhishthira, a famous king, when once asked by Yamaraja, the god of justice, what he thought the most amazing thing in the world was, responded that nothing could be more amazing than the fact that people think they are not going to die when they have seen everyone they know from previous times pass away. This is quite a relevant and accurate assessment by the famous Pandava king. We know that our ancestors have died. Sometimes the deaths didn’t occur in old age. The news shows us that people can die at any time, but somehow we still don’t apply that knowledge to our own lives. Either that or we just try to forget it as a way of avoiding despair.
It is fine to not dwell at every second on the reality of imminent death, but to act as if we are completely ignorant of it is not wise in the least. If you’re working at a company that is about to shut down its doors in a week, what is the use in taking on a new project? Perhaps you can keep your mind engaged throughout that time, but in the end your hard work will go for naught. The living being similarly creates so many temporary structures during their particular stint within a body, but at the time of death the relationship to those objects vanishes. With the passage of time, everything will eventually dissipate, with the exception of the spirit soul within.
The wise take the knowledge of impending death as a wakeup call for finding the real purpose to life. Is there something beyond the temporary ups and downs? What happens to the soul after death? Where does it go? Where was the soul prior to birth? These questions and more are answered in the Vedic literatures, whose most concise and complete work is the Bhagavad-gita. Not surprisingly, the author of the Gita’s verses is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. Not a mere sectarian work calling for blind worship of a particular personality, the Gita covers all aspects of philosophy and thought. In the beginning, Krishna addresses the issues of life and death and the temporary nature of the body. Only through understanding the many concepts and applying the principles in everyday practice does the final step of surrender unto God really mean something to the sincere soul.
The saintly class follows the Bhagavad-gita’s principles, which are immortal. Though the specific discussion held between Krishna and Arjuna took place on a battlefield some five thousand years ago, the core concepts of Vedic culture have been around since the beginning of time. Even in the Treta Yuga, an era prior to the time of the Gita’s most famous delivery, there were men on earth dedicated to worshiping God, to fulfilling the true purpose of life. They had a problem, however, with the miscreant class. The night-rangers concentrated on the island of Lanka had no clue about the meaning of life. If they ever gave a thought to impending death, they would use it as impetus for finding more sense gratification, at any cost. If the city you live in is burning down, being destroyed, will you go into store after store and loot or will you try to make sure that everyone safely evacuates? The night-rangers during this particular time were of the looter variety, trying to get whatever they could through any means possible.
They particularly enjoyed eating human flesh; hence the sages living in the forests were ripe targets. The powerful celestials residing in the heavenly planets also couldn’t do much. Ravana, the leader of the night-rangers in Lanka, was so strong that the demigods were afraid of him. Impotent against Ravana’s clan, the demigods decided to petition the Supreme Lord directly, to have Him appear on the scene to protect the innocent. Krishna states in the Gita that He comes to earth to protect the sadhus, or pious men, and reinstitute the principles of religion.
“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)
The dramatic real-life play that is the Ramayana chronicles the life of Lord Rama and His pastimes, which included His eventual killing of Ravana. There were many pivotal actors in the play, with Vishvamitra Muni being one of them. He was one of the sadhus being harassed in his daily religious practices. The Supreme Lord had appeared as the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. When Rama was still under the protection of His parents, Vishvamitra petitioned the king to have the Lord accompany him in the forest, which Rama kindly did, taking His younger brother Lakshmana with Him.
To prove that He was worthy of Vishvamitra’s trust, Rama slew a powerful female Rakshasa name Tataka, who had been harassing many of the saints. After this incident, both Rama and Lakshmana were given special mantras by Vishvamitra to be used in fighting against enemies. The sages and onlookers were quite pleased with Rama when he stayed with Vishvamitra at the muni’s hermitage. They could once again live peacefully and follow their prescribed duties without a problem.
It would have been great for Vishvamitra to keep Rama and Lakshmana with him in his ashrama indefinitely, but there was a higher purpose to fulfill. Ravana needed to be slain, and for that to happen Rama needed an excuse to take him on in a fair fight. The Supreme Lord never has to justify His actions, but He sets a good example by the work He follows. Ravana deserved to be attacked simply off his previous acts, but Rama had not had any direct hostilities with him yet. Therefore, to attack Lanka would not have been appropriate under the circumstances.
The matrimonial bond between Sita and Rama gave birth to the trap that would do Ravana in. Sita Devi was the precious daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. To find the appropriate husband for his daughter, the king decided to hold a contest, where the person who could lift Lord Shiva’s heavy bow would be the winner. Vishvamitra needed to get Rama to this contest in order for the work of the demigods and the sadhus to be complete. Keeping this in mind, the muni left his ashrama and took Rama and Lakshmana with him.
In this way Vishvamitra played an integral role in both bringing Sita and Rama together and ending Ravana’s reign of terror. The surrendered souls only look to the Supreme Lord for sustenance, for they know there is nothing wrong with asking God to help them in their sincere worship. That devotion to Rama continues for life after life for the spirit soul who is not entangled in the web of karma. The impending death that was previously feared or ignored becomes a welcomed end that will signal the return to the spiritual sky, where the Supreme Lord’s company is enjoyed without cessation.
Question: Why didn’t the sadhus and demigods just ask Rama to go and kill Ravana directly? Why did they have to arrange His marriage to Sita first?
The Supreme Lord’s acts are enjoyed by the surrendered souls. In fact, it is seen that in every person there is a desire to hear about the activities of others. The daily news websites are visited for this very reason, as are the latest news feeds posted on the now-popular social media websites. With topics relating to Krishna, the process of hearing gets purified. If I remain in contact with purity, naturally my thoughts will start to become pure as well. If I only think good thoughts, naturally my disposition will be better and I will be a more pleasant person to be around.
With Rama’s many activities documented in the Ramayana, the soul desirous of hearing about others gets a trusted supply of audible nectar that can be tasted over and over again without the reservoir ever depleting. If Rama had gone directly to Lanka, we would have missed out on the wonderful protection He offered to Vishvamitra. We’d also be denied the chance to hear about how He delivered Ahalya from a curse and how He defended the innocent sages from the wicked night-rangers. Getting to know Vishvamitra too is a benefit, for the Lord is never alone. His trusted entourage is always with Him, and contact with any of the component members is just as beneficial as contact with Rama. It is for this reason that Rama is worshiped alongside Sita, Lakshmana and Shri Hanuman. Vishvamitra too, a key player in bringing Sita and Rama together in Mithila, is always with Rama in thought, word and deed.
Rama, with His arrows demons chased away,
Would be great if with munis He’d always stay.
But Vishvamitra knew that higher work there was to do,
Took Rama to sacrifice in Tirahuta, brought Lakshmana too.
Demigods by the night-rangers always harassed,
Needed someone who in strength them surpassed.
Rama came for this reason, and also to delight,
By on Rakshasas imposing His will and might.
Vishvamitra thus in Ramayana had integral role,
Brought Rama to Sita, demons’ demise to unfold.