“After Rama killed so many night-rangers, the yajnas were performed. Without fear the munis of the world sing of the fame and glories of the Lord.” (Janaki Mangala, 38)
māri nisācara nikara jagya karavāyau |
abhaya kie munibṛnda jagata jasu gāyau ||
The kind Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead who descended to earth to protect the innocent, does good with all of His activities, including His fighting. Normally violence is not welcomed, for why would one man want to kill another? Why should there ever be fighting between rational adults, people who should know better? Life is short after all, so there shouldn’t be a reason to raise hostilities. But from the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we get an idea of when violence is necessary and how when it is invoked properly it can bring the greatest benefit to man.
It is said that Lord Rama killed so many night-rangers. A nishachara is a sort of ghoulish creature that can change their shape at will. This species was especially prevalent on earth during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. We know of their existence from the documented historical evidence of Vedic literature, which includes the original Vedas, Mahabharata, Puranas and Ramayana. The original Vedas are generally not read today because their content is very short and difficult to understand. The original hymns could long ago be understood by the highest class of men, whose intellect was so sharp that just by hearing information once it could be remembered fully. Reading a translation of the original Vedas today doesn’t really do much for us, as there is no underlying culture to complement the songs. If a particular hymn glorifies the Supreme Lord as being exquisitely beautiful and kind to His devotees, how is someone who never worships God and who is constantly worried over temporary ups and downs going to understand the meaning?
The more detailed scriptures are thus targeted for the less intelligent. As the current age is the Kali Yuga, the dark period of quarrel and hypocrisy, every person is deemed unintelligent. The smartest people of the world today are still less fortunate than the people who lived in previous times. There is nothing wrong with connecting with the more detailed scriptures, for the same benefit of association with God is present within them. Along with the stories of the Supreme Lord’s exploits, you get information of what kinds of creatures were present on earth in ages past and what their behaviors were.
The night-rangers chose to attack at night because their victims would have less chance to spot them. Think of the prowler who waits until there is no light outside to commit crimes. What were the crimes committed by the night-rangers? They weren’t innocent by any means. They would attack human beings, kill them, and then eat their flesh. What was the motive for these attacks? After all, with every crime there is some type of motive. Perhaps the victims deserved what they were getting?
One would be surprised to learn that the victims were the most innocent members of society, as far as adults go anyway. Children don’t know any better, so they are not taken to be serious threats by anyone. The ascetics, who were adults, living in the forests had no ties to anyone. They were renounced from worldly life so they could concentrate on their spiritual duties. They didn’t have large plots of land or stockpiles of wealth in the bank. Rather, they lived in thatched huts, ate whatever berries were on the trees, and spent the rest of the time chanting the holy names of the Lord and performing formal rituals known as yajnas.
“In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Vishnu, and blessed them by saying, ‘Be thou happy by this yajna [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you all desirable things.’” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.10)
It was these yajnas, or sacrifices, that the night-rangers specifically didn’t like. In a formal sacrifice there is a beneficiary, and if that beneficiary is pleased, they grant rewards to the performers making the offerings. The brahmanas, the priestly class, dedicated to yajna wanted to please the Supreme Lord. They could have remained in the cities, but the forests provided limited distractions. In this sense, who were they really bothering? Yet the night-rangers were the embodiments of sin. They not only violated the laws of propriety, they thought that anyone who was pious was a threat to their way of life.
Lord Rama killed many of these night-rangers. They deserved that end because of what they were doing. Rama outwardly appeared in a family of princes that traced its ancestry back to one of the first kings on earth, Maharaja Ikshvaku. Therefore, as a matter of formality it was the Lord’s obligation to provide protection to the innocent. That one man could protect against the attacks of such fierce fighters was rather amazing. At the same time, the dedication shown by Rama revealed the purpose to His personal advents and His purpose for acting.
One should only have to live in fear if they are ignorant. Fear is rooted in the loss of life, which is not a valid thing to fear because the soul lives on after the current form is destroyed. Nevertheless, it is stated by Rama Himself that for the mature adult there is no greater fear than death. You mature through youth and make it into adulthood and take care of all your responsibilities. What else do you have to do after that except die? This process is likened to the mature fruit that hangs off a tree just waiting to fall.
“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)
In spiritual life, however, there should not be any fear. Real religion maintains a connection with God that persists into the afterlife. The present life is just the afterlife from a previous existence, so in this sense the future life isn’t that big a deal, except for the fact that we’re not exactly sure where it will be and when it will start. The brahmanas in the forests were living in fear while worshiping God because of the attacks of the night-rangers. Therefore Rama came on the scene and eliminated that fear. Hence the Lord is known as Hari, or the remover of the fears of His devotees.
In the above referenced verse it is also said that the munis of the world sang of the glories and fame of the Lord. Worship of God shouldn’t be an abstract concept. To use software development terms, it must have a class definition and an object instance. Without instantiation, the idea of dedicating your life to the origin of both matter and spirit will never manifest. For that worship to bear fruit, to really take hold in one’s life, knowledge of the Supreme Lord’s features and activities is helpful. To this end, just looking at Rama is enough to get plenty of material to work off of. Just think of His smiling face, His lotus-like hands holding His bow and arrow, the pitambara tied around His waist, and His dedicated brother Lakshmana following Him wherever He goes. The delight of the Raghu dynasty, Raghunandana, is so sweet and charming to look at that the mind wonders why it would ever choose to contemplate upon anything else.
As if Rama’s spiritual form isn't enough, there are His numerous activities. Picture Him effortlessly raising His bow and aiming His arrows at the night-rangers that are ready to pounce on the innocent sages. Picture Him kindly looking about to make sure that His devotees are no longer in fear. Picture Him never tiring of standing on guard to defend those who protect dharma, or religiosity. Hence it is no wonder that the world still sings the glories of that kind son of Dasharatha, whose name directly represents Him. Thus the most potent form of worship for the fallen souls of this age is the recitation of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, which brings the association of that dedicated bow-warrior, who will do anything to please His devotees.
Follow divine love, bhakti-yoga, without fear. Should impediments arise, know that not a single moment is wasted when connecting with the Supreme Lord. He promises to offer conditions for that worship to bear fruit, either in this life or in a future one. Singing of Rama’s glories never gets tiring, and so poets like Goswami Tulsidas compose wonderful songs like the Janaki Mangala to please the soul and give countless future generations a chance to keep the mind fixed on the lotus feet of the controller of the universe.
Question: Why didn’t other people take care of the night-rangers?
Others were certainly around at the time who could have dealt with the nishacharas attacking the sages. Even today there are many evil elements in society and we don’t see the Supreme Lord descending from His spiritual abode to deal with them. The purpose of Rama’s advent was special, and His personal intervention is more notable because of the many lessons it provides. Just from the one verse above we get so much knowledge about when violence is necessary and the purpose to sacrifice. Not for self-aggrandizement, the procurement of material rewards, or even the removal of distress, the real purpose of a yajna is to please the lord of sacrifice, Yajneshvara, which is another name for Rama.
Know also that from Rama’s personal protection the conditions conducive for the glorification of the Supreme Lord, which is man’s ideal occupation, are created. For the child, the most desired condition is placement in a playroom with many toys. For the adult male it might be the living room with the video game system and for the adult female the shopping mall. Yet if you took every living creature at their core, analyzed the properties of their souls, you’d see that the most ideal condition is one where the glories of the Supreme Lord are sung without fear and without interruption. From His dealings in the forest many thousands of years ago, we see that Rama personally offers the protection to keep that ideal situation a reality, and therefore His kindness knows no bounds.
Ghoulish creatures are the rangers of the night,
To innocent sages they present terrifying sight.
With Vishvamitra, to forest Shri Rama went,
With help of Lakshmana, demons to their death sent.
Now the attacks of the night-rangers to cease,
So forest sages could do their yajnas in peace.
Turned pleasurable a condition first horrifying,
So no wonder that sages to this day God glorifying.
Know that purpose of yajna is Shri Hari to please,
With that desire in mind your troubles He’ll ease.