Friday, July 20, 2012

Take a Look

Lakshmana and Rama with Vishvamitra“With a quiver around the waist, and the lotus hands holding a bow and arrow, all the parts of their bodies enchant the mind which has a look at them.” (Janaki Mangala, 54)

kaṭi niṣanga kara kamalanhi dhareṃ dhanu-sāyaka |
sakala anga mana mohana johana lāyaka ||

Take a look at the beloved sons of King Dasharatha. You won’t see anyone like them in the world again, and you certainly haven’t gazed upon such beautiful youths before. Today is the day to look upon the contestants of a grand competition. You scrutinize their features, seeing if they measure up to the divine qualities of the princess whose hand will be given away as the prize to the winner. You take into account the family heritage, the dedication to chivalry, and the overall demeanor of each candidate. These two youths don’t appear to be here for the contest, and yet their bodily features all enchant the mind. The objects they carry with them also have divine qualities, only increasing the overall beauty.

The two youths have quivers tied around their waists. The quivers indicate that they hold arrows to be used to defend the innocent. These are young boys, yet they are the protectors of an elder muni who calls the forest his home. The muni is the teacher, the preceptor, but the students are the defenders. The paradox is furthered by the fact that these defenders are so beautiful in appearance. They wear sacred threads around their necks and have hands that are lotus-like.

The lotus flower is the symbol of purity and grace; you wouldn’t necessarily equate it with fighting. In the time period in question, fighting took place with bow and arrow, with the objective being the death of the enemy. Dying while in combat was considered noble, as you sacrificed your life for a higher cause. The sacrifice was for the interest of the party you represented. If you are willing to give up your life to defend the innocent, why shouldn’t you be rewarded with residence in heaven afterwards?

“O Partha, happy are the kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.32)

Krishna and ArjunaThe warriors qualified by internal qualities welcome the chance to show their skills. They are not afraid of meeting death at the hands of the enemy. In fact, for them running away from a fight is considered much worse. Infamy in that regard is the equivalent of death, while dying honorably in battle is the height of sacrifice, a high achievement, an indication of a life dedicated to someone else. Real love must involve sacrifice, and these two boys were willing to sacrifice everything for the protection of their spiritual master.

The bow and arrow set carried in the lotus-like hands enhanced the beauty. Princes carry weapons all the time, but the beautiful features of these boys enchanted the mind, and the weapons inherited the properties belonging to the owners. Thus the residents of this town could not take their eyes off of the two sons of King Dasharatha, who were seated on thrones as guests of the host, King Janaka.

Anyone who would see the two youths in this setting would feel the same way. The elder was dark-skinned and the younger lighter. The elder was Lord Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty, and the younger Lakshmana, His dedicated brother. The muni Vishvamitra specifically asked for Rama’s protection in the forest, and his insistence proved to be necessary when Rama later killed the wicked female night-ranger Tataka. Lakshmana always follows Rama. You get one, you automatically get the other. The muni derived tremendous pleasure from having their association, and he did not consider their youth and inexperience to be negative assets.

On the contrary, their external beauty matched their internal purity, their dedication to protecting the innocent. In fact, it was their father who had reservations about them going to the forest to fight off the world’s wickedest creatures. Rama and Lakshmana unhesitatingly left home to tend to the muni. They guarded the sage’s sacrifices, which ensured that auspiciousness would abound both locally and in the neighboring communities.

The night-rangers, on the other hand, were committed to thwarting those religious practices. Rama and Lakshmana were like guards of a church, where the attackers weren’t arriving to pick apart sections of scripture or argue with the person giving the sermon. They weren’t so wise in these areas. They instead wanted to kill the priests and then eat their flesh. Thus Vishvamitra required an expert bow warrior who was not afraid to fight off evil forces.

If anything, Rama and Lakshmana were worried about pleasing the sage properly. This concern would cause them to give greater attention to their work, which in the process pleased Vishvamitra very much. After proving their worth in the forest and removing the fears of the many hermits assembled there, Rama and Lakshmana were led by Vishvamitra to Janakpur, where the goddess of fortune’s hand in marriage was to be given away.

Rama and Lakshmana fighting off TatakaKing Janaka instantly held affection for Rama and Lakshmana. Rama was especially intriguing because He was eligible for the contest. The younger, unmarried Lakshmana would not show up his brother by trying to lift the bow. If Rama won, Lakshmana would automatically become part of the family, so all interests were served in that regard.

The mind is enchanted by the appearance of the two brothers sitting innocently with their weapons. The mind likes to be enchanted because normally it is filled with so many worries. “Did I pass the test I took yesterday? Will my favorite team win the big game? Did I get that job that I interviewed for yesterday? Why has no one called me? I can’t stand the anticipation.”

The personal forms of the divine help one break free of these worries. Instead of hankering after things you want or lamenting over those things you failed to achieve, let your mind bask in the beauty of Rama and Lakshmana. Let your mind be enchanted by their beautiful bodily features and their weapons which are extensions of their mercy. Rama’s strength would delight the onlookers when it would be used to lift Lord Shiva’s bow, signaling the end of the contest. The winner was the delight of King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya. Lakshmana and Vishvamitra were thrilled but not surprised, and the enchanted minds in Janakpur gazing upon the two boys felt relief and elation at the same time.

It should be remembered that at this gathering were the most famous princes from around the world. Janaka’s daughter Sita was the most beautiful woman in the world, and her virtue rounded out her divine features. She was Janaka’s daughter after all, so there could not exist a hint of sin in her. The fact that she was available for marriage presented such a tremendous opportunity for other royal families. If the wife is chaste, of good character, and from a family of good values, her presence within a new family is a godsend.

The large assembly of kings dressed in royal garb made Rama and Lakshmana’s beauty stand out even more. The boys were escorting a hermit in Vishvamitra, so they didn’t have a royal entourage with them, though one could be found back home in Ayodhya. Their presence was not announced with pomp, and yet everyone noticed them anyway. There was something special about Rama and His younger brother, and it could be noticed immediately.

Rama’s features were so enchanting that many people, including Janaka himself, worried that Rama might not be able to lift the bow. The concern was over the potential of a missed opportunity. If the contest would prevent Rama from marrying Sita, the contest must be bogus. And the person who came up with the contest and vowed to uphold its rules should also be cursed for making such a horrible decision.

All of this added to the anticipation, making the end result one to never be forgotten. As Rama lifted Mahadeva’s bow, He broke it in half, creating a sound that travelled throughout the three worlds. That fissure also cracked the tension and fear over the wrong outcome occurring. The enchanting elder brother of Lakshmana, who was worthy of marrying Sita, fulfilled destiny, to the delight of the devoted onlookers.

In Closing:

Holding a bow and arrow in their hands,

On their beautiful vision your eyes land.

 

With quivers tied around their waists,

Let your mind the enchanting beauty taste.

 

This precious sight was to eyes a gift,

To assembly to see who bow could lift.

 

Rama and Lakshmana the mind do enchant,

Their body parts that beauty do enhance.

 

Paradoxical features raised the anticipation,

Rama’s victory to cause fear’s emancipation.

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