Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Not So Worried

Lakshmana holding his bow“This lady knows the resolve of Rama and the intelligent Lakshmana, so she is not very agitated, like Mother Ganga at the onset of the rainy season.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.4)

rāmasya vyavasāyajñā lakṣmaṇasya ca dhīmataḥ |
na atyartham kṣubhyate devī gangā iva jalada āgame ||

We should be worried over our future, no? It is an uncertain world out there. The nightly news reminds us of this fact. Someone could get shot just going to see a movie, so how safe are we really? Should we not relish every moment we have on this earth? Should we not try to spend as much time as possible with our family? Why waste time over needless things when the time we have is so short? Actually, under the Vedic model it is understood that every individual is eternal, and yet there is still an urgency within the human species. When the proper mission is targeted and sought out, the worry somewhat subsides, as there is comfort in knowing the prowess of the higher being.

We are eternal because of the properties of our identifying aspect, the soul. The soul is never born, so it can never die. It cannot be cut up, made wet, burned up, or extinguished. It has the property of eternality, so nothing can be done to end its existence. What the soul can do, though, is travel to different places. Just as in order to travel to outer space we require a special suit, for the soul to go to different areas requires specific dresses. Those dresses are temporary, but due to illusion alone the individual within them thinks that the dresses are the source of identification; hence the urgency to enjoy as much as possible with respect to imminent death.

“My life will be finished at the time of death, so let me enjoy as much as possible,” is the thought. Under intelligence the same sentiment is adjusted slightly. “Let me make the most of this valuable human form of body. I will continue to live on after death, but it is not guaranteed where I will end up. In the body of a monkey or a dog, I cannot understand the imminence of death. I cannot do anything intelligent really. My life will revolve around eating, sleeping, mating and defending. In this human body I can take steps to understand God, cognizance of whom puts an end to the cycle of birth and death.”

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)

That reincarnation exists and stops through a particular kind of consciousness is understood through consultation of Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, learning them through those who follow the teachings faithfully. Any person can pick up any book and start rambling on about what it means, but only one who has respect for the bona fide teacher, who learned the essence of the instruction from their own teacher who had respect, will get anything out of the work. The Vedas represent confidential information to be understood by the sober human being sincerely interested in making a positive difference in their lives. If I am still swayed by the false notion of material sense enjoyment being the summit of existence, I will not understand the Bhagavad-gita properly. I will take the verses and try to change the meanings to suit my needs, instead of changing my behavior to suit the needs of the instructor, Shri Krishna.

Though there can be a lot of steps involved in devotion to God, in understanding Him and in changing our disposition, let’s assume that we’ve made the necessary changes. We’ve given up the hope for material enjoyment, and now we daily take pleasure in bhakti-yoga, devotional service. Aside from the promise to be delivered at the time of death, there is also a newfound calmness with respect to troublesome situations. This is a lesson to be taken away from the above referenced verse from the Ramayana.

Here Shri Hanuman is observing Sita Devi from afar. To briefly explain the situation, Sita is an abducted princess and Hanuman a person sent to find her. Sita is the wife of the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama. Rama is an incarnation of God and Sita an incarnation of God’s wife, or eternal consort. Hanuman is a messenger of the Vanara-king Sugriva. Through the alliance between Rama and Sugriva, Hanuman became a messenger/servant of Rama as well.

Sita looks distressed to Hanuman, as she is all alone and pained through the separation. She is surrounded by female Rakshasas, ogres who eat human flesh. The king of this land wants Sita for a wife, but she will not even look at him. Therefore he has resorted to threats to try to win her over. Though he sees that Sita is distressed, which is entirely understandable, Hanuman notices that she is not overly agitated. The comparison is made to Mother Ganga at the onset of the monsoon season.

In India every year there is a period of a few months which brings tremendous rainfall. Mother Ganga is commonly known as the Ganges River, and her water level rises as a result of the rain. Yet she remains calm throughout, as she does not cease to be holy. She continues to exist despite the many years of rainy seasons, where her water level rises rapidly. Ganga Devi emanates from the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, so her water is considered sacred. The rainy season comes every year, and every year Ganga Devi remains in her position of purity.

The source of Sita’s calmness is also revealed. She knows the resolve of her husband and she also knows the intelligent Lakshmana, who is Rama’s younger brother. The two were previously living with Sita in the forest when she was abducted through a backhanded plot. Rama is resolute because that is one of the qualities of the Supreme Lord. He is not swayed by anything. Rama was asked to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya for fourteen years on the day He was to take over the throne, and the sudden change in plans did not phase Him a bit. Though Sita was taken in secret, that should not have changed His resolve either. He would be determined to find her and uphold justice.

Rama and LakshmanaLakshmana is Rama’s protector, and so he is very wise. Knowing Rama’s desire to be with Sita, Lakshmana will use his intelligence to help his brother. The same resolve and intelligence are passed on to the devotees of the Lord, including to Hanuman himself, who relied on both determination and intelligence to get to where he was. Through the strength of devotion to Lakshmana and Rama, Hanuman found Sita, setting the wheels in motion for her eventual rescue. Similarly, the devotee has firm faith in the resolve of the Supreme Lord and the intelligence of the spiritual master to keep them safe regardless of circumstance. This attitude assures that devotion will be practiced in whatever situations arise, in both this life and the next.

In Closing:

“Should I not worry over imminent death,

Of my possessions and family to be bereft?

 

Let me enjoy all of life right now,

Before to death take my bow.”

 

Vedas give another kind of urgency,

For human life most unique residency.

 

In it of God you can learn,

And highest state thus to earn.

 

But of a hidden secret devotees know,

That God with them wherever they go.

 

Resolve in Rama and Lakshmana intelligent,

Sita to circumstance thus indifferent.

 

Like Mother Ganga at rainy season not agitated,

Sita Rama’s eventual arrival anticipated.

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