Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pleasing the Self

Sita and Rama“And Khara was killed in battle, and also Trishira and the highly splendorous Dushana brought down by the self-realized Rama.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.10)

karaḥ ca nihataḥ samkhye triśirāḥ ca nipātitaḥ |
dūṣaṇaḥ ca mahā tejā rāmeṇa vidita ātmanā ||

For Shri Hanuman, remembering the glories of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His role as a warrior prince, brings great pleasure to the self. The self is the spirit soul, and the ultimate knower of the self is the Supreme Lord, who is also the Superself, or the supreme soul resting within the heart of each living being. That knower of the self one time defeated some of the most powerful fighters in the world, and Hanuman remembered that remarkable feat when looking at the knower’s wife from a distance.

It is one thing to say that a woman is beautiful. That’s a pretty vanilla description. We can say that about a lot of women. If the woman is the most beautiful person we’ve ever seen, we’ll need other ways to describe her. In addition to comparing her external features, if she should happen to have a husband of tremendous fighting prowess, it would be helpful to know the nature of the relationship between the two. Can anything from the husband be used to better describe the beauty of the wife?

Hanuman was able to make this connection immediately upon seeing Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. She was separated from her husband through no fault of her own, and Hanuman was the person sent to find her. After a lengthy search that spanned many months, Hanuman finally located her in a grove of Ashoka trees in a land ruled over by Rakshasas. A Rakshasa is like a human being who is a man-eater. If someone were to tell us that they eat cats and dogs, we wouldn’t think too highly of them. Therefore we can understand just how degraded one must be to eat other human beings. The man-eating is but a symptom of a larger problem: ignorance.

Previously, these same ignorant creatures attacked Sita’s husband in the quiet forest of Dandaka. Sita was with Rama at the time, and Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, was with them as well. The trio wasn’t bothering anyone, and yet the King of Lanka, Ravana, sent 14,000 of his best fighters to attack after his sister was disfigured by Lakshmana. She had tried to take out Sita in the hopes of being with Rama, and so Lakshmana kindly defended his sister-in-law. Ravana’s band of ghastly men previously had no problem attacking innocent sages set on religious observances in the forest, and so attacking Rama this time was not an extraordinary request.

Of course 14,000 against one doesn’t seem like a fair fight, and that is true here in one sense. Against the origin of matter and spirit, not even 14 million fighters stand a chance. Rama told Lakshmana to take Sita away to a safe place. He was going to fight this battle Himself. The details of the ensuing fight can be found in the Aranya-kanda of the Ramayana. In short, 14,000 of Ravana’s fiercest fighters were dispatched by Rama. They used every weapon imaginable, but just with arrows Rama fought them off. Then Dushana fought with Rama alone. The Lord lopped off his arms with His arrows and thus ended his life.

Khara, the best fighter in the group, was ready to attack next, but Trishira begged to be allowed to try first. So he then fought with Rama and was eventually killed. The final battle was with Rama and Khara, and after a fiery exchange of weapons, Khara’s chariot was shattered, leaving him to fight from the ground. Rama took this opportunity to chastise the demon, informing him that his past evil deeds were now coming back to him. Khara and his Rakshasa friends thought there would be no consequences to killing innocent sages, but just as the trees blossom at the appropriate season, so the doer of sinful deeds reaps their ghastly reward at the proper time.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

Lord RamaFighting on foot, Khara hurled a fiery club at Rama, but the Lord shattered it with His arrows. Rama then laughed at Khara, and the demon in turn retorted with his own promises of victory. In the end, Rama took out an arrow given by Indra and shot it at Khara, killing the demon. Khara was the best fighter sent to Janasthana, or the Dandaka forest, and so when Rama killed him it was certainly a big deal. With great pride Hanuman remembers Rama’s killing of the three leading Rakshasas. Similar statements are found elsewhere in Vedic literature, including in the Shrimad Bhagavatam.

“While wandering in the forest, where He accepted a life of hardship, carrying His invincible bow and arrows in His hand, Lord Ramachandra deformed Ravana's sister, who was polluted with lusty desires, by cutting off her nose and ears. He also killed her fourteen thousand Rakshasa friends, headed by Khara, Trishira and Dushana.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.9)

The wise relish the opportunity to remember God and celebrate His triumphs. Now seeing Sita from afar, Hanuman remembered Rama’s heroic act in a new way. Rama had indeed killed these fierce fighters of cruel deeds, and He had done so to protect the sages. But He also fought to protect Sita. If not for her, those fiends would probably have still been alive and kicking, wreaking havoc throughout the world. Thus in her own way Sita brought about the demise of the Rakshasa clan in Lanka. Rama kicked things off in Janasthana, and now Hanuman was in Lanka to give the message to Sita that Rama was coming to save her. And in the end the entire army of Vanaras, who teamed with Rama and Lakshmana, would come to destroy Ravana and his clan.

In Closing:

When beloved wife of Rama he sees,

Remembers His pastimes for self to please.

 

Fourteen thousand demons headed by three,

Were killed by Rama’s arrows set free.

 

Khara, Dushana and Trishira had might,

But never to win against Rama in a fight.

 

That Sita had the best husband this meant,

Known to Hanuman who to find her was sent.

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