Friday, December 21, 2012

The Complete Picture

Lord Rama“(For her) fourteen thousand Rakshasas of dreadful deeds were slain in the forest of Janasthana by arrows that were like tongues of fire.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.9)

catur daśa sahasrāṇi rakṣasām bhīma karmaṇām |
nihatāni jana sthāne śarair agni śikha upamaiḥ ||

An easy way to try to defeat someone in a public argument is to use an ad hominem attack. Don’t address the issue in question. Instead, find some fault in the person making the argument. Find something that they said or did one time that wouldn’t make them look good. Introduce that point into the argument, and thereby try to discredit the person. Of course the argument itself is not addressed, and therefore such a retort is correctly labeled a fallacy. With respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His teachings found in the ancient Vedic texts, the staunchest opponents will quickly try to turn to one or two incidents that they can take out of context. “See, this is what your purported God did. Could God ever do that?” What they fail to mention, however, are the countless occasions where He does things which are just as extraordinary but in favor of the devotees, the surrendered souls, in a way more socially acceptable. When the complete picture is studied, the individual actions and teachings are better understood.

The Vedas say that there is only one God. He is known as Vishnu, Narayana, Krishna, Rama, or by a host of other names. There is a singular original personality, who is described as Bhagavan. The word means one who holds all opulences, and it can translate to “Supreme Personality of Godhead”. This translation is purposefully presented by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to counter the notion that God is impersonal. There is an impersonal aspect, known as the Brahman energy, but there is still a separate, personal supreme entity. He is the origin of Godhead, which means that there are many expansions and non-different forms. He is a person, but a supreme one, a fact proved in one way through His extraordinary feats.

“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)

The lowest among mankind are those who know of Krishna but still don’t surrender to Him out of envy. They try to discredit His teachings and prove that He is not God. They will point to incidents like Krishna’s marrying 16,108 wives during His time on earth and His dancing with young girls in the forest of Vrindavana. Their arguments are quite easy to refute, however. They think they have the worshiper cornered with such statements. “You see, if a person is lusty, they are not considered worshipable. If a person succumbs to the desires for sex life, they are not supreme.”

But how do such persons know that Krishna married so many women? How do they know that He danced with the gopis in the middle of the night? They know this because of the statements of shastra, or scripture. These events are described in detail in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, considered the crown jewel of Vedic literature by those who follow bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. This work describes Krishna’s position as God in scientific and historical terms. It explains that the Lord creates this and countless other universes through exhaling, and then destroys them through inhaling. He is both with form and without. His absence of form is represented by the impersonal Brahman energy, and His possession of form is of the spiritual variety, where His attributes are not limited. He can do anything with His hands. He can lift a massive hill with His pinky finger and He can eat an offering made to an altar painting.

If you take the complete picture from the Bhagavatam, you know that Krishna is God, and as such He is not governed by the mundane laws of society. Why shouldn’t He marry so many women? If He can take care of them and they want Him as a husband, will He submit to the laws of society designated for mortals to elevate them to the platform of understanding God? Krishna is already God, so He doesn’t need to do anything to understand Himself. His dancing with the gopis shows that He will do whatever it takes to please those who love Him without question. Only God would do such a thing. Anyone else would be incapable of satisfying so many surrendered souls. Anyone else also might feel beholden to rules and regulations, fearing what others would think of them.

The Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama also a few times broke the rules of society. He once shot an enemy fighter in the back while he was engaged in conflict with someone else. He also abandoned His wife when accusations were made against her by the citizens of Ayodhya. Yet to understand Rama’s behavior one must hear the entire Ramayana, which is the ancient Sanskrit poem dedicated to His exploits. Rama is God not just because of a few statements. Sure, those are enough to know His position, but the statements are substantiated by real-life actions. One of the most amazing actions took place in the forest of Janasthana.

Rama was there with His wife Sita and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rakshasas, fiends of cruel deeds, came to attack Him there. Just think; here was an innocent man living in the wilderness not bothering anyone, and yet the ogres couldn’t do the decent thing and leave Him alone. Their leader Ravana sent 14,000 of his men to deal with Rama. The Lord told Lakshmana to take Sita to a nearby cave and protect her. Rama would battle them all by Himself.

“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)

LordRamaTo protect His wife, Rama defeated these 14,000 Rakshasas by Himself. One of them managed to escape back home. Upon reaching there he relayed what he saw to the leader Ravana. After seeing his men so soundly defeated, Ravana created a ruse and took Sita away in secret. Hanuman, a Vanara working for the king Sugriva in Kishkindha, first went to Lanka to find Sita. Seeing her from afar for the first time, Hanuman was amazed at her beauty. He immediately recalled all that Rama had done for her, and he rightly concluded that the effort was worth it.

No ordinary man could defeat that many demons at one time. The gross materialists and the lowest among mankind will have a difficult time believing this, but if we are to reference Rama’s name, forms and pastimes to any extent, we must accept all of His actions as fact. If He can create this and many other universes just by breathing, why can’t He defeat so many powerful fighters using just His bow and arrows? His servant Hanuman is also like one of those arrows, and he would set fire to Lanka before returning to Rama. Thus the servant inherits some of the unlimited potency of Rama, and in their service they protect those dear to Rama like Sita.

In Closing:

If confidence in argument one lacks,

Susceptible they are to ad hominem attack.

 

Miscreants with followers of God try the same,

Taking things out of context for cheap points to gain.

 

But statements of Vedas must accept as a whole,

Like Krishna’s supreme stature from Bhagavatam we’re told.

 

Rama is also God, once an amazing deed He did.

Of 14,000 Rakshasas He singlehandedly rid.

 

When the beloved Sita he finally did find,

To Hanuman Rama’s deed came to mind.

 

The servant also like one of those arrows shot,

Thus no surprise that Hanuman vision of Sita got.

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