“O Devi, leave aside your doubts and bring happiness to your heart. Have faith in these words: Rama will string the bow.” (Janaki Mangala, 76)
The foundation of the Ramayana is the idea of investing full faith and confidence in the ability of God to deliver the proper outcome. This faith requires the release of worries, the removal of doubts, believing that the higher authority will make everything right. At the same time, this isn’t a sanction for abandoning activity, as sitting like a stone will not accomplish much. Prescribed duties are set into place for the benefit of the worker, with the manager ultimately responsible for delivering the proper outcome. In this particular time of worry for the queen of Mithila, her attendants tried to assure her of the proper outcome, telling her to have faith in their counsel, which said that Rama would indeed string Lord Shiva’s bow.
“But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.40)
It’s difficult to have full faith in God because the natural inclination is to think of ourselves as the doers. “I decide to get up in the morning, and bam, the next second I am out of bed. I made that happen. I had the seed of desire in the mind, and then my body parts made that desire a reality through work. If I want to graduate from school, I do the necessary work, which includes studying and completing assignments, to pass my classes. In adulthood, I have so much control over my actions that others are willing to pay me for my abilities. This then means that I get responsibilities placed upon me. I can’t just pray to God to get this work done. I have to take action myself, so why shouldn’t I assume that other outcomes are dependent on personal work as well?”
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.27)
Of course lost in this narrow outlook is the higher scheme, which is influenced by so many aspects of life that are completely out of our control. With the example of working for a company, I may be capable of getting the job done, but this doesn’t mean that I am guaranteed to get to work on time. My car could stall during the trip to the office. I could get into a car accident that is not my fault. There could be traffic on the road or a weather event could get in my way. Do I have any control over these factors? To say that I can control the traffic is ridiculous. The same holds true with the weather. Yet all of these factors have to be aligned just right on the days when I get a successful outcome to my work. This means that I am not the supreme controller. I have control over how my body works, and even that to a small degree, but nothing else.
Religious life begins with the acceptance of a higher authority. To know more about that authority is what drives the subsequent work. To be inquisitive is the human nature, and when that curiosity leads to the realm of spirituality, the benefits can be long lasting. In the Vedic tradition, the human birth marks the need for inquiry into the Absolute Truth. And the first fact to realize is that we are not our body. We are Brahman, or pure spirit, and the resultant actions that take place with the body are due to the laws of nature and also the Supreme Spirit, who is both all-pervading and localized within each individual.
A higher realization is to know Bhagavan, who is the entity that best equates to the term “God”. He creates the giant system of cause and effect which is so amazing that it bewilders us into thinking that we have complete control over outcomes. As He is in charge, He can make any outcome possible. Sometimes He doesn’t give us what we want, for He knows what is best for us. He only personally intervenes for His devotees, as the non-devoted ignore His presence. In this sense, they too are given what they want, namely continued forgetfulness of God.
“God has given independence to everyone; therefore, if a person desires to have material enjoyment and wants very sincerely to have such facilities from the material demigods, the Supreme Lord, as Supersoul in everyone's heart, understands and gives facilities to such persons. As the supreme father of all living entities, He does not interfere with their independence, but gives all facilities so that they can fulfill their material desires.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bg. 7.21 Purport)
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit poem that is a gift from above, as through its accounts of historical incidents it provides us a practical application of the proper mood of surrender and when it is required. The poem begins with the dilemma of King Dasharatha, who is a pious ruler of the town of Ayodhya. He is missing one very important thing: a son. He approaches his counselors, religious guides who understand Brahman, to see how to solve the problem. In response, God Himself descends to earth in a human form to give Dasharatha a son. The original Supreme Lord also expands into three other forms to give Dasharatha three additional sons.
Later on, the sage Vishvamitra requires help in practicing his austerities in the forest. A band of evil-night rangers was attacking the sages who sought refuge in the pristine forest. Rather than cast spells in return, they simply surrendered to God, who is known as brahmanya-devaya, or the worshipable deity of the priestly class. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana make the forest safe again, successfully terminating the reign of terror of the wicked night-rangers.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, which is a Hindi poem that describes a portion of the same events found in the Ramayana, we are given another instance of God’s rescuing hand. King Janaka of Mithila wants to find the perfect husband for his precious daughter Sita. He decides to hold a bow-lifting contest, and everything seems to be going okay until Dasharatha’s eldest son enters the arena accompanied by Lakshmana and Vishvamitra.
Rama was not an unruly guest. On the contrary, He was quite well-behaved. The problem was that His beauty was captivating. It had the effect of creating a transcendental attachment in the pure-hearted onlookers. Sita’s mother was one of these spectators, and her love for Rama was so great that she could think of nothing else besides His potential for marrying Sita. She wanted Him to win the contest very badly, but oh yes, that issue of the contest got in the way. What if Rama couldn’t lift the bow? He was too beautiful to be strong enough to lift something that required hundreds of men just to move.
We see that the queen’s friends decided to step in and reassure her. They proclaimed that Rama would indeed raise and string the bow. He had a divine presence. God’s potencies can never be fully masked, no matter what personal form He takes. He is enchanting whether in the body of a youth or an adult. On this occasion, the queen’s sakhis were essentially telling her to trust in God, as Rama was God Himself. No other recourse was available, as Janaka could not cancel the competition after the rules had been announced. With nowhere else to turn, they relied on the strong hand of Rama, which has rescued the devotees from fear since time immemorial.
Faith means to remove all doubt,
Fear over outcomes to live without.
To trust in Rama queen’s friends told,
Know that Shiva’s bow in His hand to hold.
Outcome to events not totally in control mine,
More powerful forces required to properly align.
Shri Rama the greatest controller of them all,
To protect devotees upon His strong hand He calls.