Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Special Lady

Sita Devi“(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 ||

Wives shouldn’t get into a competition over who has the best husband, but it is natural to think that the person you are married to is the best in the world. If you love your parents, will you not think they are the best? Will you not wonder what you did to deserve such a wonderful combination of mother and father? In appreciating their standing, you will review the many things they have done for you, in the process supporting your claim that they are the best parents in the world. When seeing Sita Devi from afar in the Ashoka grove, Hanuman reviewed some of her husband’s heroic acts, which showed that Sita was indeed married to the best man in the whole world.

“Will you slay dragons for me? Will you protect me for the rest of my life? Will you risk your life for me?” These are legitimate questions voiced at least internally by the wife to be. Manliness is the desirable attribute in a male and chastity in a female. Manliness is best exhibited in protection of the wife, and so the man who can best protect his wife would be considered the best husband. To assess the ability to protect there must be real-life tests, and fortunately for the world Shri Rama was tested on many an occasion.

Rama is the Supreme Lord as an incarnation. Not that He is an ordinary man or a mortal being who goes through the cycle of birth and death. In the Bala-kanda of the Ramayana it is said that Lord Vishnu agreed to descend to earth in human form to help the demigods, who are sort of like saintly characters that reside in the heavenly realm. A fiend was wreaking havoc across the world at the time, and it was only a human being who could defeat him. But it would take the best human being, and for that role Vishnu kindly agreed to appear.

If He agrees to appear, it means that He is not forced into the material realm, which is known as mrityu-loka, or a planet where death takes place. Everything must die; not just living entities. Housing structures don’t have souls in them, but they are nevertheless fixtures for a certain period of time. No matter how sturdy the construction, eventually the buildings will crumble. If this is the case for strong matter, it also applies to weaker collections of matter such as the bodies of the living entities.

Birth and death for the personal incarnations are more accurately referred to as appearances and disappearances. We have no control over the material elements, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead does. That is why He can appear at will and do anything with His body that looks material on the outside but is completely spiritual. As proof of this fact, only a spiritual body could defeat 14,000 of the most powerful fighters in the world without any outside help.

Lord RamaRama had to perform this task while in the forest of Janasthana. He was there with His wife Sita and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rakshasas are a cruel species; they feast off animal flesh. They will even eat other human beings. It is not that they just go to the restaurant to eat the flesh of animals killed elsewhere; they will do the killing themselves. They don’t attack only the miscreants, either. They go after the most innocent members of society. The saintly priests were living in Janasthana at the time, and so the Rakshasas loved to invade in the nighttime and then find their fare.

The leader of the Rakshasas was Ravana, and his sister one time approached Rama and propositioned Him. Being rejected, she realized that Sita was her competition. So she tried to go after Sita, at which point Lakshmana stepped in and lopped off the hideous creature’s ear and nose. She returned home disfigured and complained to Ravana about what had happened. In response, Ravana sent 14,000 of his best fighters to Janasthana to attack Rama.

The best husband in the world told Lakshmana to take Sita away into a nearby cave. Rama would handle these fiends by Himself. He shot arrows from His bow. These arrows were like tongues of fire, and they chased the Rakshasas like heat-seeking missiles. The Lord did away with these fiends by Himself, and He did it all for Sita.

The act quickly became legend, and Hanuman also heard about it. Hanuman and his forest-dwelling friends aligned with Rama later on after Ravana came and took Sita away in secret. Hanuman hadn’t met Sita, but when he saw her from afar inside of the Ashoka grove in Lanka, he could see why Rama had killed those 14,000 Rakshasas for her. She was the most beautiful woman in the world, and any man would want to move heaven and earth to please her.

Previously, to marry her Rama lifted an extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. This proved that only He was worthy of Sita’s hand in marriage. After they were married, He continued to fight for her by battling attacking Rakshasas in the forest. And when she went missing, He used His trusted servant Hanuman to discern her whereabouts. In this way Sita’s glory was enhanced further. She had a husband who slayed demons for her. She also had a husband who had the best messenger in the whole world, someone uniquely qualified for the most difficult reconnaissance mission in history.

That special lady is the goddess of fortune herself, and she is forever with Rama. Hanuman to this day continues to worship the divine couple, always chanting their names and singing their glories. He found her in the Ashoka grove after a long journey, and through seeing her and later meeting with her, all the effort became well worth it.

In Closing:

When prospective groom the bride sees,

She wonders, “Will he slay dragons for me?”


“Will he drive enemies away without fear,

And in that way to me always remain dear?”


For Sita Shri Rama did that and more,

Killed 14,000 fiends for wife whom He adored.


Hanuman immediately appreciated this fact,

When he discovered Sita’s location exact.


Goddess of fortune has husband the best,

And His servant too passes every test.

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.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hide and Seek

Shri Hanuman“Also, Viradha, a Rakshasa of dreadful prowess, was killed in battle in the forest by Rama’s exhibition of valor, like Shambara was by Mahendra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.8)

virādhaḥ ca hataḥ samkhye rākṣaso bhīma vikramaḥ |
vane rāmeṇa vikramya mahā indreṇa iva śambaraḥ ||

You see a massive housing structure and wonder how it could have been built. “This must have taken forever. I can’t even begin to imagine what this entails. Where to even start? Just thinking about it gives me a headache. The complexity makes me want to turn in the other direction and think about something else.” But when you’re in an emergency situation, where you don’t have time to think about the pressure of the moment, you have to act right away. And you can’t give up. The stakes are too high to fail, so you have to keep going no matter what happens. This is the resolve the Supreme Lord brings to His protection of souls surrendered to Him, and the resolve extends to His servants as well. Shri Hanuman is a wonderful example of this.

Hanuman had to look for Sita Devi, the missing wife of Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha. As a child, you may have played the game “hide and seek”. One person hides and someone else has to find them. Perhaps there are multiple people involved in the search, but as the game is played among children, the range of available hiding places is not very big. It’s not like the child can run very fast. They’re not trained in long distance running. They also aren’t old enough to drive automobiles. Therefore the seeking children know that the person hiding is within an area whose size is acceptable for searching.

Hanuman and his friends were not so fortunate. Sita could have been anywhere in the world. They were told to scour the earth to look for her. The task seems ridiculous, right? Perhaps today you could increase your chances in reconnaissance by reaching the masses, having them help you in the search. Broadcast the picture of the missing person on television. Millions of people will see it and then contact you if they have any leads.

These Vanaras, forest dwellers that were like monkeys but also like humans, couldn’t phone anyone for help. They couldn’t contact other search parties, either. This was like a scavenger hunt that spanned the globe. Of course you would be a little overwhelmed taking on this task, but this doesn’t mean that you should reject it. Hanuman and his friends were ordered by the leader Sugriva to find Sita. They had no choice in the matter.

They conducted their search methodically. If you have a larger, more complex problem, you break it down into components that can be solved individually. If you have to search a large area, you first search smaller areas and then gradually rule them out. This is what the Vanaras did, and Hanuman’s search party eventually received the good fortune of learning where Sita was. They weren’t told exactly where, but it was said that she was on an island called Lanka. The problem was that the island was surrounded by a vast ocean.

Hanuman solved the problem by leaping from a mountaintop and crossing over the ocean. Eventually he reached Sita in a garden inside of Lanka. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana he is appreciating her extraordinary beauty by remembering some of the things Rama had done for her. It is said that Rama slayed Viradha, a Rakshasa of wicked prowess. This was done to save Sita.

That incident occurred previously, when Sita and Rama were together. They were in the Dandaka forest with Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Viradha was a terrifying figure that took Sita and declared that she was his. He told the brothers to scram. Rama had already been banished from His kingdom and ordered to not return for fourteen years. Sita insisted on coming along; Rama wanted her to stay home and be safe. Now it was all crashing down with this wicked creature causing trouble.

But Rama had Lakshmana with Him, and Lakshmana never gives up in defending his brother. This was an emergency situation, so despite the daunting task ahead of them, the brothers could not quit. They methodically attacked Viradha, and even when it seemed like the demon couldn’t be killed, they found a way to curb his influence. When they were about to throw him into a ditch, Viradha revealed that he was previously a celestial. He was cursed one time to become a demon, and that curse would be lifted when Rama would slay him. Thus Viradha was finally killed by Rama. He then regained his previous form and returned to heaven.

Rama and Lakshmana slaying ViradhaSita is of the highest character, and because of her devotion to Him, Rama works tirelessly to protect her. The Vedas inform us that Rama is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so He can accomplish any task at any time. The Ramayana is a real-life play which teaches us about God’s qualities through specific events. Rama’s slaying of Viradha shows His great fighting prowess, how Lakshmana is always devoted to Him, and how He will do anything for His eternal consort Sita. Hanuman, as a servant to Rama, also shows the same resolve. Though Sita is not his wife, since she is dear to Rama, Hanuman too works relentlessly to protect her.

If you have Lakshmana, Rama and Hanuman protecting you, you’re never really in danger. And similarly, if you have Sita’s benedictions, you will never find misfortune. Real poverty relates to the inability of the spirit soul to practice its constitutional engagement, devotional service. If one is committed to chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, Sita ensures that they have whatever they need to carry out their devotion. And protection from enemy attack is accounted for by Rama, His representative Lakshmana, and His courageous servant Hanuman.

In Closing:

Though Hanuman of great might,

To find princess was a fight.


He and monkeys the earth scoured across,

Eventually the massive ocean to cross.


Like largest hide and seek game,

To find Sita, of King Janaka’s fame.


Rama and Lakshmana with Viradha fought,

Through resolve release from curse to him brought.


Know that same resolve in Hanuman exists,

In working for Sita and Rama he staunchly persists.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Best Husband

Rama and Lakshmana slaying Viradha“Also, Viradha, a Rakshasa of dreadful prowess, was killed in battle in the forest by Rama’s exhibition of valor, like Shambara was by Mahendra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.8)

virādhaḥ ca hataḥ samkhye rākṣaso bhīma vikramaḥ |
vane rāmeṇa vikramya mahā indreṇa iva śambaraḥ ||

A husband is a protector first and foremost. Women are generally weaker than men physically, and so women need protection of some sort in a society. Not everyone is nice. Some will want to steal women that have their hearts devoted to another man. The man, in some capacity, must be able to protect his wife from these fiends. The spirit soul, the identifying agent within each life form, acts through service, and one mechanism of service is protection. The mother protects the child in the womb, the parents the child in youth, the husband the wife in adulthood, and so on. The greatest protector of all is the Supreme Lord, and for His devotees He will move heaven and earth if required. This truth is touched upon by Shri Hanuman in the above referenced quote.

As a quick background for the scene in question, Hanuman is observing a princess from a distance in a beautiful garden. Hanuman is like a powerful monkey with human characteristics. These events took place in the Treta Yuga, or second time period of creation. According to the Vedas all the species already exist, as they are just collections of the material elements. The proportional quantity of those elements can vary, to the extent of 8,400,000 different species. In the beginning of the creation, the species are more intelligent with respect to cognizance of their true identity. As time goes by, the affinity for material association, which is rooted in ignorance, increases, resulting in a degradation of the species. In the Treta Yuga, a relatively pure age, even the forest dwelling monkeys resemble the human beings to some degree.

Hanuman is in this garden looking for a missing princess. She was taken away from the side of her husband while residing in the forest. Hanuman has not met her before, but based on the characteristics of her husband, he can understand that she is extraordinary. Seeing this woman from afar, Hanuman realizes that she is the missing princess, Sita Devi. He then starts to review all that her husband has already done for her, in the process making the point that the effort was well worth it. If you work hard for something that isn’t worth it, your effort is essentially a waste of time. Based on Sita’s vision alone, any effort made by any man to try to please her would be worth it. This would be especially true in the case of the husband.

Hanuman says that it was for the sake of Sita that the Rakshasa Viradha was slain. Viradha had a dreadful prowess, and he was killed in the forest through Rama’s exhibition of valor. The story of that encounter is told in the Aranya-kanda of the same Ramayana poem. Sita and Rama entered the forest of Dandaka along with Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Rama and Lakshmana were military men, fighters who were sons to the King of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha. Kings during those times were all expert fighters. Dasharatha’s name means one of ten-chariots. He could defeat men fighting in ten directions all by himself. If you combine an expert fighter with dedication to religious principles, you get an ideal leader of a community. Rama’s group was in the forest of Dandaka due to the envy of Dasharatha’s youngest wife Kaikeyi; obviously the austere setting wasn’t common for royalty.

They made the best of the situation by visiting ashramas in various settings. After leaving one particular ashrama, the group ran into Viradha. He was something else to look at. He was large, gruesome, ugly, and covered with blood all around. He had a few animal corpses around him as well, as he was by no means a vegetarian. A Rakshasa is a man-eater, and in Viradha’s case he liked the flesh of the ascetics who lived peacefully in the forest.

Upon seeing the trio, Viradha immediately grabbed Sita and kept her by his waist. Rama was greatly pained by this. He remarked to Lakshmana that Kaikeyi’s wish was finally coming true, that her work was bearing fruit. Lakshmana was in a fit of rage, and together the two brothers began to attack Viradha. The demon told the brothers that he had a boon from Lord Brahma that granted him immunity from enemy weapons. Despite being peppered with arrows flying from Rama and Lakshmana, Viradha retained his life.

Letting go of Sita, he then grabbed hold of Rama and Lakshmana and placed them on his shoulders. At this Sita tried to bargain, asking the demon to take her instead. In that situation, the two brothers decided to cut off the demon’s arms and then beat him with their own hands. After pummeling him, Rama decided that Viradha couldn’t be killed, and so he told Lakshmana to dig a ditch. Rama kept his foot on the demon’s throat while Lakshmana proceeded to dig. At this Viradha finally relented. He told Rama that previously a curse was placed upon him. It said that only by seeing Sita, Rama and Lakshmana would the curse be lifted. Thus Viradha agreed to be slain by being placed in the pit. He then reassumed his divine form and departed for heaven.

Sita, Rama and LakshmanaHanuman compares Rama’s slaying of Viradha to Indra’s slaying of Shambara. Indra is the king of heaven, and since the beginning of time he has had many fights with the demon class. Slaying Shambara involved a lengthy and methodical attack that took quite some time. The comparison is appropriate here because Viradha was not easy to defeat, either. Rama also only fought him because he had taken Sita.

In this way Rama is certainly the best husband, and seeing Sita Hanuman knew that Rama’s relentless defense of her was well worth it. Hanuman was Rama’s messenger after all, and Hanuman’s brave journey to Lanka to look for Sita is an extension of Rama’s protection. Through the good efforts of Hanuman, that best husband in the world would soon arrive in Lanka to rescue His wife.

In Closing:

Because to see Sita he did strive,

Her husband soon in Lanka to arrive.


Rama’s slaying of Viradha required methodical attack,

Just like Indra to Shambara in a time long back.


A husband’s duty is to protect,

The enemy forces from her to deflect.


For Sita Rama did all of this and more,

Hanuman knew it was a worthwhile chore.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Make My Day

Rama shooting Vali“It was for the sake of this large-eyed woman that Vali, of great strength, was killed and Kabandha, who was equal in strength to Ravana, was struck down.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.7)

asyā hetor viśāla akṣyā hato vālī mahā balaḥ |
rāvaṇa pratimo vīrye kabandhaḥ ca nipātitaḥ ||

Seeing Sita’s beauty and divine qualities from afar, Hanuman remembers to himself all that the lady’s husband had done to try to find her. Up to this point, what Rama had done was not easy in the least, and He still hadn’t found her. For a man to take on such a great risk, to put His life in jeopardy to find His wife must mean that His wife was worth finding. Hanuman recognized this from the beginning of his journey to Lanka, and upon seeing Sita his initial faith in the worthiness of the mission was confirmed.

Rama is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation as a warrior prince and Sita is an incarnation of the goddess of fortune, the Supreme Lord’s eternal consort. Therefore the Ramayana, an ancient poem authored by Maharishi Valmiki, has real and lasting significance. The story bears similarities to modern comic books and Hollywood films, but the events described are real, and since they are about God and His devotees, the work is still talked about to this day. The Ramayana is just as significant today as it was during the time of its composition.

Hanuman says that Rama struck down Kabandha, who was equal to Ravana in strength. Ravana was the demon-king of Lanka who took Sita away from Rama’s side while the couple was peacefully living in the forest of Dandaka. Rama was the son of a king and was therefore a fighter by trade. His younger brother Lakshmana was with Him in Dandaka, but Ravana did not have the courage to fight either one of them. Nevertheless, Ravana was known throughout the world for his strength. He had defeated many a celestial already, and he thought he was safe on his island kingdom in Lanka.

Kabandha was one of the first impediments encountered by Rama and Lakshmana after Sita was taken away in the backhanded plot executed by Ravana. The brothers did not know where Sita was, so they began to traverse the forest looking for her. They stumbled upon a downed vulture named Jatayu who had tried to stop Ravana’s aerial car when it first left Dandaka with Sita. Sadly, Jatayu was mortally wounded in the battle. Rama found the courageous vulture just as he was dying and learned from him that Ravana was the person who had taken Sita. Jatayu then died and Rama performed his last rites.

The brothers next came upon a dense forest, and after encountering a female ogre who propositioned Lakshmana and was then rejected, they met a wicked ogre named Kabandha. He was a large, headless creature with incredibly long arms. He had one eye and very sharp teeth situated in his belly. He got a hold of the two brothers, causing a fearful situation. Lakshmana was worried that they may not live and asked Rama to save Himself. The Lord calmed him and reminded him that warriors do not panic. After some deliberation, the brothers decided that they would lop off the demon’s arms. In this way they wouldn’t kill him, and since he’d be armless, they wouldn’t have to fight with him.

Rama lopped off one arm and Lakshmana took care of the other, and as a result Kabandha fell to the ground. In that helpless state, the demon asked the brothers who they were. Upon learning their identities, he became very happy. Kabandha previously was a beautiful celestial but as the result of misdeeds and a few curses, he was in his current form. As a saving grace, he was told that when Rama cremated him, he would return to his original figure. Therefore, at Kabandha’s behest, Rama cremated the demon.

KabandhaUpon regaining his natural form, Kabandha advised Rama to make friends with a Vanara named Sugriva who lived on Mount Rishyamukha. The alliance would be fruitful because Sugriva was in a similar situation; he was separated from his wife because of a feud he had with his brother Vali, who was stronger than him. Kabandha said that Sugriva knew of all the creatures of the world and that the many Vanaras serving him would search the entire world for Sita. This would indeed turn out to be true, with one Vanara in particular succeeding in the mission of finding Sita.

Shri HanumanBut before the Vanaras went out for the search, Sugriva asked Rama for a favor. He wanted the Lord to kill Vali, as this would remove Sugriva’s fear and reunite him with his wife. Rama did what was requested of Him, which was actually no small feat. Vali had tremendous strength; even Ravana couldn’t defeat him. Rama killed Vali for Sugriva, and more so for Sita. Sugriva was his friend and through this friendship Sita would be found.

Hanuman remembered all of this just by seeing Sita. He was the leading warrior in the massive army of Vanaras sent to look for her. If not for the encounter with Kabandha, the alliance with Sugriva may never have happened. And it was the search for Sugriva that led Rama and Lakshmana to Hanuman, who would be a key player in Sita’s eventual rescue. From Sita’s qualities and Hanuman’s testimony know that the Supreme Lord will do anything for His devotees. For Him nothing is too much to remove the fear of the surrendered souls, who always think of their beloved lord of their life breath, no matter the situation.

In Closing:

Son of Dasharatha to slay dragons for His wife,

Enemies Vali and Kabandha took away their life.


From this Sugriva’s fear was rid,

This for beloved Sita Rama did.


Kabandha to Ravana in strength was the same,

From him brothers valuable information to gain.


Led to Shri Hanuman’s beautiful sight,

Who travelled to Lanka in flight.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lakshmi’s Endorsement

Lakshmi Narayana“Seeing her, who was young and had a golden hue and was beloved to the whole world like Shri [Lakshmi], he went in mind to Rama and spoke these words.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.6)

tām dṛṣṭvā nava hema ābhām loka kāntām iva śriyam |
jagāma manasā rāmam vacanam ca idam abravīt ||

Why does the politician seek out endorsements? Should not their message alone be the determining factor in whether or not they are popular with the electorate? You know, take the arguments at face value, evaluate them through provoked thought, and then decide whether or not they make sense. If they do, you vote for that person, and if they don’t you look for other alternatives. You might also take into account the politician’s character, which is determined by their past record, to see whether or not they are worthy of your trust. The endorsement does help, however, because of character especially, and so when we find someone who has the best character, their endorsement should mean the most.

Let’s say that we know someone who is healthy. They are physically fit; they don’t overeat and they exercise properly. They don’t overindulge when eating out at restaurants, and they don’t constantly crave food. They have moderate eating habits and they seem happy. If they should endorse a particular diet or exercise regimen, we will likely take an interest in their word. Their character with respect to diet is high, so this means they become somewhat of an authority figure. “If they say such and such diet is good, perhaps they are right. I mean look at them. Just see how healthy they are.”

We can take the same principle and apply it to so many other areas, including politics. One leader is very popular because of the job he has done in office, so if he endorses someone else, he must know that they are fit for the job. [For the moment, we’ll cast aside the common practice of returning political favors.] The person offering the endorsement has established a good record in public service, so they must know what goes into making a good leader.

Now expand the character issue out to the largest scale. This means that you have to search for someone who is respected by all. One way to be respected by all is to be loved by all. Can such a person exist? Actually, there are so many forces that are already like this, but we may not realize that the forces have personalities behind them. The sun is benevolent to all, as it does not discriminate in spreading its effulgence. The air, earth, and other elements are the same way. They don’t specifically punish anyone. Grains, milk and water are relatively inexpensive and available in abundance, so they too are beneficial to all.

In the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India, it is explained that forces like the sun have personalities behind them. Think of it like the different body types we see on earth. The human beings have bodies suitable for living on land, while the birds have bodies suitable for flying. The fish can only live in water, and so on. Thus we see differences. Despite the differences, the species all represent life. The fish is a spirit soul just as much as the human being is.

The sun is a more powerful living entity, like a person who has a body made of fire. Fortune too also is managed by a personality. The controller of fortune is a female, and she is the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the original Lord. Known as Lakshmi Devi, the goddess of fortune is beloved of all because who doesn’t like fortune? Who actually prefers to have misfortune? Granted, sometimes bad luck helps bring us to a better position eventually, but isolating the misfortune itself, we see that it is not something anyone would want. The prefix “mis” speaks to the negative.

To receive fortune from Lakshmi Devi one should worship her. This should only make sense. I get cable television from the cable company when I pay the bill. I get water and electricity by paying the utilities companies. So if I want the broader benediction of good fortune, I should worship Lakshmi. Therefore in the Vedic tradition worship of Lakshmi is quite common, and the gifts she distributes make her beloved of all.

If she is beloved of all, her character is obviously quite high. With such a stellar character, who does she worship? This is an important question to ask because her behavior in this matter will serve as the ideal example. The answer is that Lakshmi worships her husband, who is known as Narayana, Vishnu, Krishna, and by so many other names. Though she has full control over fortune, she only takes pleasure in serving her husband. This means that her husband is automatically the most fortunate, and hence we get another name for Him: Bhagavan.

Hanuman worshiping Sita and RamaThat same Lakshmi was on earth many thousands of years ago as Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Shri Hanuman located her one time in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Sita was separated from her husband Rama at the time, and Hanuman was in Lanka to find her. When observing her from afar, Hanuman appreciated her qualities. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita is described as beloved of the whole world, like Shri, which is another name for Lakshmi. Sita’s identity as the goddess of fortune isn’t directly revealed until the end of the Ramayana, but throughout the work hints are made about the same.

Sita’s mind is always focused on Rama, who is the same Narayana. Therefore her endorsement is the most meaningful. We see that her influence guides devotees along the same path. By looking at Sita, Hanuman immediately thought of Rama. And similarly, those who think of Hanuman automatically think of Sita and Rama, the goddess of fortune and God Himself. Sita is of the highest character, as is Hanuman, and thus it is not surprising that they would worship God as their only business in life, providing to us the proper path. The highest honor is paid to them through following bhakti-yoga, which is best practiced through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

To remove doubt in the proper course,

We accept those who respected endorse.


A high character these figures own,

Through past work ability they’ve shown.


If recommendation of another they provide,

We take that other person as bona fide.


As goddess of fortune Shri beloved of all,

But whom her own Lord does she call?


Narayana, Bhagavan, is her life,

Serves Him eternally as His beloved wife.


Her endorsement the best one to take,

Worship of Sita and Rama your aim make.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Golden Commodity

Sita Devi“Seeing her, who was young and had a golden hue and was beloved to the whole world like Shri [Lakshmi], he went in mind to Rama and spoke these words.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.6)

tām dṛṣṭvā nava hema ābhām loka kāntām iva śriyam |
jagāma manasā rāmam vacanam ca idam abravīt ||

Who doesn’t like gold? It’s shiny, it’s beautiful, and it’s worth something. The money you have saved in the bank is in the form of paper notes of a specific currency, and depending on what that currency is based, its value can fluctuate drastically overnight. Today you may be wealthy, but tomorrow you may be poor. If it costs five dollars to buy a gallon of milk today and tomorrow it costs twice that, all of a sudden the money you have is worth less. Gold is a real commodity, however; it is valuable during any time period and to any person. The same applies to fortune, as who purposefully seeks out misfortune? Thus the comparison to both gold and fortune, especially to the distributor of fortune, was appropriate for Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama.

Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune, an incarnation of Lakshmi Devi. That there is a goddess in charge of fortune is known to us through the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world. Sita’s qualities, pastimes and words prominently appear in the Ramayana, the famous poem composed by Maharishi Valmiki during an ancient time. In this work her identity as Lakshmi Devi isn’t openly discussed until towards the end. In other Vedic texts, especially the poems and songs composed in more recent times, she is immediately equated with the goddess of fortune, but in the original Ramayana the references are more subtle.

In the above quoted verse we see one of those subtle references. The goddess of fortune is worshiped by both the pious and the impious. The pious hope for the favor of the wife of the Supreme Lord Narayana. Narayana is a personality. As a word it is also another way to address the entity the rest of the world knows as God. Narayana in Sanskrit means the source of all men, and so the source is the original, and the original is God. Lakshmi is Narayana’s eternal consort; she is in charge of distributing the inconceivable fortune that Narayana possesses.

The impious pray for fortune which is to be used improperly. Think of praying for money so that you can buy alcohol. Think of praying for an outcome that will be harmful to someone else just because you wish to take pleasure in their misery. These are ways in which prayer is offered to the goddess of fortune, but for non-ideal purposes. Since fortune is desired by everyone, Lakshmi Devi is beloved of the whole world. She is not an enemy to anyone, even to those who take her fortune and find doom as a result. I may purchase a gun to defend myself from attacking gang members, but if I should happen to get hurt by misusing the gun, it is not the gun’s fault. The object has an ideal purpose, and if I don’t know what that is, the fault rests with me.

Sita DeviSita is also youthful in appearance and golden in complexion. This combination stirs up the spiritual senses of the Supreme Lord, who is known as Hrishikesha because He is the master of all senses. Though He is in full control of what He feels, still Sita is able to stir up passions in Him. This fact tells us the proper use of the fortune Sita provides. As she gives pleasure to Hrishikesha through her appearance, so her fortune is meant to satisfy the Supreme Lord.

From seeing the youthful Sita, who had a golden appearance and was beloved of the whole world like Shri, which is another name for Lakshmi, Hanuman’s thoughts turned towards Rama. This is a noteworthy influence particular to Sita Devi. Lakshmi incarnates in the fortune she gives to others, but one may use that fortune in the wrong way. Lakshmi thus has a sort of dual identity with respect to the recipient. With Sita, however, the link is always with Rama. The same Lakshmi was in the kingdom of Lanka, but as Sita there would not be any fortune given to Ravana. Instead, his attempted misuse of Sita would lead to his doom.

Hanuman sees Sita and immediately thinks of Rama, giving us the real potency to her image. The greatest fortune of all is the ability to think of God, as through consciousness alone one can find happiness. You can have all the money in the world, but if your mind is constantly taxed by pressures and laments over failures, how can you be at peace? If you’re always hankering after the next material object, where is the question of peace? On the other hand, with a properly situated mind, you can be in a desert or forest spring and still be happy. You can live in a palatial building or a meager home and be at peace in both places.

Through Hanuman’s example, we see how to properly view the goddess of fortune. It is no wonder, then, that so many devotees prefer to worship Sita and Rama instead of Lakshmi and Narayana, as Sita and Rama are the worshipable figures of Shri Hanuman, someone who never requires nor requests fortune in life. He simply asks to serve, and through that service he gets to see Sita, which then immediately reminds him of Rama. And what can be better than that?

In Closing:

When of Sita’s qualities he thought,

His mind to Shri Rama it brought.


Of exquisite beauties untold,

And a complexion of shining gold,

Beloved to all was she,

Like Vishnu’s wife Shri.


Indeed, Sita is fortune’s goddess,

Gives rewards, both abundant and modest.


To devotees like Hanuman great debt we owe,

For how to use fortune properly they show.