Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Moving Heaven and Earth

Sita Devi“If for her sake Rama were to turn upside down the entire land reaching to the oceans, or even the whole world itself, in my opinion that would be justified.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.13)

yadi rāmaḥ samudrāntām medinīm parivartayet |
asyāḥ kṛte jagat ca api yuktam iti eva me matiḥ ||

If there is an attack against the homeland, the citizens rightfully expect the government to properly respond. If there is an emergency situation created by a natural disaster, there is the same expectation. The response may be different in the latter situation, but if the leader of the country is seen playing golf, travelling to fundraisers, or just not having any concern at all, the citizens will be unhappy. The leader is supposed to lead after all. If they don’t take the helm during a time of crisis, who will? A long time back, the person leading a small family wasted no time in responding to an emergency situation. One of His servants, who went into battle first to gather intelligence, realized upon seeing the cause of the emergency that whatever would be done to respond to the situation, even up to the point of rotating the earth, would be proper.

We don’t have to use hypothetical scenarios to see why it’s important for leaders to respond to a crisis. The last decade or so has seen plenty of emergency situations in the United States alone. When a terrorist strikes, when they kill innocent people en masse, the citizens expect their government to get on top of things.

To begin, the government should investigate who committed the crime. Who was responsible for the attack? What was their underlying motive? Who were they working for? Are they going to strike again? The retaliation should be swift and uncompromising. If you have to invade another country to find the enemy, do it. Why waste time when the enemy has shown they will do whatever it takes to attack you? If you don’t have the same resolve, you are an open target for attack in the future. The government should make sure that these enemies never think of attacking again. Since the country was attacked first, the government is justified in going after the enemy, and whatever they have to do to find that enemy is worth it.

A long time back the enemy was a fiend of immense powers. He ruled over the island of Lanka, and due to austerities performed for the wrong reason, he acquired tremendous fighting abilities. An austerity or penance is meant to fulfill a tangible purpose. The valid purposes are revealed in scripture, especially in the Vedic texts, which are the oldest in the world. Animals don’t have the ability to acquire knowledge or practice renunciation. They don’t know any better. The valuable human form of life brings these abilities, and the potential exists for a reason. If we have the ability to acquire knowledge and restrain our senses to reach a better end, why not give it a shot?

The proper end is God consciousness. The spirit soul is the essence of identity. There is also a superior soul residing within the body of every living entity. Linking the inferior soul to the superior soul is known as yoga, and the human being has the best chance to practice this yoga. Real yoga is not related to acquiring wealth, developing abilities in strength, or removing distress. The conditions in duality exist regardless of our effort. Whatever we do, it is going to rain in the future. The weather will also get colder and then hotter again. We can pray all we want, try to alter our behavior to change the climate, but nothing can be done.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.14“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

In the same way that winter and summer arrive like clockwork, so pain and pleasure come and go. Yoga transcends the dualities of the material world, which can be likened to a pendulum of attraction and repulsion. One minute we like ice cream and the next we don’t. One day we’re going to work out at the gym and the next we’re swearing off exercise. Connection to the Supreme Soul is meant to be permanent, and in that state there is pure bliss, or ananda.

This king of Lanka didn’t understand yoga. He exploited the tradition of austerity to bolster his position in material opulence. Strangely enough, when he was overtaken by lust for a married woman, he couldn’t use any of his strengths to get her. He had to rely on a ruse to steal her away, against her will, in secret. The lady’s husband then immediately commenced a search for her whereabouts. He was the most powerful fighter in the world, and so the culprit Ravana dared not go up against Him. The lady’s husband was also the most pious person, so He used His abilities for the right purposes.

The missing lady was Sita Devi, and the initial search party consisted of Vanaras with whom Sita’s husband had aligned. The heroic Hanuman finally found Sita in a grove of Ashoka trees in Lanka. He was all by himself at the time, and since he hadn’t met Sita before, he reviewed her external features prior to continuing. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, his initial assessment continues. He declares that Rama, Sita’s husband, would be justified in turning the entire world upside down for her sake.

Sita and RamaSita is compared to a territory which Rama had sovereignty over. She was like an innocent citizen whom Rama swore to protect. Since she was attacked, Rama had every right to find the perpetrator and kill him. In that search, Rama was justified in turning over the entire surface of the earth, which reached to the oceans, if necessary. He could flip the whole world if He wanted. Indeed, previously Rama Himself had remarked about taking such a tact, but His younger brother Lakshmana kindly talked Him out of it.

"O best of men, what is the use of Your destroying the entire world? After finding out Your sinful enemy, You should uproot him alone." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.21)

Rama’s approach of sending Hanuman was the better option. This way Hanuman could offer wonderful service and reserve his spot in history as one of the all-time greatest heroes. Hanuman’s assessment of Sita gives us a better idea of how wonderful she is. We weren’t there in the Ashoka grove, but from Hanuman’s statements we get an idea of what Sita looked like. We also know that Rama had the best wife in the world, someone who was worth fighting for.

From the Vedas we learn that Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation as a warrior prince and Sita His eternal consort. Therefore working for them, moving heaven and earth to please them, is also justifiable. Thanks to the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which has been kindly accepted by His followers, we aren’t asked to rotate the earth or search for enemies. Instead, chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and describing the Supreme Lord’s instructions, upadesha, wherever we go and to whomever we meet is a fit service. Devotional service is what pleases God, and bringing more devotees back into the devotional consciousness pleases Him even more.

In Closing:

The whole world in His hands to take,

And turn it over justified for Sita’s sake.

 

This was Shri Hanuman’s belief,

When he saw Sita sighing in grief.

 

Rama heaven and earth could shake,

For beloved wife Sita’s sake.

 

Instead Hanuman Rama’s instruction took,

In Lanka at Sita got a good look.

 

In working for Rama he never tires,

The world of devotees to act he inspires.

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