“Lakshmana tells the earth and Ananta Shesha Naga, ‘Increase your strength. Shri Rama wants to lift Lord Shiva’s bow and string it.’” (Janaki Mangala, 98)
mahi mahidharani lakhana kaha balahi baḍhāvanu |
rāma cahata siva cāpahiṃ capari caḍhāvanu ||
Do we control the revolution of the earth? Do we control how the planets are held up in orbit? Do we control the seasons and when the sun rises and sets? These seem like silly questions, but actually the atheistic science culture is not too far off from affirming all of these preposterous suggestions. If the public can be made to believe that they can change the climate of the earth with their behavior, then surely it will be believed that something can be done to control the other aspects of nature, like the planets. From this verse from the Janaki Mangala we get the Vedic point of view, which also represents the truth in the matter.
If we can’t hold something with our own arms for an indefinite period of time, how can we say that any person can control the planets? We take the law of gravity for granted, but someone had to make it. The mathematics involved in the rate of descent of an object indicates that there is intelligence to gravity. If there weren’t such laws, then the gravitational force would be a random operation. We know that it is not, and we also know that the revolution of the earth is not random either.
The question them remains: how do we find out who holds up the planets? To respond with “God” seems like a cop out, the easy way out of a tough situation. “The term ‘God’ is so vague anyway, so you can invoke it to get your way out of any mystery.” Ah, but the fact that there is a mystery tells us that there is a need to further delve into the concept of God. Just as we are curious about gravity, the climate, and outer space, we should be curious about the origin of the creation itself. We know that the origin is not chemicals, for if it were then we could use the same chemicals to create a large land mass and have it float in space without any external support. If chemicals were the original cause, we could then at least create a miniature version of the sun. But we are not even close to doing such things.
The need for curiosity with respect to the Absolute Truth is addressed in the Vedic aphorism, athato brahma jijnasa. This translates to, “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman.” The “now” refers to the time of birth for the human being, and Brahman refers to the Absolute Truth, that which is above the dualities of temporary conditions. That which is not affected by like and aversion, heat and cold, light and darkness, and happiness and sadness is Absolute. In the same collection of aphorisms we find janmadya asya yatah, which means “the Absolute Truth is the source of everything.” From it have come the material nature and its population of creatures.
Our minds are incapable of thinking beyond the infinite time and space. We can’t think of the real beginning of time, because there is always something before a beginning. Similarly, there is always something after an end. That is the meaning to sanatana, i.e. that which has no beginning and no end. There is also no end to space. You can keep travelling and maybe hit a wall, but there is still something beyond that wall.
If we can’t think beyond infinity, how can we properly conceive of something that is absolute? This leads to the speculation that the Absolute Truth must be impersonal. It must be devoid of qualities, because a quality is a limiting feature. To say that I am tall is to say that I am not short. To say that I have blue eyes is to say that I don’t have brown eyes. If the Absolute Truth is tagged with any attributes, it automatically removes its absolute nature. At least this is the conclusion of the mind that has given up hope for supremacy through material acquisition. It is said that the last snare of maya is the desire to merge into the Absolute Truth, to be one with the spiritual energy that is Brahman, declaring oneself to be God.
In the Vedas the recommended way to learn of the Absolute Truth is to hear about Him. And yes, He is a male in that He is the supreme enjoyer. The Sanskrit word “purusha” refers to person or spirit. It also refers to that which is predominating, like a male. Prakriti is matter, the covering of the person; it is dominated. Within each individual the purusha is the spirit and the outer covering is the prakriti. In the larger scheme, however, the living entities are prakriti, or that which is enjoyed by the supreme purusha, or God.
In hearing about the Absolute Truth from authorized sources, we also learn of His activities, which inherently require features. These features are not limiting; they are beyond our conception of features. They can still be identified and enumerated to some degree, though. The above referenced incident is one such example of where features can be observed and lessons can be taken away on other aspects of the material nature from that observation.
In the scene in question, Shri Rama is about to lift an extremely heavy bow originally belonging to Lord Shiva. This bow lay in the middle of an arena that is central to a contest hosted by King Janaka of Mithila. The prize of the contest is the hand in marriage of the king’s daughter Sita, who is the most beautiful woman in the world. From the Ramayana, a famous Vedic text, and other scriptural works we learn that Shri Rama is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, the universal God who is known to some degree in all spiritual traditions.
Here Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana is advising the earth and the holder of all planets to brace for the impact of Rama’s feat. He says that Rama would like to lift and string the bow. Since Rama is God, whatever He wants to do is always accomplished. Therefore Lakshmana knows that the bow will be lifted and that Rama will break it while trying to string it. The resulting sound will be tremendous; it will travel throughout the universe.
By giving this command, Lakshmana informs us that the planets are held by a specific personality. His name is Ananta Shesha Naga. Naga refers to a serpent, shesha to ends or remainders, and ananta to unlimited. Taken together, this divine creature is a serpent with unlimited hoods. On these hoods the many planets of the universes rest. Interestingly enough, Lakshmana is considered an incarnation of that serpent, also known as Anantadeva. He is essentially commanding himself here. Ananta Shesha Naga is also the number one servant of the Supreme Lord in His form of Narayana, who is the source of all men. The unlimited hoods also serve the purpose of glorifying God endlessly.
The earth and other planets are living entities with intelligence. All of this borders on mythology, but if we follow Vedic teachings with a little sincerity in the beginning, the mythical aspect quickly gets removed. Just because we can’t see or talk to something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Anantadeva is also the original spiritual master, who is the representative of God. This means that his words are the highest authority, which in this case was proven by Lakshmana’s prescience. He knew what was going to happen, and so he gave the proper notifications as preparation.
In the current time period, Lakshmana’s representatives know that without God consciousness society will be lost in an ocean of despair and chaos, where not even material opulence will do anything tangible for them. Therefore such kind-hearted souls, who follow devotion to the same Rama, ask everyone to make devotional service their priority. And this service is open to every person through a simple sound vibration, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
Rama to lift bow in magnificence,
Showed Shri Lakshmana’s prescience.
Brother told earth and Anantadeva in strength to rise,
Supreme Lord always successful at what He tries.
A living entity the planets does hold,
This from the Vedas we are told.
Not mythology, the truths don’t disbelieve,
With sincerity supreme wisdom receive.