Monday, March 18, 2013

Protecting the Vision

Lord Rama's lotus feet“Every part of that vision puts to shame the beauty of Kamadeva. O muni, please don’t do anything that will sully that form.” (Janaki Mangala, 95)

roma roma chabi nindati sobha manojani |
dekhiya mūrati malina kariya muni so jani ||


The beautiful trophy should go on the mantel in the home. This way it will be on display for others to see. That setting is appropriate given the importance of the trophy; it is befitting its value. If you put the same trophy somewhere else, it won’t be appreciated as much. You wouldn’t want to place it next to the garbage can in the kitchen. You wouldn’t want to place it on the floor. The object wouldn’t lose anything in value, but appreciation of it would diminish. To the person who appreciates it, that loss in appreciation will not be good. The same sentiment exists with devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and so they do whatever they can to protect their beloved.

Why would you need to protect God? If He is God, He must be supreme. If He is supreme, He must not require any person’s protection.

To understand the behavior of the devotees, we can again think of the trophy. That statue indicates a personal accomplishment, and so respect of the trophy is a kind of respect of the accomplishment. The Supreme Lord, who has an image that can rest internally within the heart and externally in front of the eyes of the devotee, is the embodiment of all good qualities. In fact, all qualities emanate from Him, and the good qualities are those which more closely represent Him.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.11“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)

Lord KrishnaIn the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna explains that He is the strength of the strong, the ability in man, the penance of the ascetic, and a host of other things. The references show that God is the life of everything. Strength is what makes the strong, and ability is what distinguishes the man from the animal. In the same way, the Supreme Lord is the life of an existence. That we have a consciousness shows that there is a God. In the purified consciousness, when all dirty things are removed, the life of the individual is understood to be driven directly by God, and He is appreciated as such.

If you disrespect God, you are essentially disrespecting yourself. Not that you are God, but He is the source of your identity. Your real identity is Brahman, which is pure spirit. Brahman emanates from God, who is known as Parabrahman. There is a relationship between the two that goes beyond which came first. Parabrahman is superior and Brahman is inferior. There is a relationship of oneness only when the inferior voluntarily acts to serve the superior. The superior party in this case elevates the inferior due to the love they show.

Because of the respect held for the Lord by the devotees, sometimes it is not easy to reveal divine love outwardly. Think about it for a second. As soon as you tell someone that you like something, they have an advantage over you. Let’s say that you like a particular song by a particular band. If someone else finds out about it, they can criticize that song and the band who plays it. Anytime something happens to that band, they can bring it up to you. “Oh, did you see what your favorite band did? I can’t believe they did that. Why would you like them? Did you hear how bad their last album was? They’ve lost it. They’re just sellouts now.”

This criticism will bother you since you like that band so much. If you had never said anything, the criticism from others wouldn’t be so forthcoming. After all, they would have no idea that you’re interested in that particular band. The same vulnerability exists with any preference declared openly, including politics and movies.

Krishna's lotus feetFor the bhaktas, or devotees, the preference is at the highest level. Loving God is the most important commodity any person can possess. Driven by envy, someone else could criticize God in front of you and thus make you angry. Therefore devotees very carefully worship the Supreme Lord in the proper setting. This is with respect to external worship, as no one sees your internal worship. External worship takes place typically in a temple, where a deity representation of the Supreme Lord is honored with offerings of beautiful flowers and sumptuous food preparations. The place is kept clean, and the deities aren’t visible all the time. Only during the proper times will others get a chance to see and worship the deity, automatically making the deity, the Supreme Lord, the chief resident of the establishment.

Sometimes the same Supreme Lord descends to earth and gives a more animate deity to worship. There is actually no difference between the Supreme Lord and His incarnations. The bodies of the incarnations, deities, and original Lord Himself are all spiritual. If they weren’t, they would never be worshiped. Moreover, there wouldn’t be any benefits derived from worshiping them. You can try to worship an ordinary tree as God, but it won’t get you anywhere because the worship of the tree is not authorized. And neither is the tree ever declared to be equivalent to the Supreme Lord.

A long time ago King Janaka saw God in His incarnation of Lord Rama. Janaka immediately held affection for Rama, who came to his kingdom while He was still a youth. In worship in bhakti-yoga, there are offenses to be avoided. The offenses are listed out for the devotee’s protection. There is no way to offend God, as He is self-satisfied. The devotees can be offended, though, especially when the deity is not properly respected. Janaka, as an ideal devotee, was worried on this occasion that Rama would be disrespected if He were asked to participate in the contest.

The contest was to see who could lift an extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. The winner would get to marry the king’s daughter Sita. Vishvamitra Muni, the spiritual master of both Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana, asked Janaka if Rama could have a try at the bow. Other princes had tried, but none of them could even move the bow. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see Janaka comparing Rama’s vision to Kamadeva, who is the equivalent of a cupid. It is said that every part of Rama’s vision puts to shame the beauty of cupid. Janaka doesn’t want to do anything that will sully that image. A defeated Rama would certainly tarnish the image, and so Janaka wanted to spare his eyes of that vision.

It was very nice for Janaka to think this way, as he was only trying to make sure that God wasn’t disrespected. There was no reason to fear, however, as Rama would lift the bow without a problem. That feat created a new image to worship, one of a victorious Supreme Lord reuniting with His eternal consort, Sita Devi. The devotees continue to honor the Supreme Lord in the same way as Janaka did by carefully keeping discussions of Him limited to assemblies of open-minded, non-envious spiritualists, those who are sincerely interested in serving the source of Brahman. And since the devotees are harder to find in the present age of Kali, to spread the divine influence the same devotees now risk being offended by others by remaining humbler than the grass and more tolerant than the tree in their congregational chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Vision of the Supreme Lord pure to remain,

So devotees avoid anything to bring stain.

 

God possesses all goodness imaginable,

Thus to offend Him not possible.

 

Devotees to worship in all brilliance,

Know that God stands in magnificence.

 

That Rama’s image tarnished Janaka feared,

The muni away from idea he tried to steer.

 

Not to worry, Rama image only to enhance,

When given lifting of bow chance.

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