“Though her face was morose, because of her husband’s prowess that lady was not despondent. Sita, of black eyes, was protected by her own character.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 17.27-28)
tām devīṃ dīnavadanāmadīnāṃ bhartṛtejasā ||
rakśitām svena śīlena sītāmasitalocanām |
When times are tough and everything seems to be going against you, it’s hard to believe that anyone or anything will offer sufficient protection. “Let me take things into my own hands” is the natural sentiment. “No one else is helping me, so I will have to do this myself. Forget what others say, I’m going to retaliate for everything that has gone wrong.” From the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that for the devotees especially, there is full protection from their own character alone. When they are virtuous in the truest sense of the word, there is nothing anyone can do to harm them.
Can there be different kinds of virtue?
Depending on what your goal is, the exact makeup of virtue will vary. For instance, one kind of a virtuous runner is one who finishes the race. They go until the end, they don’t get in anyone else’s way, they don’t cheat, and they train properly beforehand. A virtuous chef uses fresh ingredients, cooks them properly, and doesn’t lie about what is included in their food. A virtuous businessman is one who turns a profit while abiding by the law of the land. They may sometimes lie to others about how much profit they make, but this is actually virtuous for their particular occupation.
The highest virtue is love and devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Someone who is virtuous in this way attains the best favor, which means they automatically reach the best position. We think that we are in total control of our destiny, but actually so many things have to fall into place in order to get what we think is good fortune. When good fortune does arrive, what really happens is that the higher authorities align things beforehand to allow the desired outcome to occur.
When your virtue, your high character, is offered as a sacrifice to the Supreme Lord, He takes on the role of managing your destiny. He protects you personally, even if sometimes it seems that no one is around to protect you. There are many instances in recorded history that show the presence of the divine protection even when it is apparently not visible. These examples are prominently represented in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India.
A long time ago there was a five-year old son of a powerful king. The boy was named Prahlada and the king Hiranyakashipu. The boy was the definition of helpless. He had no one protecting him except his father. And that father turned on him in the worst possible way. Angered by Prahlada’s staunch devotion to the Supreme Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu attempted to kill Prahlada in so many different ways. Just one of the ways would have sufficed, but since none of them worked, the king had to keep trying new ways. Being thrown off a cliff, thrown in a pit of snakes, set on fire, and placed under the feet of giant elephants could not kill Prahlada. He was protected by his character, which was defined by his devotion to God. He had no one else there to protect him. Finally, the Supreme Lord Himself came to do away with Hiranyakashipu.
In a later time period there was a famous queen named Draupadi. She was the wife of the five Pandava brothers. One time she was lost in a wager, and the side of the rival kings tried to take off her sari in the middle of an assembly. During that time it was considered a great shame for a woman to appear naked before anyone except her husband. Draupadi had her character to protect her. She thought of Shri Krishna, the same Vishnu but in His original form, as the evil kings were taking off her sari. Krishna heard her plea and took the form of the sari to save her. The dress became endless in length, and no matter how much the miscreants tried, they couldn’t get Draupadi to appear naked.
The same Pandava brothers were also protected by Krishna. They had every justification to use violence that was outside the bounds of propriety. They were kicked out of their kingdom and many attempts were made on their lives. Imagine sleeping peacefully in your home, when all of a sudden it goes on fire. You leave the house in time to save yourself, and you know for certain that one of your rivals was responsible for the crime. Wouldn’t you want to do something? The rivals in this case were in charge of the government. So it wasn’t like the Pandava brothers could call the cops. One of the brothers, Bhima, who was very powerful, wanted to take action against the culprits so badly, but he was restrained by the cooler-headed eldest brother Yudhishthira. It was Krishna who protected them from the attacks every time, and finally the miscreants got their due in a massive war. Guided by Krishna, the five Pandava brothers survived the bloody war, while the rivals, headed by Duryodhana, died.
In this verse from the Ramayana, we see how a famous princess was protected against the worst evil. She was held against her will in an enemy territory. The king basically wanted to scare her into submission. She refused to give in to his advances. She can only be with the Supreme Lord Rama. Her chastity is what defines her. If she didn’t love Rama, she would cease to be. The King of Lanka, Ravana, was much more powerful in physical strength. That’s why he was able to drag Sita away from the forest of Dandaka. Despite all his power and his willingness to commit the most shameful acts, he still couldn’t touch Sita. She was protected by her character.
Shri Hanuman, the person who found Sita in the pitiable condition inside the Ashoka grove in Lanka, was also protected by his character. Seeing Sita’s plight, he wanted very badly to take her back to Shri Rama, who had sent Hanuman to look for her after she had gone missing. Hanuman also wanted to kill Ravana and all the people associated with the crime of abducting Sita. He kept his cool, though, as he was only asked to find Sita. Rama was the one wronged by Ravana, so He would be the one to kill the evil king.
From these incidents we know that devotional service is the greatest protection, as it helps to create the best character, real virtue. That devotion is best created and sustained when one is in a culture that pays heavy emphasis to the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” In this chanting we can remember devotees like Draupadi, Prahlada, the Pandavas, Sita and so many others who are protected by their high moral character.
For his resolve in devotion stiff,
Young Prahlada thrown off cliff.
After winning Draupadi in dice game,
Rivals tried to make her naked in shame.
Pandava brothers’ house set on fire,
In trying to kill them rivals never to tire.
Away from her husband’s side to take,
Ravana tried Sita his wife to make.
In all cases the demons did not succeed,
To devotee’s rescue did God proceed.
By virtue to which they held firm,
Lord’s promise to protect confirmed.