“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
The Vedas say that the present age of Kali is known for quarrel and hypocrisy. Just turn on the news channels tonight to see evidence of this. In the time of Kali there is darkness, and it is the last of the four ages of the creation. Like the different time periods in each day, each creation and destruction of the universe goes through stages, where the legs of dharma, or virtue, break away, one by one, with each successive age. In the time period immediately preceding the eventual destruction, man is so lacking in virtue that he prefers to argue over the most trivial things. Even when there is no need for argument, it is engaged in just for sport. Like everything else in the material world, there is duality, and so with words one can use them to their advantage or disadvantage.
The examples of disadvantage are many. Think of blackmail. You have some “dirt” on someone else. You know something important to them that others are not supposed to know. You blackmail the person by threatening to reveal that information. The argument aspect here isn’t very sophisticated, and the victim is painted into a corner. Sometimes your own words can come back to bite you. This is especially true if you promise something. If you make a promise and then later on want something else, your opponent in the argument can easily point to your original promise to invalidate your position. In the legal field, a similar tactic is used by citing precedent. Find a past case which supports your claim and then use that as evidence to counter the claim of the opposing party.
Close friends and family know intimate information about us. That is part of the reason their association is enjoyable. We can be “ourselves” around them. No need to put on the veil of formality. You can act as silly as you want because you trust them. At the same time, that trust can come back to hurt you if the other party feels like playing the lawyer game in order to get what they want. King Dasharatha of Ayodhya was a victim of this one time.
His unfortunate encounter is documented in the Ramayana, one of the most well-known works of all-time. It is a Sanskrit poem that describes the life and pastimes of Lord Rama. It is evidence enough for Rama’s existence. If I look outside today and see that it is cloudy, I can note down my observation in a book. Whether someone has pictures from today or not should make no difference on the accuracy of my claim. Just having the book is enough to get evidence, especially if I am known to be trustworthy. Whether someone reads that book tomorrow or in one thousand years has no bearing on the fact that it is cloudy today.
Valmiki Muni is extremely trustworthy, as he is merciful, truthful, austere and clean, both internally and externally. These four qualities make him a brahmana, or one of the priestly order. He is of the highest character, so when he describes the extraordinary life of Lord Rama, we can take the information as fact. He never makes mention of mythology and neither does he attempt to write a fictional tale. The story described is real, and since it is of the divine its significance lasts infinitely into the future.
King Dasharatha was Rama’s father. Kings during those times were the leaders of the military as well. One time he was in trouble in a battle and his youngest wife, Kaikeyi, helped him escape the battlefield in order to recuperate. Being very pleased with her, he offered her any two boons of her choosing. She had a guileless heart, so she didn’t feel the need to ask for anything.
Years later, Kaikeyi’s servant Manthara used those two boons to her advantage. Inspired by Sarasvati Devi, the goddess of speech, Manthara riled up the envy of Kaikeyi. This was on the eve of Rama’s coronation, the handing down of the throne to Him by Dasharatha. Rama was the eldest, so the king was following protocol. At the same time, everyone knew how much Dasharatha favored Rama. Kaikeyi had a son by Dasharatha too, but she knew that there was no rivalry between the brothers.
Manthara used clever logic and argument to turn Kaikeyi from joyous to envious. Through her influence, Kaikeyi manipulated events, putting the king in a bind. Kaikeyi brought up the two boons to Dasharatha, who immediately promised to come through on them. Then she lowered the boom: she wanted her son Bharata to ascend the throne and Rama to leave the kingdom for fourteen years, living as a hermit. Dasharatha was a man of honor, so there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t deny her wishes and then be known as a liar. Though her requests would lead to his eventual death, he stayed true to his vow.
From the same incident, we get an example of how to use logic and argument for the highest good. Rama’s beloved wife, Sita Devi, was asked by her husband to stay home. Rama did not want her roaming the woods for no reason. Why should a king’s daughter live in squalor? Kaikeyi’s order was not handed down to her. Yet Sita was not going to let Rama win this argument. She was going to go with Him. She relied on Rama’s extreme respect for the brahmanas. Sita mentioned to Him that during her youth brahmanas had told her that she would one day live in the forest. They also told her that her husband’s company would be most preferable, that he would benefit her in the afterlife as well. King Janaka, Sita’s father, also told her to follow Rama like a shadow, like a good wife would do. Also, Sita mentioned how Rama was known for being the best bow warrior in the world. Thus there was no need for Him to worry over protecting her. Sita even insulted Rama by comparing Him to a woman. He was crying over the fact that He had to leave her, and so Sita made fun of Him for being so weak of mind.
“I shall go with you today to the forest. There is no doubt about it. I cannot be prevented, O greatly fortunate one. I am ready to go.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.15)
With all such arguments presented, Rama had no choice but to allow Sita to come with Him. She wanted to serve Him. Every individual is happiest when they are serving. You see this even in the animals. They show affection for one another and are saddened when they are separated. It is in the constitution of the spirit soul to serve, but without knowing where to direct that service so many unpleasant situations are found. From Sita’s example, we see the right way to serve and how when one engages in that service fully, nothing can get in their way.
Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana similarly put Rama in a checkmate position through arguments. He also accompanied Rama in the forest, though Rama had asked him to stay home. Lakshmana rightfully told Rama that both he and Sita could not live without Him, like how a fish can’t survive when taken out of water.
“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)
In the Bhagavad-gita is found the famous promise from God to His devotees. There He says that anyone who surrenders unto Him and abandons other varieties of religion will be delivered. They have nothing to fear. Lord Krishna, the original Personality of Godhead, the very same Shri Rama but in a different visible manifestation, made this promise. When we are separated from God in consciousness, there is a tendency to feel pressure from hearing this promise. “Why should I surrender? Who is Krishna anyway? All religions say the same thing, so I don’t see what the big deal is? What does surrender even involve? Do I need to sign a confessional statement?”
Actually, God is one, though He may be addressed differently according to tradition. And surrender means giving up the fight to compete with Him for supremacy in areas of opulence. It also means to hand over full control of your wellbeing to Him. If we take the lawyering techniques, we see that we can reach a position where Krishna has no choice but to protect us. If we surrender to Him by always thinking of Him and chanting His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” He is obligated to maintain us. He is the most honorable person, who appeared once as the son of the trustworthy Dasharatha, so His promises with respect to the devotees never breaks. Sita and Lakshmana used His promise to their advantage, and so can we.
When from an argument been cornered,
Beaten by words, by foe been lawyered.
Blinded by age of Kali’s face,
Quarrel and argument commonplace.
For good or bad one can use,
Depending on which they choose.
From Kaikeyi’s envy Rama to forest sent,
With argument Sita and Lakshmana with Him went.
In Gita, promise for protection by Krishna given,
In full surrender, all sins immediately forgiven.
Use His promise for your good, highest gain.
Krishna to protect those who chant His name.