“Seeing the strength of Rama’s arms, the barata party became so excited. The king was so happy that the Lord allowed this to occur in his presence.” (Janaki Mangala, 179)
raghubara bhuja bala dekhi uchāha barātinha |
mudita rāu lakhi sanamukha bidhi saba bhāntinha ||
Pick your favorite difficult situation. Something where you don’t see any option for things getting better, a situation where you’re in a lot of trouble and you can’t envision a way out. Know that in the worst of these moments, the Supreme Lord has the strength to rescue you and everyone else affected. This fact should be obvious, but within the moment it is difficult to see clearly. A party happily returning from a marriage ceremony for four couples suddenly faced a tense situation. They relied on the strength of the arms of the Supreme Lord, and thus they felt so excited afterwards.
You’re on a boat. It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon. Everything seems to be going well. You’re relaxing, for a change. No deadlines to worry over. No contemplating the projects that are due in the upcoming week. No screaming kids running around the house making a mess. Just you, your wife, and a few friends floating on the lake. Suddenly you notice a leak in the boat. Water is entering fast. No one knows what to do. Do you have to abandon the ship? Is there a way to plug the hole? Then one of your friends rides to the rescue, very calmly. He figures out how to stop the leak. Now everyone feels so relieved. The last thing they wanted to do was jump in the water and have to swim back to shore.
This is one example of an emergency situation, but the one faced by the barata party returning to Ayodhya was much more serious. It could perhaps be likened to a situation where a bomb is about to go off. The clock is ticking and the expert squad is called in to defuse it. With Parashurama, the extent of the damage could have been much worse. An incarnation of Vishnu himself, he previously had destroyed the entire warrior class twenty-one times over. He was known for his fiery temper, and his weapon of choice was the axe.
When he intercepted the barata party, he was again angry. Rama, the chief of the Raghu dynasty, had just lifted, strung, and broken Lord Shiva’s bow in the assembly of King Janaka. That bow had a famous history, and now Parashurama wanted to see if Rama could string the corresponding bow belonging to Vishnu. Rama was not scared. He was not worried. Previously, as an adolescent, he had faced a similar challenge while serving the guru Vishvamitra. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana lived with the sage for some time, acting as bodyguards in effect. One time the hermitage was attacked by the Rakshasa named Maricha. Maricha previously had carried out many similar attacks, and so he thought this one would be successful as well. He thought wrong.
“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra's ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)
Maricha was impressed by the fact that Rama strung His bow so effortlessly as the attack was going down. Rama did not flinch. He did not hesitate. The same occurred when He was challenged by Parashurama. Rama easily strung the bow and then curbed the pride of the fiery-tempered wielder of the axe. The barata party was so excited to see this. It was like a bomb had been defused. Rama’s father, King Dasharatha, thanked God that this scene was able to occur in front of his eyes.
We may not think we are in as much trouble, but the repetition of birth and death is itself an emergency situation, especially for the human being. The animal can’t make any strides in this area. They are more or less stuck with waiting it out. They don’t have the intelligence to understand God. More importantly, they don’t have any way to take shelter of Him. The human being can. They can get the same protection from the same very powerful arm, extended by the same chief of the Raghu dynasty.
That strength is passed on in full in the name itself. The name of Rama, chanted with faith, devotion and full dependence, can fix the emergency situation of the impending rebirth, which is guaranteed for the soul who is not conscious of God at the time of death. The rescue from the name of Rama brings the same excitement, which stays day after day through the constant chanting of those names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The change will surprise us. No longer will we invest our hopes for a better life in practices that are meant to only bring temporary results. No longer will we feel the melancholy from lacking a direction in life, a purpose to our actions. Instead, we will thank the good Lord for transforming us and allowing us to get a slight glimpse into His immense potency, which can defuse any tense situation, large or small.
Like expert defusing a bomb,
Rama calmed scene with aplomb.
Parashurama never afraid to attack,
Previously destroyed warriors with axe.
But Rama there this time,
Like always in victory to shine.
Rely yourself on strength the same,
Through chanting always His name.