Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Pressure of High Expectations

[Dasharatha with family]“He had the best of qualities among saintly kings. In austerities he was equal to the great sages. Born in a family of great rulers, he was equal in strength to Indra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.3)

rājarṣīṇāṃ guṇaśreṣṭhastapasā carṣibhiḥ samaḥ |
cakra varti kule jātaḥ puram dara samo bale ||

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If nobody expects anything out of you, failure isn’t that big a deal. Sure, you don’t like not succeeding in something that is important to you. You would rather emerge victorious than be handed stinging defeat. Yet if no one else seemed to think you had a chance, then the pain of losing isn’t as bad. In the opposite situation, the pressure for succeeding increases all the more. One king a long time ago had all the expectations in the world placed upon him, and due to his good qualities and his respect for higher authorities, he met and far exceeded all those expectations.

Consider this situation. The new school year starts and you notice that the teacher assigned to teach mathematics is the same one your older brother had previously. This teacher is very fond of your brother. On the first day, he asks you about him.

“Oh, how’s your brother doing? Tell him that I said ‘hello.’ He was one of my best students, you know. I didn’t have to worry about him. If I could, I would let him teach the class. He was very enthusiastic about the subject. I recognized that your last name is the same as his. Hopefully you will perform just as well.”

[Math class]You know that math is not your strong suit. If this were an art class, you could ace all the assignments. But math presents a challenge. After performing poorly on one of the exams, the teacher calls you out in class.

“You know, I’m disappointed in you. Perhaps you should have studied more. If you needed help, you could have asked me. You know, your brother would never perform like this. In the future, I’m hoping you can be more like him.”

This increases the pressure you feel, and there is not much you can do about it. You can’t change who your family members are. It is considered a boon to be born into a good family, but there is the downside as well. There is increased expectation to live up to the good family name. In Ayodhya a long time ago, a man was born into a very famous line of kings. How famous? Well, its patriarch accepted the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita towards the beginning of the creation.

[Bhagavad-gita, 4.1]“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)

That wisdom applies for all situations and all people. The saintly kings safely held on to it at first, for they had to protect the citizens. Though they were kings and thus fighters by trade, they could follow the instruction and keep good counsel at the same time. They were pious men. The chain continued, and thus the science as it is made its way further down the line. The kings in Ayodhya were part of this line, and they each lived up to the good name of the immediate predecessor.

The king referenced here by Shri Hanuman is named Dasharatha. He made the family famous by valorously defending against the attacks of the demon class. The good guys, the piously minded men, called upon him for help. Since he could fight against chariots from the ten directions simultaneously, he earned the name Dasharatha.

[Dasharatha]He was born into the famous Ikshvaku dynasty, so he had a lot of expectations placed upon him at birth. He met and exceeded them through his good qualities. Here Shri Hanuman also says that Dasharatha was equal in strength to Indra, who is also known as Purandara. Indra is the king of the residents of the heavenly realm. The concept we have of heaven and hell is mirrored in the Vedic tradition, with the noticeable difference being the extra detail provided. There are residents in both realms, and naturally heaven features good guys and hell bad guys. Indra is the leader of the good guys, and he has to protect against the bad guys, who are always attacking. Therefore Indra must be very strong. If he isn’t, he won’t do a good job and the bad guys will eventually prevail.

Dasharatha was equal in strength to Indra, and so he made for a terrific ruler on earth. As we know, there are good guys and bad guys in our present realm. We don’t have to wait for the afterlife to experience good and bad. Everything that is available in some other world is found here as well. Even devotion to the Supreme Lord, offered in a pure mood without any motive, can be found here. This was also exhibited by Dasharatha.

Hanuman here describes that famous king to set the table for the tale of the appearance of Shri Ramachandra. Rama is God, the personal form. He is separate from every living entity, but also identical to them in qualitative makeup. He is apart from the individual soul, but always near them, accompanying them as the Supersoul. Bhakti-yoga, or divine love, corresponds with the personal form of God. The impersonal energy cannot be loved; it cannot be served. The Supersoul in the heart does not engage in wonderful pastimes; it does not appear in a manifest form in any family.

[Lord Rama]Only Bhagavan does those things, and when He does the associates are of the highest quality. So before even going into a description of Rama, Hanuman reviews the qualities of Dasharatha. In this way Sita would not mistake the person Hanuman was identifying. Dasharatha, coming in a line of great kings, further enhanced the glory of that family by acting as the father to the Supreme Lord Rama. And Hanuman, though appearing in the community of monkeys, showed that service to Rama is not restricted to anyone. The good qualities must be there, and especially the motive must be pure. Then the devotion can be so wonderful that Rama’s associates, like His wife Sita, can be made pleased by it.

In Closing:

To succeed in work hard you try,

More pressure when expectations high.


Weight of the world on Dasharatha placed,

Heroic against ten directions’ enemies faced.


From the responsibilities met,

In His kingdom Rama’s feet set.


Love required, Shri Rama for any person to see,

Whether king, pauper, or monkey they be.