Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Not a Figurehead

[Hanuman's hands]“He had all the characteristics of a king, was the best among kings, and very prosperous. He was well-known throughout the four ends of the earth. He was always happy and gave happiness to others.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.5)

pārthiva vyañjanaiḥ yuktaḥ pṛthu śrīḥ pārthiva ṛṣabhaḥ |
pṛthivyām catuḥ antayām viśrutaḥ sukhadaḥ sukhī ||

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With the onset of democratic systems of government, slowly the monarchies of the past faded out. Still having an affection for royalty and those born into it, the titles remained in place. There are kings and queens, princes and princesses. The only difference is that their titles don’t mean anything in most cases. They are figureheads. They don’t actually run the government. Indeed, even in ancient times the qualifications weren’t always present in the appointed ruler, for the system of birthright anointed the personalities in question with their statuses. With the king of Ayodhya a long time ago, however, there was no questioning his fitness for the job. He was born a ruler and also bore all the characteristics of one.

There are three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. Think of them like different colors on a palette; the primary ones in fact. You can mix these colors together in so many different proportions. Hence you get the various species. Within the human species, which is considered the most intelligent, the mixtures lead to different varnas, or occupations. Varna as a Sanskrit word can also mean “color.” The kshatriya varna is not determined solely by birth. The members have a specific set of qualities, which are laid out in the Bhagavad-gita.

[Bhagavad-gita, 18.43]“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kshatriyas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.43)

[Dasharatha]The kshatriyas are heroic. King Dasharatha, of whom Shri Hanuman is speaking in the above quoted verse from the Ramayana, was certainly heroic. He was not afraid to take on the tough fight. It’s so difficult to get out of bed in the morning if we know that we have a tough day ahead of us. It’s so much easier to just sleep in and postpone our troubles. Imagine then the burden the military leader feels. If they don’t step up to the job, innocent people will die.

Kshatriyas are also powerful and determined. Dasharatha again matched these qualifications. He was powerful enough to fight against enemies coming from ten directions simultaneously. He was determined not to fail. He was also resourceful, since that is required for fighting in multiple directions at the same time. I don’t have to be so resourceful if I’m only fixed on one task at a time. If I have to multitask, I have to figure out a way to maximize my effort while at the same time accomplishing all that is assigned to me.

Dasharatha was courageous in battle. It is heroic to enter the conflict that has an uncertain outcome. It is courageous to continue to fight against heavy obstacles. And best of all, Dasharatha was a terrific leader. A leader should have the aforementioned qualities, for then he can protect his citizens. Dasharatha was the ideal king in every way.

Hanuman says that Dasharatha was the best among kings and that he was very prosperous. So the King of Ayodhya met all the qualifications for a kshatriya, and in each category he was the top performer. When we take standardized exams, sometimes there are different sections. There is a math section, a writing one, and a reading comprehension one. The top scorers don’t necessarily finish at the top in each category. As Dasharatha was the best among kings, his courage, heroism, resourcefulness, and the like were all in the highest percentiles.

The king had the ability to lead, and he was not a pauper. You can be courageous and resourceful, but if you don’t have the means to defend yourself, how will you prevail against enemies? Dasharatha was blessed by the goddess of fortune with sufficient means for running the kingdom. He was also famous throughout the four ends of the earth. The ten directions are north, south, east, west, up and down, and then the four corners. So in every way that you turned, you would find people who knew Dasharatha.

The king was also happy and gave happiness to others. If you are a miserable person, your misery will spread to others. If you are happy, it is easy to share your joy with others. And who doesn’t like to share happiness? Dasharatha’s happiness came from his steadfast devotion to righteousness. He kept in line with dharma because that is what his position called for. And from following dharma, all happiness in life comes.

[Shri Rama]And that happiness would multiply many times with the appearance of Shri Rama in his family. To the best of kings came the Supreme Lord in a personal manifestation. To the king who gave happiness to others came the joy of getting to serve God in the mood of parental affection. To the king who was known throughout the four ends of the earth arrived the Supreme Lord, whose glories are continuously sung in every universe. To that best of kings, Shri Hanuman paid the highest honor in describing his wonderful qualities. Hanuman’s words were in audible range of the goddess of fortune herself, Sita Devi, Shri Rama’s wife.

In Closing:

King of all good qualities to conceive,

Not just by birth was he fit to lead.

 

Courage when called to defend,

Simultaneously against directions ten.

 

Virtues of that king the best,

By Hanuman wonderfully expressed.

 

Shri Rama to that king came,

Only to increase further his fame.

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