Saturday, August 23, 2014

Protecting Yourself First

[Rama holding His arrow]“That chastiser of the foe is a protector of His good conduct and of His people. He is also a protector of all living entities and of righteousness.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.7)

rakṣitā svasya vṛttasya sva janasya api rakṣitā |
rakṣitā jīva lokasya dharmasya ca paran tapaḥ ||

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You are on board an airplane. You’re ready to go on your vacation that you’ve thought about constantly for the past few weeks. A lot of people are on this trip, so you were primarily worried about getting everyone together at the right time, meeting everyone’s interests. Now that you’re on board, you can relax. The safety message of the flight attendants is music to your ears. You’ve heard this message many times in the past, and so you usually just tune it out. But this time you decide to pay attention.

“In the event of a drop in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the compartments above. If travelling with small children, please secure your mask first before assisting your child.”

[Oxygen mask diagram]You ask yourself a question.

“Why do they need to tell people this? It must be because the instinct is to assist the child first. They are helpless, after all.”

Indeed, this is the way of the world. There is the saying from the famous Poor Richard’s Almanac that an empty sack cannot stand up straight. You want someone to be good and fit, but if they don’t have anything to their name, how will they meet the objective? You want someone to be peaceful and productive, but if they have no job and no source of income, how will they be expected to do anything worthwhile?

But then what if it takes you too much time to secure your own mask? Will not time run out? Will not your dependents be left to suffer? Indeed, it is seen in life that it is difficult to have it all. The wife wants to be a career woman and a loving mother at the same time. Usually something must give. The politician seeking the highest office in the land must sacrifice time with their friends and family in order to get ahead. The family man must turn down the higher paying job since it will mean more travel and less quality time spent at home.

[Abraham Lincoln]So facing these difficult choices is understandable. To ere is human, which means that the living entity cannot be perfect. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can satisfy some of the people some of the time, but you cannot satisfy all of the people all of the time. This applies to everyone except the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is described in the quote above from the Ramayana. This description is not mere exaggeration from an acolyte eager to impress their object of worship. The description is completely accurate, making its various components astounding.

Here Shri Hanuman says that Lord Rama is a protector of His good conduct. Hanuman is describing Rama to Rama’s wife Sita Devi. In accurately describing Rama’s qualities, Sita will know that Hanuman is on her side, that he is not one of the evil ogres that presently surround her in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Above all else, Sita knows that Rama is a good person. He has no sin in Him. Whatever He does is good. Though He doesn’t need to, Rama protects His good conduct. He is always mindful of doing the right thing.

[Rama]That doesn’t stop Him from protecting His people, though. So Rama maintains His own good conduct while making sure to keep His people safe. He does not neglect others for the sake of Himself. He is the prince of Ayodhya, so He has many people who look to Him for protection. Rama is the chastiser of the enemy, parantapa. This Sanskrit term is a nice way to praise a warrior for their ability to defeat the opposing parties. In His form of Krishna the same Rama uses that word often in addressing Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita.

[Bhagavad-gita, 2.3]“O son of Pritha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.3)

Rama doesn’t limit His scope. He is the Supreme Lord, though appearing in an apparently human form on earth during the second time period of creation. He takes care of Himself, His people, and also all living entities. We know this is true just based on the workings of nature. Through His external energy, Rama gives food and water to the living entities. He gives them rain, which is used to produce grains. From grains alone man can survive. He doesn’t need to resort to violence. Man can lead a full and healthy life from consuming just milk and grains.

The dangers of life arise more frequently when proper direction is lacking. Therefore Rama is the protector of dharma as well. Dharma is religiosity or virtue. Through virtue man can know what exactly to do after their life is protected. If you are cured of a deadly disease, you feel a tremendous sense of relief, but you still need something to do afterwards. If you take to drinking and excessive eating, you will surely find another disease again. To avoid disease, both of the physical and the mental, dharma exists. It gives the cure to birth and death for the spirit soul, which is always tied to the Supreme Lord in some way.

[Lord Rama]Rama protects all of these things and still maintains His greatness. He comes to earth as the warrior prince of Ayodhya, the eldest son of King Dasharatha, and remains simultaneously in the Vaikuntha planets in His opulent form of Vishnu. While creating and destroying universes as Vishnu, He simultaneously remains in joyous play in the holy land of Vrindavana as Shri Krishna. Thus the Supreme Lord can do everything, and one who takes shelter of Him realizes this very quickly.

In Closing:

Though guarding conduct His own,

Rama not to leave people all alone.

 

To keep watchful eye on creatures all,

On dharma too, from virtue not to fall.

 

Though appearing and protecting in so many ways,

At same time in Vaikuntha and Vrindavana He stays.

 

Only the Supreme Lord this can do,

Follow bhakti and realize it too.

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