Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rama’s Friends

[Rama with Sugriva]“Along the path towards finding the irreproachable and goddess-like Sita, in the forest that Rama met the monkey named Sugriva, who became His friend.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.11)

sa mārgamāṇastām devīm rāmaḥ sītāmannditām ||
āsasāda vane mitram sugrīvam nāma vānaram |

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You can tell a lot about a person based on their friends. With whom do they spend their time? What sort of people do they value? If they surround themselves with liars, cheats and thieves, it means that likely they are of the same character. If they choose to be with men and women of the saintly character, they are probably of the same nature, or at least striving to be. The Supreme Lord is unique in that He is tied to every single individual. Thus He can find friends anywhere, and due to their relationship to Him, such individuals automatically assume a high stature.

[New York skyline at night]There is a nice verse in the Bhagavad-gita which describes how consciousness spreads throughout the body. Shri Krishna, who is the same Rama but in His original form, says that just as the single sun illuminates the entire universe, so the individual spirit soul gives life to the entire body. We can think of it like the electricity that goes into the home. From a single source everything gets lit. The light in the upstairs bedroom and the light in the living room have their own switches. One can be turned off and another on. They are independent in this sense, but they get their energy from the same source. In the same way, the entire body, which has various components, gets its life from the soul. Without the soul, nothing in the body works.

“The consciousness of the living entity, although qualitatively one with the supreme consciousness, is not supreme because the consciousness of one particular body does not share that of another body. But the Supersoul, which is situated in all bodies as the friend of the individual soul, is conscious of all bodies.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.34 Purport)

This truth informs us that the soul is very powerful, but it is still not the most powerful. That is because the vital force within one body is not the vital force within another. My consciousness is different from your consciousness. This is not the case with the supreme consciousness, which belongs to God. He is in my body as well as yours. In fact, we are expansions from Him, which means that He is actually the life of all that lives. He is conscious of both my activities and yours.

Since He is the supreme consciousness, God is automatically everyone’s best friend. How good a friend is He? No matter how we treat Him, He will stay with us. Sure, if we behave badly, through the laws of the material nature that He creates we get cast into the lower species. Even with this descent the Lord still accompanies us. The supreme consciousness never leaves us; we only forget about it due to our misdeeds.

The concept of the supreme consciousness is the theoretical way to understand how God is everyone’s best friend. The historical accounts of His many activities on this earth give the tangible proof to the fact. God can make friends with anyone. Sita Devi, the wife of the Lord in His incarnation as Shri Rama, knows this very well. While she was residing in the forest of Dandaka with her husband, the evil King of Lanka, Ravana, stole her away in secret. While God is everyone’s friend, Ravana was pretty much everyone’s enemy. Even his friends were only there for convenience’s sake; he liked them because of what they could do for him.

[Rama and Lakshmana with Jatayu]As Ravana was taking Sita back to Lanka via the aerial route, he was initially interrupted by a vulture named Jatayu. This bird was a friend to Rama. A vulture is not considered an auspicious creature, but this soul was very pious and held affection for Rama. Sita already knew Rama’s nature, and in Jatayu she once again saw how God has friends from all walks of life.

Therefore it wasn’t surprising to her later when she heard that Rama made friends with a monkey named Sugriva. This occurred after Sita vanished from sight in the forest. Rama met Sugriva while looking for her. Sita did not know this previously; here she is learning of the fact from Hanuman. This description sets the table for understanding how Hanuman, who is also a monkey, is Rama’s friend as well.

If Rama makes friends with all sorts of creatures, from human beings to animals, why wouldn’t one desire to be His friend? Rama does not discriminate, as the less intelligent religiously minded sometimes do. He does not consider one person to be higher and another to be lower based simply on their bodily appearance. He knows that each individual is eligible for the highest achievement in life, residence in the supreme abode. A desire alone sparks the journey towards that residence.

[Monkeys building bridge for Rama]A simple act in friendship reveals the presence of that desire. Sugriva and Hanuman were Rama’s friends, and today they have a very high stature. Sita too is a blameless divine lady. In fact, anyone associated with Rama in friendship has a high stature, making Rama the true touchstone. The most fallen can turn into the most respected through affection for Him, which is shown through remembering Him and saying His names with love: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

From creatures large and small,

Rama can make friends with them all.

 

Doesn’t matter from where they came,

Like Jatayu and monkey Sugriva named.

 

One an inauspicious vulture,

A forest dwelling monkey the other.

 

Supreme consciousness, Rama to discriminate not,

From sincere desire alone best friend you’ve got.

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