“On the way they met Parashurama. Holding a weapon in his hand, he yelled at them and showed his angry eyes.” (Janaki Mangala, 177)
pantha mile bhṛgunātha hātha pharasā liye |
ḍāṭahiṃ ānkhi dekhāi kopa dārūna kie ||
God is one. This is not a new revelation emerging from the suddenly popular spiritual teacher. This is not the product of the mind which has contemplated matters beyond this lifetime. It is a truth that exists eternally, waiting to be heard and accepted by the living entity, who is godlike but not God Himself. It is a truth necessary to be understood by the devoted sentimentalist, who considers their religious path to be the only one worth adopting. It is a truth that must be accepted, even in the face of contradicting evidence, such as with the case of the meeting of Lord Rama and Parashurama. One is the son of King Dasharatha and the other the offspring of Jamadagni, but both are incarnations of the Supreme Lord. And at the time of their meeting, the original Lord remains safely in His own abode.
How is this possible? If God is one, is He not a singular entity? How can He be more than one person? And who is superior, Rama or Parashurama? Rama is also known as Ramachandra, for He has a moonlike face and acts like the moon to the water-lilies that are the members of the Ikshvaku dynasty. Parashurama is the wielder of the axe, a raging mad fighter turned ascetic. He destroyed the warrior race twenty-one times over as revenge for offenses against him and his family. Rama is Vishnu Himself, but then so is Parashurama. So how could they possibly meet?
The meeting took place when Rama and His party were returning home to Ayodhya. Rama is the incarnation of Vishnu who is famous for having defeated the evil king of Lanka, Ravana. He is famous for many other things as well, including the lifting of the bow of Lord Shiva. That feat took place in the kingdom of Videha, in front of a host of other princes who were vying for the hand of Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. That bow initially belonged to Devarata, and it was passed along in the family until it reached King Janaka, also known as Shiradhvaja. The contest was to see who could lift the bow. No one could except Ramachandra, and so then He married Sita. On the way home from the marriage ceremony, His group ran into Parashurama.
The priests in the royal party offered obeisances, but that did little to pacify the famous fighter’s anger. He made a proposition to Rama directly. String this other bow that was in his possession, and from there the two could engage in conflict. Dasharatha, Rama’s father, responded first, trying to defuse the situation. Parashurama ignored him and continued to address Ramachandra directly. Parashurama gave more information on the history of the bow which Rama just broke. He also spoke of this new bow that was brought into the equation. A long time back Vishnu and Shiva engaged in a conflict, being asked by the celestials to see who had superior prowess. Vishnu won the conflict by nullifying the strength of Shiva’s bow. Lord Shiva then passed his bow on to Devarata. The bow Vishnu used in the conflict was passed on to Jamadagni’s family. And so now Parashurama had that bow and requested that Rama draw an arrow to it. Rama had already strung Shiva’s bow, so now it was time to do the same with Vishnu’s.
Rama accepted the first part of the challenge. He put an arrow to the bow without a problem. He would not engage in conflict, however. He crushed Parashurama’s pride by accurately pointing out that the arrow had to destroy something now that it was drawn. Parashurama could lose either the regions he had won through asceticism or his ability to travel at the speed of the mind. Knowing that the sage Kashyapa had previously told him that the regions of the earth were not a suitable habitation for him, Parashurama opted for the former. His pride humbled, he realized that Rama was indeed Vishnu Himself. He then left the scene.
So through the meeting of two avataras, or incarnations, of the Supreme Lord, the supremacy of the Supreme Lord was established, namely in His incarnation of Ramachandra. Seems like circular logic, an unnecessary adventure that only serves to further confuse the less intelligent. But in fact, through curbing the pride of the angry Parashurama, Rama’s glory was further established, which allows one’s faith in Rama to increase all the more. A similar thing occurred during Shri Krishna’s advent, when He and Arjuna went to visit Vishnu Himself.
These contradictory episodes are only possible with God, who is above all the dualities we encounter on a daily basis. He is both here and not here. As Parashurama, He is both a kshatriya and a brahmana. As Ramachandra, He is both a pacifist and a courageous fighter. He is both respectful and disrespectful. He was initially respectful to Jamadagni’s son, but through stringing the bow He crushed the pride of the fiery-tempered wielder of the axe.
Just as He can exist in His eternal abode in the Vaikuntha planets and here on earth in two incarnations simultaneously, know that He can be with every single living entity at the same time. The deity in the home of one devotee is just as representative of God as the deity in another home. He can hear an unlimited number of prayers offered simultaneously, and He can rescue anyone, regardless of their background, their country of origin, their native language, or their level of intelligence. He always hears the prayers of the devotees, and just like in stringing both the bow of Shiva and the bow of Vishnu, He can accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of lifting even the most sinful person in the world into the heights of transcendental bliss and ecstasy that are known only to devotional service.
Existing simultaneously here and there,
As Supersoul Lord present everywhere.
Meeting of Parashurama and Ramachandra two,
One incarnation of Vishnu and the other too.
From angry eyes the challenge accepted,
His pride then curbed, leaving dejected.
Supremacy of Shri Rama by encounter shown,
Simultaneous presence find in God alone.