Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Kindest Boss

[The Vanaras working for Rama]“The monkeys were on the branches of the tree and the Lord under the tree, but He still treated them as equal to Himself. Tulsi says that you will not find such a boss as Rama, who is a mine of politeness.” (Dohavali, 50)

prabhu taru tara kapi dāra para te kie āpu samāna |
tulasī kahū' na rāma se sāhiba sīla nidhāna ||

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It’s been a problem since as far back as anyone can remember: class distinctions. There are the obvious ones drawn by race. One race decides that another race needs to be enslaved. In order to get a laborer to keep with them, the excuse is made that the lower race is lacking in good qualities, and that their freedom will only mean doom to society.

There are distinctions made on birth. One person comes from a high family, while another belongs to a family that isn’t as well known. In the flawed belief that honor descends, the person in the high family looks down at others. But in fact, they have done nothing on their own. At the time of birth, the slate is clean, ready to be filled with deeds. Those deeds then determine one’s character, but succumbing to the tendency to cheat, some choose to take any advantage they can get.

“For honor, worthily obtained is in its nature a personal thing, and incommunicable to any but those who had some share in obtaining it. Thus among the Chinese, the most ancient, and from long experience the wisest of nations, honor does not descend, but ascends. If a man from his learning, his wisdom, or his valor, is promoted by the Emperor to the rank of Mandarin, his parents are immediately entitled to all the same ceremonies of respect from the people, that are established as due to the Mandarin himself; on the supposition that it must have been owing to the education, instruction, and good example afforded him by his parents, that he was rendered capable of serving the public.” (Benjamin Franklin)

[Benjamin Franklin]There are some subtler examples of class distinctions which sometimes are difficult to avoid. Picture this situation at an office. Two people are friends on the outside. One works for the company already; they are in the upper management. They help their friend out by getting them a job at the office. The new employee friend isn’t as skilled, so they become one of the ordinary workers.

Though friends at home, there is a world of difference at the work place. The people in upper management have their own offices in a separate section of the building. The ordinary workers are scattered throughout. In the lunch cafeteria, the two friends meet, and they want to sit together. But they see that the tables are divided, that no one from management will sit with anyone from the ordinary laborers.

As He is the wisest person and also the one who lives inside of every heart, the Supreme Lord does not make such distinctions. By definition He can’t, as He has endless love for all of His children. Part of that love includes giving them the freedom to leave His association, at least in consciousness. He does not control their minds, not even if He wants to. He can try to steer them in the right direction, but ultimately the choice is up to them. That is the meaning to the little independence that the innumerable living entities who are not God receive.

There are many historical examples that show the Lord’s kindness in equality. In this verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas references the behavior of Shri Rama with the Vanaras of Kishkindha. The mere mention of the name Kishkindha brings great joy to a person who knows God and serves Him with all their hearts. It was in this area that Rama first met with the famous Hanuman, who was an inhabitant. Hanuman was the chief minister for Sugriva, who at the time was exiled from his kingdom. Sugriva was the chief of the Vanaras, who were monkey-like.

“Sent by the great soul Sugriva, the king of Vanaras, I have arrived here. My name is Hanuman and I am a Vanara.” (Hanuman speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.21)

[Meeting Hanuman]Through Hanuman’s efforts, Rama formed an alliance with Sugriva. Rama would help get the Vanara-kingdom back from the rival Vali and Sugriva would help Rama regain His missing wife Sita Devi. This is God’s play on earth. He puts on a dramatic performance, filled with exchanges of the kinds that are familiar to us.

Still, He is the Lord, or prabhu. This means that He will do things that no human can do. In class distinctions, there was a gulf of difference between Rama and the Vanaras. Rama was the son of the King of Ayodhya. He upheld the responsibility of protecting the innocent. He always gave and never took. He was dedicated to the truth, as was His father King Dasharatha. Rama lived underneath tree branches as He roamed the forest as an ascetic; something brought on by tensions within the family

The Vanaras roamed from tree branch to tree branch. They were not civilized. No one looked to them for protection. Though the Vanaras jumped on the branches above Him, Rama did not mind. He treated them like equals. They were His good friends, and not just for a short while. It is understandable to forget good deeds done for us. Man makes mistakes, after all, and one of them is forgetting.

Rama never forgets, however. And He only keeps in mind the good. It is for this reason that the yogi in devotion has no need to fear a wasted effort. Even if they don’t perfect their practice in this lifetime, in the future they get to continue from where they left off. This is due to the remembrance of the Supreme Lord.

[Rama and Lakshmana with the Vanaras]Tulsidas says that you won’t find as kind a boss anywhere else. He says that Rama is a mine of politeness. This is true in so many ways. Ordinary bosses look for their work to be accomplished. If the bottom line is not being met, they get upset. Rama too gives work, but He cares only for the mentality in the service. The results don’t matter so much. If the effort is sincere, He will never get angry. He helps those who want to help Him. He considers the Vanaras of Kishkindha to be as important as the people in Ayodhya. Thus the sharpest vision belonging to the most polite person sees past all distinctions determined by material qualities. The spiritual quality of love and devotion for God is what counts most.

In Closing:

In monkeys and humans difference we see,

One on branches and another under tree.


Yet Rama considered them the same,

Vanaras living in forest of Kishkindha name.


At only what’s in the heart detecting,

Only sincerity in effort expecting.


Such a kind boss nowhere else to find,

Helps His devotees like Hanuman shine.