“O Tulsi, your personal interest is met by Rama and your supreme interest by Raghuvira, who has valiant warriors like Lakshmana and the son of the wind serving Him.” (Dohavali, 55)
tulasī svāratha rāma hita paramāratha raghubīra |
sevaka jāke lakhana se pavanapūta ranadhīra ||
Though talking to himself here, Goswami Tulsidas actually gives the best advice for anyone looking to have an interest met. Whether large or small, arriving today or tomorrow, for this life or the next - the one place to go is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is one, but He expands into non-different forms as well. The form of choice for Tulsidas is Shri Rama. Rama is also known as Raghuvira, which means “the hero of the Raghu dynasty.” In the odd chance that complete faith in Rama is difficult to extend, the poet gives further justification for having no fear. He says that Raghuvira is served by valiant warriors like Lakshmana and Hanuman.
Lakshmana is Rama’s younger brother and Hanuman is the chief minister to the Vanara-king Sugriva. The word used to describe them here is ranadhira, which is a compound Sanskrit word. “Rana” can mean the battlefield and “dhira” can mean brave or thoughtful. “Dhira” appears in a famous verse of the Bhagavad-gita which describes how the body changes throughout life and also at the time of death.
dehino 'smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
Just as the body changes through the time between birth and death, at death the body similarly changes. The person who is “dhira” is not bewildered by these changes. Dhira here is translated to mean sober or self-realized. The exact translations may differ slightly, but the meaning is basically the same each time. Dhira means cool-headed. It means not being in panic, not getting flustered.
It’s not so difficult to remain level-headed when everything around you is quiet and calm. The same can’t be said when there is grave danger facing you. There is the famous saying from Benjamin Franklin that it is difficult for an empty sack to stand upright. If you don’t have much, how are you going to rise? How will you behave morally if you’re always in want? If you’re constantly worried about surviving, how can you be expected to think clearly?
The time most warranting panic is when life is at risk. This especially occurs on the battlefield. The aim of war is to kill people and break things. This is the sad truth, as once the choice for armed conflict has been made, the rule is that you either kill or be killed. To say that Lakshmana and Hanuman are ranadhira is to say that they are extremely level-headed. In the face of the greatest danger, they do not panic.
Lakshmana’s exploits are described in detail in the same Ramayana that is dedicated to Rama. Lakshmana defends against the wickedest creatures, people who don’t adhere to standards. In armed conflict, there are some general rules the combatants adhere to. Everyone should wear a uniform. This helps to identify for which side the soldiers are fighting. It also helps to protect the civilians, who are innocent and not taking part in the conflict.
The night-rangers in the Dandaka forest did not readily identify themselves. They particularly chose to attack at night so that they wouldn’t be seen. They could also change their shapes at will. At one moment they would appear to be innocent and downtrodden and the next they would reveal their true hideous form. The night-rangers would appear one second and disappear the next. They could do this using black magic.
Lakshmana was not afraid of them. With Rama by his side Lakshmana killed many valiant night-rangers, including Indrajit, the son of Ravana. The most formidable night-ranger of them all was Ravana, the king of Lanka. Lakshmana was one of the leading fighters in the army that defeated that powerful king.
Hanuman too fought in the war. He acted as the carrier to Rama and Lakshmana. At different times, the brothers sat on his shoulders and fired their illustrious arrows. Hanuman also bravely entered the city of Lanka prior to the war, to scope out the scene. His life was in danger at every second, but he never lost his cool. He remained dhira.
The two ranadhira servants mentioned by Tulsidas help to protect devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. Svartha and paramartha merge when the desire turns towards connecting for real with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Naturally, there are some reservations at the beginning. Will I be able to eat if I launch myself fulltime into devotion? Will I have friends? How will I maintain steadiness in the face of so many distractions? How will I know that my efforts are paying off? What if I don’t succeed in becoming a perfect yogi by the time I die?
kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā
na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati
“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)
Raghuvira is powerful enough to Himself protect the devotee from all danger. In His original form of Krishna He tells Arjuna to boldly declare that the devotee never perishes. Since death arrives eventually for everyone, the meaning here is that the devotional service will never go away. The devotee will always have that available to them. If they fear that Rama is incapable of protecting them, they should take full comfort from knowing that the valiant Lakshmana and Hanuman are there to help also.
Since in constant wanting state,
Hard for empty sack to stand up straight.
This proverb to the battlefield apply,
And see for state of panic then why.
Ranadhira meaning even in that place cool and aware,
Like Hanuman and Lakshmana, never of enemies scared.
Of loss in devotional efforts don’t be afraid,
Never to perish when ranadhira servants giving aid.