“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra’s ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)Download this episode (right click and save)
Wake up early. Get ready. Eat breakfast. You may have to prepare it yourself, lest you rely on something less nutritious. Get in the car. Weave through traffic. Arrive at the office on time. Check your email. Start going through the list of outstanding tasks. Try to work, despite the many distractions throughout the day. Leave the office at a reasonable hour. Get home and change your clothes. Lie down and try not to think about anything, especially the fact that you have to repeat everything the next day. Eat dinner and then manage some of the responsibilities at home. Then try to go to sleep on time.
This cycle is not uncommon in the modern day. With the many responsibilities filling up the daily calendar, where is the chance for peace? How is the mind supposed to get relief? There is the concept of meditation, which in Sanskrit is known as dhyana. More so than just eliminating stress-inducing thoughts, dhyana is for focusing on the positive.
The embodiment of positivity is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is a better description for God or the Divine. He certainly does have a feature that is without attributes. It is the spiritual energy that pervades every universe and every space. Without this energy nothing would exist. At the same time, the origin of that energy is a distinct personality with attributes, activities, and names.
Though the origin is one, He expands into many forms, suited for the time and circumstance. One of those forms is Shri Rama, who has various objects and people associated with Him that can benefit the devotee looking for the blissful respite that comes from dhyana. The occasion of Rama Navami marks the anniversary of His appearance in this world during the Treta Yuga, and it brings a wonderful opportunity to remember important things that Rama takes with Him for the benefit of the devotees.
1. His bow
Rama is of the warrior class, known as the kshatriya. In ancient times, military conflict took place through bow and arrow. Why would God employ a primitive fighting method? Actually, combined with the sound of mantras, these weapons could produce amazing effects. There was something known as the brahmastra, which is a close equivalent to the modern-day nuclear weapon. On the other side, a person could counter that weapon with their own empowered by a mantra.
Rama not only carried His bow with Him for the purpose of defense, but He once famously lifted a bow to win a contest. This took place in Janakpur, where the king was trying to determine the suitable match for his unmarried daughter Sita. The contest rules were simple. Whoever could first lift the bow of Lord Shiva would win. Rama was the only one who could even move it. He then drew string to it, which caused the bow to break. This bow is the ideal object of meditation, as it reminds the devotee of what Rama is capable of doing. It also reminds them of how He is the perfect match as a husband for the goddess of fortune.
2. His arrows
The Supreme Lord is so humble and sweet that He doesn’t openly reveal His divinity when He appears on earth. There is no need to. Since He is fully empowered, He doesn’t require any instruction on how to fight. Still, He gives exalted teachers the opportunity to train Him. Vishvamitra had an ashrama in the forest, and He once took Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana there.
At the time Rama barely had any signs of manhood on His face. This is according to the testimony of Maricha, who was to see exactly how skilled Rama was with the bow and arrow. Maricha was a Rakshasa, which is a kind of man-eating ogre. The Rakshasas used to regularly attack the sages living in the forest, especially during the time of sacrifice, or yajna.
Maricha was ready to pounce during this one attack, but Rama and Lakshmana were there as protection. When Rama sensed what was going on, He immediately drew an arrow to His string and then released it. That arrow struck Maricha and hurled him eight hundred miles away. Those arrows are Rama’s weapons of defense, to protect the devotees. They are an ideal object of meditation.
3. His quiver
One of the attributes of the Supreme Lord is that He is inexhaustible. The closest experience we have with this feature is time and space. Both are infinite, in any direction. You can never reach the original beginning, and there is no way to stop time in the future. There is no end to space, either, as you can travel infinitely into the beyond.
Time and space come from God, who is inexhaustible in both His existence and His abilities. One example is Rama’s quiver, which He takes with Him when traveling on business. In the forest helping the sages, Rama has an unlimited supply of arrows. When He shoots one at an enemy, it can come back to Him, sort of like a boomerang. The devotees can meditate on this quiver, which is also symbolic of the endless mercy available to them.
4. His sandals
A notable period in Rama’s time on earth was His fourteen years spent in exile from the kingdom of Ayodhya. It was an unfortunate series of events triggered by jealousy and family infighting. Rama’s younger brother Bharata was part of the mix, unbeknownst to him. He became the heir apparent to the throne, even though Rama was the eldest son.
Bharata went to the forest to plead with Rama to return. The Supreme Lord did not want to violate etiquette simply for the sake of sense gratification. A compromise was reached when Rama gave His sandals to Bharata. Bharata then symbolically placed those sandals on the throne, meditating on them constantly for fourteen years. The devotees can fix their minds on those sandals to remind them of the love Rama has for His brothers and how Bharata renounced something of tremendous value in favor of service to the Supreme Lord.
5. Sita and Lakshmana
Rama was ready to spend those fourteen years in the forest alone. The stipulation was for Him only to wander like an ascetic, but Sita and Lakshmana insisted on coming along. For Lakshmana, the request wasn’t outrageous. The two were paired since the time of birth. They always went places together. Lakshmana was equal to Rama in fighting ability.
For Sita, the idea was unheard of. Do soldiers bring their spouses onto the battlefield? Do adults bring their children to work every day? Yet Sita insisted on going, for she did not want her husband to suffer alone. Their insistence gave us the wonderful image of the trio travelling together, looking most beautiful in the renounced setting of the forest. The devotees can meditate on those two companions, whose association Rama treasures so much.
On Rama Navami Lord’s glories to sing,
Meditate on objects with Him to bring.
Like the arrows shot from His bow,
Sandals covering feet wherever to go.
Lakshmana and Sita with Him coming,
Giving beautiful image of trio stunning.
Though weapons with Him to take,
Meant for pleasure of devotees’ sake.