“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)Download this episode (right click and save)
There is the famous Rorschach test in psychology. There is the abstract painting in art. Even with children newly born – not everyone sees the same thing. The viewpoint is different. The consciousness is shaped by past experience. Not only is there variety in response, but none of the people are absolutely wrong. Just because I see something that no one else does, I am not necessarily flawed because of it.
The Supreme Lord is one and He is for everyone. He is kind enough to give an idea of His transcendental attributes through His avataras, personal forms who descend to this world every now and then. Great souls are witness to the activities and events, preserve what they see either in the mind or written word, and then enable the passage of that information through the chain of future generations by the system of parampara, or disciplic succession.
With the avatara of Shri Rama, not everyone gets the same picture. There are different moods with which people interact with God. Even the atheists get a glance, and what they see might surprise you.
1. Adorable son
King Dasharatha was without an heir to the throne for a long time. He had three wives, but thus far no male child. At the insistence of a sage, the king performed a yajna, or sacrifice, the remnants of which the queens partook. Soon after there were four beautiful boys giving delight to everyone in the kingdom.
Rama was the eldest, and the face He showed to the mother and father was one of an adorable son. Kausalya took care of Rama. She acted as if He would not survive without her love and attention. Dasharatha had so much attachment to that beautiful face that later he would prove to be unable to survive without seeing it on a regular basis.
2. Affectionate brother
The three younger brothers all loved Rama. They each lived up to the name Ramanuja, or faithful follower of the eldest brother named Rama. They got a different vision of Him. There were essentially pairs determined soon after birth. This was as far as association went. Lakshmana was with Rama, and Bharata and Shatrughna were together.
Lakshmana always saw the face of an affectionate brother. When one time Dasharatha decided that the day had come for Rama to take over the throne, Rama immediately went to Lakshmana and asked the younger brother to share in the honor. Years later Lakshmana was one time unconscious on the battlefield from a wound. Rama affectionately held the brother until the needed help arrived from Hanuman.
3. Appreciative friend
Hanuman was the chief minister to the forest-dwelling king named Sugriva. He was not directly related to Rama, yet Hanuman was considered such a good friend. The face he saw from Rama was one of appreciation and gratefulness. Hanuman did so much in service of Rama, and all without payment. Rama embraced Hanuman for finding the wife Sita and for saving Lakshmana.
4. Fearless warrior
On the battlefield, there was no mercy given to the enemies. At least that was from their perspective. On a higher level of understanding, God’s punishment is just as merciful as His rewards. The bad characters of the world earned liberation by seeing Him at the time of death. Though they were sinful, by seeing the angry and determined face of Rama, they no longer had to see the cycle of reincarnation.
5. Serpent-head rushing at them
Rama was trained to fight with the bow and arrow. Whenever He raised His weapons, the mood was protection. He never attacked unnecessarily. The arrows were amazing; they were like dedicated servants. When they would fly towards the enemy, there was no chance for escape.
Ravana’s brother Akampana once attested to this fact. Ravana sent fourteen thousand of his men to attack Rama in the area known as Janasthana. The men were Rakshasas, ogre-like creatures who used black magic and illusion in addition to conventional weapons of warfare.
These bad characters saw the warrior face of Rama, but when they tried to run away in fear they saw another face. Rama’s arrows turned into five-headed serpents. They were like heat-seeking missiles. Wherever the Rakshasas turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way they were soundly defeated.
So even the atheists of the world get a glimpse of God. They don’t recognize Him for who He is. If they don’t see Rama directly in His avatara forms, they see Him indirectly as all-devouring death. At that moment they are forced to pay the honor that they refused to for so long.
To parents most adorable son,
Three younger brothers with envy none.
Friendly face to Hanuman displayed,
Appreciative of great sacrifice made.
Demons on battlefield another face seeing,
Fierce warrior when arrows from bow freeing.
Five-headed serpents staying on the chase,
Supreme Lord for everyone a face.