“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, 4.43-44)Download this episode (right click and save)
They can be a friend, but the relationship goes deeper than that. If they are younger, then you have known them from the beginning of their life. If they are older, including the parents they are the first people you have known. You go “way back” with your other friends, but you can’t go any further than the time of birth.
You may get into arguments from time to time. You may claim to hate them for the way they behave, but deep down you love them unconditionally. This is the gift known as the brother. It is indeed a gift, since no payment has been made to get it. By your good fortune, perhaps a reward for something you did in a past life, you get a friend within the family.
The Supreme Lord is a person originally, that is when the veil of abstraction gets removed. When a person sees through the bright effulgence of spiritual energy known as Brahman they come upon a transcendental personality, who has identifiable features that can be contemplated, studied, appreciated, and remembered.
To easier facilitate that remembrance, God the person sometimes descends to this earth in a personal form. He does not assume the material elements, as the less intelligent would have you believe. Since He descends, the personality is known as an avatara. The avatara of Shri Rama is unique because three brothers accompanied Him. They simultaneously appeared in the house of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Rama is God Himself and the three younger brothers partial incarnations. Due to His Divine nature, it is not surprising that Rama has the best brothers in the world.
1. They live up to the name Ramanuja
The name Ramanuja can apply to any of the three brothers: Bharata, Lakshmana, or Shatrughna. In Sanskrit the elder brother is agraja, which means “the first born.” Anuja is the younger brother, and the word hints at following, anu. The elder leads and the younger ones follow. This is the natural order of things. There is the common joke that parents make all of their mistakes on the first born. By the time the other children arrive, they have more knowledge on how to raise children.
The leader takes the arrows. In Rama’s case, there was the difficult task of living up to the virtue of the sparkling dynasty that once featured King Raghu. As His actions are effortless, there was no problem for Rama in this area.
“If I narrate about Rama, her dear husband whose actions are effortless, she will not be frightened, as her mind will be absorbed in thoughts of her husband.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.41)
The brothers did not let Rama down. They also behaved piously, attentively listening to the spiritual guide in the family. They never betrayed their elder brother. In youth the four split up into pairs as far as association. Lakshmana was attached to Rama. Bharata and Shatrughna were always together. But Rama remained at the center.
2. They protest injustice
One time Rama was exiled from the kingdom. The stipulation was that He live in the forest area like a roaming mendicant. Oh, and He was to do this for fourteen years. The order was instigated by Queen Kaikeyi, who was the youngest of three wives to Dasharatha. Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharata, while Rama was the son of Queen Kausalya. There was some rivalry there for a moment, and jealousy drove Kaikeyi to ask Dasharatha to punish Rama in that way.
Lakshmana strongly protested this order. He was ready to stage a coup, to install Rama on the throne by force. Rama had no issue following what the elders had desired, but Lakshmana could not stand the injustice. Bharata, the apparent benefactor of the plan, also was extremely upset when he came to know what had happened. He was so angry that he ended up renouncing his own mother.
3. They show incredible intelligence as it pertains to dharma
Rama left for the forest. His wife Sita accompanied Him. So did Lakshmana. They both insisted on coming along; they wouldn’t let Him leave alone. Bharata didn’t get the chance to do the same since He was away on business when everything went down. When he returned home and learned what happened, he went to find Rama in the forest. By this time King Dasharatha had passed away, his heart torn to pieces by the separation from his eldest and most beloved son.
Bharata argued strongly in favor of Rama returning. He put so many intelligent words before his elder brother. He even suggested that he take Lakshmana’s place and suffer for the fourteen years. In the end a compromise was reached, where Rama would rule Ayodhya symbolically until His return. Bharata took Rama’s sandals and placed them on the throne, while he remained secluded in a hut, constantly meditating on Rama.
On another occasion, Lakshmana offered wise words to Rama as a way to pacify the Lord’s anger. Sita mysteriously went missing from the forest and Rama was ready to destroy the entire world as revenge. Lakshmana had always listened well to Rama’s teachings and that occasion afforded him the opportunity to repeat some of those wise words back.
4. They are ready to suffer for Him
Already we have seen the willingness of Lakshmana and Bharata to undergo suffering to spare Rama. Shatrughna one time also made a great sacrifice. This was after the exile period, when the four brothers were happily reunited in Ayodhya.
There was a bad character known as Lavanasura causing trouble in a certain part of the world. Rama brought up the need for one of the brothers to go and take care of the situation. They were members of the kshatriya order, which meant they were in charge of protecting the innocent.
Shatrughna ended up volunteering himself for the mission. This meant separation from his brothers for a long time, as he had to not only defeat Lavanasura but then take care of the area afterwards. Shatrughna did not want to leave, but to please Rama he was willing to do anything.
5. They are always thinking of Him
The brothers deserve tremendous credit. Each one of them alone makes for an ideal object of worship. They are highly skilled in battle, doing the family line proud with their heroism. Yet to them there is only one thing in life: Rama. They are always thinking of Him. Partial Divine incarnations of God always thinking of the Supreme Lord.
We living entities in this world are also expansions from the original being. We are not direct expansions, but we have similar qualities to the Supreme Lord. The ideal use of the existence is to be in service to God the person in a mood similar to the brothers in Ayodhya. Indeed, the bona fide representatives in this world behave the same way. They protest injustice, sacrifice so much, and are always thinking of God. They help others do the same by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Finally getting four sons did he,
Best brothers in the world to see.
Rama to King Dasharatha the dearest,
Bharata and Shatrughna, Lakshmana to Him nearest.
Wise words sometimes repeating,
Evil Lavanasura in land defeating.
For sake of Rama anything to do,
Divine representatives same way too.