“Because of constant rain sent by the demigod Indra, the River Yamuna was filled with deep water, foaming about with fiercely whirling waves. But as the great Indian Ocean had formerly given way to Lord Ramachandra by allowing Him to construct a bridge, the River Yamuna gave way to Vasudeva and allowed him to cross.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.3.50)Download this episode (right click and save)
“I don’t have what it takes. I understand that the human birth is meant for spiritual understanding. Athato brahma-jijnasa. Now is the time for inquiring into Brahman, which is the spiritual energy. Actually, I’ve heard Brahman described in three different ways. It is everything that exists, both spiritual and material. Brahman generally refers to the spiritual beings, the living entities. The material side to Brahman is the mahat-tattva. Brahman is also a feature of the Supreme Lord.
“Yes, the three definitions are essentially identical. Though I am spiritual in nature, I am in illusion right now. I can’t even adhere to a diet to maintain good health. It’s like I am drawn to bad behavior. How will I ever be successful in this lifetime? I don’t think I have the proper qualification.”
It is understandable to lament in this way, but the opportunity for devotional service is there for everyone. The lack of jnana [knowledge] or vairagya [renunciation] is not an automatic disqualification. Indeed, help to the Supreme Lord has come from outside the human race as well. Anyone can offer service and thus make themselves dear to the person whose opinion counts most.
He is the eagle carrier of Lord Vishnu. Brahman is the realization of the Divine where you see the all-pervading spiritual energy. Paramatma is a more defined feature, where you see a personal aspect of God within all beings. Bhagavan is the full feature, where God is a unique and distinct personality. He is equal to the living entities in spiritual quality, but His capabilities are greater to a magnitude inconceivable. This simultaneous oneness and difference is described as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Generally, if a person is non-violent they become dear to God. It makes sense. If you are a good person, the person who is pure goodness will have a high opinion of you. What about if you eat snakes? Can you become dear to God?
From the example of Garuda, we see that even a non-vegetarian diet is not automatic cause for exclusion. Garuda is in the body type of an eagle, after all. Still, he has the high post of flying Vishnu to wherever He needs to go. Vishnu is one form of Bhagavan. Some of the other forms are Krishna, Rama, and Narasimha. The idea is that Bhagavan is an all-attractive personality, and He has different forms that appeal to the different moods of worship available in a direct relationship with Him.
Another member from the bird family, Jatayu is a vulture. He is famous from the Ramayana, which describes Bhagavan in His form of Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. A vulture is generally considered a low creature. The vultures swoop in when there is a carcass. You typically can’t talk to a vulture, either.
Jatayu is actually a hero. When Rama’s wife Sita was being taken away against her will by the wicked king of Lanka, the best of vultures stepped in. Though he ultimately lost the fight to Ravana, while about to quit his body Jatayu actually met eyes with Shri Rama. In this way he had the perfect death, being perfectly conscious of God.
After losing Sita, Rama went looking for her. He found Jatayu on the way, as the vulture was about to die. Next Rama made friends with Vanaras living in Kishkindha. The literal definition to the Sanskrit word is “forest dweller.” From the Ramayana we can decipher that the Vanaras were like monkeys, since words like kapi and hari are also used.
Sugriva was the king of the Vanaras and he became friends with Rama. He offered assistance in the search for Sita. Sugriva was not only a monkey, but one devoid of his family and kingdom. Destitution and birth in a lower race were not hindrances to direct service to the Supreme Lord.
4. The ocean
Water is a material element, so how can it possibly do anything? Action implies intelligence. The Vedas teach that even the material elements have living beings in charge. It seems like mythology, but there is no other way to explain how objects operate collectively on time and with predictable properties. There is the Supersoul [Paramatma] within each atom, paramanu. Matter is simply a collection of many atoms.
Rama and Sugriva’s group were ready to rescue Sita, who was on the island of Lanka. The ocean stood in their way. They needed to get across. The ocean kindly obliged by allowing rocks to float. The Vanaras then brought many rocks to create a bridge for Rama and everyone to cross by foot.
Many years later the same Rama incarnated on earth as Shri Krishna. Immediately after appearing from the womb of Devaki, Krishna ordered the father Vasudeva to take Him to the nearby town of Gokula. Vasudeva agreed, and in the middle of the night there was a great rainstorm. Also, there was the Yamuna River standing in between.
From the Shrimad Bhagavatam we learn that the Yamuna, which is actually a goddess, made way for Vasudeva to pass. The help was similar to how the ocean offered service to Rama. Ananta Shesha Naga, the serpent bed for Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha, also offered assistance by acting as an umbrella for the newborn.
Birth in non-human species found,
Not meaning that only to ignorance bound.
Service possible still to try,
Like Garuda with Vishnu to fly.
Jatayu against the ten-headed,
Vasudeva through fierce rain dreaded.
From anyone Bhagavan ready to accept,
Sincere service never to reject.