“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)
If you overthink it, even the simplest task can become daunting. Consider this situation with an impending snowstorm:
“How am I going to do it tomorrow? I can only shovel for so long. They say there will be at least one foot of snow. I’m going to have to remove it all by myself, with no one to help me. If I can’t do it, then my car will be stuck. How will I leave the house to pick up food? The only recourse will be to wait for the snow to melt, which could take days.”
The doubt relates to the known uncertainty of outcomes in this world. Nothing is a sure thing except death, which is the inevitable end following birth. For one who has taken birth, death is certain. This is confirmed by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
It is His help, in fact, which allows a person to overcome great obstacles. Real impediments towards the full enlightenment of the individual within a single lifetime, from serving in the way desired, get slashed away with the help of the Divine.
Vedic literature provides many historical examples of one person or group overcoming many on the opposing side. Indeed, God as an incarnation has Himself done this, proving to everyone His supreme standing.
1. Arjuna against the Kauravas
In this situation the devotee got help from God close by. Shri Krishna kindly agreed to be Arjuna’s charioteer. That was important since the conflict involved skilled archers releasing their arrows while standing on chariots guided by expert drivers. Arjuna, who happened to be the best bow warrior in the world, augmented his strength by having the best guide any person could find.
“Arjuna said: My dear Krishna, seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up.” (Bhagavad-gita, 1.28)
Still, it was an underdog’s battle. The Kauravas had some of the best fighters in the world. More importantly, they had desire going for them. Arjuna was hesitant to fight. He saw the friends and relatives assembled on the battlefield and lost his nerve.
The one collective that was the Pandavas would emerge victorious. Practically everyone else would perish in the battle, an outcome which was the Divine will. The great obstacle of doubt and hesitation was overcome by devotion and the direct connection with the object of bhakti.
2. Prahlada against palace guards
Arjuna and his brothers were involved in an acknowledged conflict. Victory and defeat were clearly laid out. The winners in the battle would get control of a massive kingdom. The losers would be at the mercy of the winners.
Prahlada was just five years old and he had no desire to conquer anyone. He was simply practicing the same devotion as Arjuna, except in his own way. Prahlada’s worship was more subtle. He meditated on God within. The same Krishna is within every individual as the Supersoul. Krishna takes His seat in the heart as Vishnu, His four-handed, opulently adorned form.
The struggle existed because of the antagonistic father. Hiranyakashipu, who happened to be the king, did not like the devotion of his son. Unable to get Prahlada to change his ways, the father resorted to attacks involving deadly force. In one instance the palace guards charged at Prahlada with pointed weapons. The boy triumphed through meditation on Vishnu. This was an extraordinary case involving an extraordinary child, but it still serves as a proof of concept. The devotion of the devotee never perishes since it is protected by the object of devotion.
3. Rama against Ravana’s 14,000 men
In another period of time Shri Krishna incarnated on earth as Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. God is all-attractive and retains completeness in all areas of opulence at all times, but in different cases not every feature is prominent. In Rama there was more attention to dharma, which is the law of God handed down to help the living entities struggling with the material nature find their way back to the promise land.
Ravana, the atheistic king of Lanka, took Rama to be weak. This was because he learned that Rama was wandering the forests like a homeless person, with the wife Sita and the younger brother Lakshmana accompanying. Ravana thought that he could overcome Rama by sending fourteen thousand soldiers to the forest of Janasthana. This would be retaliation for Lakshmana partially disfiguring Ravana’s sister, who had tried to attack Sita.
If we consider the undefeated streak of kala, which is time, then the outcome to Ravana’s plan is easy to guess. The Sanskrit word kala is synonymous with death, and it is a representation of the Supreme Lord.
“The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)
God as time is undefeated against the living entities taking birth in the material world. The same kala in the form of the beautiful Rama thus easily handled fourteen thousand amazing fighters, who could resort to black magic when needed. One of the few who survived the battle returned to Ravana and gave warning that Rama was no ordinary person.
4. Hanuman against Ravana’s men
Later on Ravana tried again, with the objective this time to take Sita away. He succeeded only because he was able to lure Rama and Lakshmana away from the cottage. In the subsequent search for Sita an alliance formed between Rama and the Vanara-king Sugriva. Hanuman was Sugriva’s chief minister and he eventually made his way to Lanka to find Sita.
Hanuman was by himself, but he was not afraid. After finding Sita he decided to cause some trouble on his way out. This way Ravana would get a taste of what was set to come his way when the full army led by Rama would return.
Hanuman bravely fought against many of Ravana’s men. They were not able to conquer the messenger sent by the Supreme Lord. Only until Hanuman decided to give deference to Lord Brahma was one of Ravana’s sons successful in binding up the heroic servant. This was not really a defeat, as Hanuman simply waited for the appropriate time to free himself. He indeed picked an opportune moment, after Ravana had set his tail on fire. The released Hanuman then used that tail to set Lanka ablaze.
From uncertainty outcomes unknown,
So demons use of excessive force is known.
Like palace guards Prahlada against,
Towards him pointed weapons sent.
And Rama fourteen thousand defending,
After Lakshmana Ravana’s sister offending.
Hanuman an entire city setting ablaze,
Divine will superior to nature stays.