“Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the original Personality of Godhead, Govinda, who regulates the sufferings and enjoyments of fruitive activity for everyone-from the heavenly King Indra down to the smallest insect [indra-gopa]. That very Personality of Godhead destroys the fruitive karma of one engaged in devotional service.” (Brahma-samhita, 5.54)
Karma is activity performed for a desired result, or a desire to act. Naturally everyone hopes these results will be beneficial to them. This material world is a place full of temporary happiness, so most of us act in such a way as to secure this type of happiness. Karma doesn’t always yield positive results however. Often times, people will go so far as to commit many sins in their quest to achieve happiness. Such activity eventually leads to their ruin.
Throughout most of the world, and especially in the Western countries, meat eating is common. In America, chain restaurants are very popular. One look at the menu for any of these restaurants provides a glimpse into the diet of the average citizen. Meat is almost in every dish. Even something as basic as potatoes, whether they are mashed, fried, or cut up, almost always have some sort of animal flesh on them. Appetizers such as soups and salads invariably have either eggs or some chicken stock in them. Desserts and cakes would seem like a safe bet for vegetarians, but that is not the case. Almost every store-bought baked item has eggs in it.
America is the bastion of freedom in the world. For the time being, people are more or less free to act on their own without any impediments from others. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the name of the game in America. As long as you are not infringing on the rights of others, you are free to act as you wish. Sadly, this freedom isn’t afforded to animals. Cows are mercilessly slaughtered by the millions each year in order to feed the population’s appetite for beef. Not only are cows killed for beef products, but even for cheese. Most cheeses contain rennet, an enzyme procured from the intestines of a slaughtered calf.
Meat eating, along with intoxication and gambling, bring about temporary feelings of happiness. Steakhouses are very popular since people love to eat high quality beef. Major cities like Atlantic City and Las Vegas are paradises for gamblers. Las Vegas is especially appealing since there are casinos all over the place that are open twenty four hours a day. These casinos know what they are doing, so they make all the proper arrangements to lure gamblers to their venues. Once inside, gamblers are given all the food and drink they can consume because the casino owners want their customers to gamble for as long as they can. Intoxication goes hand-in-hand with all of these activities. Night clubs and bars are very popular. In fact the most popular activity amongst young people is “going out”, which means going to a night club or a bar to get drunk.
All these activities may seem harmless on the surface. “I work hard all day. Why can’t I have a little fun from time to time? I like to drink. It makes me feel good. So what if I eat meat? Mankind has dominion over the earth, so we’re only exercising our natural power by eating subordinate forms of life.” This is the general mindset of those addicted to these pillars of sinful life. Upon closer examination, one will find that these karmic activities actually yield harmful results. Take meat eating for example. As stated before, an innocent cow is mercilessly slaughtered in order for there to be beef. In the Vedic system, a cow is to be respected on the same level as one’s own mother. Infants can survive solely on the milk provided freely from cows. Cows don’t bother anyone; they are just living their lives like the rest of us. In fact they are so kind that they give us milk, which can then be turned into so many varieties of foodstuffs. Why should we kill them? There are so many other kinds of food we can eat. The presence of animal rennet in cheese is quite appalling as well. The slaughterhouse is essentially saying, “Come here cow. Give me your milk so I can turn it into cheese. Oh by the way, after you so kindly provide me with cheese, I will kill you so that I can eat your flesh along with the cheese.” Does this seem like civilized activity? Simply to satisfy the senses, one is willing to go to such extreme lengths.
As mentioned before, karma yields both positive and negative results; it is the ultimate system of fairness administered by Yamaraja, the son of the sun-god. Yamaraja is known as the god of death, for he takes away souls after they die, brings them to his lair, and then decides where they will go next. The merits and demerits resulting from all our actions are calculated. In turn, we are given a suitable body in our next life. Where we end up is solely dependent on our karma. Devotees of God take birth in a pious family where they can continue their devotional service from where they left off in their previous life.
“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.41)
Since karma represents the ultimate system of fairness, we can naturally conclude that meat eaters will have to suffer negative reactions in the future. If one satisfies the senses through unnecessary violence, it is only fair that the same people will suffer cruel punishment in the future for similar reasons. The great acharyas explain that all of the fetuses that are being aborted today are the souls of sinful meat eaters of the past. Sense gratification may seem nice, but one should be careful to study the negative effects of their actions. Intoxication and gambling have similar negative effects. Drinking too much alcohol takes away one’s cleanliness, and gambling takes away one’s honesty. Uncleanliness and dishonesty are two major barriers towards making advancement in spiritual life.
"The power of destiny will not bring as much happiness to my opponents as the distress that I will cause them by my own terrific prowess.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.24)
Spiritual life is the point of our existence after all. Our senses can only remain satisfied for so long before they start asking for more and more. This material world is not meant to be a happy place. It is described as dukhalayam in the Vedas, meaning a place full of distresses. This is the essence of the above referenced statement from Lakshmana. Many thousands of years ago, Lord Rama, an incarnation of God, was banished to the forest by His father and step-mother. Lakshmana was Rama’s youngest brother. Being very attached to Rama, Lakshmana wanted Rama to defy their father’s order and take over the kingdom by force.
In his statement, Lakshmana is basically saying, “Those who are banishing you to the forest wanted to achieve some sort of temporary happiness. I will, however, give them an even greater amount of unhappiness through my powers.” Born in the kshatriya race, Rama and Lakshmana were expert archers, unbeatable in battle. Lakshmana was a pure devotee, so he readily renounced everyone, including his own father, in favor of Rama.
In reality, Lakshmana’s proposed intervention wasn’t necessary. Dasharatha, Rama’s father, was actually quite distressed at the prospect of Rama leaving the kingdom. He nevertheless had to abide by the request of his youngest wife Kaikeyi. Rama, for His part, had a greater mission ahead; that of slaying the evil Rakshasa demon Ravana. Staying in the kingdom was not necessary for Rama. Still, we can all learn a lesson from Lakshmana’s actions. This life is meant for serving God. Any activity aimed at achieving any other end can be categorized as sinful. Even if we perform the most pious of acts, such as charity and religious rituals, if such activity keeps us bound to the repeated cycle of birth and death, then what have we really gained? By repeatedly committing sins, we force ourselves to suffer through more and more misery.
“In the Brahma-samhita (5.54) it is said that beginning from the indra-gopa germ up to the great Indra, King of heaven, all living beings are subjected to the law of karma and are bound to suffer and enjoy the fruitive results of their own work. Only the devotee is exempt from such reactions, by the causeless mercy of the supreme authority, the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.6.28 Purport)
God is our only way out of this cycle of suffering. If we stick to bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service, we transcend all the reactions to our sinful activity. Kaikeyi would have to suffer in the future, for Dasharatha would die due to separation from Rama, and her son Bharata was unwilling to ascend the throne. Aside from refraining from sinful activity, we should make sure to act in God’s best interests. This was the path taken by Lakshmana, and for this he is eternally worthy of our love and respect.
Categories: glories of lakshmana