“O best of men, what is the use of Your destroying the entire world? After finding out Your sinful enemy, You should uproot him alone.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.21)
Not only does love work in mysterious ways, but it makes us do crazy things. There is no denying this fact. The affection we feel for our loved ones can be so strong that it drives us to completely overlook rationality and the rules of propriety. When our feelings of attachment drive us close to the edge, we need someone who can help bring back our sanity. This person is our ever well-wishing friend, someone who saves us from ourselves.
Why does love lead us to madness? The ways of this world are quite mysterious, but it is undoubtedly true that love is the strongest emotion that we know. Love is an outgrowth of service; offering something of ourselves to someone else. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that this penchant for service is derived from our natural disposition as loving servitors of the Supreme Lord. The soul residing within is inherently a part and parcel of the supreme whole known as God. Just as the sunshine has an original source, the sun, we living entities are like fragmental sparks emanating from the huge spiritual fire of energy known as God. These two entities, God and His fragmental parts, aren’t two randomly disjointed entities. There is an explicitly defined relationship between the two. One is superior, while the other is inferior. Thus it is the natural disposition of the inferior to be a servant of the superior. When this natural order of things is in place, both the inferior and the superior live together in harmony.
In our current condition, we are unaware or forgetful of this natural order. Thus our penchant for service gets shifted elsewhere, i.e. to friends, family, and paramours. Since this desire for service is so strong, it leads to the formation of attachment and bonds that are tough to break. Along with the desire for service comes the desire to please the object of our affection. There are two primary effects of our strong attachments. The first effect is seen through our desire to protect our loved ones and to ensure their well-being at all times. A poignant example of this was seen with the kshatriya warrior, Arjuna, some five thousand years ago.
“It is better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though they are avaricious, they are nonetheless superiors. If they are killed, our spoils will be tainted with blood.” (Arjuna speaking to Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.5)
The Bhagavad-gita is one of the most famous religious books in history. Known as The Song of God, the Gita contains the essence of Vedic wisdom. Though the Gita is considered a religious scripture, it is essentially just a transcript of a conversation that took place in real life between Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His cousin Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. On the eve of a great war that was to see millions of soldiers killed, the lead warrior for the side of the Pandavas, Arjuna, gave way to lamentation and fear. Arjuna became hesitant to fight because he didn’t want to see his friends and family members, who were fighting for the opposing army, put into any type of danger or discomfort.
For a warrior, this wasn’t customary behavior. Being in an army means having to kill the enemy in fair combat. If a fighter is reluctant to fight, it stands to reason that he won’t be very successful in killing enemies, which is the essence of war. War is a terrible thing that should be avoided at all costs. However, once a war starts, the objectives are quite simple: kill people and break things. The more people you kill from the opposing side and the more of their stuff you break, the more likely you are to win. Why would Arjuna, the greatest bow warrior of his time, not want to fight? The opposing side, the Kauravas, consisted of Arjuna’s cousins, grandfather, and spiritual guide. Arjuna didn’t want to hurt loved ones simply to gain a kingdom. His affection for the material well-being of his family members superseded his desire for victory.
In Arjuna’s case, the negative effect of love and affection was unnecessary soft-heartedness. The other negative effect of intense love is extreme anger and rage, which is the polar opposite of extreme kindness. While love makes us feel for our fellow loved ones, it also makes us angry at anyone who causes them any harm. An example of this was seen with Lord Rama many thousands of years ago. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna unequivocally establishes that He is the Supreme Lord and that all other forms of Godhead emanate from Him. In fact, He displayed His terrible universal form to Arjuna; a form which was so awe-inspiring that Arjuna, out of fear, asked Krishna to reassume His original two-handed form.
Though Krishna is the original form of Godhead, He personally descends to earth in other forms from time to time. During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the Lord appeared as a handsome and pious kshatriya warrior named Rama. Since Rama was God, it made sense that His fighting abilities were unmatched. Though a great warrior, Rama underwent many hardships throughout His life. This was all done for the benefit of others, thus showing Rama’s magnanimous nature. On one occasion, Rama’s beautiful wife, Sita Devi, was kidnapped while the couple was residing in the forest. If a person is in God’s company, no one can harm them. This is because God is the ultimate protector, someone who is undefeated in battle. This was also the case with Rama, but due to a diversion set up by the demon Ravana, the Lord was somehow lured away from Sita’s side. In Rama’s absence, Ravana came and forcibly took Sita away.
It should be noted that Sita’s kidnapping actually occurred due to the desire of the demigods. Ravana was a great demon, and though Rama appeared on earth to kill him, the Lord still needed an excuse before He could attack. Lord Rama’s vow was to always abide by dharma, or established religious codes. This meant that He never wanted to act in an impious manner, for as the eldest son of a great king, others would follow His example. With Sita’s kidnap, Rama had the excuse He needed to go after Ravana and kill him. In the meantime, however, Rama played the part of an ordinary human being, giving way to lamentation and anger after realizing that His wife was missing.
Upon returning to the couple’s cottage, Rama noticed that Sita was missing, and immediately He gave way to lamentation. He started roaming through the neighboring woods, asking the trees and flowers if they had seen His beloved wife. The Lord is so kind and sweet that He never allows anyone’s love for Him to go in vain. No one in this world can love Rama more than Sita does, and by the same token, no one can love Sita more than Rama does. Thus the Lord kindly reciprocated the love shown to Him by Sita by giving way to excessive lamentation. After the sadness came anger. The Lord was ready to destroy the entire world as revenge for Sita’s kidnap. In His mind, all the neighboring creatures and celestial figures just sat idly by and allowed Ravana to perform his dastardly deed. Thus every living entity in the world was liable for Sita’s kidnap.
We can certainly relate to the incident with Arjuna. In today’s day and age, it is becoming fashionable for parents to be friends with their kids. Children are seen as equals, being allowed to have televisions and video game systems in their room. Children can talk back to their parents, as that is all part of the friendly relationship. This desire to be friends with your children is an outgrowth of the strong affection that parents feel. Being a parent means having to impose strict rules, a practice which results in your kids hating you from time to time. No one wants to see their loved ones in pain, so being a good parent requires emotional strength and the doling out of tough love.
By the same token, we can also relate to the incident involving Lord Rama. It just takes one bad experience to turn our moods sour. If something bad happens to us or to a loved one, we can lose rationality and start to blame others for our problems. For example, say we are travelling to a foreign country like France. If we have a bad experience at a hotel or in a restaurant, we might be tempted to lump all French people with the incident. “Oh I hate French people. I’m never going to France again.” Now obviously this isn’t rational thinking because there are bad apples wherever you go. Moreover, it is this type of irrational thinking that leads to destructive practices such as racism, bigotry, and sexism.
“O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any creature.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.30)
In the end, both Arjuna and Rama ended up regaining their senses and continuing with their prescribed duties. How were they able to collect themselves? They enlisted the help of their spiritual guides. In Arjuna’s case, his spiritual master was Lord Krishna. The Lord advised Arjuna to give up his false attachment, born out of unnecessary affection. It was surely a nice gesture on Arjuna’s part, but in reality, nothing would be gained by not fighting. It was Arjuna’s duty as a warrior to fight nobly for his side, for his family had the rightful claim on the kingdom. Moreover, every person’s karma is determined by their own deeds, so there is no need to worry about whether a person will be materially benefitted by a specific action or not. Even if his enemies were to die in battle, Arjuna still wouldn’t be to blame, for the soul is eternal and can never be slain. Armed with these facts, Arjuna decided to stand up and fight.
In Lord Rama’s case, His spiritual master was His younger brother Lakshmana. It is quite ironic actually, for Lakshmana viewed Rama as a father. Nevertheless, true love sometimes involves saying unpleasant things for the benefit of your loved one. This was the case with Lakshmana. In the popular American television sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, one of the main characters on the show, Frank Barone, is known for being outspoken and unafraid to say what’s on his mind. Playing the grandfather on the show, Frank believes in toughness and calling it like it is. If a person is acting weak or is hesitating unnecessarily, Frank will tell them to quit their crying and to suck it up. “Stop your pitter patter, Nancy. Stop crying and get back to work.”, are two of his famous phrases.
This was essentially the instruction that Lakshmana gave to Rama, but in a sweeter way. As the ever well-wishing younger brother, Lakshmana would have been justified in sitting back and letting his brother go off the deep end. But as a great devotee of the Lord, Lakshmana loved Rama so much that he wouldn’t let Him deviate from the virtuous path. Lakshmana offered some sound words of advice, basically telling Rama that there was no reason to lament. Even if Sita were dead, there would be no justification for giving up the performance of prescribed duties. Even the great celestials suffer defeat every now and then, what to say of ordinary men.
In the above referenced statement, Lakshmana is concluding His words of wisdom. Here he is putting forth a rhetorical question relating to Rama’s desire to destroy the whole world. If the Lord did kill everyone in revenge, what would be gained? It still wouldn’t bring Sita back, and it would also put a black mark on Rama’s reputation and that of His family. Rama very much appreciated this advice, since He knew that Lakshmana only had His best interests at heart. In fact, Lakshmana even reiterated the fact that the things he was saying actually originated from Rama. This is most certainly true, for God is the original spiritual master, the fountainhead of all instruction. Formerly, Rama had offered the same instruction to Lakshmana and His three other brothers. Thus we see that Lakshmana was both a great student and a great teacher.
The lesson here is that we all fall down from the righteous path every now and then. Our great affection and natural inclination to serve others will result in these momentary lapses of judgment. As we saw with Arjuna and Rama, it is very important to surround ourselves with godly people. Lord Krishna is God, and anyone who acts on His behalf and serves Him in a loving way can be considered godly. Krishna is Bhagavan and those who serve Him are bhagavata. It is very important to always surround ourselves with Bhagavan if we can or, at the very least, bhagavata. Our attachments are difficult to give up, so it’s always good to keep a spiritual doctor on hand to cure us of our ailments.
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