The Power of Service

 Lakshmana always by Rama's side“To Lakshmana, crowned with every virtue, waking up, holding the bow with the arrow fixed on it for the purpose of guarding well his brother, I said, ‘This easeful bed has been prepared for you, my child. O son of Raghu’s descendant, cheer up. Do you lie down at ease. All these people can bear hardship; but you are meant for comfort. For protecting him (Rama) religiously, we shall wake.’” (Guha speaking about Lakshmana’s love for Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 86)

There is no one more devoted to Lord Rama than Lakshmana. A perfect devotee, prince, and younger brother, Lakshmana is the epitome of virtue, strength, and character. An incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga, Lakshmana served Rama without any personal motive, thus he is our role model in the execution of devotional service.

Almost everyone goes to God for some particular personal benefit. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, describes this very fact in the Bhagavad-gita:

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Bg. 7.16)

Most of us approach God in times of distress. A friend or family member may be stricken with a particular illness, so we’ll go to God and ask for Him to protect their health. Weekly church meetings often include a time where people ask for specific prayers for someone or something. Former U.S. President George W. Bush was known for being very religious. People would often ask him what his faith meant to him and he would usually reply that he believed very much in the power of prayer.

“I am sustained by the prayers of the people in this country. I guess an appropriate way to say this, it’s one of the beautiful things about America and Americans from all walks of life is that they’re willing to pray for the President and his family. And that’s powerful. It’s hard for me to describe to you what that means. It’s–let me just say this: It’s a leap of faith to understand." (George W. Bush, Interview, 2009.12.13)

George W Bush praying The power of prayer is very strong. It is the primary function performed by those who practice religion around the world. In the Vedic tradition, many great personalities of the past have prayed for things. Dhruva Maharaja was one particular person. He initially performed great austerities, all the while praying for a material benefit. Through his perseverance, he had the great fortune of meeting Lord Vishnu face to face.

“…Dhruva Maharaja initially searched for God in order to attain his father’s kingdom. Dhruva Maharaja’s mother was rejected by his father, and his stepmother resented his sitting on his father’s lap. Indeed, she forbade him to sit on his father’s lap because Dhruva Maharaja was not born in her womb. Although only five years old, Dhruva Maharaja was a kshatriya, and he took this as a great insult. Going to his own mother, he said, ‘Mother, my stepmother has insulted me by forbidding me to sit on my father’s lap.’ Dhruva Maharaja then started to cry, and his mother said, ‘My dear boy, what can I do? Your father loves your stepmother more than he loves me. I can do nothing.’ Dhruva Maharaja then said, ‘But I want my father’s kingdom. Tell me how I can get it.’ ‘My dear boy,’ his mother said, ‘if Krishna, God, blesses you, you can get it.’ ‘Where is God?’ Dhruva Maharaja asked. ‘Oh, it is said that God is in the forest,’ his mother said. ‘Great sages go to the forest to search for God.’

Hearing this, Dhruva Maharaja went directly to the forest and began to perform severe penances. Finally he saw God, and when he saw Him, he no longer desired his father’s kingdom. Instead, he said, ‘My dear Lord, I was searching for some pebbles, but instead I have found valuable jewels. I no longer care for my father’s kingdom. Now I am fully satisfied.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Path of Perfection)

Dhruva blessed by Vishnu  Not only do people go to God for acquiring things, but they also worship the demigods for similar purposes. In the Vedic tradition, there is only one God, although He has many different forms and expansions. The original form of God is Krishna, and all other forms such as Vishnu, Narayana, Rama, Narasimha, etc. all emanate from Him. God has subordinates who serve directly under Him. They are known as devatas, or demigods, and their role is to manage all the affairs of the universe, including the creation, maintenance, and dissolution of our planet. By Krishna’s order, they are required to bestow benedictions upon their devotees, irrespective of the quality or motive of the worshiper. This form of worship continues to this day in India. Though usually only pious people worship the demigods, many great demons of the past have gone to the devatas to procure material boons. The great demons Ravana and Hiranyakashipu worshiped Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva to gain extraordinary power intended for nefarious purposes. Their strength became so immense that Lord Krishna was required to personally come to earth and kill them.

During the Treta Yuga, the aforementioned Ravana had ascended to power in his kingdom of Lanka. He wasn’t happy just ruling his island though, for he sought world domination. He felt no one could beat him since Lord Brahma had given him the boon that no celestial could defeat him in battle. The celestials refer to the demigods, so Ravana foolishly thought that if no demigod could conquer him, he would live forever. Since Ravana forgot to ask for immunity from human beings, the demigods petitioned God to personally come to earth in the form of Lord Rama to specifically kill Ravana. Born as the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Rama had three younger brothers, all equal in prowess and piety. Though all the brothers loved each other very much, Lakshmana in particular was the one closest to Rama.

As events would play out later in life, Rama would be forced into exile due to requests made by His father King Dashratha, and the king’s wife Kaikeyi. Lakshmana and Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, accompanied the Lord to the forest. During the initial days of travel, the group stopped at the area of the forest inhabited by the Nishadas, headed by Guha. Nishadas were a race of forest dwellers, not deemed civilized enough to live in the villages or towns. Guha however, was a great devotee of Rama, so the Lord honored him by accepting his hospitality. The above referenced statement is part of Guha’s description of how the group spent a night in the forest with him. Guha is narrating the details to Rama’s next youngest brother, Bharata. Kaikeyi was Bharata’s mom, so she had demanded his installation as king instead of Rama. When Bharata found out what happened, he immediately went to the forest looking for Rama. He was worried not only about his brother’s welfare, but also of the fact that it was his mom who had perpetrated such a horrible deed.

Guha washing Lord Rama's feet From Guha’s description, we get an insight into Lakshmana’s behavior towards Rama and Sita. Lakshmana was a pure devotee, so he worshiped God in an unselfish manner. He was a younger brother, so it would have been understandable if he was a little selfish or spoiled. Rama was, after all, a pious prince, the most skilled warrior, and loved and adored by all. Lakshmana easily could have asked anything of Rama and the Lord would have given it to him. Yet Lakshmana chose a different path. His mindset was always, “How can I help my brother? He is so kind and compassionate towards all, and for this reason, people are always taking advantage of Him. It is my duty to protect Him and His wife, who I view as my own mother.” During nights in the forest, Lakshmana would stay awake guarding the sleeping area of Rama and Sita. One can only imagine how great his devotion was. We have trouble performing simple austerities such as fasting or abstaining from prohibited foods and activities. Lakshmana voluntarily gave up all material pleasures so that he could focus on serving God at all times. Only Rama had been ordered to live in the forest, so the Lord was all set to go alone, but both Sita and Lakshmana insisted on accompanying Him.

Approaching God for a personal reason isn’t a bad thing. People that take this route at least have an understanding that there is a higher power greater than themselves. That in itself represents a step up from the thinking of the atheists. However, if we apply a little intelligence, we will conclude that such a form of worship is second class. For example, say that we pray to God to always keep our families healthy. If the Lord comes through for us, we will be happy for a little while, but then what? Does that mean our desires will stop? The living entity is always hankering and lamenting. That is the business of man. We will most certainly crave other material benedictions. On the reverse side, what if we don’t get what we prayed for? Does that mean that God doesn’t exist or that God is at fault? That wouldn’t make any sense. God is the Almighty. He is infallible; therefore one of His names is Achyuta.

Lakshmana The lesson is that we shouldn’t view God as our order supplier. Every person is allotted their own material fortunes and misfortunes based on their qualities and the work they have performed, or karma. Our business as human beings is to come to a proper understanding of God, and to use that understanding to serve Him in a loving way. Bhagavata-dharma is the highest form of worship and it is the path laid down by Lakshmana. If we are sincere in our practice of bhakti yoga, then as an added benefit, we will automatically acquire all the tools we need to be successful. This is God’s promise to us.

Categories: glories of lakshmana

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