“One who executes his duties according to My injunctions and who follows this teaching faithfully, without envy, becomes free from the bondage of fruitive actions.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.31)
Lord Rama, God Himself, does everything for His brothers, who are His purest devotees. Wanting fame and fortune is a natural desire inherited by those who take birth in this material world, but the truly pious never covet such things. In His incarnation as Lord Rama, God set the highest standard of piety and etiquette. Being the supreme pure, the Lord never wants to be worshiped in a way that causes harm to others, nor does He want us to act in any way that unnecessarily causes pain and suffering to the innocent.
Modern day world leaders work very hard to acquire power, fortune, and fame. People elected to a high post can easily get caught up in the glamour and attention, and thus falsely think themselves to be more important than they actually are. We see this phenomenon with celebrities who take to philanthropy. Wealthy people often start their own charitable foundations which raise money through banquets, celebrity golf tournaments, and other such public events. Invariably the media will report on such activity by saying that “Such and such person raised such and such amounts of money for a particular cause.” The famous person is thereby lauded for performing charitable work. There is no doubt that philanthropy is a very noble activity, but what gets lost is the fact that the majority of charitable giving is done by the average citizen. One may host a fundraising dinner, but that host is not the one donating the majority of the funds, but rather all the people attending are the ones contributing. The organizer deserves praise, but the donors themselves are what make these events a success.
This concept also applies to political leaders. The President of the United States occupies arguably the most important position in the world, thus it is easy for him to start thinking he is responsible for everything that goes on. Presidents implement various policies and then declare that they have created such and such number of jobs. Taking this line of thinking even further, they declare that they will provide health care, food, jobs, etc. to all the people of the country. This kind of thinking may be well intentioned, but it overlooks many important factors. Businesses create jobs. Entrepreneurs, seeking an improved way of life, take a risk by starting a business. They then hire workers to help boost their productivity, which then leads to higher profits. A president or any other elected official has very little to do with this, yet they are the first ones to claim that they have created jobs. This flawed logic comes about from being too puffed up with power.
God is actually the proprietor of everything. He is the original person, adi purusham. Everything in this world emanates from the spiritual world, janmady asya yatah. If anyone deserves credit for creating or destroying anything, it’s God and His energies.
“Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6)
Still, just by taking birth here, we automatically become subject to illusion and other defects. In order to counteract the effects of maya, God gave us the Vedas, the original scriptures for man. The Vedas advise us to live by dharma, or religious principles. By acting in a detached way, adhering to the duties prescribed to us, we can make spiritual advancement and immunize ourselves from the effects of false ego and pride. Lord Rama was a living example of how to adhere to the principles of dharma. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, incarnates on earth from time to time to reinstitute the principles of religion.
As Lord Rama, God appeared as a pious prince, born as the eldest son of Maharaja Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya. In order to set a good example, the Lord arranged things in such a way that He was able to let everyone see how a pious person, especially a leader, should conduct themselves. Rama’s trademark quality was that He did everything for His friends, families, and well-wishers. He never did anything for Himself. This fact shouldn’t surprise us. The Vedas describe God as atmarama, meaning one who is self-satisfied. He is in need of nothing. He is Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses all fortunes. Being satisfied in Himself, He has no need to be falsely puffed up, pounding His chest and showing off to people. Rather, He likes to glorify His devotees and make them happy. That is His main business when He appears on earth. The true definition of dharma means acting in accordance with God’s injunctions. Everything the Lord does is in line with dharma, even though certain actions may seem good or bad to us in the material sense.
Lord Rama’s life is chronicled in many Vedic texts, with the primary account found in the Valmiki Ramayana. One of the major events in His life was His banishment to the forest by His father. Dashratha had promised one of his wives any two boons of her choosing, and she used these boons to send Rama to the forest and install Bharata, Rama’s younger brother, as the new king. The Lord had no desire for the throne, but He did have a desire to maintain His father’s good name. For this reason, He gladly agreed to go to the forest, taking His wife Sita Devi, and His younger brother Lakshmana with Him.
“I swear to you, O Lakshmana, that I wish for religiosity (dharma), sense gratification (kama), economic development (artha), and the earth itself in your interests alone. O Lakshmana, I swear by my weapon that it is for the maintenance and happiness of my brothers that I wish for the kingdom. O mild one, this earth herself is not difficult of being attained by me, but O Lakshmana, I do not through unrighteousness wish to possess myself of Shakra’s state. May fire reduce to ashes any happiness of mine that, O giver of honor, happens to be dissevered from Bharata, yourself, or Shatrughna.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 97)
Bharata was out of town when the events related to the exile unfolded. Upon hearing of what had happened, Bharata immediately set out for the forest to get Rama to come back and take over the throne. The rest of the citizens of Ayodhya used this opportunity to see Rama by following Bharata. Lakshmana, who was Rama’s great protector, upon seeing Bharata and his army coming from a distance, immediately became skeptical. He thought that maybe Bharata was coming to kill Rama so that the Lord wouldn’t threaten his claim to the throne. In the above referenced statement, Rama is trying pacify Lakshmana by telling him that Bharata would never act in such a way. Even if Bharata had come with hostile intentions, the Lord would still never want to harm his brother in any way. He would rather die than have any harm come to any of His brothers, be it Lakshmana, Bharata, or Shatrughna.
God and His powers are inconceivable, achintya. Yet from this behavior of Rama, we get a slight glimpse into His true nature. Love is the most powerful emotion in this material world, but an emotion even higher than that is the ecstasy that comes from love for God. This emotion is known as bhava, and it is unchecked. The material form of love is often checked by desire for reciprocation and validation. Love for God is completely pure, not tinged by any personal desire. In order for a relationship to be defined as loving, the love must go both ways. Bhava, pure love for God, works in the same way. God loves His devotees just as much as they love Him, maybe even more. The four sons of Dashratha were very close with one another. All the brothers viewed Rama as their deity. Rama knew this, so He openly declared that all His actions were performed as a sacrifice to them.
This is a key point. If God performs activities as a sacrifice for His devotees, shouldn’t we do the same for Him? This is the secret to life. By acting in our personal interest, or even for altruistic purposes such as charity and philanthropy, we still run into a wall eventually. Due to the repetitive nature of karmic activity, one can easily become bewildered by performing the same actions over and over again. The meaning of life is to become God conscious. One who thinks of God at the time of death, never takes birth again in the material world.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)
In order to be elevated to this consciousness, sacrifice is required. Every action we perform should be dedicated to God. That is the path of dharma. Lord Krishna Himself declares that one should act with detachment, not craving any fruitive results.
“Be steadfast in yoga, O Arjuna. Perform your duty and abandon all attachment to success or failure. Such evenness of mind is called yoga.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.48)
This is a nice concept in theory, but unless we apply it to our own lives, it is meaningless. Renunciation and acting with detachment aren’t easy things to implement. How can we become detached from sense gratification if we enjoy it so much? The easiest way to acquire detachment is by having attachment to God and His service. Lord Rama practiced detachment by only acting in His devotees’ interests. We can similarly show detachment by acting in God’s interest and the interests of His devotees.
This attachment for God actually already exists inside all of us. Due to our conditioned state, however, we have forgotten this love. It simply needs to be reawakened. This revival can occur only through the practice of bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Consisting of nine distinct process, one need only engage in one of them to achieve perfection. Chanting is the recommended method for this age. The maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, fosters attachment to God and His name, so one who chants this regularly will be performing the highest service for himself and his fellow man. By engaging in devotional service, we will automatically be detached from whatever material rewards we acquire, be it wealth or a high position of power. Since our only desire will be to serve God, covetousness will go away.