Remover of Distress

Lord Rama “The kshatriya family is the protector of the human race, according to the Vedic system. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as Lord Ramachandra, He appeared in the family descending from the sun-god, known as Raghu-vamsha; and when He appeared as Lord Krishna, He did so in the family of Yadu-vamsha.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Intro)

It is a reality that ours is a world governed by the aggressive use of force. It is only through a strong government presence that peace and stability can be achieved inside the confines of a community or nation. In the absence of protection from the government, anarchy ensues which then results in everyone living in distress.

iPod Fear of rogues and thieves is the source of this distress. Material life generally means living in the mode of passion where everyone is involved in fruitive activity, or karma, for the acquisition of wealth and the opportunities for sense gratification that come with it. It is the tendency of animals to engage in acts of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. These activities are also seen in humans, with the desire to defend having special significance in this age. We live in a time of great technological advancement where the standard of living is higher than it has ever been. In America, even the average person in poverty owns a home, a car, a microwave, an iPod, and also gets cable or satellite television. These advancements all came about through man’s desire to seek out a better way of life. “Let me work hard and make technological advancements so that I can live in peace. If I have a steady job, a loving family, and a nice house, I will be happy.”

These advancements certainly have increased the quality of our life, mainly in the area of sense gratification. There are so many avenues for one to exercise their sybaritic pursuits. Yet this advancement doesn’t come without a cost. The more wealth we obtain and the more possessions we lay claim to actually result in an increase in anxiety and distress. This is because the mode of defense automatically kicks in. If we get a big house or a nice car, we immediately start to worry about maintaining these possessions. “What will happen if I get sick? What will happen if my house gets broken into? I need to get insurance for all these things. Insurance is costly, so now I have to find ways to afford the insurance premiums to protect all of my possessions.” In this way, it becomes easy for anyone today to constantly be in distress.

The easiest way for us to lose our possessions is for someone to come and steal them. Most of us know that stealing is wrong, but there are many people that simply don’t have a problem with it. They live in the mode of ignorance. According to Vedic teachings, all material activity can be classified into one of three distinct modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Acts done in accordance with revealed knowledge and scriptural injunctions fall under the category of goodness. Passion equates to any karmic activity. This is the mode that most of us live in. The mode of ignorance is any activity done in absence of goodness and passion. Stealing is the quintessential ignorant activity because it goes against every moral code that exists. Someone works honestly to earn a living and buy property, thus they have an expectation that no one will come and take it from them. Yet thieves do precisely that. Acting in the mode of ignorance, they fail to abide by even the smallest standard of decency, casting aside scriptural injunctions and common laws of society.

Government exists to provide protection The government exists primarily to protect us from such thieves. Not only do people steal from us in the dark of night, but many times, theft occurs out in the open with the threat of violence. A robber will approach someone else and threaten to shoot or kill them if they don’t do what they say. Using violence is an easy way to steal from someone else. Hence the government’s primary instrument in providing protection is the use of violence, or at least the threat thereof. Every living entity has a natural right to self-defense. This principle is seen even in the animal kingdom. A government represents the collective right to self-defense of a group of people. In this vein, governments must use violence from time to time to administer justice and provide protection.

This is precisely the injunction of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. The system of societal maintenance recommend by the Vedas is known as varnashrama dharma. The varnas are the four societal divisions or castes. The second division is known as the kshatriya, and they are to serve as the government leaders. The four varnas can be thought of in terms of the body. The brahmanas are the highest class and they serve as the brains of society. Without the brain, the body would be dead and useless. The vaishyas are the merchants and they serve as the stomach. The shudras are the laborers and they serve as the legs. The kshatriyas are the arms of the body, so they can serve many purposes, with providing protection being primary among them. Most importantly, kshatriyas don’t provide protection on a whim, but rather they take instruction from the brains of society, the brahmanas. In a society where kshatriyas are faithfully executing their duties at the advice and consent of the priestly class, anxiety and distress are non-existent.

“O virtuous and knowledgeable daughter of King Janaka, what you have said is befitting your family heritage. You have said beneficial and friendly words befitting your disposition. What, O exalted one, shall I say? You have yourself by your words (furnished an answer to what you had said). Kshatriyas handle bows in order that the word ‘distressed’ may not exist (on earth).” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, Sec 10)

Lord RamaMany thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna, God Himself, appeared on earth as His Lord Rama avatara. Usually God comes to earth to provide protection to His devotees, thus it’s not surprising to see Him take birth in a kshatriya family. In actuality, God can never take birth, but for the purposes of enacting pastimes, He appears to take birth to a specific set of parents. Rama was the greatest kshatriya warrior, expertly trained by the great sages Vashishta and Vishvamitra. In the above referenced statement, Rama is responding to concerns raised by His wife Sita Devi, regarding the use of violence. Rama, His younger brother Lakshmana, and Sita were ranging the forest of Dandaka where many sages were being harassed by Rakshasa demons. The Vedas tell us that there are 8,400,000 varieties of living entities. Human beings are considered the most intelligent, but there are also many other living entities that are human-like. The Rakshasas are one such race, but their primary characteristic is that they are addicted to sinful life, most notably that of meat eating and illicit sex. They are staunch enemies of religious people, so it wasn’t surprising to find out they were harassing the sages of Dandaka.

The brahmanas approached Rama and asked Him to protect them. Rama happily obliged, but Sita was worried that by carrying around so many weapons, Rama might unnecessarily act violently. This is an important point. Though the Vedas do sanction the use of violence, it must be done in accordance with dharma, or religiosity. Sita Devi reminded Rama of this, and He in turn was very pleased by her wise words. However, He reminded her that it was the primary duty of a kshatriya, or a government leader, to remove distresses from their dependents. By carrying around His bow and arrows, Rama was giving comfort to His dependents, the sages, by letting them know that He would protect them from the Rakshasas.

Sita Rama We can see that much of the world lives under constant distress, a lot of which is caused by government forces. Rather than providing protection to their citizens, governments have become great plunderers of wealth. This may seem like a harsh thing to say, but it is undoubtedly true. One need only watch the news on any given day and see what government leaders are debating over. The government is viewed today as a wish-fulfilling cow. The annual treasury is taken to be a giant pie, with different factions lobbying the government to lay claim to their piece of it. Governments certainly have a right to tax their citizens, provided that they adequately protect them from rogues and thieves. Yet nowadays, the government uses tax money to distribute gifts to various special interest groups and to their friends. In essence, they have turned into the thieves.

The combination of the rapid increase in the overall standard of living and the current government situation has resulted in an unprecedented feeling of distress and anxiety amongst the people of the world. We needn’t fear however. Just as the sages of the Dandaka forest did many thousands of years ago, we can look to God to remove our distresses. The time period we are currently in is known as the dark age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the Kali Yuga. All of today’s societal conditions were predicted many thousands of years ago by the great saints. Since conditions are so bad, God doesn’t appear as a kshatriya in the Kali Yuga until the very end. Rather, for this age, the Lord appears in the form of His holy name. If we simply chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare”, we will be calling God to come and save us.

The lesson is that we all have a right to keep what we honestly earn. Everything is God’s property originally, but He kindly allows us to accumulate possessions and wealth. The real purpose of human life is to know and love God. Keeping this fact in mind, we should try our best to live a simple lifestyle and be content with the possessions that we have, not coveting the wealth of others. As far as protection goes, it is highly unlikely we’ll see a reinstitution of varnashrama dharma. Lord Rama protected the sages of Dandaka with His bow and arrow. In this age, that same bow and arrow has taken the form of the transcendental sound vibrations of God’s holy names.  This transcendental sound is equally as capable of offering us protection. Keeping God’s name on the tip of our tongue, listening to the words of the spiritual master, and concentrating our eyes on the divine form of the Lord’s deity will very quickly alleviate our pains. Simply thinking of Lord Rama will remove our distresses and allow us to always be happy.

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