“I have not seen any person in this world, be they an enemy or one punished for heinous sins, speak ill of Rama, even in His absence.” (Lakshmana speaking to Kausalya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 21)
At one time or another, most of us have issued negative statements about someone else when they weren’t around. This activity, known as “talking behind someone’s back”, let’s us voice our concerns or complaints much more easily since the other person isn’t there to take umbrage.
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
The material world is a place full of miseries. Especially in this age of Kali, quarrel and hypocrisy are rampant. Everyone is competing for sense gratification, so naturally this competition can lead to cheating. Cheating is a manifestation of dishonesty, which then leads to arguments. Since we all have a tendency to cheat, as it is one of the four defects of man, we also tend to view others as cheaters. If someone cheats us or rubs us the wrong way, we usually don’t air our grievances out in the open. We wait until that person is not around, and then we complain to our friends and family. Our deepest feelings don’t necessarily exist until they are voiced out loud. This is similar to the old argument of the tree falling in the forest. Many people believe that if a tree falls in the forest, it doesn’t make a sound unless someone is there to hear it. By the same token, many people think that feelings and emotions aren’t real until they are spoken about. In this way, talking behind someone’s back is a way to give credence to our complaints.
Lord Rama, God’s incarnation during the Treta Yuga, was a perfectly pious prince, born as the eldest son of Maharaja Dashratha of Ayodhya. This family dated all the way back to King Ikshvaku, so it had a tradition of producing pious kings dedicated to dharma, or religiosity. Rama was no different, and since He was God Himself, all His actions were infallible. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, state that society should be divided into four varnas, or divisions based on qualities. The kshatriyas are the second division, consisting of brave warriors who serve as the military and the government administrators. Since the government is in charge of administering justice, kshatriyas would regularly hand out punishment to those deserving it. As an incarnation of God, Lord Rama viewed everyone equally, thus no one could say anything bad about Him; not even those He had punished. Even in His absence, no one could utter a negative word about Rama, for His dedication to the well-being of the citizens was unmatched.
As part of His pastimes, at around the age of twenty-five, the Lord was ordered to leave the kingdom and live in the forest for fourteen years. His father gave Him this order, and Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana protested greatly. In the above referenced quote, Lakshmana is complaining to Rama’s mother Kausalya that the Lord wasn’t worthy of being punished, for not even His adversaries could say anything bad about Him. No one would even think of talking behind His back. More importantly, Lakshmana viewed it as His duty to stand up for his brother. Rama was more than happy to follow the orders of His father and depart for the forest. He even tried very hard to dissuade Lakshmana from following Him, but He was unsuccessful. Lakshmana thought that by addressing his grievances to Rama’s mother, she might have enough influence with the king to get him to change his mind.
Lakshmana appeared to be in a very angry mood, but, in a spiritual sense, it was not so. Pure devotees of the Lord feel happiest when they are defending Him. We see a similar phenomenon when it relates to sports teams and their fans. For example, fans of the New York Yankees baseball team love to stand up for their team against attacks from fans of the rival New York Mets baseball team, and vice versa. Politics works the same way. Presidents usually won’t go on the attack against their opponents, but rather it is the Vice President’s duty to stand up for the administration and act as an “attack dog”. We are much happier defending our friends and loved ones than we are defending ourselves. We all can withstand attacks against our character, but it pains us greatly to see those dear to us being unfairly criticized.
Lakshmana took his brother’s punishment very personally. His mood is always that of protector and defender of God. In the spiritual world, Lakshmana assumes the form of Ananta Shesha Naga, a serpent with unlimited hoods who provides protection and comfort to Lord Narayana, God’s four-handed form. Lakshmana serves as the perfect role model for all of us, for it is the eternal duty of man to glorify God. That is the real meaning of religion. We are happiest when we become His devotees and preach His glories to others.
Categories: glories of lakshmana