"One is immediately freed from the clutches of maya if he seriously and sincerely says, ‘My dear Lord Krishna, although I have forgotten You for so many long years in the material world, today I am surrendering unto You. I am Your sincere and serious servant. Please engage me in Your service.’” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.33)
Every person encounters some level of distress in their day to day affairs. These distresses take different forms and the resulting pain can be severe at times. By definition, life on earth is full of miseries, dukhalayam. People have different methods for alleviating distresses. Some seek out the help of friends and family, while others take to intoxication and other sinful activities. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that we need only look to God to help us with all of our problems. Turning to Him will bring us relief from all our pains.
Seeking the counsel of friends and family is certainly a good initial step in finding solutions to our problems. Our elders, especially our parents, are wiser than us because of their life experiences. It is very easy to get caught up in our own personal affairs, so much so that we forget that other people go through pretty much the same problems. Our parents were once our age, so they have an idea of what it’s like to grow up in this world. They have intimate knowledge of the pitfalls and traps of life, so they try to help us avoid them. Aside from our elders, counselors and therapists also serve as beneficial aides. Professional therapists deal with the problems of others on a daily basis, so naturally they are bound to see repetition and patterns in the problems they try to solve. What helps one person out of trouble will likely help others as well.
In the end, the solutions provided by friends, family, and counselors are only temporary. That is the nature of the material world. Everything here is temporary, from pains to pleasures, heat and cold, and light and darkness. The sun goes down at night, but it is guaranteed to rise again in the morning. In a similar manner, the entire creation is destroyed at the end of a full Yuga, but then recreated after some time.
“O son of Kunti, at the end of the millennium every material manifestation enters into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency I again create.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.7)
Since dualities occur naturally, it is safe to assume that our distresses will go away on their own. The Vedas tell us that there are three distinct types of pain that we suffer from: those inflicted us on by nature, those coming from other living entities, and those caused by our mind and body. Simply by accepting a material body, we become subject to these types of distresses. We can come up with little adjustments here and there to try to avoid problems, but new issues are bound to come up due to desire. Guna and karma, qualities and fruitive desire, govern our lives. The mind is always thinking; always hankering after things it wants and lamenting over things it doesn’t have. Even the wealthiest person in the world isn’t immune to the effects of the mind. Many of us think that if we win the lottery that all our troubles will go away. Yet we see that lottery winners are often the first ones to go bankrupt, for they have no idea how to manage their newfound wealth. There are even think tanks set up, such as the Sudden Money Institute, that try to help people who have suddenly come into large amounts of money.
The wisest among us can put forward the best solutions we have to our problems, and while our intentions are good, these prescriptions inevitably fail at delivering permanent peace and happiness. This is because happiness can only come from connecting with God. The Vedas tell us that there is only one God, and His original form is that of Lord Krishna. He is described as Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedas are very precise in their descriptions of God. Though people naturally understand that God is great, the Vedic texts go one step further by giving us details into His greatness. Lord Krishna’s primary expansion is that of Lord Vishnu, who then expands into various incarnations. An incarnation is referred to as an avatara, meaning one who descends. An avatara is described in this way because He is non-different from God.
The term “descend” also tells us that God originally resides in the spiritual world. This material world is in a lower planetary system. This place is full of anxieties, whereas God’s spiritual realm is free of anxieties and is thus known as Vaikuntha. Vishnu’s direct expansions are known as Vishnu-tattva, meaning they are the same in potency as Vishnu. We living entities are also expansions of God, but we are classified as jiva-tattva. Jivas are subject to be influenced by the three modes of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Though the jiva is constitutionally a pure spirit soul, part and parcel of Krishna, due to its inferior potency, it can become trapped in the repeated cycle of birth and death. When Krishna comes in His avatara form, His body is not like that of a jiva. The Vedas even give us details into what type of body Krishna has; sach-chid-ananda-vigraha, a body full of bliss and knowledge. This description not only applies to His body in the spiritual world, but also the bodies of His innumerable avataras.
“According to the Vedic version, the Supreme Lord manifests and expands Himself in innumerable expansions, of which the primary expansions are called Vishnu-tattva, and the secondary expansions are called the living entities. In other words, the Vishnu-tattva is the personal expansion, and the living entities are separated expansions. By His personal expansion, He is manifested in various forms like Lord Rama, Narasimhadeva, Vishnumurti and all the predominating Deities in the Vaikuntha planets.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7 Purport)
One of Lord Vishnu’s primary incarnations is that of Lord Rama, a kshatriya king appearing on earth during the second time period of creation, the Treta Yuga. Lord Rama is kind and peaceful, for His very name means one who gives pleasure to others. One look at His smiling face gives devotees transcendental bliss that lasts a lifetime. Since He is as good as God Himself, those who associate with Lord Rama in the mellow of devotion will automatically have all of their distresses removed. This was the path taken by the sages living in the Dandaka forest during Rama’s exile period.
As part of His pastimes, Lord Rama travelled the forests of India for fourteen years along with His wife Sita Devi, and younger brother Lakshmana. As Lord Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad-gita, when there is a decline in religion and a rise in power of the miscreants, God personally comes to earth to give protection to His devotees.
“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Bg. 4.8)
This was the function of God’s Lord Rama avatara. A Rakshasa demon by the name of Ravana had risen to power. He was the king of an island called Lanka, but he was not content. He wanted dominion over the whole world. He knew his only threat lay in the sacrifices performed by the great sages residing in the forests. In the varnashrama dharma system, the brahmanas are considered the highest class. Brahmanas are essentially priests, and their occupational duty is to perform sacrifices, study the Vedas, and give instruction to the other members of society. By performing sacrifices, the demigods are pleased, which in turn pleases God. Ravana knew that if he could instill fear in the sages, they would be hesitant in performing their prescribed duties, meaning that atheism would run rampant.
“O Sita, those ascetics of severe vows that are beset with perils in Dandaka, having personally come to me, who am their refuge, have sought protection at my hands.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, Sec 10)
This exact situation was starting to happen. A key fact overlooked by Ravana was that God doesn’t just turn the other check when He sees His devotees being harassed. Though God is by default neutral towards all living entities, He makes an exception for those who seek His shelter.
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.29)
While Lord Rama was wandering the forest, the sages asked Him to protect them. Sita Devi was a little concerned that maybe Rama would become prone to using violence without cause. To allay her fears, Rama told her that it was His duty to protect those who sought shelter of Him. This lesson applies to all of us. If we humbly seek refuge of Lord Krishna or one of His primary expansions, we are guaranteed to always be protected.
The primary business of mankind is the performance of devotional service, or bhakti yoga. Transcending any material activity, devotional service is a completely spiritual discipline that brings peace and happiness.
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.54)
Naturally, some hankering and lamenting will always be there, along with other distresses, but since we will be engaged in our natural occupation, these distresses will never affect us. We will be able to swat them aside, keeping our minds focused on the lotus feet of the Lord.
The atheists actually pose the biggest problem for devotees. Unlike the everyday distresses caused by material nature, the distresses caused by the atheists can be very serious. Some miscreants, such as Ravana, go so far as attempting to kill devotees. They are so threatened by God that they will try anything to stop worship of Him. Yet from historical examples, we know that those devotees who seek refuge in Krishna will always be protected. A five year old boy, Prahlada Maharaja, sought the refuge of Krishna. The Lord came to the rescue by appearing as a half-man, half-lion Narasimhadeva, to kill Prahlada’s father, Hiranyakashipu.
There are many similar examples recorded in the Puranas and other great Vedic texts. God is real, and the guarantee of His protection is not just a fairy tale. If the Lord doesn’t personally appear, then He sends His authorized representatives. So either way, we should stick to the proper course of action, devotional service. If we need relief from our distresses, we need only look to God to help us. This was the path taken by the sages of the Dandaka forest, and they were duly rewarded.
Categories: protecting the saints