Unconditional Love

Rama and Lakshmana “The activities of Lord Rama were full of suffering, but Lakshmana, of His own accord, tolerated that suffering.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 5.150)

Rama with three brothers, wife, and Hanuman When Lord Krishna came to earth as Lord Rama, He was born as the eldest son to the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha. Tradition called for the eldest son to succeed as king, therefore Dashratha one day decided that he was ready to install Rama as his successor. All the arrangements were made, the townspeople were very excited; both Rama and His wife Sita had fasted the night before, so everything was in place for a grand ceremony. As fate would have it, Dashratha’s youngest wife Kaikeyi interjected in the nick of time to spoil the whole affair. Cashing in on promises previously made to her by the king, Kaikeyi wished for Rama to be exiled from the kingdom instead of becoming the new king. Kaikeyi’s son Bharata would be crowned as the new king, with Rama being completely out of the way living in the forest for fourteen years.

Lakshmana and Rama eatingLord Rama had three younger brothers: Bharata, Lakshmana, and Shatrughna. Lakshmana was the closest with Rama, for he adored Him from their very childhood. Lakshmana would always play with Rama and viewed himself as His servant. He wouldn’t even eat anything unless Rama had eaten first. In this way, he showed us the proper conduct for a devotee. Prasadam is sanctified food, known as the Lord’s mercy since it has first been offered to God. Devotees of Krishna don’t prepare food for themselves, but rather they cook for the Lord’s pleasure. Unlike us, the Lord can eat with any part of His body, so by placing food in front of His deity or picture, the Lord comes and eats the food. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord openly declares that He accepts things offered to Him with love and devotion.

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” (Bg. 9.26)

Radha Krishna deities The Lord is so kind that He eats the food, but leaves everything there for us. For this reason, it is known as prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. Anyone who eats such food is highly benefitted, for it is completely free of karma. Karma means fruitive activity or material work. Fruitive activity naturally has reactions associated with it, either good or bad. If we do good work, we are materially benefitted. In the same manner, if we are overly sinful, it is to our detriment. When something is karma-free, it has no material reactions. In reality, the concepts of good and bad are on the material platform, meaning they are more or less the same. We may achieve great material benedictions like wealth, fame, and beauty, but these things are only temporary. Even if we ascend to the heavenly planets of sva-loka after this life, our time there is limited, and we are thus forced to return to the material world and suffer through miseries again.

When we eat for our own sense gratification, there is naturally karma associated with it, especially if we are eating meat. If we are unnecessarily killing animals to satisfy our tongue and stomach, then naturally we will have to suffer the same fate in the future at the hands of another animal or living entity. Prasadam is so wonderful because it is completely free of karma. Instead of giving material benedictions, it immediately washes our sins away and increases our God consciousness. That is the aim of life, namely to think of God at the time of our death. We often hear the notion that one’s life flashes before their eyes at the time of death. The Vedas subscribe to this theory as well, except they go one step further. Lord Krishna declares that one’s consciousness at the time of death determines the type of body they will receive in the next life. So when our life flashes before our eyes, we will be conscious of those things most important to us. For this reason, Krishna advises that one should think of Him at the time of death, because if this happens, the soul immediately gets transported to His spiritual abode where it never has to return from. In this way Vedic culture is geared towards achieving that end. Always thinking about God is the aim of life, because that will ensure that we think of Him at the time of our death.

lor10aLakshmana was an incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga, the serpent with unlimited hoods who serves as the resting place for Lord Narayana in the spiritual world. God has many forms, with one of the primary being His four-handed form of Lord Narayana, also known as Vishnu. When God comes to earth, He also brings along His closest associates. His wife in the spiritual world, Goddess Lakshmi, also came to earth with Him in the form of Sita Devi. Lakshmana, being a perfect devotee from his birth, was very angered by the order of exile given by Dashratha. Rama had no problem with it, for He knew that a king must abide by his word. Dashratha had made a promise to Kaikeyi previously, so it was his duty to grant her request. Lakshmana, on the other hand, could care less about such rules of propriety. His only dharma, or religion, was that of service to Rama. He couldn’t believe that his father would dole out such a punishment to someone as pure and good-natured as Rama. The Lord was loved and adored by all the citizens of Ayodhya, for they eagerly anticipated His coronation. Lakshmana was so angry to see his brother treated this way by Dashratha that he proposed that both he and Rama overthrow the government and rule the kingdom by themselves.

“Even before people come to know of this proposal of exile, you should, along with my help, take control of the government for yourself.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 21.8)

Now this suggestion was certainly very rash and not in line with the proper mode of conduct. However, it was done out of pure love, so Lord Rama appreciated it very much. There are nine different processes of devotional service as outlined by Prahlada Maharaja, with one of them being surrendering everything to the Lord. Lakshmana exhibited this quality by renouncing all His family ties and acting only in the interest of Rama. This is the highest form of devotion which exists only in the best of devotees. This actually serves as a great example for all of us. In today’s world, it is quite fashionable to disregard God and His instructions. Most religious leaders today love to stress the fact that God loves us no matter what we do. Now that is certainly true; there is no denying that. However, if God is that kind to us, shouldn’t we try to love Him the same way? Instead, through poor leadership, people today have been trained to take that love for granted. God’s unconditional love is used as an excuse to continue a life full of sins. Addicted to gambling, intoxication, illicit sex, and meat eating, today’s society is fully engrossed in material sense gratification.

Just as Lakshmana was angered at the ill treatment shown to his brother, so the devotees of today are angered by the way God is neglected. Taking someone’s love for granted certainly isn’t a nice thing. Devotees want everyone to love God simply for who He is. He loves us so much that He actually gives us whatever we want. If we want to continue a life full of sinful activity, He happily obliges us. Those who are addicted to sexual activity are rewarded with the body of a dog or a monkey in their next life. Those who love to eat animal flesh are similarly rewarded with the body of a lion or a tiger in their next birth. By the same token, if we want to be by God’s side, He will gladly let us serve Him. This was the path taken by Lakshmana, and for this he is worthy of our highest respect and honor. Following in the footsteps of the great saints and devotees is our only path towards salvation. Jaya Shri Lakshmana.

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