“Lord Shri Ramachandra is so kind and merciful to His devotees that He is very easily satisfied by a little service rendered by anyone, human or not.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.19.8 Purport)
God loves His devotees so much. If we study the events of human history, we would be hard pressed to find anyone who graced this earth who was nicer to His devotees than Lord Rama. The very name Rama means one who gives happiness and pleasure to others. Though born in the warrior caste, Rama was loved and adored by all due to His staunch devotion to dharma, or religiosity. No sin could be found in Him, yet the Lord Himself felt embarrassed when the sages of the Dandaka forest came to for protection from the harassment of the Rakshasas.
According to the Vedic system, society should be divided into four varnas, and correspondingly one’s duration of life should be divided into four spiritual institutions known as ashramas. Collectively, this system is referred to as varnashrama dharma. It is a misconception that one is born into a specific caste. It is clearly stated in the primary Vedic texts that one’s guna and karma, qualities and work determine their caste.
“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)
The first division is known as the brahmana, which is the priestly class. If one were to compare society to the body of a human being, the brahmanas would be considered the brain. The brain guides the functions of the other body parts. In fact, if one’s brain stops working, they are considered brain-dead, meaning their body has become useless. The Vedas recommend the varnashrama dharma system, but we see that such divisions don’t necessarily have to be implemented by force, but rather, they exist naturally. In any large group of people, there will always be a certain section that has an affinity for cultivating knowledge and practicing religion. This is because every person is born with different qualities, combinations of the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. The brahmanas are considered to be in the mode of goodness since their actions are guided by intelligence. This intelligence is not simply of the “book smarts” variety. Real intelligence means following the injunctions of the Vedas, the original religious doctrine for all of mankind. Veda means knowledge, and the highest knowledge is that emanating from God. At the beginning of creation, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, imparted perfect knowledge into the heart of Lord Brahma, the first created living entity. Since then, this knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation, initially through oral tradition, and more recently through written scripture. The Vedas are also known as the shrutis, meaning that which is heard. Knowledge is best acquired through the hearing process, and this is primarily how Vedic knowledge was first disseminated.
The highest form of knowledge is that which leads one to acquire devotion to God. In this respect, advanced brahmanas are guided in all of their activities by their devotion to Krishna. There are specific occupations outlined for a brahmana, such as teaching, reading, performing sacrifices, teaching others to perform sacrifices, and liberally donating in charity, but the guiding force of all of their work is their devotion to God. It is for this reason that brahmanas are so highly esteemed in God’s eyes.
The people that are truly worthy of adoration and respect are the devotees of God. In modern society, generally the people that receive the most praise are those who are very successful materially. There are nightly television shows dedicated to chronicling the day to day affairs of celebrities and wealthy businessmen. This is because people that are untrained in any Vedic discipline view the ultimate aim of life to be the acquisition of wealth, fame, and beauty. This then leads to kama, or sense gratification. Since media people wish to one day live an elegant lifestyle, they love to follow people who already have achieved such fame and notoriety.
Yet just because someone is successful in a material sense, it doesn’t mean that they are actually worthy of the praise and adulation they receive. Tiger Woods, the legendary golfer, was recently caught in an adultery affair with possibly several women. The media is running wild with the story. This is a gold mine for them because Tiger enjoyed almost universal acclaim throughout his career. He was seen as a flawless individual, someone who dominated the golf circuit and also dedicated himself to philanthropy. Tennis star Andre Agassi recently had a similar thing happen to him. He came out with a new book, in which he admitted that he several times used crystal meth, an illegal drug, and then lied to the tennis governing body when his drug test results came up positive. Both Agassi and Woods enjoyed great reputations prior to their mishaps, but they will be the first ones to admit that they are not flawless individuals. The fault actually does not lie with them. They never chose to be as famous as they became, nor did they hold themselves up as role models.
Since the brahmanas serve as God’s representatives on earth, they are considered to be flawless. This doesn’t mean that they don’t make mistakes from time to time, but it does mean their activities are not on the material platform.
“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.30)
Pure devotees act entirely for Krishna’s benefit, meaning everything they do is directed towards advancing their own Krishna consciousness and the devotion of others. They are the best teachers because they freely distribute the greatest gift in the world, Krishna prema, love for God. They acquire all good qualities automatically as a result of their service. Maharishi Valmiki, a great brahmana and poet himself, gives a beautiful description on the qualities of a devotee in the Ramacharitamanasa. Of all their good qualities, the devotees’ defining attribute is their unflinching faith and belief in God and His protection.
“He who attributes his virtues to You and holds himself responsible for his sinfulness; who fixes all his hopes on You and loves Your devotees-in his heart dwell, You and Sita.” (Maharishi Valmiki speaking to Lord Rama, Ramacharitamanasa, Ayodhya Kand, 130.1-4)
The qualities of devotees were on full display many thousands of years ago in the Dandaka forest. Lord Rama, His wife Sita Devi, and younger brother Lakshmana were roaming the forests of India, serving out a fourteen year exile sentence. At the time, the Rakshasa demon Ravana had ascended to power. Aside from being meat eaters and wine drinkers, Rakshasas are staunch atheists who derive pleasure from harassing devotees. Many great brahmanas were living in the forest since the quiet surroundings made it more conducive for cultivating spiritual knowledge. The Rakshasas knew the only threat to their power came from the brahmanas. There were many great warriors back then, but none of them could defeat Ravana. Yet Ravana knew that the brahmanas could perform sacrifices and maybe call upon a higher power to come and save them.
“Hearing those words voiced by them (the brahmanas), I, resolving to act in accordance with their request, said. ‘Be gracious to me.’ It is a great dishonor for me that such brahmanas, who are themselves worthy of being approached, actually seek Me and ask for protection. Then I asked the brahmanas, ‘What shall I do for you?’” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.7-10)
Little did Ravana know that the demigods had already set the wheels in motion for his demise. Lord Rama’s appearance was no accident, for God was petitioned by the demigods to come to earth to kill Ravana and protect the sages. In the above reference statement, Rama is describing to Sita how the sages came to Him and asked for His protection.
Lord Rama took birth in a kshatriya family. The kshatriyas are the warrior class, considered the second highest division in the varnashrama dharma system. They are strong and brave, but they are not all brawn. Every one of their activities is done with the advice and consent of the brahmanas. It is for this reason that Rama said He was ashamed that the brahmanas came to Him. Since their occupational duty is to serve God, brahmanas never accept a job serving someone else. Rather, it is the duty of the members of the other castes to serve and honor the brahmanas, heeding their sound advice. Similar to how a son would be embarrassed if his father came to him for help, kshatriyas don’t feel it is proper for brahmanas to ask them for things. By Rama’s statement, we also get a hint into His true nature. Since brahmanas cannot seek out the help of anyone except God, their petitioning Rama was not in violation of this rule. Rama was God Himself.
More than just ordinary brahmanas, the sages living the forests were Vaishnavas, devotees of Lord Vishnu. Lord Krishna’s primary expansion is Lord Vishnu, so essentially Vishnu and Krishna refer to the same person. A person may be a brahmana, expert in the injunctions of the Vedas, but a Vaishnava is considered more advanced since they are pure devotees of Krishna. God loves the brahmanas, but more so the Vaishnavas. By default, the Lord is neutral towards all living entities, but He makes an exception for His devotees. There are many examples of the Lord’s affection for His bhaktas, and this incident with the sages of the Dandaka forest was one of them. Lord Rama would come through for the sages by eventually marching to Ravana’s kingdom and killing him in battle. In a similar manner, if we fix ourselves up to become pure devotees, the Lord will also come through for us whenever we need Him.
Categories: protecting the saints