Vaishnava Authorities

Shiva Parvati and family “Hearing the verdict of Lord Shiva that the name of Rama is as good as a thousand other names of God, Parvatiji dined with her husband after uttering it only once.” (Ramacharitamanasa, Bala Kand, 18.3)

Lord Rama was an incarnation of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appeared on earth many thousands of year ago. Coinciding with Rama’s appearance was that of His younger brother Lakshmana, who was an incarnation of Baladeva, who is a primary expansion of Krishna in the spiritual world. These two brothers served as protectors not only for the residents of their hometown of Ayodhya, but for the entire world. As a direct incarnation of Krishna, Rama can be thought of as God. The Lord is not exclusive to any particular region or group of people. God is for everyone.

Sectarianism is widespread throughout the world when it comes to religion. Aside from the existence of the major religions of the world such as Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, there also exist subdivisions of the same religions such as Protestants, Lutherans, etc. Even in India there are many different sects, all ascribing to different beliefs. Because of the variety of religious systems in existence, many people mistakenly believe that God Himself is a man-made creation. “If so many people came up with similar conceptions of God, they must have done so out of their own imagination.” This conclusion may seem plausible, but it is not correct.

Lord Krishna The Vedas are the oldest religious scripture in existence. Originally passed down through oral tradition in India, the Vedas represent complete and perfect knowledge of the Absolute Truth, or God. One of the first pieces of information we get from the Vedas is that we living entities are not our bodies. We are actually spirit souls at the core, but by taking birth in the material world, we acquire a body made up of the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. These qualities are referred to as gunas in Sanskrit. These gunas account for the variations we see in species. Even in a particular body type, such as the human being, we see varieties in personalities, demeanors, and physical strength. These differences are all influenced by guna. So what determines the qualities with which we are born? The answer is karma, which is the other piece to the puzzle. Karma is fruitive work, which along with desire, determines our consciousness. The consciousness at the time of death determines our destination in the next life.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Since not every person has the same level of intelligence or aptitude for spiritual understanding, the Vedas are divided into different sections. The highest form of religion is known as bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service. Though technically considered a method of self-realization, bhagavata-dharma is actually the original occupation of every living entity. The other systems such as jnana-yoga, karma-yoga, and hatha-yoga are all meant to gradually elevate one to the stage of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Not every person who attends school will graduate, and in a similar manner, not every living entity who takes birth will take to devotional service right away. It is for this reason that God institutes varieties of religion, each tailored to a specific audience. The idea is that even the demoniac should have a dharma which they can adhere to.

“When the linking up process (of our consciousness with the Supreme Absolute Truth) is predominantly in fruitive activities, it is called karma-yoga, when it is predominantly empirical, it is called jnana-yoga, and when it is predominantly in a devotional relationship with the Supreme Lord, it is called bhakti-yoga.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.46 Purport)

Lord Shiva instructing his wife Parvati In India, we see that one of the largest sectarian clashes that occurs is that between devotees of Lord Shiva and devotees of Lord Vishnu, or Vaishnavas. The Vedas make it perfectly clear that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has many forms and expansions, but only His vishnu-tattva expansions are considered to be as good as the original. Lord Vishnu is Krishna’s primary expansion, and from Vishnu come the various incarnations, of which Lord Rama is one. Lord Shiva is considered a guna-avatara, an elevated demigod who manages the mode of ignorance, or tamo-guna. There is actually no reason for any conflict between Shiva worshipers and Vishnu worshipers, because Lord Vishnu and Shiva have great love for each other. In the Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas, Lord Shiva beautifully narrates the story of Lord Rama’s life to his wife, Parvati. In his narration, Lord Shiva makes it clear that he views Lord Rama as God. Lord Shiva has many specific characteristics, but his most notable one is his devotion to Lord Rama.

In this respect, pure Vaishnavas are actually better devotees of Lord Shiva than most of his other devotees. The reason for this is that Lord Shiva is generally worshiped by those seeking material benedictions. By definition, Shiva is required to give out boons to anyone who worships him purely. He actually didn’t covet this role, for he wanted to spend all his time meditating on the lotus feet of God. Lord Hari (Krishna) advised Shivaji to get married and to serve as a demigod for those in the mode of ignorance. For these reasons, Lord Shiva is one of the greatest servants of Lord Vishnu. Aside from worshiping Lord Krishna or Vishnu, Vaishnavas love and respect all other devotees of the Lord. Shrimati Radharani and the gopis of Vrindavana are adored for this very reason. The great Vaishnava acharyas and spiritual masters are all shown the highest respect. Since Lord Shiva is such a great devotee, Vaishnavas have great love for him.

“Lord Brahma, Bhagavan Narada, Lord Shiva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahuti], Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Grandfather Bhishma, Bali Maharaja, Shukadeva Gosvami and I myself know the real religious principle. My dear servants, this transcendental religious principle, which is known as bhagavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord and love for Him, is uncontaminated by the material modes of nature. It is very confidential and difficult for ordinary human beings to understand, but if by chance one fortunately understands it, he is immediately liberated, and thus he returns home, back to Godhead.” (Instructions of Yamaraja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.3.20-21)

Prahlada Maharaja and Narasimhadeva Devotees love fellow devotees. This is actually part of Lord Krishna’s instructions to us. Krishna tells us that He is even more pleased if we show love and respect to His devotee than if we show the same love to Him. Historically, many of Lord Shiva’s worshipers have been great demons. There once was a famous demon named Vrikasura who worshiped Lord Shiva for the boon of being able to kill anyone simply by touching their head. Shiva was kind enough to grant this boon, and the demon repaid the favor by immediately chasing after Lord Shiva, trying to touch his head and kill him. This is the nature of the demons. They do whatever they have to to get what they want, and they show no gratitude afterwards.

During Lord Rama’s time, another great demon by the name of Ravana had ascended to power. A Rakshasa by birth, Ravana was also a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Ravana used his acquired boons to defeat many demigods in battle. The whole world was afraid of him, including the brahmanas living in the forest. During those times, many sages took to the woods to perform their brahminical duties. A brahmana is essentially a priest, someone whose full-time occupation is the studying of the Vedas and the performance of yajnas, or sacrifices for Lord Vishnu.

Rakshasas are the opposite of brahmanas. Their full-time occupation is intoxication and meat-eating. They are not particular as to what kind of meat they will eat, for they will even devour human flesh. Aside from living a sinful life, the Rakshasas were staunch atheists who viewed the brahmanas as the greatest threat to their way of life. For this reason, they were constantly harassing the sages living in the forest. The brahmanas could have cast their own spells on the Rakshasas, but then they would lose a lot of their accumulated spiritual merits. A brahmana is supposed to be dhira, or one who is self-controlled and sober. They are also supposed to be extremely tolerant and non-violent. If they were to attack the Rakshasas with their curses, they would be going against their prescribed duties.

“Thus we are being persecuted by the Rakshasas dwelling in the Dandaka forest. You and Your brother Lakshmana are the only ones that can protect us. In this forest, You indeed are our Lord.” (Sages of Dandaka forest speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.15)

Lord Rama With no other recourse, the brahmanas petitioned Lord Rama, who was roaming the forest at the time with His wife, Sita Devi, and younger brother, Lakshmana. Rama and Lakshmana took birth in a kshatriya family, so their occupational duty was to provide protection to the rest of society. Since He appeared in the dress of a warrior, Rama had specific societal duties, but it should be understood that God is not required to do anything. In general, He views all living entities equally. Since, by default, almost everyone acts on the platform of karma, God lets nature take its course.

The Lord makes an exception for His devotees. For them, He takes it upon Himself to provide protection. This was the case with the brahmanas of the Dandaka forest. Not only did they ask Rama for help, but they fully surrendered themselves to both He and Lakshmana. The sages declared that Rama and Lakshmana were their masters. In the strict material sense, no one is higher than a brahmana. He is the most respected member of society. A true brahmana does not engage in the service of anyone except God. By voluntarily subordinating themselves to Rama and Lakshmana, the brahmanas gave us the perfect example of how one should surrender to God.

The pure devotee of Lord Vishnu is the wisest person in the world for one simple reason; he knows that God is in charge of everything. Not only does the devotee know that God is the supreme controller, but he has practically realized this fact through the surrendering process.

“Give up all varieties of religiousness, and just surrender unto Me; and in return I shall protect you from all sinful reactions. Therefore, you have nothing to fear." (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)

The brahmanas in the forest fully surrendered to God, and as a result, they were fully protected from the Rakshasas. Both Rama and Lakshmana would go on to kill many demons, including Ravana. Those two pious princes ended the suffering of the sages.

The only legitimate suffering is that which arises from one’s inability to perform devotional service. Material pains and pleasures come and go on their own, so that’s not why the sages petitioned Rama. Their life’s occupation, loving service to God, was what was in jeopardy. From their example, we learn that the only solution to life’s real problems comes from completely surrendering unto God. This surrender can be easily carried out by regularly chanting the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and executing devotional service in full faith. Rama and Lakshmana are eternal, and they always protect the devotees in every part of the world.

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