"Every man is certainly controlled by destiny, which determines the results of one’s fruitive activities…Destiny is the ultimate controller of everyone. One who knows this is never bewildered." (Nanda Maharaja speaking to Vasudeva, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.5.30)
Destiny represents our fate, something preordained by a higher power. Destiny and fate are created by God, who is all-knowing and all-seeing. Thus we have no actual control over where it takes us.
People react to destiny and fate in different ways. Some people deny its existence altogether. “I am the maker of my own fortune. Nothing is preordained; things just happen by chance and luck.” Others believe in destiny completely, taking every moment of their life to be significant since they believe it to be pre-arranged. “It was fate that I met such and such person on a specific day. All the stars lined up correctly on such and such day for me to have such great fortune.”
The Vedas, the ancient scriptures coming from India, tell us that everything is preordained by God and His energies. The material world was created by Lord Krishna through His various expansions. After creation, the demigods were given the responsibility of managing material affairs. Everything happens at their direction according to the laws of karma. Fruitive activity performed by the living entities is classified as karma, for these acts have consequential reactions, both good and bad. Karma represents the perfect system of fairness. “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Since karma is accumulated in this lifetime and in previous ones, it is constantly dictating our fortunes. It explains the reason why some people are born into horrible conditions, while others are born very well off. Karma explains why some people suffer horrific tragedies in their lifetime, while others enjoy unending good luck. So in one sense, people do have a certain amount of control in the karma that they create, yet destiny still exists since God knows how everything will turn out.
God is one, the Supreme Lord of all living entities. Due to His causeless mercy, He personally comes to earth from time to time in human form. One of those times occurred many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya, India, where the Lord took birth as the eldest son of King Dashratha. Trained in the military arts, Lord Rama was destined to be the successor to the throne held by His father, but a series of unfortunate events got in the way of that plan. Due to a few poor decisions made by Dashratha, Rama was ordered to evacuate the kingdom and live as a recluse for fourteen years in the forest. Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana, was quite offended upon hearing such news. He insisted that Rama remain in the kingdom and usurp the throne which was rightfully His. Rama tried to calm Lakshmana down by telling Him that everything was already predetermined, that their precarious condition was the result of fate.
“Oh best of the heroic kshatriyas, This greatly misplaced misconception of Yours is certainly born of Your attachment to a faulty set of religious principles and to Your looking upon everyone without any skepticism. Indeed, how can such a fearless person like Yourself be capable of speaking this way about destiny? Why are You praising destiny, which is weak and helpless? How are You not doubtful of both of them (Kaikeyi and Dashratha), who are sinful in nature? Oh righteous soul, why can’t You see that, in the name of dharma, both of them are deceiving You and acting in their own interest through dishonest means to keep You away from acting properly?” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.6-8)
Lakshmana wasn’t buying into any of this business about destiny. He also believed in fate, but He believed more in the power of his elder brother. He couldn’t believe that Rama was falling prey to the hands of destiny, since He had all the power in His hands. Rama could easily overtake the throne by force with Lakshmana by His side. This is the path Lakshmana is recommending in the above referenced verse. “You are a kshatriya, a member of the warrior class. You can make Your own fate. Why are you giving up and bewailing destiny?”
So who is right in this situation? Technically, both Rama and Lakshmana are correct. Destiny undoubtedly exists, but it doesn’t mean that we should sit back and do nothing. On the contrary, knowing that everything is preordained actually provides us even more impetus to act piously and in an unattached manner. This is the central teaching of the Bhagavad-gita, which was spoken by Lord Krishna to His disciple Arjuna. On the eve of a battle between two warring families, Arjuna was feeling soft-hearted. He was the leading warrior for his side, the Pandavas, but he suddenly decided that he didn’t want to engage in killing those on the opposing side. Lord Krishna, acting as Arjuna’s charioteer, took the opportunity to give him a lesson on the meaning of life. He told Arjuna that all the enemies on the other side were already dead, so he had no reason to worry about killing them. No one is actually the killer of anybody, since death is guaranteed.
“He who thinks that the living entity is the slayer or that he is slain, does not understand. One who is in knowledge knows that the self slays not nor is slain…All the great warriors-Drona, Bhishma, Jayadratha, Karna-are already destroyed. Simply fight, and you will vanquish your enemies.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.19, 11.34)
Krishna urged Arjuna to execute his duty without attachment. He urged him to fight in the war since that was his job.
“Considering your specific duty as a kshatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.31)
The lesson is that if we follow our prescribed religious duties in life, then we incur no sin. Destiny is already decided for us and for everybody else, so there is no use in rejoicing over it or being overly dejected from it. Above being simply detached from our activities, the aim of life should be to become attached to God. This was the path chosen by Lakshmana. Whatever Rama wanted him to do, he did. Lord Rama was committed to dharma, or religiosity, and for this reason He willingly accepted banishment to the forest. He acted according to His prescribed duty, in an unattached manner. Lakshmana, being a perfect devotee, was ever attached to God, so he insisted on accompanying the Lord during His time in the forest. Lakshmana’s only dharma was pleasing God. In the end, they were both correct in their actions. We should all follow our prescribed duties with detachment, and, at the same time, foster a loving attachment to the Supreme Lord.
Categories: glories of lakshmana