“Certainly all these words were spoken by you due to your kind-heartedness and affection for Me. I am very pleased with you, O Sita, for indeed one does not offer instructions and advice to another without caring for them.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.20)
If we really think about it, the best teachers we had during our school years were the ones who pushed us the hardest. Sure there were some teachers we liked better than others, many of whom were very nice to us. But in the end, the ones we learned the most from were probably the ones that kept urging us to perform better and tried to get the most out of our potential. Through this kind of tough love, we were able to push ourselves to the limits, something which helped us immensely in our education and overall transition into adulthood.
Education starts right from our very birth. The infant child is completely helpless, depending on its parents for its livelihood. Infants can’t move, talk, or even feed themselves without the help of an adult. Thus an immediate teacher-student relationship is formed between the children and the parents. As we get older, we are forced to attend school. Schooling is required for children growing up in America. It is the natural tendency of children to want to play all day long. When Lord Krishna personally advented some five thousand years ago on earth, He spent His childhood days in Vrindavana. He and His elder brother, Balarama, used to go out every day and play with their friends. Mother Yashoda would have to repeatedly call them to come home to eat.
Since children don’t know any better, they just want to have fun all day. School is the antithesis of fun. A student is forced to take instruction on a variety of subjects from an expert teacher. As children, we don’t realize that what we’re learning will come in handy later on in life. It is quite common to hear students ask their teachers, “Why are we learning this? When are we going to have to use this in our life?” Subjects like mathematics, science, and even reading can be very boring for children. The key to getting through school is having good teachers who imbibe a strong work ethic in us.
This work ethic is not easy to come by. Our natural inclination is to have fun, so we need someone in a position of authority to get us to act otherwise. Teachers and parents are ideally suited for this. A good teacher is one that must be hated at some point or another. We tend to like those who are nice to us. This is only natural. But the teacher’s duty is not to be our friend. Their job is to get us to learn, and learning requires hard work. A good teacher is one who constantly pushes us to work harder, so that we can learn more. They don’t throw out compliments very often, for they know that praising our work will only make us complacent. In the beginning, this lack of acknowledgment from a teacher can cause frustration but, in the end, it is just what we need to reach our full potential.
This same theory holds true with our parents. Though it may be in fashion today for parents to want to be friends with their children, this is not ideal. The Vedas tell us that one should not become a person of authority unless they can deliver their dependents from the repeated cycle of birth and death.
“One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.5.18)
A good parent is also one who is hated at some point by their children. When we become frustrated with the rules our parents make or the orders they give us, it usually means they are trying to instill good values in us. In the short term we may hate them, but in the long term, they are helping us out immensely.
This tough love formula is used not only by parents and teachers, but by devotees of God as well, more specifically, by devotees of Lord Krishna. In the Vedic tradition, God in His original form is referred to as Bhagavan, which translates to The Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhagavan actually means one who possesses all fortunes. By definition, no one can be more fortunate than God. Some philosophers espouse the belief that the living entity and God are equal, and that the entire creation is simply a part of Brahman. However, this cannot be true simply for the fact that the living entities are subject to the control of the forces of nature, while God is not. If we take ourselves to be God, then how do we explain the fact that we are forced to repeatedly suffer through birth and death in this material world, a world which is both temporary and miserable?
God is great, and we are His servants. Qualitatively we are one and the same, but quantitatively we are vastly different. The living entities represent one of God’s many energies. On the highest level, God’s energies can be divided into two categories: the spiritual and the material. The spiritual energy is completely pure, free from any defects. Bhagavan, Lord Shri Krishna, is described as having a body which is eternal and full of bliss and knowledge, sach-chid-ananda-vigraha. Everything relating to God is spiritual. Even when He takes birth in the material world, His body and soul are still the same; both being spiritual in nature. For living entities, there is a distinction between matter and spirit. Our soul, jivatma, resides inside our gross material body. At the time of death, our material components are discarded, while our soul remains intact.
“This atma is indeed indestructible” (Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad, 4.5.14)
The spiritual energy is that which is eternal and unchanging. The material energy is just the opposite. It is full of ignorance and governed by the three modes of nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance) and fruitive activity (karma). The living entities actually belong to what is known as the marginal energy. It is described as such because we have a choice as to which energy we want to be a part of. In this sense, we have a minute amount of independence. Due to illusion, we tend to think that we are fully independent and in control of our fortunes. We falsely think of ourselves as the doer.
"The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by nature." (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.15.6)
But since we are individual spirit souls, part and parcel of God, we do have a choice in how our senses will interact with material nature. By engaging in devotional service, or bhakti yoga, our senses are used to help us connect with God’s spiritual energy. With any other engagement, be it a lesser form of yoga or plain fruitive activity, we remain attached to the material energy.
The pure devotee is referred to as bhagavata since he is completely connected with God. The bhagavata takes it upon himself to help others come to the spiritual energy. A devotee’s primary business is to serve God in a loving way. This is the natural disposition of the spirit soul. We are all serving something, whether we know it or not. Even the wealthiest person in the world, be they retired or still working for a large corporation, is a servant to someone or something. A pure materialist enjoyer is a servant to the senses, go-dasa. An independent business leader is a servant to the shareholders or to the customers of the company. The Vedas tell us that our natural role is that of servants to God.
The highest service we can perform for the Lord is to help others reconnect with Him. To this end, the devotees engage in preaching work. Since they have a perfect grasp of dharma, or religiosity, they don’t hold back when it comes to teaching or correcting others. This was the case many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. In the above referenced quote, Lord Rama is speaking with His wife, Sita Devi, about specific concerns she had. Lord Rama was an incarnation of Krishna who appeared on earth as a pious kshatriya warrior. Sita was His chaste and dedicated wife. The two were roaming the forests of India along with Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana.
At the time, many great sages were living in the forest, performing their occupation duties of sacrifice and penance. Their austerities were constantly being interrupted by the Rakshasas, a class of demons who were great enemies of the pious devotees. The sages petitioned Rama for help, and the Lord happily agreed to take up arms in their defense. Sita Devi was a little worried about this, for she was afraid that Rama might take to violence unnecessarily. According to Vedic doctrine, violence is allowed, but only under certain circumstances. Never is one allowed to act violently towards another without due cause.
“According to Vedic injunctions there are six kinds of aggressors: 1) a poison giver, 2) one who sets fire to the house, 3) one who attacks with deadly weapons, 4) one who plunders riches, 5) one who occupies another’s land, and 6) one who kidnaps a wife. Such aggressors are at once to be killed, and no sin is incurred by killing such aggressors.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bg. 1.36, Purport)
Since Rama’s distinguishing feature was His strict adherence to dharma, Sita didn’t want Him to act in an unrighteous manner. For this reason she shared her concerns with Him. The Lord replied that it was His duty to protect the brahmanas, and that she need not worry. Sita was very kind and good natured, so her advice was given only out of love for her husband. Lord Rama made sure to acknowledge this.
Sita’s behavior was quite exemplary. She was so pious that she was even willing to correct what she viewed as a transgression from her husband, who happened to be God Himself. This is the trademark characteristic of a pure devotee. They believe so strongly in the power of devotional service and dharma that they openly share their concerns with whomever they meet. Sometimes when reading the great Vedic texts such as the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, or other commentaries by the great saints, we may come across certain passages or statements that offend us. We may even read things that we strongly disagree with at the time or things that make us angry. This is only natural, for it is not the business of the spiritual master, or pure devotee, to falsely flatter others. Changing a person’s mindset from material to spiritual life is not such an easy thing, so it requires the guru to be direct in their teachings. A learned brahmana is also known as a sadhu, which means “one who cuts”.
“To cut something, a sharp instrument is required; and to cut the mind from its attachments, sharp words are often required. The sadhu or teacher shows no mercy in using sharp words to sever the student’s mind from material attractions. By speaking the truth uncompromisingly, he is able to sever the bondage.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Perfection of Yoga, Ch 4)
As Lord Rama states above, Sita Devi showed great love by instructing Him so frankly on the rules of dharma. This proves that the devotees of the Lord are engaged in the highest welfare work for humanity. In the current age, devotees boldly advise everyone to give up meat eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication, and to take to the process of chanting the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This form of tough love is greatly needed, for if we follow the instructions of the great saints such as His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, we will surely be benefitted.
Categories: protecting the saints