“Therefore, carrying your bow and arrows, take Sita with you and find shelter in an impassable cave, covered with overgrown trees. My dear Lakshmana, please do not go against my wishes. After swearing by My feet, please go from here and protect Sita. We do not have much time. You are a strong and valiant warrior, and I have no doubt that you could defeat all these Rakshasas, but I wish to slay these night-rangers myself.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 24.12-14)
God’s devotion to His votaries is unflinching. In this passage, Lord Rama is asserting His power over all that be. Living in the forest, Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana, was more than capable of handling the impending attack from the Rakshasas, yet just to show the world an example of His prowess, Rama decided to take on the battle by Himself. He wanted to personally teach the demons a lesson.
There are many established beliefs of who is God, what He looks like, and what type of form He takes, if any. Many religious systems espouse the belief that God is impersonal, or that He is an old man, or even that He doesn’t exist. The Vedas tell us otherwise. The ancient scriptures emanating from India certainly do describe the Lord in an impersonal manner from time to time. This is done more as a comparison technique. Any spirit soul that takes birth in the material world must assume a body that is both temporary and miserable. God, being the all-knowing and all-powerful, can never be limited to a temporary body, thus He is sometimes described as having no arms or legs. Nevertheless, God is still one, and He is a person. The Vedas tell us that the original form of God is Lord Krishna. He is also known as Bhagavan, Vishnu, Hari, Vasudeva, etc. These names all refer to the original God, and they exist simply to describe His various potencies.
The original Veda was imparted to the first created living entity, the demigod Lord Brahma. The difference between a demigod and God Himself is that a demigod is a living entity just like us. They may be elevated in material powers, and they may live a lot longer than we do, but their time on earth is nevertheless controlled. They have been granted special powers and jurisdiction over various aspects of the creation by Krishna Himself, but their reign of power eventually expires, similar to how members of Congress serve for a certain number of years after being elected. The Vedas describe God and His endless glories, but due to man’s fallibility, he has a tendency to either forget this knowledge or to not believe in it. Taking this into consideration the Lord personally appears on earth from time to time. In one sense we are all expansions of God since we are equal to the Lord in quality. God is eternally blissful and full of knowledge, and the same holds true for our spirit souls. However, we are subordinate to God and are thus prone to falling down into this material world. Assuming the body of a human, animal, or even a plant, our blissful nature becomes covered by the three gunas of goodness, passion, and ignorance. God, on the other hand, can never be subject to the illusory forces of maya. There is no difference between His body and spirit. When He appears on earth in the form of a human or an animal, His body should never be considered material or a product of maya.
One of God’s appearances took place during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. At the time, the demons of the world, the Rakshasas, were ascending to power. The Vedas tell us that there are 8,400,000 varieties of species that exist due to the unlimited combinations of goodness, passion, and ignorance that a living entity can possess. The Rakshasas are one such species. They are demonic by nature, taking the gross material body to be everything.
“They (the demoniac) say that this world is unreal, that there is no foundation and that there is no God in control. It is produced of sex desire, and has no cause other than lust.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.8)
A sober person realizes that they are eventually going to die. Knowing this fact, an intelligent person tries to figure out what the meaning of life is and why they are put on earth. The famous Vedanta-sutras actually address this issue. Their very first aphorism is “athato brahma-jijnasa”, which means “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman, or God’. The atheistic class, the asuras or Rakshasas, never ponder this question. Thinking that death is the end of everything, they work as hard as they can to secure as much sense gratification as they can in their present life. This has been the philosophy of atheists since time immemorial. Thinking along these lines, the famous Indian philosopher, Charvaka Muni, advised everyone to eat as much clarified butter as they could, and to beg, borrow, and steal their way to money and fame if they had to.
The Rakshasas of the Treta Yuga were no different in their thinking. Their leader was Ravana, a ten-headed monster who defeated many of the demigods in battle. Lord Vishnu, at the insistence of the demigods, appeared on earth in human form. Vishnu’s appearance was carefully crafted in such a way so as to adhere to the boons that were bestowed upon Ravana. The demigods granted Ravana the boon that no celestial being, animal, etc. could ever defeat him. Human beings were exempt from this list since Ravana never thought a lowly man could ever defeat him. Lord Rama, though in the guise of a human being, was God Himself. Born and raised in the kingdom of Ayodhya, He and His brothers were expert kshatriya warriors. Their fighting skills were unmatched. The arrows shot from Rama’s bow were no ordinary weapons. They were more powerful than any modern nuclear weapon.
As part of His pastimes, Rama accepted banishment to the forest for fourteen years. This occurred due to a misunderstanding in the kingdom, but the real purpose of the exile was to give Rama an excuse to take on the Rakshasas, and more importantly Ravana. Rama’s wife, Sita Devi, and His younger brother, Lakshmana, accompanied Him during the exile. The group set up a temporary camp in Janasthana. One day they were visited by Ravana’s sister, Shurpanakha. She propositioned Rama, who then jokingly led her to Lakshmana. An argument ensued, and Lakshmana ended up lopping over her nose, disfiguring and humiliating her. Shurpanakha returned to Ravana and complained about what happened. Eventually, Ravana’s brother, Khara, decided to attack Rama. The demon brought an army of 14,000 Rakshasas with him. This shows the nature of the demons. Rama wasn’t bothering anybody, for He was living a peaceful, secluded life with His wife and brother. Yet the demons have no problem harassing the saintly people of the world. With Lord Rama, however, they picked the wrong person to mess with.
In the above referenced quote, Rama advised Lakshmana to take Sita to a cave and protect her. Rama wanted to take on these Rakshasas all by Himself. The result of the battle was quite predictable. Rama wiped the floor with the demons. He defeated 14,000 Rakshasas in Janasthana without blinking an eye. People who hear of such feats might often be led to think that this is just part of the mythology. “No one can fight that many demons all at once and emerge victorious. This must be part of the mythology, intended to teach us a lesson.”
This incident definitely teaches a lesson, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. God created an enormous astral body that provides heat and light to the entire world. This star, known as the sun, has power that is inconceivable to the human brain. Scientists have studied it since the beginning of time, yet they haven’t even come close to understanding how it works. Not only did God create the sun, but all the other planets as well. These massive planets all float on their own in space. The solar system is certainly not a myth, but a reality. In the same way, when we hear about God appearing on earth and performing miraculous feats, the incidents relating to His life most certainly did occur.
“I enter into each planet, and by My energy they stay in orbit. I become the moon and thereby supply the juice of life to all vegetables.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.13)
As mentioned before, the human mind is incapable of truly understanding God. This is because, by definition, anything material must be fallible. Why is this so? Because our gross material body composed of earth, air, water, fire, and ether, and our subtle body made up of mind, intelligence, and false ego, are given up at the time of death. The soul is eternal, but the body is not. Thus every part of our body, except the soul, is temporary and thus flawed. God is completely the opposite. He is eternal and unlimited in power. Due to His causeless mercy, He appears on earth from time to time just to give the human mind a taste of spiritual life.
One who hears about Rama killing 14,000 Rakshasas in Janasthana with faith and devotion will certainly be taking steps towards rekindling their lost relationship with God. The Lord is neutral, by default, to all living entities, but He makes an exception for His devotees. This is because the bhaktas don’t want to associate with the material energy. They want to always connect with God, thus the Lord happily obliges and takes great care to ensure their safety. Rama performed many great feats of strength, including the slaying of Ravana, simply to give protection to His devotees at the time and to allow future generations to bask in the glory of God’s triumph.
God is beautiful at all times. Most people don’t like violence, for it is the nature of the soul to be peaceful and happy. Yet violence is necessary sometimes, and when God acts violently to give protection, it is certainly a thing of beauty. There is actually no difference between the Lord’s peaceful pastimes, such as those performed in the forests of Vrindavana with the gopis and cowherd boys, and Lord’s violent actions, such as those performed by Lord Rama and Narasimha Deva. Whether He is killing demons or melting hearts, God is always glorious.