“Oh Rakshasa, the sages dwelling in the Dandaka forest are highly pious and always follow the virtuous path. What do you gain by killing them?” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.6)
The heavy metal band Metallica has a song called Wasting My Hate, which describes the futility of investing so much negative emotion and concern over someone else. Hate is an emotion stronger than indifference or apathy, so the song urges people to not waste their hate, but to rather keep it for themselves. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, have a similar view. The Vedas advise everyone to use every precious moment in life to love God and His devotees.
Sometimes the pious, or God conscious people, are not viewed favorably. Christian-style preachers on television and in the streets are often seen pointing their fingers and yelling at people, telling them they are going to hell for their sins. “Repent now, or face eternal damnation in hell.” This type of prosthelytizing is surely over the top and people certainly have a right to react negatively. “Who are these people to tell me how to live? Are they not sinners themselves? Why are they bothering me?” While this type of preaching may be extreme, there are others who are simply religious by nature and like to talk about God. Though their thinking may be slightly flawed, they at least think of God more often than others do. The famous tennis player, Michael Chang, used to point to the sky after he would win a match, thanking God for his victory. When he won the French Open at only 17 years of age, the youngest player to ever win, he sincerely believed that it was an act of God, that Lord Jesus Christ wanted him to win.
Such sentiments are certainly nice. Whether God played a direct role or not in Chang’s victories is debatable, but at least he had God on his mind. Yet many people were upset by Chang’s behavior and praise of God. Fellow player, Andre Agassi, took great umbrage.
"Once more, I square off against Chang, who’s developed a bad habit since we last met. Every time he beats someone, he points to the sky. He thanks God- credits God—for the win, which offends me. That God should take sides in a tennis match, that God should side against me, that God should be in Chang’s box, feels ludicrous and insulting. I beat Chang and savor every blasphemous stroke.” (Andrea Agassi, Open)
Agassi didn’t think that God would care who wins a tennis match. There are others who react similarly to people of faith. These feelings are usually a result of insecurities. Feeling inadequate with their level of faith or their lack of religious knowledge, they don’t like hearing from others who are so sure about what they believe. Pious people are viewed negatively as a result.
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, by His inconceivable supreme energy, time, causes the interaction of the three modes of material nature, and thus varieties of energy become manifest. It appears that He is acting, but He is not the actor. He is killing, but He is not the killer. Thus it is understood that only by His inconceivable power is everything happening.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.11.18)
Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, sheds light on some of these issues in the Bhagavad-gita, also known as the Song of God. The Lord tells us that this material world is governed by guna and karma. Gunas are material qualities: goodness, passion, and ignorance, and karma is fruitive activity, or work. All of our fortunes, good and bad, come as a result of the work we perform. This holds true in every area of life. Whatever work we perform for a material benefit, there must be an associated reaction, either good or bad. Sometimes the fruits of our work don’t appear right away. The consequences may appear to us later on in this life or even in a future one. Lord Krishna, though the creator of the system of karma, is aloof from it. He has no personal stake in our material fortunes and misfortunes.
He makes an exception, however, for His devotees. Bhaktas work only for the Lord’s benefit. Knowing this, God takes a personal interest in the lives of His devotees. This means that sometimes He will interject and give us bad or good fortune. This may seem odd. “Why would God make bad things happen to us?” As the famous devotee, Kunti Devi, teaches us, sometimes bad fortune is good because it reminds us of God. If we are too wealthy and too well-off, we may forget about the Lord and instead think of ourselves as god-like. For this reason sometimes the Lord takes away material wealth from a devotee. This is an act of love.
“Bewildered by the modes of material nature, the ignorant fully engage themselves in material activities and become attached. But the wise should not unsettle them, although these duties are inferior due to the performers’ lack of knowledge.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.29)
It takes many many lifetimes for one to finally become a pure devotee. This is because the forces of nature are very strong. Most people work on the platform of karma, thinking that working hard for material prosperity will eventually give them peace and happiness. For people who are committed to this lifestyle, the Lord does not stand in the way. He advises the devotees to also leave them alone. Devout karmis, or fruitive workers, are on a freight-train heading straight towards a set destination, either heaven or hell. Residence in either place is temporary. The fruits of our material actions certainly do manifest at some time, but they still have an expiration date on them. Once the rewards or demerits expire, one is again cast into the ocean of material existence. Devotees love to talk about God, so it is difficult for them to stay silent about their feelings. For this reason God advises the bhaktas to remain in the company of others bhaktas. It is okay to associate with karmis if they have a sincere interest in learning about God.
In the above referenced quote, Lord Rama is addressing the Rakshasa demon, Khara. Lord Rama, an incarnation of Krishna, was roaming the forests of India with His wife, Sita Devi, and younger brother, Lakshmana. At the time of His appearance, the Rakshasas were harassing the sages living in the forest of Dandaka. Rakshasas are a species of demons who are expert at black magic, spending all their time eating meat, drinking wine, and harassing the pious. As mentioned before, the Lord advises the devotees to leave the non-devotees alone. At worse, devotees will try to peacefully preach to the non-devotees about the glories of God. Yet we see that Rakshasas, and many committed atheists, love to harass the devotees. One can only imagine how vile these people are.
For the sober person, there is no need to harass the pious. The devotees sing God’s praises, write books about Him, visit His temples, and discuss His pastimes with others. Because of their devotion to God, they automatically inherit all good qualities. They are peaceful and happy all the time. The famous King Yudhishthira, a cousin and devotee of Krishna, was also known by the name ajatashatru, meaning one who has no enemies. Devotees are liked and adored by all people, even the karmis. The committed atheists, however, despise the devotees. They are committed to their atheistic way of life, so they hate anyone who believes in God and His supremacy. Krishna and all things relating to Him are the antithesis of materialistic life; a life which is both miserable and temporary.
Instead of keeping their hate to themselves and letting the devotees be, the demons actively engage in harassing the pious. This hate actually serves no purpose, as Lord Rama says. There is nothing to be gained by harassing a saint. The Rakshasas killed many sages in the forests, but they still weren’t happy. Ravana, the leader of the Rakshasas, had many beautiful wives, but he was still not satisfied. He felt compelled to assume the guise of a brahmana and kidnap Lord Rama’s beautiful wife, Sita. Though these events took place many thousands of years ago, Rakshasas still exist today, but they take different forms. Sometimes they get elected to lead governments and sometimes they act as terrorists, blowing themselves up in public places, killing as many innocent people as they can.
So what can the pious do to protect themselves? Devotees are advised to continue executing devotional service and let God take care of the rest. Lord Rama’s statement to Khara was made just prior to their battle. Fourteen thousand Rakshasas had come to Janasthana where Rama and His family had set up camp. Lord Rama single-handedly destroyed them all, including Khara. The Lord doesn’t take very kindly to the harassment of His devotees. Not only does He take special interest in the fortunes and misfortunes of His bhaktas, but He also personally appears on the scene to give them protection.
God’s hate is never wasted. “Rama” means one who gives pleasure to all. Lord Rama is usually seen smiling, since He is peaceful by nature, but if someone should cross one of His dependents, He unleashes a wrath the likes of which we have never seen. The demons certainly do waste their hate when it comes to their feeling towards devotees of God. The Lord, however, never wastes His hate, for His anger results in the complete protection of the saints. If we become sincere devotees, God will always protect us.