“Upon observing the brahmana’s rigid vow, Lord Shri Ramachandra ordered His younger brother Lakshmana to deliver a pair of Sita-Rama Deities to the brahmana. The brahmana received the Deities from Shri Lakshmanaji and worshiped Them faithfully as long as he lived.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 9.11, Purport)
If a devotee has something troubling their mind, God takes care of the problem personally. This is because the Lord never wants His most beloved friends, the devotees, to suffer unnecessarily at any time in their execution of religious duties which are dedicated to Him. Similar to how a parent is there to mend the wounds of their children, God is always standing by, ready to defend those who love Him.
Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as defined by the Vedas. Man has a general conception of a God, or a higher power who is in control of everything. The scriptures of the major religions of the world provide varying definitions of what is God and what His powers are. The Vedas, the original scriptures for mankind emanating from India, give us the most detail about who God is, what He looks like, and what His attributes are. Since God is the Supreme Lord, He can take any form at will, and unlike our bodies which are subject to birth and death, God’s body is eternally blissful and full of knowledge, sach-chid-ananda vigraha. The Lord even expands Himself into different forms, with one of them being the impersonal Brahman.
“And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness, and which is immortal, imperishable and eternal.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.27)
With all the forms that He can take, many mistakenly come to the conclusion that God is just an energy or that there are many different Gods. For this reason the Vedas refer to the Lord as Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses all fortunes. Bhagavan also means the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is a person just like us, but He is the supreme person. He is the source of Godhead, meaning God can take many different forms, but that Bhagavan Shri Krishna is the original, ishvara parama krishna. To enact pastimes on earth, the Lord expands Himself into His various lila-avataras. One of the primary lila-avataras appeared on earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. The Vedas tell us that this world isn’t created just once, but rather over and over again in a repeating cycle of creation and dissolution. Just as there is a set number of hours in a day, there is a set number of years that each creation exists for. This number makes up its own unit of measure, known as a Yuga. This complete Yuga then gets divided into four smaller Yugas. Creation is divided into these time periods to distinguish the general spiritual attributes of a society. In the first time period, known as the Satya or Krita Yuga, man is almost one hundred percent God conscious. With each successive Yuga, man’s religiosity declines by one quarter.
Lord Rama appeared during a time when religiosity was still very high. He took birth in the solar dynasty, a descendant of Maharaja Ikshvaku, the first king on earth. The solar dynasty is that which comes from the sun god, Vivasvan. Vivasvan’s son was Manu, the first man on earth, and Ikshvaku was Manu’s son. Several generations later, Lord Rama took birth in this pious dynasty as the son of Maharaja Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya. This dynasty was especially known for its dedication to dharma. Society requires a certain group of people to provide protection to the innocent. The Vedas refer to this group as the kshatriya, or warrior, class. These warriors are brave and chivalrous, and they serve as the government. It is the natural inclination of people to look to government to help them with their problems. This is an outgrowth of the relationship we have with God. The Lord is the master, and we are His servants. That is the original relationship which we spirit souls all had with God, but somehow or other, we ended up in this material world where we have forgotten that relationship. The material disease is represented by the mindset of “I” and “mine”. This is a flawed way of thinking because God is actually the owner of everything. Whatever we may think we possess, our accumulated wealth and our family relations are all temporary and subject to destruction.
God is the original protector, and so the Vedas tell us that a good government is one that serves as His representatives on earth. In this manner, it is okay to look to government for help, provided that they are governing in accordance with God’s instructions found in the Vedas. In the guise of a human being, Lord Rama set the example of how a king should behave. Rama means one who gives pleasure to others, and this was certainly the case with the eldest son of Dashratha.
As part of His pastimes, the Lord ended up roaming the forests of India for fourteen years alongside His wife, Sita Devi, and younger brother, Lakshmana. At the time, the great sages, or brahmanas, had taken to forest life since it was more conducive to asceticism. The kshatriyas are required to provide protection to all members of society, but especially to the brahmanas, the priestly class of men. The brahmanas serve as the brain of society, meaning they give proper guidance to everyone on how to make the most of their life. This doesn’t mean that brahmanas simply tell others how to earn money or enjoy sex life. The real purpose of life is to know and love God. This is an easy to thing to do, provided that one is controlled and sober, dhira. Since this isn’t always the case, brahmanas give guidelines on how to make progress spiritually. Generally, they recommend the performance of sacrifices, vishnu-yajna, and the performance of tapasya, or religious austerities.
Not only do the brahmanas teach others how to engage in religious activity, but they themselves dedicate their whole lives to religion. The word acharya means one who leads by example, thus bona fide brahmanas practice what they preach. Forest life is much quieter than urban life, with fewer distractions around, so many brahmanas set up cottages in the forest during Lord Rama’s time. These forests were referred to as tapo-vanas since they were conducive to the performance of tapasya.
However, the performance of their religious duties was greatly hindered by Rakshasas. The Vedas tell us that there are 8,400,000 different species of life because each living entity possesses the three qualities of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance, to varying degrees. Therefore human beings aren’t the only intelligent life forms. Rather, there are many species that are human-like, and the Rakshasas are one such species. Unlike human beings, Rakshasas are demonic by nature. They are staunch atheists, engaging in meat eating, illicit sex, and intoxication as a way of life. They are so abominable, that they view the brahmanas as their greatest enemies. One of the trademark characteristics of a brahmana, or saintly person, is that they enjoy universal acclaim and adoration. Since they voluntarily and freely spread the highest form of love, Krishna-prema, it is not surprising to see that most everyone will appreciate them. Even those that aren’t religiously inclined still respect the brahmanas.
This fact tells us just how demoniac the Rakshasas were. They hated the brahmanas, and they held nothing back in their attacks against the saints. Similar to how terrorists act today, the Rakshasas would approach the sages in disguise. Once the brahmanas let their guard down, the Rakshasas would show their true form and then attack. Stopping the sacrifices weren’t enough, for the Rakshasa would kill and then eat the flesh of the sages.
By good fortune, Lord Rama and His group happened to be roaming the forests during this troublesome time. The sages made the most of this great opportunity by directly petitioning the Lord for help. Both Rama and Lakshmana immediately agreed to take up arms to protect the sages. Sita Devi, Lord Rama’s wife, had a few concerns over this. The Vedas are very explicit as to when violence is allowed and when it isn’t. It is considered sinful to act violently towards another person without just cause. She was afraid that, by Rama carrying His bow and arrows all the time, He might be prone to preemptively striking against the Rakshasas, something which would be against the principles of dharma.
Lord Rama was only in the forest due to His adherence to dharma. Dashratha had given the exile order due to the request of his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. Rama easily could have ignored the order, but that would have made Dashratha a liar. Rather than give His dad a bad name, Rama chose to take up the life of a mendicant. Sita Devi knew this, so she didn’t want her husband’s religious merit to diminish. Rama was God Himself, and Sita was Goddess Lakshmi, but the pair still played the role of ordinary human beings. Sita is actually an eternal devotee of Lord Rama.
Sita was so sweet that she presented her concerns to Rama in the nicest possible way. She even remarked that such instruction given by a wife was certainly against the proper rules of conduct, but that she loved Him so much that she didn’t want to see Him falter. Lord Rama acknowledged her concerns and allayed her fears by reminding her that the Rakshasas had attacked first. He also told her that it was His duty to protect the saints, even if they hadn’t approached Him.
“Having addressed these words to the daughter King Janaka, His dear wife Sita, the great soul and wielder of the bow, Lord Rama, returned with Lakshmana to the beautiful tapo-vana.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.22)
The importance of this incident is that God personally removed the fears and concerns of both Sita Devi and the brahmanas residing in the forest. Sita’s concerns were removed when the Lord nicely explained to her His devotion to the saintly class of people. The brahmanas were then protected by Rama and Lakshmana, who would both go on to kill many Rakshasas. The Rakshasa leader, Ravana, would eventually be killed directly by Rama at the culmination a great battle. These incidences aren’t unique, but they remind us of God’s unflinching devotion to His devotees. If one of His bhaktas faces a problem, the Lord either directly comes to fix the situation, or He sends one of His authorized representatives, the spiritual master. There are three notable examples in this regard.
Many years prior to His advent as Lord Rama, Krishna personally came to earth in a half-man/half-lion form named Narasimha. He appeared so as to give protection to His five year old devotee, Prahlada. Just as Rakshasas are demonic in nature, so are the Daityas, the sons of Diti. Prahlada was born a Daitya, but he was a pure devotee at heart. Unfortunately, his father Hiranyakashipu was not. A demon very similar to Ravana, Hiranyakashipu was very strong and well off materially. He thought himself to be God, so when he saw Prahlada engaged in devotional service, he became very angry. The young child refused to give up his devotion to Krishna, so Hiranyakashipu tried to kill him in so many ways. Yet each and every attempt failed, for the Lord gave protection to Prahlada. There was even one time when Prahlada was put into a pit of fire by a demon woman named Holika. Hiranyakashipu thought that Holika would survive the fire due to a boon she had received. However, the boon didn’t work since Prahlada was in her lap. The reverse situation ended up occurring, with Holika burning to ashes and Prahlada surviving. This event was the genesis of the annual holiday known as Holi, which is celebrated by millions of Hindus each year. God finally had enough and personally appeared as Lord Narasimhadeva and took Hiranyakashipu on his lap, and bifurcated him with His claws.
When Lord Rama triumphantly returned home after killing Ravana, He was installed as the king of Ayodhya. The people all loved him, especially the brahmanas. There was one brahmana in particular who would go see Rama every day. In fact, He would not eat without first seeing the Lord. Since Rama had to go away on business from time to time, the brahmana would not be able to see Him. On these occasions, the brahmana would starve himself. Upon hearing of this great devotion, the Lord was both happy and sad. He was honored by the devotion shown, but at the same time, He didn’t want His devotee to suffer unnecessarily. So to alleviate the situation, Rama had Lakshmana install a deity of Himself in the brahmana’s home. He instructed the brahmana to view the deity to be as good as Himself, thus he could now take his meals every day. This deity actually existed even before Lord Rama’s time and it has since been passed down to various saints, including Lord Hanuman. It is still in existence to this day in India.
A third instance of God’s devotion to His devotees occurred some five hundred years ago with Lord Chaitanya. The shastras tell us that in the Kali Yuga, the Lord appears secretly in the guise of a brahmana who is known for spreading the sankirtana movement, which is the congregational chanting of the holy names of God. This brahmana was known as Lord Chaitanya, and He appeared in India specifically to deliver the fallen souls of this age. After taking sannyasa at the age of 24, the Lord travelled extensively across India, inducing everyone to take up the chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. On one particular occasion, Lord Chaitanya was received as a guest of a brahmana who was a great devotee of Lord Rama. Lord Chaitanya actually named this brahmana Ramadasa Vipra, due to his devotion. Ramadasa was so happy to receive Lord Chaitanya, but he had one thing on his mind that disturbed him greatly. He couldn’t bear the thought of Ravana touching the body of Sita Devi. During Lord Rama’s time in the woods, Sita was kidnapped by Ravana, an event which triggered the eventual collapse of Ravana and his Rakshasa empire. Lord Chaitanya assured the brahmana that Ravana had actually stolen a false copy of Sita, for the original had taken refuge in the fire just prior to the kidnapping.
“At Rameshvara, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had a chance to read the Kurma Purana, in which He discovered that the form of Sita kidnapped by Ravana was not that of the real Sita but a mere shadow representation.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 1.117)
Later on during His travels, Lord Chaitanya found evidence in the Kurma Purana to back up His claim regarding Sita. The Lord immediately thought of Ramadasa Vipra. In order to allay the brahmana’s fears once and for all, the Lord tore the relevant page from the Kurma Purana and replaced it with a hand-written copy. Taking the original page back to Ramadasa Vipra, the Lord gave him evidence of the fact that the real Sita was indeed never touched by Ravana.
The lesson here is that God’s protection only comes when we associate with the divine energy. The material energy is full of dangers lurking around every corner. This is because karma itself is so complicated that we never know when good or bad things will happen to us. If we achieve the greatest material wealth, it is still temporary in nature. We will be forced to give it up at the time of death. Devotional service, on the other hand, is an eternal occupation. Since it is the natural inclination of the spirit soul to act as a servant to God, once taken up, the execution of bhakti yoga never stops.
We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking up religious activity. The highest form of religion is that which brings us closer to loving God. Religion performed simply for material benefit is second class and subject to victory and defeat. Pure devotional service means never losing because God Himself will personally see to it that we succeed.
Categories: protecting the saints
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