“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end. O Dhananjaya, all this work cannot bind Me. I am ever detached, seated as though neutral.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.8-9)
“As you sow so shall you reap…Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” These aphorisms, or similar versions of them, are common to most of the major religions of the world. Most everyone can understand these statements since they logically make sense. If you act piously, you will be rewarded, and vice versa.
This is the system of fairness instituted by God. In the Vedic tradition, God’s original name is Krishna, and He is known as Bhagavan, meaning the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word Godhead recognizes the existence of many forms of God. Since He is all-knowing and all-seeing, omnipresent and omnipotent, the Lord can expand Himself into many many forms. Some of them are described in the shastras, or scriptures, while many of them are not. Krishna is the supreme fountainhead of all those various forms, the original, adi purusham, as described in the Brahma-samhita. The material world represents but one small portion of His creative powers. Though the Lord creates everything and expands into everything, yet everything is not in Him.
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)
The affairs of the material world are managed by the Lord’s energies and His deputies, known as the demigods. We can think of God as a disinterested bystander, an onlooker who allows us to play on this field until we decide we have had enough and want to go back home. The souls who want to play, represented by the 8,400,000 varieties of species, must live by the laws of karma. Activity performed specifically with a desired result in mind is considered karma. Based on this definition, almost everything we do can be considered karmic activity. A person wants to be a doctor, so they study very hard in medical school, wherefrom they learn the tools of the trade. This is karmic activity since the person is working for a desired result. Even religious functions can be classified as karma. Going to church and asking God for things is considered material activity since there is a personal motive. In the Vedic tradition, there are many rituals and mantras prescribed for those seeking the material rewards of artha (economic development), dharma (religiosity), and kama (sense gratification).
Material nature is a managed energy. Yamaraja, the god of death who is similar to a Grim Reaper”, comes to take souls at the time of death. He judges people’s activities over their lifetime and determines where they will go next. The sinners have to suffer in hell, while the pious ascend to the heavenly planets. Residence in both regions is only temporary. When one’s accumulated merits and demerits expire, the spirit soul again returns to the material world, taking up a new life form based on their past karma.
Through this system, all issues of fairness are addressed. It is quite natural for a person to feel that life is not fair. We might run into streaks of bad luck, where it seems like everything is going against us. Or in other circumstances, we might feel guilty over the fact that our life is peaceful and prosperous, while others get a raw deal. Young children dying of cancer, and others dying in horrific tragedies are all instances of where we are reminded of how life can seem to be unfair. Nevertheless, we should take it on authority that God and His energies handle all issues of fairness. Even most of today’s governments are obsessed with issues of fairness. They’ve created various movements aimed at addressing perceived inequities. Social justice, women’s rights, minority rights, and the redistribution of wealth are movements aimed at “leveling the playing field”. All of these man-made causes have sprung out of ignorance. The laws of karma are very easy to understand, yet most people aren’t familiar with them.
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Bg. 9.29)
The reason behind this is very simple. The devotees have no interest in fruitive activity. Their only purpose in life is to serve the Supreme Lord. For this reason, all their activity is above karma. Not only do they transcend the laws of material nature, but God personally takes charge of their fate. He guarantees that they will come back to Him after their current life is over.
In the same manner, God also personally takes care of the enemies of His devotees. Due to His partiality towards His friends, the Lord either sends one of His representatives, or He personally descends to earth to take care of such miscreants.
“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.8)
This was the case many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya. Lord Krishna came to earth in the form of Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dashratha. Set to be installed as the new king, Dashratha was forced to change his mind at the insistence of Kaikeyi, his youngest wife. Rama was instead banished to the forest for fourteen years. Rama had three younger brothers, with Lakshmana being most attached to Him. From their very childhood, Lakshmana would follow Rama everywhere, being completely devoted to his brother. Sibling rivalries occur naturally, but there was no such fighting between Rama and Lakshmana. Lakshmana would not even eat unless Rama had eaten first. Just as Krishna had incarnated as Rama, Baladeva (Krishna’s immediate expansion) incarnated as Lakshmana.
“O king, those same people who have collaborated and suggested this idea of Your exile to the forest, shall themselves be made by me to reside in the forest for fourteen years.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.22)
Being very affectionate towards his elder brother, Lakshmana was outraged at the decision reached by Dashratha and Kaikeyi. In the above referenced quote, He is boldly declaring that those who have decided on this punishment for Rama will have to suffer the same fate instead. He will personally see to it. Now in reality this was not necessary. Rama gladly accepted the punishment from Dashratha since the Lord had other tasks to accomplish while roaming the forest.
Nevertheless, Lakshmana’s attitude is noteworthy. Similar to how karma operates, those who try to harm the Lord or His devotees will have to suffer even greater punishments than those who commit normal sins. For example, vaishnava-aparadha, offense at the feet of a Vaishnava (devotee of Lord Vishnu), is one of the worst sins one can commit. Lord Chaitanya was quite angry at His mother Shachi for having offended Advaita Acharya by accusing him of convincing Vishvarupa, Lord Chaitanya’s older brother, to take sannyasa, or the renounced order of life. Lord Chaitanya only forgave His mother after she begged forgiveness from Advaita Acharya and took the dust of his lotus feet.
Lakshmana protects not only God, but His devotees as well. The lesson provided here is that we should take to devotional service. If we become devotees of the Lord, we will always transcend karma. As ferocious as Lakshmana is towards the miscreants, he is just as kind towards the devotees. He will always protect us and help us increase our devotion to God. Nothing could be more fair.
Categories: glories of lakshmana