"O best of the Ikshvakus, considering Your powerful divine and human capabilities, please strive for the destruction of Your enemies." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.20)
Enemies come in all different shapes and sizes. There are personal enemies; other people that we don’t like or who harass us on a regular basis. Then there are demons inside of us; those things that we are addicted to or thoughts that we can’t get rid of. Regardless of the nature of the enemy, they must be defeated. This is important because if we leave the enemy alone and don’t deal with them, there is nothing to stop them from attacking again. The destruction of the enemy is a requirement for there to be peace of any kind.
Those who have attacked us before are more than likely to attack us again. This is a concept which is easily understood but often forgotten. Vyasadeva’s magnum opus, the celebrated epic of the Vedic tradition, the Mahabharata, details the plight of five brothers whose kingdom was stolen away from them. Mahabharata literally means “great India”, so it contains many stories relating to spirituality and historical events from days past. This great work shines the spotlight of attention on the five sons of Pandu, who was a great king who died prematurely due to a curse. Though his sons were the proper heirs to the kingdom, it was Pandu’s brother, Dhritarashtra, who allowed his own sons, headed by Duryodhana, to unlawfully usurp control over the kingdom.
“We may be put into various types of dangerous conditions by our family members, the Kurus, but I am confident that You remember us and that you always keep us safe and sound. Devotees who simply think of You are always immune from all kinds of material dangers, and what to speak of ourselves, who are personally remembered by You.” (Kunti Devi speaking to Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 3)
Duryodhana didn’t stop at taking over the kingdom unlawfully. He hatched various schemes that constantly put the Pandava brothers and their mother, Kunti Devi, in trouble. He even tried to kill all of them many times, but each time they were saved. Who came to the rescue? The Pandava brothers were related to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sometimes people refuse to accept the fact that God can have a name or a form, so they refer to Him as the Divine. Regardless of how we refer to God, there is no doubt that He can appear on earth from time to time depending on His own whim. Though we can’t enumerate every appearance, the Vedas give us a list of the more important ones. Lord Krishna is actually considered the original form of God, so when He appears on earth, He comes in His original body which is full of bliss and knowledge.
God doesn’t have any father or mother; He is adi-purusham, or the original person. Nevertheless, to perform His activities on earth, He gives the appearance of accepting parents. When the Lord enacted His pastimes on earth some five thousand years ago, His father was Vasudeva. Vasudeva’s sister was Queen Kunti, the mother of the Pandava brothers. Thus Krishna was cousins with Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula, and Sahadeva; the five Pandava brothers. Not only was Krishna related to these great warriors, but He favored them very much. They were all great devotees and pious souls, thus the Lord had no qualms about showing favoritism to them. In one of His most celebrated pastimes, Lord Krishna accepted the position of driver for Arjuna’s chariot during the great Bharata war.
Duryodhana tried to kill the Pandavas in so many ways, but each time the brothers were miraculously saved through Krishna’s intervention. Eventually the brothers had enough and were contemplating going to war with Duryodhana and his side of the family. The brothers were on the fence, since they didn’t want to have to kill family members, including several exalted personalities such as Bhishmadeva and Dronacharya, who were fighting for the other side. Queen Kunti very much was in favor of going to war, for she knew that the kingdom rightfully belonged to her sons. Lord Krishna also intervened in this instance, agreeing with Kunti.
Usually when we think of religion and spirituality, we think of peacefulness, kindness, and nonviolence. All of us are God’s children, so why would we want to harm anyone else? The Supreme Absolute Truth can be realized through several different features, one of which is the all-pervading effulgence consisting of everything material and spiritual. This feature is known as Brahman, and we are all part of it. This means that we are all equal to each other in a spiritual sense. Since no one person is better than the other, it would make sense that violence wouldn’t be necessary. Yet Lord Krishna was in favor of going to war on this occasion. His primary reasoning was that Duryodhana was a great enemy of the Pandava family. If the Pandavas forgave all Duryodhana’s transgressions and allowed him to continue ruling over their kingdom, there would be nothing to stop him from sparking future attacks. Krishna made the cogent point that the most dangerous enemies in this world are those we have had quarrels with in the past. These enemies become even more dangerous if we have previously defeated them.
This principle was exhibited by King Jarasandha in his behavior towards Krishna. Jarasandha was not happy that Krishna had killed his friend, King Kamsa. This anger led him to attack the Lord on several occasions. Lord Krishna easily thwarted all the attacks, but He didn’t kill Jarasandha personally. Rather, the Lord built an underwater kingdom of Dvaraka to act as a fort to protect His citizens from outside attacks. Jarasandha was defeated over and over again by Krishna, but that didn’t stop him at all. Instead, he just came back each time with more and more anger. Eventually Lord Krishna manipulated events in such a way that a wrestling match was set up between Jarasandha and Bhima, the strongest of the Pandava brothers. Bhima defeated Jarasandha and tore his body in half, thus killing him.
“Lord Krishna immediately picked up a twig from a tree and, taking it in His hand, bifurcated it. In this way He hinted to Bhimasena how Jarasandha could be killed.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 17)
Eventually the Pandava brothers decided in favor of going to war, and with the help of Krishna, they would end up victorious. These lessons apply to us because we have so many demons in our life, most of which are internal. The famous adage says that you can’t ignore your problems and hope to have them go away. This certainly holds true with our personal demons. If we have a foe that we have previously defeated, such as lust, greed, or anger, it is more than likely that the same enemy will come back to fight us again. Thus it is important to completely eliminate our enemies if we have the capability to do so.
This was the point stressed by Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama, many thousands of years ago. If our enemies are other human beings, attacking them isn’t always ideal. Not all of us are meant to be fighters. This is why we have governments, great entities that are tasked with providing protection to the innocent. In this way, the responsibility of eradicating miscreants falls on the shoulders of our protectors, i.e. the government leaders. Many thousands of years ago, the very same Lord Krishna appeared on earth as a handsome and pious warrior prince named Rama. Since Lord Rama appeared in a famous dynasty of kings, the Ikshvakus, it was His duty to provide protection to the innocent.
On one occasion, Rama’s beautiful and kind wife, Sita Devi, was kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Ravana and his associates were not only enemies of Rama, but of almost everyone in society as well. Ravana was a noteworthy demon whose rise and fall are well chronicled in the epic Ramayana compiled by Maharishi Valmiki. As the result of a curse given by the sage Vishrava, Ravana was born as a Rakshasa with ten heads and a ghoulish figure. Ravana’s mother was jealous that his step-brother, Kuvera, had acquired so much good fortune and wealth as a result of performing austerities that she influenced Ravana into taking up even great austerities. Thus the demon pleased Lord Brahma and was duly rewarded with many boons, including immunity in battle against all living entities except human beings.
Ravana, being a non-devotee, used his powers for evil instead of good. He immediately went on to defeat many demigods, leaving others to run for cover. He and his Rakshasa associates drove Kuvera out of the island kingdom of Lanka and took it over for themselves. But this wasn’t the height of his atrocities. Ravana especially liked to harass the saintly class of men, the great sages who had taken refuge in the forests. The Rakshasas would perform sneak attacks on the sages, disrupting their sacrifices and then killing them.
When Rama initially found out that Sita was missing, He gave way to lamentation and grief. Who wouldn’t be saddened by such an unfortunate event? It would make sense that Rama would have to sit down for a little while and collect His thoughts. Yet the Lord went a little further than this. He was ready to destroy the entire creation as revenge for Sita’s kidnap. Lakshmana, the ever-faithful and compassionate younger brother, at this time stepped in and offered some sound words of advice to Rama.
In the above referenced statement, we see that Lakshmana is telling Rama to get up and go after the demons, keeping in mind His great strength. Not only did Rama possess great human strength, but He had all divine qualities as well. This isn’t surprising considering that Rama was an incarnation of God. Lakshmana’s point was that it was important for Rama to go after His enemies for two reasons. The obvious reason was that Sita had been taken away from Him, and thus any person who kidnaps an innocent married woman should certainly be punished. Moreover, if Rama didn’t go after the Rakshasas, who would? If the kidnappers of women and the killers of sages were to be pardoned for their actions, what would stop them from committing the same atrocities in the future? Everything worked out in the end, as Rama indeed would take Lakshmana’s advice and resume His search for Sita, eventually finding the princess and killing Ravana in the process.
“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.6)
We living entities have a similar dilemma confronting us. We certainly aren’t God, and most of us aren’t tasked with protecting the innocent. Yet this doesn’t mean that we don’t have our own demons to deal with. The Vedas tell us that the human form of life is considered the most auspicious due to the intelligence factor. We can actually realize this fact on our own. We are much smarter than any other species, for we even know that we are going to die. But what should we do with this intelligence? Should we use it to find ways to make our lives more comfortable? This is the avenue that many of us choose, but we see that success is never achieved in this venture.
The rich and famous show us the deficiencies of comfortable living. Though they have everything they could ever want right at their fingertips, the wealthy will often take to opening schools, hospitals, and to giving away money to charity as a way of life. This speaks to the reality that increased happiness is achieved through service to others. In the pursuit for material success, we are serving our own senses, hoping that by acquiring life’s comforts our miseries will go away. When the miseries remain, we take to helping others.
Philanthropy and charity may be noble and well-intentioned engagements, but they still don’t provide everlasting pleasure. Once the flickering happiness goes away, pain will surely follow. Our inner-demons, the mind and the senses, are the sources of this pain. For the conditioned living entities, the senses are under the control of maya. Maya means that which is not, so her forces lead us to chasing things that are not what they seem. When the senses are under maya’s control, they constantly ask for satisfaction. “Just give me some nice food and regular sexual relations, and you and I will both be happy.” This is most certainly illusion because we see that overeating and illicit sex life actually lead to life’s worst problems.
The senses bewilder the mind and lead to the chase after illusion. So what can be done about this? How do we attack our senses? Doesn’t attacking our senses equate to suicide or personal harm? The way to defeat the enemy known as maya is to change our object of service, our ultimate object of affection. In the conditioned state, our senses are under the control of material nature, but in the perfected stage, the senses act according to the direction of the master of all senses, God. Since Lord Krishna is the owner and controller of the sum total of all senses, one of His names is Hrishikesha. The only way to defeat our inner demons is to put ourselves under the control of Hrishikesha.
This seems nice in theory, but how do we actually go about doing it? To find the answer, we must revisit the issue of service. When we offer our service to the senses or to the senses of others, the resulting pleasure is short-lived. To gain permanent happiness, we simply need to direct our service to God. There are many ways to do this, but in this age, the simplest method is the constant chanting of His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This shouldn’t be mistakenly equated with the religious activities that most of us are accustomed to, where we approach God for some personal benefit. Service to God must be unmotivated and uninterrupted. Pure love for Krishna means not wanting anything from Him in return.
Of course Krishna is not so unkind as to not reciprocate our loving feelings. By taking up the chanting process, and devotional service in general, we slowly but surely put ourselves under the control of the divine energy. Not only does this constant engagement in spiritual activities shield us from the effects of maya, but it also arms us with the sword of transcendental knowledge. Those who are intimately acquainted with this great system of knowledge realize their true potential in life. Demons are meant to be slain, especially by those who are capable of doing the slaying. This was the instruction given by Lakshmana to Rama, but it applies to all of us as well. We should all take up devotional service, learn about God, read about Him, talk about Him, and spread His glories to others. Then all the unwanted elements in life will remain far away from us.
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