What’s the Use

Rama and Lakshmana "O best of men, what is the use of Your destroying the entire world? After finding out Your sinful enemy, you should uproot him alone." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.21)

Our days are filled with many unnecessary activities, even if we aren’t able to identify them as such. For every action that we perform, we should consider the intended benefit. What is the use of performing so many activities if all they do is take up time? Time is precious, and our lifespan is very short in the grand scheme of things. Therefore it is better to take up activities which will further our condition than to waste time on idle talk and nonsense activities.

Lord KrishnaThe usefulness of an activity can vary depending on a person’s angle of vision. Let’s take the lives of children for example. As adults, we would never think of running around and playing all day. Children pick up the simplest toys and become enamored with them for a few days, but then after that, they jump to another toy. For their viewing pleasure, animated films and educational programs are presented. As adults, these sorts of things don’t entertain us because they don’t serve any purpose. We understand that playing with toys all day is simply a waste of time. We would rather spend our time studying to earn an advanced degree, or working hard to earn a living. Such activity is known as karma, or work performed with a desired fruitive result in mind. Juxtaposing these two mindsets, we see that the difference between children and adults is intelligence. A higher level of intelligence guides a person in the right direction with respect to what actions should be done and what shouldn’t.

As we advance from childhood to young adulthood, our activities certainly do change and our intelligence advances. But this doesn’t mean that all our activities suddenly become pure, or that we stop wasting time on unnecessary engagements. For example, one thing we often waste our time on is hate. Hatred stems from jealousy, which has as its root the idea that someone else shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy. “Who does such and such person think they are? I can’t believe they have so much money. I can’t believe they were able to score such a beautiful wife. I can’t stand that person.” The “hated” are usually those who are successful in life, or those we deem to be more fortunate than ourselves.

Since we live in an advanced technological age, the number of outlets for this hatred has increased. The nightly newscasts are filled with various forms of this hatred, though the stories are sometimes presented to us as serious news. In media outlets, the hatred is usually directed at those people in power: wealthy executives, politicians, famous celebrities, successful businesses, etc. An intelligent person realizes, however, that hatred of others is simply a waste of time. This hatred does not get us anywhere, nor does it advance our condition. It does nothing to increase our intelligence. The Vedas say that all material activities can be classified into one of three distinct modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Any activity which is done with proper consideration of right and wrong and which leads to the advancement of one’s intelligence is considered to be in the mode of goodness.

“The manifestations of the mode of goodness can be experienced when all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.11)

Lord Krishna Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is so kind that He has given us the blueprint for behavior. Instead of just telling us what should be done and what shouldn’t, He gives us a scientific understanding of the activities that we already perform. This is another reason why no one can be smarter than God. Though the famous Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God, was spoken by Lord Krishna almost five thousand years ago, the instructions still apply to the people of this age. Moreover, the instructions will still apply millions of years into the future. This is what it means to be Absolute. Lord Krishna is the Absolute Truth because information that is taken from Him, or is derived from His teachings, never becomes false. Truths can be relative depending on the exact circumstances and the intended result; thus we can’t really consider any theory or philosophy to be absolute. With Krishna, however, we get the highest truths, those which are beyond contradiction.

Understanding that God is the Absolute Truth is not a very easy thing. We all tend to think of ourselves as being very intelligent. This mindset stays with us throughout our lifetime. When we are younger, we obviously don’t know very much compared to what we know as adults. Yet as youngsters, we certainly thought our parents and authority figures were unintelligent from time to time. As adults, we often look back on our childhood memories and think, “Wow, what was I thinking? I can’t believe how stupid I was back then.” Nevertheless, even with this realization, we still think that we know it all, or that even if we don’t, we’ll figure our way out of problems.

Lord Rama We may consult various reference books or even seek the guidance of our friends and family, but no one will be able to give us absolute information except God. Since Krishna is kind enough to share this information with others, we can also approach one of His bona fide representatives, the spiritual master, and be able to learn about the Supreme Truth. In the Hindu tradition, as part of the funeral rites, friends and family of the departed will chant “Ram Nam Satya Hai” as the person’s body is being cremated. This Hindi saying means that Lord Rama, one of Krishna’s primary expansions, is the Truth. This is actually a wonderful tradition, because it reminds everyone of the meaning of life. When a person dies, it’s obviously a sad occasion, but the friends and family of the departed aren’t necessarily depressed over the fact that the deceased’s life of sense gratification has ended. Rather, they are concerned with the future destination of the soul. By chanting the holy name of Rama and declaring it to be the only truth, well-wishers hope that the departed soul will be taken directly to God’s spiritual realm.

“Whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)

The advanced intelligence of the human being should be used towards acquiring knowledge, and since Krishna is the Absolute Truth, it would stand to reason that all activities should be geared towards learning about Him. This is where the mode of goodness comes in. Of all the material modes, the mode of goodness is considered the highest because it leads to the acquisition of spiritual knowledge. The more acts we perform in goodness, the closer we come to realizing that we are spirit souls and not our bodies.

So where does hatred and jealousy fit into this? Does hatred help us understand the nature of the soul? Quite the contrary, hatred rooted in jealousy only further increases our delusion. The delusion starts with the idea that another person is not entitled to enjoy their own property, possessions, and family life. Every person should be satisfied with his or her allotment in life, since everything acquired is a result of prior work. This work may have been performed in the current lifetime, or in a previous one. On a higher level of understanding, everything actually belongs to God. This means that if we see a rich person, it is to be understood that Krishna has allowed them to borrow some of His wealth.

Lord Krishna Since God is the original owner of everything, shouldn’t we use all of our possessions towards pleasing Him? Activity performed under this mindset is in shuddha-sattva, or the mode of pure goodness. This mode transcends all three modes of material nature, and anyone associating with it automatically goes back home, back to Godhead, at the time of death. When we encounter hateful comments made about others, we should understand that those spewing the hate are simply wasting their time.

Aside from indulging in hatred and idle gossip, we see that people often discuss Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Sita Devi, or other divine figures in public. Sometimes the talk is of the positive nature, but many times it also resembles the same hatred shown towards ordinary human beings. We’ll see that people will criticize Lord Krishna for certain activities He performed while He was on earth, or we’ll see people bash Lord Rama for leaving Sita Devi at Valmiki’s ashrama towards the end of their time on earth. People will even argue against Krishna’s statements found in the Bhagavad-gita, or Sita Devi’s statements found in the Ramayana. “Oh I don’t think I agree with this. Sita would never think such things. Lord Rama would never subscribe to this.”

Sita and Rama What’s ironic is that these comments are made in response to direct quotations made by the divine figures in question. Such criticisms and idle gossip are more than just wastes of time; they are downright dangerous. To understand Lord Krishna, we simply have to listen to the words He has spoken. If we don’t understand something He says, we should consult an authority figure, someone who knows Krishna. The same holds true for issues relating to Lord Rama, Sita Devi, Hanuman, Radharani, etc. The authority figures have put forth the proper interpretations and meanings as it relates to the great scriptures.

Idle gossip, unnecessary hatred, and speculating about Krishna are certainly all wastes of time, but sometimes things aren’t so black and white. There are times when it is necessary to criticize or punish genuine miscreants, while at other times it is better to turn the other cheek. How are we to decipher what activity should be undertaken and what shouldn’t? This is where the devotee of Krishna comes in. The devotee of God has seen the light and thus engages all their time in positive activities, those things which lead to the emancipation of the soul. In times of trouble, we simply need to consult such devotees, either in person or by referencing their written instructions, and abide by their counsel.

Lakshmana One such devotee was Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama. Many thousands of years ago, during the Treta Yuga, Lord Rama, the handsome and pious prince of Ayodhya, roamed this earth along with His three younger brothers and wife, Sita Devi. Lakshmana was one of Rama’s brothers, and he was also the one closest to the Lord. On one unfortunate occasion, Sita was kidnapped from the forest by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Upon realizing that Sita was missing from their cottage, Rama and Lakshmana frantically searched for the princess’s whereabouts, but they were unsuccessful in finding her. Seeing that Sita was gone, Rama gave way to sadness. God loves His devotees so much, so if He sees that something bad has happened to them, He most certainly feels sadness.

“The highly renowned Rama rages into a fury against those who dare brave against Him. He is extremely powerful, for He can completely stop the onset of a pulsing river simply by using His arrows. Shriman Rama can bring down all the stars, planets, and the sky itself by use of His arrows. He is even capable of saving the earth if it should collapse. The illustrious Rama, if He wanted to, could deluge the whole world by breaking apart the shorelines of the seas. With His arrows, He can resist the onset of the oceans and the wind. After withdrawing the whole world into Himself, that highly renowned best of men, by virtue of His powers, is capable of again creating the whole world with all its creatures.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.23-26)

Lord Rama Rama’s sadness quickly turned to anger. Since He was God Himself, the Lord was capable of destroying the whole world and then recreating it. In this instance, Rama was ready to show off His destructive powers. He was set on destroying the entire world as revenge for Sita’s kidnap. To quell his brother’s anger, Lakshmana stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. Lakshmana essentially said, “Don’t lament, for every person meets with good and bad fortune. If Sita is dead, there is still no reason to deviate from the path of dharma, or occupational duty.” His teachings were strikingly similar to those given by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

In the above referenced quote, Lakshmana is giving his final instruction, which asks the rhetorical question of what is to be gained by destroying the whole world. This is certainly an appropriate question since the rest of the world had nothing to do with Sita’s kidnap. Moreover, killing every living entity wouldn’t bring Sita back to the cottage. Lakshmana advises Rama to instead focus His efforts on achieving His desired goal of Sita’s rescue through the killing of His enemy. Lord Rama certainly appreciated this advice very much. Lakshmana is so dear to Rama that the Lord created this specific circumstance so that future generations could marvel at His younger brother’s words and relish them at the same time. For this we are extremely grateful. Hearing these loving words from Lakshmana certainly brings great joy to our hearts.

Lakshmana So what can we take away from Lakshmana’s teachings? The first thing we can do is apply the same test to all of our activities. Whenever we undertake an activity, we should ask ourselves, “Of what use is this? What will I gain by doing this?” If we were all to think along these lines, surely there would be less hatred around the world. People would think twice before they spewed unnecessary hatred and gossip. The second piece to this puzzle is to figure out what action should be performed in lieu of the unnecessary action we are avoiding.

The answer to this can also be found from Lakshmana’s words of wisdom. Lord Rama was advised to act according to His prescribed duties as a warrior and eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. Thus it was Rama’s duty to provide protection to the innocent, to search for Sita, and to kill His enemies. In the same manner, every living entity’s occupational duty is to be a loving servant of the Supreme Lord. The exact nature of this service can vary, but the sentiment should always be the same. We should work to please the Lord; performing those activities which will help us better understand Him. We should transcend the mode of goodness by engaging exclusively in acts of devotion. This will make our time spent on earth worth it.

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