“I am His younger brother, Lakshmana by name. Due to His transcendental qualities, I have taken up service to Him, as He is grateful and very knowledgeable.” (Lakshmana speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.12)
The credit score has become an important metric for consumers, home buyers, and creditors to keep track of. A good credit rating is a requirement for making any important purchase these days. From buying a house, to getting a car loan, to even purchasing a new cell phone, one’s credit history plays a vital role not only in the approval process but also in the rate of interest that is offered. The higher the interest rate, the more the borrower is punished for their substandard credit history and the more the lender is insulated from the potential harmful effects of non-repayment. In order for an entity to be deemed trustworthy and likely to repay their debts, they need to have a good credit rating. Otherwise, the borrower will not undertake the risk associated with offering a line of credit. Along similar lines, from the perspective of the inquisitive mind, spiritual life is also seen as a gamble, a risk of sorts which is not guaranteed to pay dividends. Material activities bring visible benefits and invisible detriments, whereas spiritual activities usually bear the opposite combination of outcomes. In this regard, it becomes easier to take to the forming of a permanent spiritual consciousness, the ultimate objective of human life, if there is a guarantee of the desired outcome. To assure us of the abilities of the Supreme Lord to provide unflinching protection and to prove God’s worthiness of our trust, great devotees like Shri Lakshmana have expounded on the Lord’s qualities and virtues.
In America, a credit score is maintained by the major credit monitoring agencies. Credit is established once an individual or business borrows a significant amount of money or opens a new credit card. As soon as credit is opened, the payment history and pattern is tracked by these agencies, and based on certain factors, a score is established. This is a rolling score, a metric calculated in a manner similar to the rankings in professional tennis. For instance, let’s say that a tennis player is ranked number one in the world for the current week. That top position in the ranking system means that the player has accumulated more ranking points, which are based off performance in individual tournaments, than anyone else over the past fifty-two weeks. Based on this definition, we see that ranking points continually accrue and dwindle with each successive week. Since there are tournaments virtually every week of the year, a player is constantly accumulating new points based on their performance in the latest tournament, and also losing points based on the fifty-two week scale being advanced. Hence, the rankings keep changing, with the fifty-two week measure providing a sufficient indication of a player’s performance over the past year.
A credit score works in the same way. It takes into account a borrower’s payment and charge history over a given period of time. Since credit card debt and installment loans involve monthly payments, the score can fluctuate based on the payment patterns of the borrower. For example, let’s say that we have a poor credit score due to a series of missed payments in the recent past. If we start to pay our bills on time and at the proper amounts for a few consecutive months, our score will go up. The credit score is also based on the current ratio of debt to debt limit. Say, for example, a person has a $5000 credit limit on one of their credit cards, and their average monthly debt is only around $100. Obviously this is a very good ratio. The high credit limit means that the issuer of the debt, in most cases a bank, has entrusted the borrower with enough leeway to borrow a significant amount of money at one time. When the borrower is not utilizing all of this available debt, the credit bureaus take it as an indication that the borrower doesn’t really need to borrow a lot of money. These two factors combine to make for a good credit rating.
On the flip side, if a borrower uses up most of their credit limit, it usually means that they are having trouble paying their bills. This factor, along with several missed payments, can damage a person’s credit rating. A lower credit rating means higher interest rates and a loss of eligibility for certain finance discounts when purchasing a new car or opening a new charge account at a retail outlet. It seems a little harsh on the lender’s part to restrict access to money in this way, but they are simply weighing the odds of repayment. A lender is in the business of selling money, issuing funds to those in need with an expected return on investment in the form of interest. The last thing a lender wants to do is write-off their loans, for that is akin to throwing money out the window. The credit score allows lenders to better manage their risk, while maximizing their rewards at the same time.
As is obvious to many of us, spiritual life is not a very easy thing to adopt, especially since we are taught from the time of birth to go after sense gratification and economic development. After all, without economic development, how would we meet the basic demands of the body? Spiritual life is a little difficult to take seriously if we’re starving to death. So in this regard, the activities of acquiring wealth and knowledge take precedence over anything else. “Oh let me just get settled down first; then I’ll worry about spirituality and the meaning of life and all that other good stuff.”
This situation likely represents the largest stumbling block towards advancement in spiritual life, with the other hurdle being the lack of interaction with the supreme object of worship. Spiritual life requires taking to a set of prescriptions and guidelines for the purpose of achieving bliss in the afterlife. By definition, this means that we won’t see the fruits of our efforts until after we are long gone, after we have left our current body. Since none of us are entirely sure of what the afterlife brings, it’s a little difficult to have faith in a process that grants rewards which mature at a time to be determined.
Aside from the issues pertaining to the visibility of the expectant rewards, there is the issue of the visibility of the object of all religious practice: God. If we offer service to our wife, husband, children, or boss, we at least get to see them. The Christmas holiday and birthdays are perfect illustrations of this concept. If we buy someone a Christmas gift, we are essentially offering them a type of service. The rewards of this kindness are seen in the recipients’ reactions to opening their gifts. The service we offer to our employer manifests in the form of a paycheck or a promotion.
With God, however, there really isn’t a direct interaction, at least not for one who is in a conditioned state. What does “conditioned” mean? The Vedas, the original system of spirituality descending from the Divine Creator, teach that upon taking birth in this world, a living entity becomes conditioned. The condition, or predicament, is that of false identification. As mentioned before, the afterlife is the great unknown, something which some people believe in, and others completely disregard. Based on this uncertainty, the living entities have a tendency to identify solely with their current life’s experiences and the ups and downs that come with them. The Vedas describe this identification as being a symptom of conditioned life. The opposite of the conditioned state is the liberated one. When on this transcendental platform, a spirit soul identifies completely with God and their relationship to Him. Since the likelihood of achieving this liberated state greatly increases in the human form of body, the human species is taken to be the most advanced. Moreover, it is the ascension to this liberated state that then becomes the highest occupation of man, the supreme dharma, the sublime engagement. One can see God only after having freed themselves from the false identification inherited at birth.
So it seems that we’re in a Catch-22. In order to see God, we have to take to spiritual life and become liberated. At the same time, since we can’t see God in the conditioned state, it becomes harder to believe in the idea of liberation and the potential for having a face-to-face meeting with the Supreme Lord. To help the conditioned living entities with their dilemma, the Supreme Lord descends to earth from time to time. One such appearance took place during the Treta Yuga when the original form of Godhead, the Supreme Lord for all of mankind, incarnated as a pious and handsome prince named Rama. In India, Lord Rama is celebrated and adored by millions, but we shouldn’t take this to mean that Rama is a sectarian figure or the exclusive property of Hindus. There is no such thing as a God for one subsection of society and a different God for another group. God is the all-powerful, so His dominion and mercy spread across the entire world, to every living entity, irrespective of their place of birth, parentage, skin color, or religious practice.
Shri Rama exhibited all the qualities one would expect from God. He was kind, thoughtful, sweet, heroic, and equally disposed to everyone. This means that He didn’t play any favorites; He didn’t pit one group versus another, declaring one class to be advantaged based on their accumulation of material objects, while declaring another group to be downtrodden due to their lack of material wealth. If He did show any favoritism, it was directed towards the brahmanas, the priestly class of men. The brahmanas, who can be considered a purified form of an intelligentsia, were completely dedicated to Rama, so the Lord’s favoritism towards them wasn’t surprising. Since they were dedicated to the Supreme Spirit, the Lord reciprocated their kind sentiments.
Just by observing Rama’s behavior towards the brahmanas, sufficient evidence pertaining to the Lord’s pure nature and His worthiness of worship is gathered. In addition, the authority of Rama’s closest associates, which include His younger brother Lakshmana, can also be used to substantiate the claims made by the Vedas, the scriptures which perpetually sing of Rama’s glories. The two princes, Rama and Lakshmana, were once roaming the forests of India in search of Rama’s wife, Sita Devi, who had been previously kidnapped by a demon. Making their way to the forest of Kishkindha, the two brothers met up with a Vanara named Hanuman, who was the chief emissary of a monkey-king named Sugriva. Upon meeting Rama and Lakshmana, Hanuman’s heart melted. He immediately took to praising them, extolling the virtues of the two princes he had just met. Rama in turn was quite pleased with Hanuman and thus agreed to form an alliance with Hanuman’s leader.
After the plan for the alliance was agreed upon, Hanuman was a little curious as to why the two handsome and powerful princes were roaming the forests alone. In response to his questions, Lakshmana gave a brief rundown of their circumstances. The above referenced statement was part of this description, wherein Lakshmana openly declares himself to be a humble servant of Rama. This statement is interesting for many reasons, the primary of which relates to identity. By all accounts, Lakshmana was just as powerful and beautiful as Rama. In fact, many referred to them as twins, with the only difference in appearance being their complexion. Rama was dark-skinned while Lakshmana was fair. Lakshmana was a celestial being as well, a partial incarnation of Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vishnu is God’s all-pervading form which has four arms and resides in the spiritual world.
Even though he donned all of these wonderful features, Lakshmana still chose to identify himself as Rama’s servant. According to the standard social etiquette of the time, a younger brother’s duty was to serve the elder brother anyway, so in this regard Lakshmana’s identification was understandable. Lest anyone think he was simply following protocol, Lakshmana emphasizes that the reason for his dedication to Rama has only to do with his brother’s qualities. Rama’s virtue and transcendental qualities, gunaih, were so overwhelming that it impelled Lakshmana to dedicate his life to Him.
The Supreme Lord’s qualities are certainly overwhelmingly great, but in the conditioned state, it is a little difficult to make this reading, for we are blinded by our own desires to imitate the Lord’s abilities in the areas of creation, maintenance, and destruction. Yet even if one hasn’t ascended to the liberated platform, they can begin to make steps towards the sublime state by hearing from authorities like Lakshmana. Rama’s younger brother vouches for Him and declares that the Lord’s qualities are so great that anyone who knows Him will most certainly decide to dedicate their lives to Him. For this reason, Lord Chaitanya, God’s most recent incarnation as a human being to appear on earth, advised everyone to simply chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and distribute Krishna’s instructions to all of mankind. Through hearing these transcendental sound vibrations, one gets reacquainted with the Supreme Lord, the most deserving object of pleasure. Anyone who renders even a little service is assured of being paid back with the highest interest, that of a return to the spiritual sky at the end of life.
Categories: meeting hanuman