“The Vanaras, who fought using trees, attacked the demons from all sides. Seeing the ten-necked leader killed, the Vanaras assumed a triumphant attitude.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 108.24)
sarvataścābhipetustān vānarā drumayodhinaḥ |
daśagrīvavadhaṃ dṛṣṭvā vānarā jitakāśinaḥ ||
If your enemy fights with state of the art weaponry that they are skilled in maneuvering, and you are using basic objects found in nature like trees and rocks, how on earth will you win? You’re basically kidding yourself, as you may fight the gallant fight for a while, but eventually the sheer force of the opposition’s weaponry will defeat you. Ah, but when you have the Supreme Lord as your leader, you don’t need any outside help. You don’t even have to be very strong or capable. Just the desire to serve Him is enough, and on the occasion of Dussehra we remember the service of some of the most valiant warriors in history.
Lord Ramachandra is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation as a warrior prince. There have been many famous princes in history, but none has been more talked about and celebrated than the eldest son of King Dasharatha of the Ikshvaku dynasty. His glories are sung in the Vedas, which are the oldest scriptures in existence. The ancient Vedic texts like the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam describe God’s qualities in both His incarnations such as Rama and His personal form, and to this day the glorification continues through the saints who have inherited the spiritual tradition of bhakti-yoga from their spiritual masters, who belong to an instructional lineage that originates with the Supreme Lord Himself.
“The Lord descends on this earth and acts like others in connection with the activities of the world just to create subject matters for hearing about Him; otherwise the Lord has nothing to do in this world, nor has He any obligation to do anything.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.15 Purport)
From Shri Rama’s life so many lessons can be taken away, including on topics such as administration, defense, pious principles, deference to one’s preceptors and parents, and brotherly love. But a higher purpose for coming to earth and gracing the population with His vision is to give the saints something to talk about, something to relish. The mind works all the time, even while we are asleep. Think about that for a second. From the time of your birth up until this very moment your mind has never stopped. It will keep going in the future as well, which means that you’ll always have to think about something. It stands to reason then that if the quality of the subject matter of that thought increases, the pleasure from the thinking will increase as well.
God’s qualities are inconceivably wonderful, so He is described as nirguna, or without qualities. The nirguna tag is also sometimes used to describe the Lord’s unmanifest feature, His presence which is not perceptible to the eye. Conversely, the saguna form is the personal incarnation, but nirguna in a different context means that the gunas, or qualities, belonging to the Lord are all spiritual. They are not binding to the cycle of birth and death as they are with ordinary living entities.
A major act of the real-life play directed by Lord Rama took place in Lanka, an island ruled over by a wicked king named Ravana at the time. Rama didn’t just come to earth to go on a killing spree. In fact, His demeanor was the opposite of aggressive. He was very kind and polite and didn’t speak much. He followed the direction of His parents and His spiritual guides, which is humorous in a sense, as God doesn’t need instruction from anyone. Yet just to set a good example He followed the wishes of the father Dasharatha and the gurus Vishvamitra and Vashishtha. Rama also couldn’t help but listen to His wife Sita and His younger brother Lakshmana, who insisted on accompanying Him wherever He went.
When Rama had to live in the forest for fourteen years, they both came along as well, and later on Sita was taken away to Lanka behind Rama’s back. Ravana perpetrated this deed, and for this he was worthy of punishment. A mentality opposite of that of Sita and Lakshmana, Ravana had no desire to serve God or even acknowledge His supremacy. Rather, Ravana would amass wealth using his strength and then enjoy his lofty position. But all his hard-earned gains would come crashing down as soon as he decided to try to enjoy the person who is always off-limits. Sita is Lakshmi Devi, the goddess of fortune, and she serves her husband, Narayana, all the time. Narayana is another name for God, and Rama is the same Narayana.
Ravana wasn’t alone in Lanka. He had fellow ogres there with him. They were expert in black magic, similar to witches. They looked ghoulish, and they fought dirty. Previous to Sita’s abduction, Ravana’s friends had harassed many a sage in the forest. They would attack at night when it was difficult to see, and they would first assume an innocent guise. Just when they got close, they would reveal their true forms and then kill the sages and eat their flesh. These vile creatures were man-eaters who preyed on the most innocent members of society.
Rama one time singlehandedly defeated 14,000 of Ravana’s cohorts that were sent towards Him. When the time came for Sita’s rescue, Rama teamed up with Vanaras, who are like an advanced race of monkeys. Rama had a more conventional army back home, but due to the stipulations of the exile set by His father’s youngest wife Kaikeyi, Rama wouldn’t return to Ayodhya for help. No matter, as the Vanaras were sufficiently capable for the job; they possessed the one attribute necessary for victory: devotion.
In the final battle, the Rakshasas used every trick they had, but the monkeys, who were led by Hanuman, held their own. Finally, there was the battle between Rama and Ravana, and when the Lord released the arrow bestowed by Lord Brahma, Ravana was killed. Seeing this, the Vanaras, who were fighting with trees, swarmed the enemy Rakshasas. Rama’s army assumed the triumphant attitude because their spirits were uplifted by the Lord’s victory. With such high spirits there was nothing the Rakshasas could do.
When you know you are on the side of good and you have the leader of that goodness there to support you, there is no chance of defeat, no matter what the external conditions portend. In the present day and age the enemies live both within and without. Lust, anger and greed attack us on the inside, and the forces intent on denying God’s existence ruin society on the outside. Yet weapons of the same potency as the arrows shot by Rama are available to us in the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This mantra is the battle hymn of the bhakti army, and chanting it regularly gives the troops the same confidence that the Vanaras had back on that first Dussehra.
Shri Rama, Supreme Lord, has won,
Ravana’s reign of terror now done.
Vanaras in victory shout,
Enemy forces they begin to route.
Relying on black magic the demons fought,
Mind-bending illusions to battle they brought.
Rama’s army used only rocks and trees,
But on opportunity for service they seized.
From devotion to Rama assured was their victory,
On Dussehra day with smiles we remember their story.