A Fitting Friend

Rama holding His bow“It is appropriate for you to make friends with Rama, that best among men, if you wish to continue in your current state and if you want to avoid a ghastly slaying.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.19-20)

mitramaupayikam kartum rāmaḥ sthānam parīpsatā ||
vadham cānicchatā ghoraṃ tvayāsau puruṣarṣabhaḥ |

“Why should I be friends with God? He has been nothing but cruel to me my whole life. Everything I’ve ever wanted He never gave me. When I was younger, I had trouble talking to people. I couldn’t give speeches in public due to intense stage fright. I would pray to God to save me, but that rescue never came. I was left embarrassed and ashamed. He doesn’t exist, didn’t hear what I asked, or doesn’t like me.”

Stage fright“Why should I be friends with God? I have everything I could ever want right now. I never went to church. I never read any religious books. Through my own hard work I achieved success. I have the best possible job in the world. My spouse and children are wonderful too. I live in an area where the sun shines bright in the sky the majority of the year. It never gets too hot or too cold. The restaurants in this area are great too. I’m living the good life. What do I need God for?”

“Why should I be friends with God? I have no desires whatsoever. When you boil it down, friendship means getting something in return from someone else, sort of like a barter system. I scratch your back, and you scratch mine. I come to you with something that I need because previously I helped you out with something that you needed. But I don’t need my back scratched anymore. I live a very renounced life. I meditate all day. I eat whatever is around that doesn’t cost too much. I don’t want money, women, wine, gambling, fame, a big house, or a lot of friends. I’m fine with how things are right now. I don’t need anything from God.”

Here are three common mentalities. One person never gets what they want, so they are miserable. Another is materially set, while another has no desires at all. Despite what the person thinks, in each case friendship with the Supreme Lord is worthwhile. Only in our ignorance do we think otherwise. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi informs a very impious king that making friends with God will preserve what he has and prevent calamity for both him and his kingdom.

Sita and RamaSita knew her audience. Making friends with Rama, who is her husband, is beneficial simply because of who Rama is. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the origin of all life and matter. Though He is a singular personality, He takes to various forms that are preferred by His devotee. Each individual has an eternal relationship with God. That relationship is also tied to a specific non-different manifestation of the Supreme Godhead. Rama is worshiped by so many, including, of course, His beautiful, chaste, sweet, and very knowledgeable wife.

Rama is all-beautiful. One look at His smiling face can cure the dreaded disease that is the false ego, or ahankara. The ego is false when there is no knowledge of the Supreme Lord’s existence. It is false when one thinks that they can go it alone in life and be just fine. It is false when one thinks that God doesn’t exist since they weren’t granted things at specific times. Just because you don’t get what you want for your birthday doesn’t mean that your parents don’t love you. As God is the Supreme Father, sometimes He doesn’t give to the devotee something that will not help them in the long run.

The ego is false when it thinks that through hard work alone everything is secured. I may work very diligently and honestly for something, but it doesn’t mean that I will get it. In sports, so many players work hard and follow the guidance of the coaches and still end up losing. Taking entire careers, even the greatest players don’t win most of the time. In business, even the wealthiest businessman must keep an eye out for the competition. They can’t remain on top forever, as others work hard to dethrone them. A good idea and a good work ethic don’t always produce a winner.

The person who doesn’t desire anything still must maintain an existence. Their ego is false when they think that a higher power isn’t maintaining their livelihood. It is false when they think that renunciation alone is the be all, end all. They may be proud of their distaste for material life, but without the help of knowledge of the origin of matter and spirit, their renunciation is vulnerable at every second.  Indeed, the monkey also lives in the forest, without any possessions, and yet no one would consider the monkey to be renounced.

Ravana belonged to the class of men who is full of material desires. There was no point in preaching to Ravana about the need for renunciation. Describing Rama’s glorious character, His tremendous beauty, or His position above the influence of karma also wouldn’t change Ravana’s ways. Ravana was very lusty. He had a lot of stuff and he wanted to keep it all. Sita, therefore, rightfully told him that friendship with Rama would enable him to keep all of that stuff.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.22“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

In the Bhagavad-gita, the same Shri Rama, but in His original form of Krishna, says that He preserves what the devotees have and brings to them what they lack. A devotee is a friend of Krishna. This means that if Ravana makes friends with Rama, the promise from the Bhagavad-gita will apply to him. Rama is the origin of matter and spirit. He can create thousands of kingdoms in an instant just by thinking about it. Preserving Ravana’s opulent estate in Lanka would be no problem for Rama.

Rama hugging HanumanSita also says that friendship with Rama will prevent a ghastly slaying for Ravana. That punishment was due him due to misdeeds. This again points to Rama’s position as God. Only the Supreme Lord can pardon an offense outright. If you do something wrong like stick your hand into a fire, you’ll have to wait for time to heal your wound; there is no way around it. Ravana had committed a greater sin in stealing someone else’s wife against her will. Sita had no desire to be with Ravana, and yet the demon kept her away from her beloved husband. He would have to pay for this.

Despite this being the worst transgression, Rama would forgive it in a second if Ravana formed a friendship with Him. This means that any person, regardless of how bad we may think they are, can turn their life around in a second through surrender to God. Surrender doesn’t mean a two-second profession of faith followed by a return to the old way of life. Surrender means giving up the fight to compete with God for supremacy. It also means handing over control of one’s emotional wellbeing to the best of men, the wonderful husband of Sita. In that friendship, one gains everything, including friendship with Rama’s beloved family, which includes the wise Sita.

In Closing:

One man happy with all that he’s got,

For another the desires never to stop.

 

For another every request denied,

Ignoring God all deluded by pride.

 

Not any condition alone one can get,

First sanction of God must be set.

 

At suggestion of Sita need not be surprised,

To make friends with Rama she advised.

 

Her wise advice Ravana not to heed,

Slaying for him and his kingdom indeed.

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