“My husband, who is capable of conquering the enemy, will soon take me back from you, just as Lord Vishnu took away the brilliant prosperity of the demons by using three steps.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.28-29)
apaneṣyati māṃ bhartā tvattaḥ śīghramarindamaḥ ||
asurebhyaḥ śriyaṃ dīptāṃ viṣṇustribhiriva kramaiḥ |
For the ordinary living entity, doing anything meaningful requires some intense effort. If you want to lose weight, you must exercise strenuously or go on a strict diet. Since each is helpful, many weight watchers incorporate both into their weight loss regimen. In the exercise portion there are many steps taken, as that is what gets the blood flowing. In the diet portion, there are many days of fasting, which is either no food or a strict limit on the intake of food for one or more meals. For the Supreme Lord, nothing is difficult. As He can reclaim sovereignty over the entire universe using just three steps, He can just as easily get back His beloved wife from the clutches of a fiendish king.
It would make sense that God has an easier time of it. His unique ability here provides a further contrast between Himself and His innumerable sparks. We are included amongst those sparks, and since we are from Him we are like Him in so many ways. At the same time, we are different from Him. He creates the sparks; we do not. We can at best generate offspring, but even then we have little control over them. We can offer guidance during the early years, but in adulthood the children will go their own way. If they move somewhere else, taking a different shelter, we lose our influence over them.
The Supreme Lord’s children also have independence, but they are never completely separate from His influence. When taking shelter of the material energy, the children think that the father is no longer around. Since they can’t see Him with their eyes, they think that He doesn’t exist. And yet everything they rely upon for living is created, maintained and destroyed by Him. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction, so there is never any meaningful independence.
“As we generally say, not a blade of grass moves without the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus everything is moving under His will: by His will everything is being created, everything is being maintained, and everything is being annihilated.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.6 Purport)
The Supreme Lord can lift a massive hill and hold it above His head with His pinky finger for seven straight days. He can defeat 14,000 of the most powerful fighters in the world using only His bow and arrows. One time He even took back sovereignty of the three worlds using just three steps. Not that the lands were ever lost to Him, but at the time a king by the name of Bali was temporarily ruling over everything. He belonged to the asura race, which is a class of men that thinks that God doesn’t exist. The sura race, which has the opposite mentality, wanted control back, for they work directly for God’s interests.
In the form of a dwarf, the Supreme Lord begged for land that would cover three steps. Bali Maharaja agreed to this request. What area could a dwarf cover anyway? How much land would He actually need? Bali Maharaja had the whole world to give, so this dwarf’s request wasn’t going to cause any problems. Ah, but the Supreme Lord immediately expanded into a gigantic form. With His first two steps He easily covered the earth and the regions of outer space. With no land left to give, Bali Maharaja offered his head, which Vamanadeva then kindly took His third step upon.
Since He received everything in three steps, this incarnation of the Supreme Lord is also known as Trivikrama. He is the incarnation referenced by Sita Devi in the above quoted verse from the Ramayana. Her words are directed at the fiendish king of Lanka, Ravana. As a Rakshasa by quality and race, Ravana had the asura mindset, that of not believing in God. With much difficulty, he terrorized the leading kings around the world and concentrated his power on the island of Lanka. Ravana required many more than three steps to gain his opulence. And yet Rama would easily take it away from Him, just as He had previously done in His incarnation as Trivikrama.
Rama was not interested in Ravana’s sovereignty. The opulence of interest was Ravana’s possession of the goddess of fortune, Shri. Sita is Shri, who is also known as Lakshmi Devi. Previously Bali Maharaja had shri in the form of sovereignty, and Vishnu, who is the same Rama, easily took it back. Now He would easily get back Sita from Ravana. It would not be a difficult task for Him. In fact, He would cross the ocean using a bridge made of floating rocks. His army would consist of monkeys hurling trees and boulders. He would fight with a single bow and arrow set. With these simple methods, He would take Sita back, showing that for the Supreme Lord no task is too difficult.
The same Rama continues to rescue countless souls today through the potency invested in His holy name. The devoted souls who are harassed by the material energy and the enemies of the Supreme Lord always chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Vishnu as Trivikrama took three steps to save the devas, but with the maha-mantra He arrives in only one step, showing the unique potency of the sacred formula.
What land a simple dwarf could take?
So agreeing king offering to make.
As Vamana taking steps three,
Opulence of asuras then set free.
Ravana the same should know,
That husband to win with arrow and bow.
Rama to Sita’s rescue would come,
Terror of Rakshasas to be undone.
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