“Hearing of the well-being of those two lion-like men, that divine lady felt a thrill of joy in every limb and she spoke to Hanuman as follows:” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.5)
sā tayoḥ kuśalam devī niśamya nara simhayoḥ |
prīti samhṛṣṭa sarva angī hanūmāntam atha abravīt ||
To those familiar with Vedic literature and the ancient history it describes, the avatara named Narasimha is well known. Two notable days in the calendar directly relate to Him. There is the occasion of Holi, which celebrates the time Narasimhadeva’s devotee named Prahlada overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Though only five years old, he was able to survive being placed in a pit of fire against his will. The occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi celebrates the physical descent of this special form of the Supreme Lord. He arrived on the scene to personally give protection to the same Prahlada, to show the atheist King Hiranyakashipu that God is indeed everywhere.
The form of Narasimha is a unique one. It is half-lion. The lion is the king of the jungle. It scares other animals simply by its roar. To compare it to a lion is to compliment the human being in terms of courage. Narasimha is half-human as well. Through divine help Prahlada’s father received boons that protected him from attack. He was safe against animals and human beings. Weapons couldn’t kill him, and neither could any celestial. He was safe at day and at night, outside and inside, in the sea and on land.
The human brain is incapable of thinking of everything. If the human being was all-knowing, it would not need to go to school. It would not require training. The expert golfer would not need to focus before trying to sink an important putt. The student would not require silence in order to concentrate on the exam they are taking. This means that despite Hiranyakashipu’s cleverness, there was still a tiny hole in his armor of boons. That one defect was all that God needed to arrive on the scene and remove the obstacles in the way of Prahlada and his devotion.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana we see another reference to Narasimha. This time the combination of Sanskrit words refers to the Supreme Lord in His form of Shri Rama. Not a lion in outward appearance, Rama is a lion among men. He is a nara, or man. And He is a simha, or lion-like personality. God is actually not a human being, but He has features nevertheless. Though He appears as a nara, He can be a simha as well.
The description above applies to Rama’s younger brother as well. Lakshmana is equally as courageous. Rama is the God who is served and Lakshmana is the aspect of the Divine that offers service. Both are identical in interest, though they are separate personalities. Lakshmana is the origin of the guru, or spiritual master. The guru is also like a lion in that they carry out their service to the Lord without fear. The famous acharya Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was often described as “the lion guru.”
Just as Prahlada got relief from Narasimhadeva, Sita Devi took great joy in hearing that the two lion among men were doing well. The message came to her via Hanuman, who is Rama’s messenger. Sita Devi is also known as Lakshmi, who is the goddess of fortune. She has tremendous wealth at her disposal. Anyone who is fortunate in this world has received the benedictions of Rama’s wife.
Yet we see that jewels, saris, earrings, necklaces, and the like are not what bring joy to Sita. The setting of this verse is the Ashoka grove in Lanka. The name Hiranyakashipu means “soft cushion and gold.” The atheist’s primary interest is in these things. They want the most valuable possessions and they want to enjoy material objects as much as they can. The king of Lanka, Ravana, was just like Hiranyakashipu. He had tremendous wealth. The floors in the buildings in Lanka had crystals in them. Some of the buildings were made of gold.
Simply hearing about the lion among men gave Sita a thrill in every limb of her body. Material opulence can only take us so far. It does not remove fear; it instead creates more. The more objects one accumulates, the more they have to worry about protecting. Increased engagement in sense gratification leads to lesser enjoyment each time. Thus the fear that soon nothing in life will be pleasurable grows.
The sound of the Divine brings joy and also removes fear in the process. It is for this reason that in this age especially the wise souls recommend the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This sound is identical to those lion among men; it carries their potency. Therefore anyone who is afraid can get courage from the holy names. They can get joy at the same time, as was seen with Rama’s wife in Lanka.
Despite so many possessions dear,
Only the cause of more fear.
With gold and in soft cushion set,
But still no real happiness to get.
Rama and Lakshmana, like lions to roam,
Removing fear, devotees never alone.
Holy names with love and faith sing,
And like Sita feel thrill in every limb.
Categories: hanuman the messenger