Gun Control

[Rama holding bow]“He strikes with anger only at the appropriate time. He is the best maharatha in the world, and the entire world is supported by the arms of that great soul.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.31)

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sthāna krodha prahartā ca śreṣṭho loke mahārathaḥ |
bāhuc cāyām avaṣṭabdho yasya loko mahātmanaḥ ||

One side says that you should take away guns from people:

“Look at the countries that have strict gun laws. There aren’t these mass shootings going on. The people aren’t trigger happy. The more you arm people, the more prone they will be towards gun violence. The Founding Fathers crafted the second amendment long before semi-automatic weapons were invented. They never envisioned people owning hundreds of guns each.”

The other side says that the more people who are armed, the less crime there will be:

“Look at these mass shootings. The killer doesn’t stop until someone else with a gun confronts them. It is a basic human right to defend oneself. If you ban lawful people from buying guns, then only the criminals will have them. These schools where the shootings occur are labeled ‘gun-free.’ A lot of good that is doing. The greatest deterrent to a criminal act is armed resistance on the other side.”

The debate on this issue is not new. Even thousands of years ago, in an ancient Sanskrit text, we find a variation of the same discussion. One time a famous bow warrior was traversing the wilderness. He was accompanied by His wife Sita Devi and His younger brother Lakshmana. The warrior was named Rama and He was sent to the forest through unfortunate family infighting.

At one point Sita worried that Rama might be promoting violence by carrying weapons in an otherwise peaceful area. Those forests were known as tapo-vanas. Tapa is a Sanskrit word that means “austerity.” These forests were a far cry from civilization. Ascetics went there to meditate, to focus on advancing in consciousness. Vedic philosophy does not say that the aim of human life is to eat, drink and be merry. It also doesn’t say that you should simply profess a certain faith and then do whatever you please.

The human birth is an evolution of sorts. It is the body most conducive to spiritual understanding. The goal is to realize the Absolute Truth, to be conscious of Him. It may not happen in a single lifetime, but progress along the path does not get erased.

nehābhikrama-nāśo ‘sti

pratyavāyo na vidyate

sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya

trāyate mahato bhayāt

“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)

The forest is an ideal place to focus on purification of the consciousness. There is little in the way of distractions. You can spend day and night contemplating on the Absolute. You can survive on fruits and roots and erect a thatched hut for shelter. Water comes from the rivers and basic rags suffice for clothing. The lifestyle is austere, but simple at the same time.

There was a problem in these tapo-vanas. Flesh-eating ogres were attacking the ascetics. They waited until right before the religious observances were completed to strike. The ascetics were known as brahmanas, which indicates an occupation. They were priest-like, and so they had no means of defense. They weren’t bothering anyone. They were neutral to outside conflict. Yet they were attacked anyway; so vile were the Rakshasas.

By roaming those forests, Rama was able to provide protection. Sita worried that He might be more prone to aggression since He had his weapons with Him. This is a sensible concern. If I’m on a diet, it’s probably not a good idea to sit down in a buffet restaurant. If I’m trying to study, sitting in front of the television will do me little good.

Rama’s duty was to uphold righteousness. Therefore if He attacked at the wrong time, it would go against His own oath to follow dharma. Sita did not want her husband to risk violating His own values. Rama appreciated Sita’s concern. She brought them up in her naturally shy and polite way. In praising Sita, Rama referred to her as a sadharma-charini, His partner in the observance of religious duties.

[Lord Rama]Rama’s justification, His counterargument if you will, is summed up in the verse above from the Ramayana. Shri Hanuman is describing Rama to the same Sita many months later. Hanuman says that Rama only employs aggression with anger at the appropriate time. Hanuman was speaking of Rama at Sita’s request, for Rama-katha wins over her heart. She was in Lanka against her will, through the work of the leader of the aforementioned Rakshasas. She could not trust anyone, no matter how innocent they sounded.

By mentioning this trait in Rama, Hanuman gave further proof of his authenticity as Rama’s messenger. Sita knew that Rama only attacked when justified, for she had heard that from His very own mouth. Rama is kind, merciful, and equal to all. Yet when someone attacks His devotees, He does not hesitate to show anger. He carried His weapons in the Dandaka forest and only fought when attacked.

He would show tremendous anger in the future, in the final battle with Ravana. He would be justified, as Ravana took away His wife in secret, without a fair fight. Hanuman too shows anger when necessary. Shortly after speaking to Sita, he would set fire to the city of Lanka. It sounds like a mean thing to do, but it was only after Ravana had set Hanuman’s tail on fire. Thinking that Hanuman was bound up by the ropes, Ravana wanted to embarrass Rama’s emissary. The joke was on him, as Hanuman used the fiery tail to do great damage to Ravana’s city.

[Narasimhadeva]As Narasimhadeva, the same Rama shows a ferocious form to fight against the evil Hiranyakashipu. Rama is the protector of the devotees, the surrendered souls who are sincerely trying to always be conscious of Him. Rama is the Absolute Truth , the detail behind the abstract concept of God. He has many weapons at His disposal, and when He fights He unleashes a fury the enemies regret having ever seen.

In Closing:

Gun in every citizen’s hand suppose,

To more violence not to expose?

Or every weapon from people take,

Does not more dangerous world make?

These concerns even long ago raised,

By Sita, whose words husband Rama praised.

At right time God anger to project,

Never hesitating His devotees to protect.



Categories: hanuman the messenger

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