“And I trust that the heroic Lakshmana, the enhancer of the joy of Sumitra, skilled in shooting, will dissipate the Rakshasas with a network of arrows.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.26)
kaccic ca lakṣmaṇaḥ śūraḥ sumitrā ānanda vardhanaḥ |
astravit śara jālena rākṣasān vidhamiṣyati ||
It’s one of the first questions that follows when giving instruction on the science of self-realization that is bhakti-yoga. Yes, the changing of bodies, that is profound. I am spirit soul. I am Brahman, part and parcel of the total spiritual energy that has an original source, who is a Supreme Being. The soul never gets killed. The changing of bodies is nothing more than changing clothes, which we do on a regular basis.
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)
The teachings are eye-opening, but what is the next step? Do I have to renounce everything? Do I have to quit my job? Do I have to leave my family?
Since bhakti is love, there are no impediments. The meaning is that no condition is absolutely required or prohibited. You can work and still be totally connected in consciousness to the Divine. At the same time, you could be living in a remote cave, far away from civilization, and still be disturbed in mind.
“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)
One of the comforting aspects of liberation in bhakti is that there is a family of support. You and I will have to part ways with our friends and family from this lifetime. That is the guaranteed end for everyone. But this doesn’t mean that family life will be gone forever. In the spiritual world there are relations like brothers, sisters, parents, and friends.
To give proof the Supreme incarnates in the material realm from time to time. His eternal associates descend with Him. One of those associates is Lakshmana, the younger brother of the Divine incarnation known as Rama. Lakshmana is the embodiment of the guru, or spiritual master. This is the number one servant of God. Guru and God are essentially the same. One is the person offering service and the other is the object of service.
1. Act heroically
Lakshmana offers service as a younger brother. One of his many names is thus Ramanuja. This means “anuja” of Rama. Anuja is the younger brother, but the root meaning of the word conveys the idea of following. Rama is the best person to follow since He is God Himself. In His form of Krishna, He remarks that what great men do others follow.
“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)
Lakshmana and the two other younger brothers follow Rama in devotion. This doesn’t mean acting passively. If your older brother is the all-powerful, why would you need to do anything? Just let Rama take care of everything.
In Lakshmana the mentality is reversed. He would rather act so that Rama doesn’t have to. Lakshmana stays awake at night to guard Rama and His wife Sita in the forest. He goes into battle against wicked characters, not fearing death. Lakshmana bravely leaves home so that Rama has someone accompanying Him in the lonely forest for fourteen years.
2. Enhance the joy of Sumitra
It makes sense that God would not decide to appear on earth in just any family. He picks a special one: the Raghu dynasty. The king at the time is Dasharatha, and he has three principal wives. Rama is born to Kausalya, Bharata to Kaikeyi, and Lakshmana and Shatrughna to Sumitra.
Sumitra is a pious queen, a dedicated wife, and a loving mother. Lakshmana enhances the joy of Sumitra. Indeed, he enhances the joy of anyone with whom he has a close relationship. The meaning of the name Rama is “one who holds all transcendental pleasure.” If you are close to the person who is Rama, you will get some of that pleasure yourself. Lakshmana is just like Rama, with the main difference in complexion. Rama is darker skinned, while Lakshmana is fair.
3. Shoot with skill
In the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the primary weapon of warfare is the bow and arrow. The fighters ride on chariots and they sometimes encounter many at a single time. War is ugly. The outcome is not pleasant. Still, sometimes conflict is necessary. If the kings decided on pacification as their lone policy, others would surely take advantage and usurp kingdoms.
Rama and Lakshmana were kshatriyas, or members of the warrior caste. They were taught in the ways of fighting by respected teachers. Vishvamitra Muni gave them confidential mantras that made their weapons even more powerful.
Lakshmana has tremendous skill with the bow and arrow. He can shoot targets that are far away. He reaches those targets with great accuracy. As with everything else, the skill is displayed only if the task is in relation to serving Rama.
4. Cast a network of arrows on bad guys
Sita Devi once remarked how she trusted this would take place in the future. She was speaking with Shri Hanuman, a messenger sent by Rama to find her. The enemy was the Rakshasas, the inhabitants of the land of Lanka, where Sita had been taken against her will.
The Rakshasas of the time were expert in black magic. Imagine trying to fight someone who can disappear from sight at will. How would you know where to turn? Where would you aim your weapons?
Lakshmana has the ability to launch a network of arrows. He can fight against Rakshasas, even if he can’t see them. The many arrows reach their intended target. Sita was hoping that this vision would become a reality, and it indeed would. The task of rescuing Sita was for Rama’s benefit, after all, and for pleasing his elder brother Lakshmana is willing to take every risk.
Benefit of sight not gaining,
Still Lakshmana properly aiming.
At Rakshasas the wicked foe,
Task ready for Rama to go.
The delight of Sumitra increasing,
Following brother for loneliness decreasing.
The best servant in this and every way,
Too attached, in service always to stay.