“Today, being graced with Your presence, I have obtained the results of my penances and austerities. Today, my birth has been made fruitful and my spiritual masters have been well honored.” (Shabari speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 74.11)
Shri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He stands strong and fearless, with bow and arrow in hand. He enhances the stature of the Raghu dynasty, the family of rulers in which He appears. He upholds dharma, which is the only way to real happiness. Like bad weather threatening the outside of a home, adharma is always around, ready to bring down the pious and innocent in its path. From time to time the Supreme descends to provide added security.
“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)
It is not surprising that the Supreme Lord would be able to protect against the strongest enemies the world has ever known, but there is the question of why. If He is above everyone else, doesn’t a lack of responsibility accompany that standing? Otherwise, He would be under pressure like the rest of us.
In fact Bhagavan is atmarama, or self-satisfied. He has nothing to do, but for the pleasure of the devotees He is willing to do anything.
1. Give salvation to Shabari
Sita Devi had gone missing. Shri Rama, the husband, immediately went on a search. The younger brother Lakshmana was with Him. The brothers somehow made their way to the hermitage of a female ascetic. Long ago, when society organized differently than it does today, women still had the freedom to pursue a higher goal, paramartha.
Shabari was an ascetic who followed the guidance of her spiritual teachers. They told her that one day Shri Rama would visit her. By offering Him food to the best of her ability, being hospitable, she would win salvation.
Those words proved to be true during this chance meeting. Shabari had nothing but berries to offer, but Rama gladly accepted them. He was not unhappy in the least. Shabari praised Him as deva vara, or the chief of the gods. In this way she subtly referenced Rama’s position as Bhagavan, higher than anyone else.
This meeting wasn’t required, but the devotion of the devotees never goes to waste. As the Supersoul within the heart, Bhagavan already travels everywhere, so what is going to a hermitage in the forest to Him?
2. Help Sugriva get the kingdom back
Shortly thereafter, Rama made friends with Sugriva. This was the former king of the Vanaras, now exiled due to a feud with his brother Vali. Sugriva could help Rama search for Sita, as there were many Vanaras [monkey-like residents of the forest] who would do anything for their leader.
Rama helped Sugriva first. He shot Vali in the back, while the two brothers were engaged in conflict. Lakshmana’s elder brother is known as the protector of dharma, but this went against protocol. Combatants are not to be attacked while engaged with another fighter.
In essence, Rama broke the rules. He makes them, after all, so there is no harm in deviating from them when the occasion calls for it. Here again the reason was the desire of a devotee. Through Vali’s death Sugriva took the kingdom back. He enjoyed in a royal manner, not attracting any sin from accepting his brother’s wife. This was because Rama washed away any negative reaction. Full surrender to Him carries this bonus.
3. Install Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka
It was the Rakshasa named Ravana who had taken Sita, against her will. Since she refused his advances, he was torturing her on the island of Lanka. Time was running out. The location became known through the heroic efforts of Hanuman, the chief minister who had arranged the friendship between Rama and the king of Vanaras.
In the course of events Ravana’s brother ended up switching sides. Vibhishana was always pious and he tried his best to correct Ravana, who had done many horrible things. Surrender to Rama would have forgiven the offenses. Ravana wouldn’t listen, and so Vibhishana left for Rama’s side.
As so many asuras throughout history have learned the hard way, time is undefeated. In this case time arrived in the beautiful form of Rama with His bow and arrows. To Ravana this was terrifying, a ghastly image. Upon his demise, the throne of Lanka became vacant.
Not holding any grudges, Rama asked Vibhishana to perform Ravana’s funeral rites. Then Vibhishana became the new king. Rama did not have to do this. In the material estimation, Vibhishana was the greatest traitor. A non-Rakshasa could have been put on the throne instead. For the devotees, Rama is willing to do anything, for even a little service offered to Him is never forgotten.
Since in kama’s fever set,
Quickly good deeds to forget.
But not with Shri Rama so,
From His time on earth know.
Like when to Shabari’s ashrama went,
That meeting to higher world sent.
For Sugriva shooting violation of dharma blatant,
Vibhishana taking throne by Ravana made vacant.
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