“The mighty Rama, who possessed extraordinary strength, consecrating in accordance with the mantras prescribed in the Vedas, taking that great arrow – which was capable of removing the fears of the entire world and the Ikshvaku dynasty, capable of taking away the glory of His enemies, and conducive to His own happiness – fixed it on His bow.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 108.13-14)
तमुत्तमेषुम् लोकानामिक्ष्वाकुभयनाशनम् |
द्विषतां कीर्तिहरणम् प्रहर्षकरमात्मनः ||
अभिमन्त्र्य ततो रामस्तं महेषुं महाबलः |
वेदप्रोक्तेन विधिना संदधे कार्मुके बली ||
tamuttameṣum lokānāmikṣvākubhayanāśanam |
dviṣatāṃ kīrtiharaṇam praharṣakaramātmanaḥ ||
abhimantrya tato rāmastaṃ maheṣuṃ mahābalaḥ |
vedaproktena vidhinā saṃdadhe kārmuke balī ||
It was a great struggle. Fighters of terrific ability within both parties. A war like the world had never seen. Since the beginning of time there has been conflict between the good and the bad, labeled as sura and asura in Sanskrit. This particular war involved the worst of the asuras.
Known as Rakshasas, they could change their shapes at will. The ability is described in Sanskrit as the kama-rupa-siddhi; the mystic perfection that allows to take any form desired. A pretty neat trick, but those with ill-intent take advantage to be able to further harass the innocent.
The embodiment of pure good, shuddha-sattva, arrived for this special occasion. He could defeat people that were even invisible. Using only sound He had previously rid the world of the menace known as Tataka. Now He was ready to lead the army of good, consisting of inspired monkeys and bears, against ogre-like creatures expert in black magic.
The battle was epic enough to take up many pages in the sacred Ramayana of Valmiki. The culmination was the flight of a single arrow, marking the victory of Shri Rama, who as an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is never defeated. That arrow has several notable characteristics.
1. Capable of removing the fears of the entire world and the Ikshvaku dynasty
The scream was enough. The name befitting, Ravana terrorized the entire world. With ten heads and twenty arms, gifts from above, he went about asserting his power and strength. A powerful leader can be a good thing, as the head of state has the main responsibility of protecting life and property.
When the leader is of bad character, however, the opposite takes place. Innocent life that gets in the way of the criminal’s desires is cast aside. Property gets taken instead of protected, and everyone lives in fear. Ravana’s men would not leave well enough alone. They used to regularly visit the remote forests to feast on the flesh of renounced sages. Intentionally choosing the weakest among them in terms of physical ability, the ogres were a menace to everyone.
Rama’s single arrow had the ability to remove the fears of the world. Those fears extended to the Ikshvaku dynasty, as well. This was the family in which Shri Rama appeared as the son of King Dasharatha. The arrow originally came from Lord Brahma, and it had special powers.
2. Capable of taking away the glory of His enemies
The standard situation is that God has no enemies. The dichotomy results from personal preference. If someone is good to me, meaning they offer me some kind of favor, I consider them a friend. If the opposite is true, that person becomes my enemy.
The Supreme Lord is self-satisfied, atmarama. Therefore, how someone treats Him is not relevant. It makes no impact on His view.
समोऽहं सर्वभूतेषु न मे द्वेष्योऽस्ति न प्रियः।
ये भजन्ति तु मां भक्त्या मयि ते तेषु चाप्यहम्।।
samo’haṃ sarvabhūteṣu na me dveṣyo’sti na priyaḥ।
ye bhajanti tu māṃ bhaktyā mayi te teṣu cāpyaham।।
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
There is a single exception, and it is with respect to the devotees. They serve Him with love and affection, and Bhagavan can’t help but take notice. Those who become aggressors against such servants earn the wrath of the Supreme Lord.
That was true in Ravana’s case, and so the arrow was ready to destroy the target. Ravana became Rama’s enemy by harassing Rama’s wife, the blameless Sita Devi. He and his men had attacked and killed so many sage-devotees in the forests. Ravana’s “rap-sheet” was quite long.
This arrow would take away the king’s glory. He was proud of his accomplishments, though he didn’t have the courage to battle Rama previously. He identified with his land of Lanka, though it had belonged to the half-brother Kuvera. That glory was set to expire anyway, but Rama gave a more discernible evidence of the influence of time.
3. Conducive to His own happiness
Though the arrow is an inanimate object, it is like a devoted servant, as well. Anyone who serves Rama makes Him happy. The Supreme Lord is so merciful that He remembers a single act done in His favor. That is to say if a person falls back into the ways of illusion after the fact, there is no offense taken. Rama remembers the good and forgets the bad.
That arrow would bring happiness to Rama since it would serve to relieve so many anxieties for people dear to Him. It would reunite Him with Sita. The club and disc held by Lord Vishnu accomplish the same, as do the cutting words of the representatives on earth, who teach the imperishable science of yoga descending from the Vedas and works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam.
Final arrow from bow to send,
Reign of terror soon to end.
Of Ravana as enemy taken,
Since piety by him forsaken.
For world fear no more to endure,
That weapon victory to ensure.
In many ways trouble’s elimination,
From Shri Rama at war’s culmination.
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