“Who can withstand seeing in battle the highly powerful Rama, who wields an amazing bow and is equal to Indra in force, who along with Lakshmana is like a blazing fire set in motion by wind?” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.64)
समीक्ष्य तं संयति चित्रकार्मुकम् महाबलं वासवतुल्यविक्रमम्।
सलक्ष्मणं को विषहेत राघवं हुताशनं दीप्तमिवानिलेरितम्।।
samīkṣya taṃ saṃyati citrakārmukam mahābalaṃ vāsavatulyavikramam।
salakṣmaṇaṃ ko viṣaheta rāghavaṃ hutāśanaṃ dīptamivānileritam।।
1. God and Guru
Within Vedic culture there are sometimes debates as to the true position of the guru. This is the spiritual guide, a generally respected personality, who can appear in different ways and in different phases of life. There is no argument as to the nature of the meeting with such a person. It is the greatest blessing, a product of sukriti from the present and past lives, to meet with someone who brings news from the spiritual world.
ब्रह्माण्ड भ्रमिते कोन भाग्यवान् जीव
गुरु-कृष्ण-प्रसादे पाय भक्ति-लता-बीज
brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.151)
The jiva, the conditioned living entity, is bhagyashali when they meet someone who can teach them about the difference between matter and spirit, the meaning to life, the way out of the material world. In other words, spiritual life and everything it encompasses cannot be learned through a solo mission, through personal effort alone. Someone has to teach the information, passing along something they learned from someone else, in a chain of information transfer known as parampara, which is also the descending process of knowledge gathering.
The jiva is fortunate, but who is the guru really? Were they a conditioned soul in the past? They must have been enlightened through Divine contact. Or was the entire thing a drama enacted in the manifest world? Is the guru actually God Himself? If so, isn’t it possible for every person to become enlightened in the same way and thus achieve a status equal to the Divine?
Studying the personalities Vishnu and Anantadeva should clear up the confusion. Vishnu is the Supreme Lord Himself; a personal form. Detail behind the abstract, an individual with every bhaga, or fortune, in full possession at the same time – there can only be one person who stands supreme, who is above everyone else.
Lord Anatadeva, who gives the visual of a serpent with unlimited hoods, is the first expansion of Vishnu. Something like a direct copy, but with a different mood and role. He is the supporter of God, the number one glorifier, whose praises never end. As there is an unlimited number of mouths, so the glorification of Vishnu continues into the future. The recorded praise continues to expand, and so Vedic literature has no final chapter.
Lord Vishnu kindly descends to the mortal world from time to time. There are both external and internal causes. Sometimes a devotee needs help. Sometimes the situation in the world deteriorates to a point beyond repair, outside of Divine intervention. Sometimes Vishnu simply has a desire to spar with a worthy adversary, who also descends from the spiritual world.
As Vishnu appears in different ways, so does Anantadeva. He is known as the origin of the guru, or the first spiritual master. More than just teaching about God and devotion to Him, the guru is the best supporter of Vishnu. Anantadeva appears in different ways, but the purpose is always the same.
2. Fire and wind
To the adversaries of dharma, the view of Vishnu is of a great enemy. As an example, in the incarnation of Shri Rama of Ayodhya, the Supreme Lord is a powerful warrior. The devotees take great pleasure in seeing this form; they actually meditate on it. The devotion can be so strong that Rama Himself chooses to live in the heart of such a person, always standing by with His bow and arrow ready. Maharishi Valmiki advises Rama to live in such a place.
Anantadeva descends as Lakshmana, one of Rama’s younger brothers. The ability in fighting is practically identical. The most obvious distinction is complexion. Rama is dark-skinned, or shyama, while Lakshmana is fair, or gaura.
To the enemies, the brothers are like a combination of fire and wind. Lakshmana gives support to the amazing physical strength in Rama. An ordinary fire can only do so much damage. When the influence spreads to other areas, those in the path start to worry. One of the adversaries to dharma and those following it during Rama’s time noticed the phenomenon created by the combination of the two brothers.
तस्यानुरूपो बलवान्रक्ताक्षो दन्दुभिस्वनः।
कनीयान्लक्ष्मणो नाम भ्राता शशिनिभाननः।।
स तेन सह संयुक्तः पावकेनानिलो यथा।
श्रीमान्राजवरस्तेन जनस्थानं निपातितम्।।
tasyānurūpo balavānraktākṣo dandubhisvanaḥ।
kanīyānlakṣmaṇo nāma bhrātā śaśinibhānanaḥ।।
sa tena saha saṃyuktaḥ pāvakenānilo yathā।
śrīmānrājavarastena janasthānaṃ nipātitam।।
“Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana, has reddish eyes and a voice that resounds like a kettledrum. His strength matches that of Rama’s, and his face shines like a full moon. Just as wind gives aid to a raging fire, Lakshmana has joined forces with his brother. It is that best of kings, Shriman Rama, who has brought down the Rakshasas fighting in Janasthana.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.16-17)
This was a warning to the leader of the bad guys, Ravana. He should not mistake Rama and Lakshmana to be ordinary warriors. Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, made a similar comparison when speaking to the dedicated servant named Hanuman. She knew that the two brothers would easily gain victory, as merely seeing them on the battlefield would scare others away.
For the asuras and the Rakshasas, either view of Vishnu and Anantadeva is considered inauspicious. As God and guru, the two combine to show the folly of material sense gratification and pursuing supremacy in a miserable and temporary world. As fire and wind, the combination seeks out targets, in the same way that time finds every person and gains ultimate victory.
For the suras, those devoted to God and godly principles, either view is auspicious. God and guru help anyone who comes in their path, and the fire and wind combination helps to remove the burden of sinful activity from the world. Everything would end well in Sita’s situation, despite being under so much distress. In the same way, after having spun on the wheel of reincarnation for so long, the best end awaits a person who devotes themselves to dharma and its principles through activities like chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Testimony from one escaping alive,
Seeing fire spread by wind to drive.
Rama and Lakshmana brothers two,
Known as Vishnu and Ananta too.
God Himself and the other representing,
Who to world Vedas presenting.
For asuras inauspicious either view,
Devotees delighting vision through.