“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)
इमं राजर्षयो विदुः
स कालेनेह महता
योगो नष्टः परन्तप
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa
The situation: two people ostracized from their respective communities banding together. Separated from their beloved wives. Rama from Ayodhya. A respectable family, maintaining dharma in the human race. Sugriva in the Vanara kingdom of Kishkindha. Not so civilized people. Monkey-like, but with the ability to talk and govern affairs in a somewhat orderly way, not following the mentality of the animals entirely.
The Ramayana poem describes the episode in great detail. For the spiritualist, for the one aspiring for salvation, which is also known as liberation when accounting for the repeated births, the primary lesson to extract is that others get the chance to help the Supreme Lord.
Not that everyone will merge into an energy of nothingness. Not that the solitude of the remote cave is the only respite from the daily grind. You can be actively engaged, outside of the human community even, and get the opportunity to connect with Bhagavan, who in this case appeared as Shri Rama.
The argument from the skeptic is that Rama should never need such assistance. If He is antaryami, He should know where the missing wife, Sita Devi, has gone. He should be able to lay claim to any kingdom, including Ayodhya. He should not be subordinate to the ways of dharma. What is a group of monkeys going to do for him, anyway?
2. Hanuman’s brave service
If we read further in the Ramayana, we see that the alliance is mutually beneficial. Rama helps Sugriva to win the kingdom back. Sugriva assigns his massive army of monkeys a search mission spanning the entire world. They are to look for Sita Devi and report back on her whereabouts.
The most capable within that group is the minister known as Hanuman. It was through Hanuman’s efforts that the alliance materialized in the first place. In meeting Rama, the minister understood that Sugriva would be helped if a friendship were formed.
The counterargument is that Rama should not need someone to cross over the vast ocean and go searching inside of Lanka. All alone, Hanuman had no telephone communication with home base. He could not look up the map inside of Lanka. He had no friends to help. He had to search, and without being recognized, at that.
Rama supposedly creates the whole world. He does so effortlessly. Why couldn’t He figure out that Sita was in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, taken there against her will by the evil king named Ravana? Why did he have to let Hanuman take the ultimate risk by such a dangerous journey?
3. The acharya keeping parampara alive
From the Bhagavad-gita we learn of a concept known as parampara. This is the disciplic succession. Though Krishna is teaching Arjuna, the information existed prior to their meeting. It was spoken to the sun-god at the beginning of the creation and then passed on through a line of highly exalted personalities.
Krishna was there to revive the succession. The knowledge appeared to be lost. Arjuna was a rajarshi, which is something like a combination of saintly person and military leader. The information would be in safe hands in that devoted soul. He was a friend to Krishna, after all.
Today, the acharya is the latest link in the chain. They present the identical information, but in a way best suited for the time and circumstance. If we listen attentively, if we serve without expectation of reward, if we inquire submissively, then we actually get to connect directly with Krishna. There is no difference between the origin and His representative, in this regard.
The counterargument is that Krishna could appear today and do as He did on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Give us the information directly. Why send a representative? Why not save us with His dazzling effulgence, both in terms of visual brilliance and spotless wisdom?
The mysteries of the behavior of Bhagavan are known only to Him, but in each of the above mentioned cases there is great service performed. There is success matching the desires of the real ego, which understands the identification with spirit soul. Not only am I soul, but that spark of spirit is linked to the source of all energies.
Therefore, when I get a chance to serve the Supreme Lord, I find the corresponding outlet for the service propensity within me. In other words, I find the engagement that brings the most happiness. Sugriva helping Rama and Hanuman risking everything are examples of Bhagavan’s unmatched kindness.
He does not simply do everything Himself. He certainly has the prerogative, but when He sees us taking the effort in chanting the holy names, He knows that we will feel increasing bliss throughout the process: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
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