“Although the Lord was present in Vaikuntha, He was present also in the heart of the brahmana when he was meditating on the worshiping process. Thus, we can understand that things offered by the devotees even in meditation are accepted by the Lord, and they help one achieve the desired result.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 10)
It is a classic philosophical challenge. A good ice-breaker at a party, in fact. There will be variety of opinion. Not everyone will have the same response.
“If a tree should fall in the forest, with no one around, does it make a sound?”
One side jumps to respond:
“Of course it does. The presence or absence of witnesses does not invalidate a truth of nature.”
The other side is a little skeptical:
“Okay, we can reasonably assume that a sound results, but there is no way to know for sure. No eyewitness testimony. Therefore, the answer cannot be in the affirmative. It is like trying to prove someone is guilty. Unless you have evidence, you can’t put someone in jail.”
A person following spiritual life may have a similar concern about being noticed. The guide may be there to give validation, but sometimes it is unseemly to brag about your efforts. Why do you have to announce it to the community every time you have successfully chanted a round of the maha-mantra? Why does every success story regarding publication or book distribution need to be shared with the world? The great ones act like they have been there before. The empty can rattles the most.
Is the man upstairs watching? That is the question. Is the Supreme Personality of Godhead taking notice? I’ve given up everything for Him, in fact. He is the ultimate beneficiary. I don’t ask anything in return, but it would be nice to know that I am not going it alone.
1. Prahlada against the Daityas
After birth there was no sadhu-sanga. Prahlada received the valuable association of a saintly person while still in the womb. His was an extraordinary case. Higher forces were at play, set to take down a legendary adversary to the principles of dharma.
Prahlada had to sacrifice a lot against his Daitya community. Instigated by the father, King Hiranyakashipu, the attacks were relentless. They were meant to destroy both the boy and his faith in the Divine. The foes failed in both areas.
Hiranyakashipu mocked the sacrifice. He thought there was no one on the receiving end. There is no God. He is certainly not the strength of the human being. The father’s calculation turned out to be wrong. Prahlada was correct. Vishnu was watching the entire time. In the end, He provided visual evidence to the skeptical Hiranyakashipu.
2. Hanuman against the Rakshasas
Hanuman received orders directly from Bhagavan. Shri Rama asked Hanuman to search for Sita, the princess of Videha. She was also Rama’s wife. Gone missing for a long time, there was a glimmer of hope with the large search party working under King Sugriva from Kishkindha. Hanuman had the best credentials. He won the unofficial vote for “most likely to succeed.”
Today, Hanuman is known as a hero, but the task was anything but easy. At first there were so many accomplishments, but nothing to show for it. He reached Lanka, the territory ruled by man-eating ogres. He had done so much for Rama already, but there was no validation. There was no confidence that any of it would go appreciated.
On the contrary, the primary concern was that returning to home-base without information about Sita would make Hanuman a failure. Of course, the effort was appreciated, by both Sita and Rama. Success was not the determining factor, but since there was such sincerity of purpose the prince of Ayodhya was surely going to make the dream a reality.
Sita had gone missing after Ravana, the leader of Lanka, forcibly took her away from the forest of Dandaka. The aerial path wasn’t a smooth one, however. Jatayu interfered. He tried to stop Ravana. The vulture was defending dharma, but he was overmatched.
Jatayu failed in stopping Ravana; he also lost his life in the process. The sacrifice was not made in isolation, however. Shri Rama happened to run into Jatayu just as the bird was quitting his body. The end-result of the effort was not so important. The attempt was there. Jatayu was on the proper side of conduct; he was with dharma. The protector of dharma offered His auspicious darshana at the most important time.
4. Brahmana offering sweet rice
Devotional service is so powerful that even meditating on a routine practice can produce the same results as if they were conducted in real life. There is the story in the Nectar of Devotion about a brahmana who contemplated offering sweet rice to Bhagavan.
The offering tastes best when it is cold. In his meditation, the brahmana [a priest-like person] dipped his finger in the dish to test the temperature. It was still so hot that it caused a burn. Upon breaking his meditation, the brahmana noticed that his finger was burned in real life.
That wasn’t the end of the reality, as Vishnu in Vaikuntha was pleased to the point that the brahmana won liberation. After all, Vishnu does not require anything. What is the difference to Him between real sweet-rice and the imaginary kind? The purified consciousness of the devotee, on the other hand, is always something to be appreciated.
5. Vibhishana against his family
Not everyone in Lanka was pleased with the conduct of Ravana. The younger brother named Vibhishana was bent towards dharma since birth. He remained a loyal follower, though of a different nature compared to the rest of the family.
He tried his best to get Ravana to take corrective measures. Return Sita to Rama. Accept the shelter of the Divine. Be forgiven of past transgressions. Live happily thereafter. Ravana, of course, did not listen. The advice from the younger brother was not appreciated, either.
Vibhishana made a sacrifice in total isolation. There was no one to support him. No one was watching to give credit for the brave effort in standing out and standing up. Except Shri Hanuman was there. The representative of Shri Rama later vouched for Vibhishana. This was when the younger brother completely abandoned Lanka in favor of the side of good.
These are just some of the few well-known instances. The deity is not merely stone. The maha-mantra is not just any sound vibration. The spiritual master is not to be judged based on where he appeared and to which family. The Almighty Vishnu is never on equal footing with other figures worshiped in the Vedic tradition and the devotees will always be rewarded for the sacrifices they make.
Paltry effort by me,
But does He really see?
That at least sacrifice making,
Or my future forsaking?
Proof from Prahlada found,
And Hanuman on Lanka’s ground.
Sweet rice meditation to feed,
But immediately to Vaikuntha to proceed.
Categories: the five