“The sage Agastya is of such a purified nature that in his hermitage a liar cannot live, nor a deceitful person, nor a wicked person, nor one that is committed to sinful activity.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 11.90)
नात्र जीवेन्मृषावादी क्रूरो वा यदि वा शठः।
नृशंसः कामवृत्तो वा मुनिरेष तथाविधः।।
nātra jīvenmṛṣāvādī krūro vā yadi vā śaṭhaḥ।
nṛśaṃsaḥ kāmavṛtto vā munireṣa tathāvidhaḥ।।
There is a sound philosophical and logical backing. Faith is surely involved, but it is not everything. The proponent is not asking anyone to take a huge risk for a payoff that cannot be seen. In other words, someone does not have to wait until the afterlife to enjoy the benefits of a switch to the devotional culture.
It is indeed a simple change in direction. Instead of seeking the pleasure of the senses, prioritizing personal interest [svartha], work for the satisfaction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That will account for paramartha, the future and higher interest, but also satisfy any personal responsibilities at the same time.
These are responsibilities we risk skipping out on. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada compares bhakti-yoga to watering the root of a tree. That is the proper way for the leaves and branches to get nourishment. One direction, one place, with automatic distribution in the outcome.
Since bhakti-yoga is directed towards the person who is the embodiment of dharma, all good qualities naturally emerge. I do not have to endeavor separately to be honest, trustworthy, compassionate, or clean. On the flip side, turning away from Bhagavan means there is vulnerability to every bad quality.
The ideal example of study in this regard is the Rakshasa community described in Vedic literature. Man-eating ogres, they were inclined towards adharma since birth. Their use of deceptive measures was not exclusive to one area.
1. Display a false form
In one section of the Ramayana, Shri Rama tells a story to His younger brother Lakshmana. The subject matter is Agastya Rishi, who is a venerable saint. Also known as the jar-born one, Agastya is not influenced by the mode of darkness, no matter how strong its presence around him. The sinners cannot even stand to come near the sage’s ashrama.
Rama tells the story about two Rakshasa brothers, Vatapi and Ilvala. They had a regular game they would play. One brother would take the false form of a goat. Though grim-visaged by nature, Rakshasas were expert in displaying forms. Any one they chose, employing what is known as the kama-rupa-siddhi.
The brother transformed into a goat would then be sacrificed and fed to unsuspecting guests. The brahmanas would think they were consuming the remnants of yajna; thus holy food, but actually the Rakshasa was still alive.
While within the stomach of the brahmana, the other brother who organized the feast would call out to the consumed goat. That Rakshasa would then burst out of the stomach of the brahmana, killing him. Who would be so degraded to think of such a game? Why trick people in this way?
Vatapi and Ilvala tried the same on Agastya Rishi one time. This would be the last instance. The goat indeed became dead in Agastya’s stomach. When the angry brother then rushed to get revenge, Agastya burned him to ashes with a single glance.
2. Speak false words
Another story from the Ramayana, there is the instance of Ravana’s visit to the hermitage in the Dandaka forest. The purpose was to take the wife of Shri Rama, Sita Devi. Ravana was an especially gifted Rakshasa. He had ten heads and twenty arms. He was the king of Lanka and feared throughout the world.
Despite being so powerful, he didn’t dare show his real form to Sita. He took that of a parivrajaka renunciant. This is something like a religious person who intentionally travels from place to place, begging for a living and also sharing the highest wisdom.
Sita Devi was friendly at first. This is her natural inclination, to be welcoming, especially to the brahmana community. The kindness was rewarded with physical force on the other side. Ravana could not maintain his false guise for long. He finally showed the dreaded ten-headed form and took Sita away by force, as she wanted nothing to do with him.
3. Display false images
Something like an apparition, Rakshasas can put on false displays of events. From the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam, we find instances of Rakshasas trying to dispirit their combatants. They would show the leader of the other side being killed.
In those cases the leaders were Krishna and Rama, who are different incarnations of the Supreme Lord. Thus it is impossible to actually fool either one of them. The atheists have this tendency, prevalent in modern times with the communist nations. Remove the faith in God in the public so that they will have no choice but to worship the state instead.
Even with these deceptive measures, those on the side of dharma get protection. Ravana would not win in the end. His false images would not deceive those who could see the actual Truth in front of them. Vatapi and Ilvala finally met their match.
In addition to the all-around good qualities emerging from bhakti-yoga practice, the devotion also invites the protection of the Supreme Lord. He is the strongest light to dissipate any degree of darkness, large or small.
Darkness to any degree,
Not against light to see.
Where the image dissipating,
Splendor of dharma irradiating.
Such with Agastya the Rakshasas against,
Who on deceitful game bent.
Or on battlefield dispiriting try,
But saints on Rama’s protection rely.
Categories: the three