“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)
नैव देवा महात्मानो नात्र कार्या विचारणा।
शरा रामेण तूत्सृष्टा रुक्मपुङ्खाः पतत्रिणः।।
सर्पाः पञ्चानना भूत्वा भक्षयन्ति स्म राक्षसान्।
येन येन च गच्छन्ति राक्षसा भयकर्शिताः।
तेन तेन स्म पश्यन्ति राममेवाग्रतः स्थितम्।
इत्थं विनाशितं तेन जनस्थानं तवानघ।।
naiva devā mahātmāno nātra kāryā vicāraṇā।
śarā rāmeṇa tūtsṛṣṭā rukmapuṅkhāḥ patatriṇaḥ।।
sarpāḥ pañcānanā bhūtvā bhakṣayanti sma rākṣasān।
yena yena ca gacchanti rākṣasā bhayakarśitāḥ।
tena tena sma paśyanti rāmamevāgrataḥ sthitam।
itthaṃ vināśitaṃ tena janasthānaṃ tavānagha।।
The father continues flipping through the small block book with their child. Not much interest yet from the youngster. They are more concerned with identifying the colors of the objects than reading the words on the page.
You still can’t help but see the correlation to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. Described in great detail in the Vedic tradition, through both direct words offered and the beautiful descriptions and accounts of those who know Him well, the idea is not to leave man in the dark.
In other words, use every bit of intelligence for furthering this highest pursuit. Go beyond basic faith and blind allegiance. Become thoroughly convinced that He is the person to worship, that He will have the best interests in mind moving forward, and that He will never abandon those who wish to remain by His side.
1. Full and empty
The scene in the book is of two animals at the beach. On one side a playful giraffe is holding a bucket that is full of sand. On the other a friendly looking frog has a similar bucket, but it is empty. We see the same conditions with drinking glasses. One person’s is full, and another’s is empty. They are both at a party and from that single image we infer what happened moments prior and what is likely to occur in the next few minutes.
With application to Bhagavan, He is full of attributes. Whatever glorious traits we can think of, He possesses them in full. In fact, the very name Bhagavan means that He possesses every fortune, bhaga, to the fullest extent and simultaneously.
There is no concern over contradictory features or interference. For instance, being the wealthiest person ordinarily might cause issues with renunciation. A beautiful person does not necessarily have to become very intelligent to survive in the world. How can the most famous person remain humble in the face of constant adulation?
Bhagavan is also empty in the sense that He can be featureless. This is the nirguna aspect. Saguna and nirguna are merely ways of viewing an individual who is beyond our comprehension. In the attribute-less sense, God pervades the entire universe. This is also a form, but considered avyakta, or unseen.
मया ततम् इदं सर्वं
न चाहं तेष्व् अवस्थितः
mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ
na cāhaṁ teṣv avasthitaḥ
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)
2. In front of and behind
The quarterback in the game of American football sees the play in front of him. He knows to which direction the receivers are running. He can try to anticipate the linebackers from the defense blitzing. Yet there is also the possibility of someone coming from behind. That is the strategy employed by the coach of the defenders. They hope to make a tackle from behind and strip the ball away.
Bhagavan is in front of me when I visit the temple. He is standing on the altar in the archa-vigraha. This is the worshipable object. Not that God is reduced to stone or brass. Not that He can be controlled by our hands. He is simply kind enough to appear in a way that I can understand and worship Him, so that I may be free of ignorance.
Just because He is in front of me doesn’t mean that He is not behind me, as well. The Rakshasas of Lanka once received visual evidence of this. Fourteen-thousand against one. Hardly a fair fight. These were the odds against Shri Rama, a human-like incarnation of the Supreme Lord whose heroic exploits are described in many Vedic texts, including the Ramayana.
Rama emerged victorious. He used only the bow and arrow, but these weapons were not ordinary. The arrows chased the attacking Rakshasas, who were like man-eating ogres, wherever they went. Like heat-seeking missiles, Akampana and company could find no relief. Wherever they turned they saw these arrows, which gave the face of five-headed serpents. They could not escape from Rama, who was simply defending Himself and His family.
3. Asleep and awake
It is an amazing process. No one can be entirely sure when the transition takes place. It certainly occurs, though, as once a person is asleep it becomes something like the default condition. As difficult as it was to fall asleep, with so much stress from daily life, the same individual does not feel like waking up in the morning.
The most obvious difference between the two states is the interaction of the senses. It is like everything gets withdrawn during the state of sleeping. Someone could be right next to me talking and I wouldn’t hear them. They could touch my body and I wouldn’t feel them. The Vedic science explains that the individual takes shelter of the subtle body during sleep. Mind, intelligence and ego command the situation, with the gross body set aside for the time being.
Bhagavan is so amazing that during the time of sleep He can accomplish so much. This is known as creative sleep, yoga-nidra. From the involuntary activity of breathing in and out, so many universes get created and then destroyed.
While He is awake He deals with Rakshasas sent from Lanka by the leader named Ravana. He listens to our prayers in the temple and at home. He plays with His dear associates in the spiritual land of Vrindavana, and He is always attentive to the needs of His devotees.
To our needs attentive,
For bhakti incentive.
That whether asleep or awake,
Resolution to issue can make.
Like Rama arrows to bow fitting,
In seeking enemies not quitting.
Or Vishnu universes creating,
Later effortlessly devastating.
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