“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, therefore advised the cowherd men to stop the Indra-yajna and begin the Govardhana Puja in order to chastise Indra who was very much puffed up at being the supreme controller of the heavenly planets.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 24)
It is a fine line to walk. Shastra [scripture] puts forth rules and regulations for a reason. Scripture is something like the instruction manual for living, for providing lasting happiness, both material and spiritual.
The rules are not the result of trial and error or years of research work. The knowledge descends, from on high. The original person, the adi-purusha, passes down genuine wisdom, Veda. This frees up valuable time in the limited timelines of existence, as it relates to a specific form.
In other words, I don’t have to spend years contemplating the meaning of life, such as why I am placed on this earth, where I was before, or what will happen to me after I die. The heavy lifting, so to speak, has already been done.
At the same time, this is a land of duality. What is good for one person may not be so for another. This means that the rules have to be violated every now and then. If the shastra police, as we may call them, were to have raised a violation in certain moments in history, they would have ruined everything.
1. Valmiki Muni
What was Narada Muni doing giving instruction to a papi? The highway robber was the greatest of sinners. No good qualities in a person who steals the fruits of the labor of others. If everyone operated with the same mentality, nothing would ever get accomplished. No one would have impetus to work.
It so happened that this robber ran into Narada Muni, who is the travelling preacher excelling in distributing the transcendental glories, gunas, of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A moment’s association with Narada is enough to purify even the worst person.
Here Narada did not go into a lengthy discourse. He asked some basic questions. The robber’s excuse for stealing was to support his family, but did his family know that they were implicated in the crimes? Were they ready to suffer the consequences, which will surely manifest at the appropriate time?
Those questions were enough to start the wheels of change. The robber was ready to hear more. Narada advised the chanting of the holy name of Rama. This is one name for the Almighty, and it refers to how God is full of transcendental pleasure. That property is shared with those who connect with Him, and that connection is as easy as repeating the holy name.
There was a big problem. The robber could not pronounce the name of Rama. The accumulated sins were too much. Narada then devised a trick. Repeat the name of death, “mara,” instead. This is not recommended anywhere in shastra. Narada used his intelligence to find a way to deliver the disciple.
The result was the full transformation from sinner to saint. The sound of “mara” repeated over and over actually created the sound of Rama, but unintentionally. Hearing that name for so long the person in meditation became worthy to be initiated with the name Valmiki. He would go on to record the pastimes of Shri Rama in person, through the Sanskrit work known as the Ramayana.
2. Dealing with Tataka
This event is nicely described in the Ramayana. Shri Rama is in the younger years within the timeline of His lila on earth. He voluntarily accepts the guidance of Vishvamitra Muni. The Supreme Lord embodies full kindness. He is the original teacher of this world, but to show the proper etiquette He accepts instruction from His devotees, as if He were a normal student.
Tataka was a female demon causing havoc in the forests. The victims were the renounced ascetics. They should have been left alone, but that is not the way of those against dharma. They cannot be content with their atheism; they must interfere with the spiritual progress of others.
Rama is the most expert bow-warrior, and so Vishvamitra asks him to deal with Tataka. The problem is that the code of conduct prohibits striking a female. Rama raises the doubts and subtly tries to only half deal with the problem at first, as a way to avoid violating dharma.
If the shastra police were on the scene, they would condemn Rama, not knowing that God’s behavior is always within dharma. Tataka would have continued to win in her terror, and the world would have been a less safe place.
3. Gatekeeper of Lanka
Another episode from the Ramayana, this time Rama’s servant has to cross the line of decency. Shri Hanuman has just reached the island of Lanka, but he needs to enter the city in order to continue in the mission of finding Sita Devi, the missing wife of Shri Rama.
Lanka’s gatekeeper is a female, and she will not allow Hanuman to proceed. The intelligent servant decided to force his way in. He violated the rules in favor of pursuing the highest cause of pleasing the Supreme Lord.
4. Govardhana Puja
This is an annual tradition today, but it first started as a rebellious act. The same Rama was in the rural community of Vrindavana as the adorable child of Nanda and Yashoda. Known as Shri Krishna, He was able to get His way through kind persuasion and unmatched charm.
The people were preparing for the Indra-yajna, which was something like a tradition. Pay homage to the king of the heavenly realm in order that he may be pleased to provide sufficient rainfall in return.
Krishna had other ideas. Forgo the Indra-yajna entirely and worship the nearby Govardhana Hill instead. This was totally against shastra, as there was nothing concrete dictating the worship of a specific hill in a certain place of the world.
Krishna essentially made up His own worship, but there was a method to the supposed madness. Indra retaliated at the perceived insult, but Krishna’s devotees remained safe. Their worship of Govardhana proved bona fide, and thereafter it turned into an annual tradition.
It falls into the category of bhakti-yoga, which is a more specific way to define the same eternal dharma that every living being should follow. The contradictions may be difficult to reconcile, but with the guidance of the guru and focus on the foremost goal of pleasing the Supreme Lord, the right course becomes clear.
Proper course becoming clear,
When guru’s instructions to hear.
Like with Govardhana people to save,
From Krishna how to behave.
Narada word of death giving,
So that Valmiki as poet living.
And Hanuman a female to strike,
And Rama against Tataka alike.
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