“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 4.43-44)
लक्ष्मणेमां मया सार्धं प्रशाधि त्वं वसुन्धराम्।
द्वितीयं मेऽन्तरात्मानं त्वामियं श्रीरुपस्थिता।।
सौमित्रे भुङ्क्ष्व भोगांत्स्वमिष्टान्राज्यफलानि च।
जीवितं च हि राज्यं च त्वदर्थमभिकामये।।
lakṣmaṇemāṃ mayā sārdhaṃ praśādhi tvaṃ vasundharām।
dvitīyaṃ me’ntarātmānaṃ tvāmiyaṃ śrīrupasthitā।।
saumitre bhuṅkṣva bhogāṃtsvamiṣṭānrājyaphalāni ca।
jīvitaṃ ca hi rājyaṃ ca tvadarthamabhikāmaye।।
“Let me start off by saying that I absolutely love bhakti-yoga. I understand that it can be practiced in a variety of ways. No one is forced into a certain path that doesn’t match their qualities. You see these differences in children. One child is super-active; they won’t sit still. Another is content to stay in one place, to read a book or watch a program on television.
“Bhakti-yoga is for connecting with the Divine, and since we are all His children He does not reject us due to a character flaw or lack of ability in a particular area. In the way that I have started, entered, advanced, and thrived, I can only say positive things. My personal testimony is that these have been the best years of my life.
“That is not to say I’ve lacked difficult moments. I caught on pretty quickly that this experience is not something to be openly shared with others. You can discuss news, politics, the weather, dogs, what you ate for dinner, where you want to go on vacation, what kind of car you wish to drive, the place you wish to retire – pretty much any topic is okay except for bhakti-yoga.
“The moment you mention your frustration with illusion, the repeating days and years, the futility of sense gratification, the joy from praising the Almighty and His features, you will get resistance. Sometimes it is pretty strong. Attacks from all sides.
“That person who you thought was your good friend. That loving family member. Those cherished colleagues at the office. That band of brothers formed during the college years at the dormitory. They want nothing to do with your newfound interest. They may even mock you. Insulting words. Chastisement. Ridicule.
“I can’t tell you how sad that makes me. Are we left with no choice? Should we abandon loyalty to people who have meant so much to us? I find it difficult to reject others, because with that path I will end up entirely by myself. Isolated and alone.”
Unfortunately, this is a choice many people have to make. A decision in loyalty. If we contemplate a little further, we see that the decision is not that difficult. As warned by Shrimati Radharani and the gopis, if you give yourself over to the all-attractive Supreme Lord, you will lose your reputation and the honor of your friends and family. Society will cast you aside.
There is a similar lesson provided by the Ramayana. At one point in time everything seems to be running smoothly. A kingdom in which every person is happy, engaged in their particular occupation. The eldest son in the royal family, Shri Rama, has been chosen to become the next king, to succeed the current ruler, His father.
Before the transfer of power can officially take place, plans change. Not only is Rama not going to be the next king, He has to also leave the kingdom and not return for fourteen years. Not simply setting up a version of the royal palace somewhere else, either. He has to live like a homeless mendicant, with no possessions.
Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana has a choice to make in terms of loyalty. Stay with friends and family or accompany Rama and share in the hardship. This is not a difficult decision. Rama was ready to share the power of the kingdom with Lakshmana moments prior, as the best of the Raghus has so much love for His three younger brothers.
Moreover, why should Lakshmana remain loyal to people who just stabbed his elder brother in the back? Why should he show allegiance to people prioritizing power over dharma? The embodiment of dharma, Shri Rama, meant everything to him, so the choice was easy.
In the same way, the person who has given us transcendental pleasure, who has rescued us from illusion, becomes our foremost priority. It is a tragedy that others cannot share in our joy, but that is the way of the world. At no point should we abandon the shelter of the lotus feet of the Divine, who can rescue us simply through sound: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Rescuing me simply through sound.
Not like the others around.
Who now mocking my choice,
No longer a supportive voice.
Since towards bhakti turned,
Valuable life-lesson learned.
That loyalty I’ve properly placed,
Shri Rama despite whatever faced.