“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
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।।
“When first becoming familiar with the practice of Hare Krishna followers, the eating part stands out to me. Of course people will focus on the vegetarian aspect. No meat, fish or eggs. No onions and garlic in the preparation. The style of food aligns with the mode of goodness, sattva-guna. The food carries the description of sattvic.
“These rules are not a way to punish. It is not to limit gratification of the senses without purpose. I know that Hare Krishna is actually the vernacular for describing the ancient culture of sanatana-dharma. This is a more specific tradition, refined in this age by the golden avatara, Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
“The secret ingredient in the eating is the mood of preparation. Offer the items to God. Let Him eat first. Don’t take from Him, which goes against the natural tendency. How to explain the concept to someone who has never thought in that way? If they are used to begging from the Almighty, of living in fear of His wrath, how will they relate to this idea of cooking, offering on a plate, and then honoring the remnants known as prasadam?”
The behavior should not be that difficult to comprehend. We can take an incident from the Ramayana to see the behavior of the Supreme Lord towards His close associates. One time Shri Rama learns that He will be the next king of Ayodhya. The transfer is imminent. The father and current leader, Dasharatha, is making preparations. He consulted with advisors and the opinion was unanimous. The time and circumstance were auspicious, and Rama was the right person to take over.
Rama’s immediate reaction was to share the news with Lakshmana. Dasharatha had four beautiful sons, all incarnations of the Divine. The eldest, Ramachandra, is considered a full incarnation and the other partial expansions. The Sanskrit word is amsha. Something like a spark expanding from a large fire, an amsha is a piece or fragment. We are amshas, as well; similar in quality to God, but also different.
Of the three younger brothers, Lakshmana is the closest to Rama in terms of association. They are like best friends, except Lakshmana engages in a mood of service. He never takes from the elder. Here Rama returns the favor. He openly declares that His life continues only for Lakshmana’s sake.
These are not empty words meant to ameliorate a delicate situation. Lakshmana is likely happier for Rama that this transfer of power is taking place. There is no sibling rivalry. True love from all sides.
Just as Rama makes the offering to Lakshmana, we can do the same in our dealings with the Supreme Lord. By some good fortune we have come in contact with items to prepare food – delicious, elaborate or otherwise. Even if we have only something simple like an apple on hand, there is the opportunity to offer.
पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयं
यो मे भक्त्या प्रयच्छति
तद् अहं भक्त्य्-उपहृतम्
patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)
We prepare something in the mode of goodness, which is meant for purifying the mind and advancing the condition of the consciousness, and then share that which was gained:
“My dear Supreme, who are the great benefactor, my greatest well-wisher, my everything, please enjoy this. I am sorry that I was not able to offer more, but this is only for you. If you wish to leave anything behind, I will gladly honor and share with others. We live for your happiness only.”
Admittedly, this attitude may be difficult to foster in the beginning stages. We are accustomed to taking from superiors, looking to them to redress grievances, to solve problems, to make things right. Even if the attitude is impure when we first start, if we follow under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, gradually things will shift. Then we will always look forward to such opportunities and we will never forget the kind gesture shown to Lakshmana.
Whether high stature attained,
Or by me something gained.
First thought now to share,
Since Shri Rama to care.
Never for Himself to take,
Like living for Lakshmana’s sake.
And giving honor of kingdom’s rule,
My well-wisher that dynasty’s jewel.