“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।।
1. My poor history of attendance at spiritual functions
“It began from childhood, I am sorry to say. Parents always dragging us to different events. Sometimes the pandit would come to the house. You had to sit there for hours, in an uncomfortable position, and toss items into a fire whenever the leader gave the indication.
“As I grew older, I stopped going. I didn’t want to torture myself. It’s not that I am an atheist, but I didn’t see the point. Now that I am seeking something more, those old habits die hard. I know that showing up makes a significant impact towards success. If there were to be an assessment based on my progress at the moment, I would surely receive a failing mark.”
2. My short attention span
“I didn’t realize it until one day someone asked me what I had learned. I was returning home from one of these programs. The basic sequence of events is the same. A little congregational chanting of the holy names, sankirtana. Then a lecture on a verse from Bhagavad-gita, followed by more chanting.
“The program ends with everyone sitting down to eat. The best food in the world, I might add. Small chitchat, but I like to scamper out of there, hopefully unnoticed. Well, it seems that I have no recollection of the lecture. What the speaker said. What points they highlighted. The key takeaways.
“No clue, from my perspective. My mind wandered. It’s not intentional, but that seems to be the case every time. I guess you could say that I have a short attention span. I will try to be more diligent next time, but I’m not making any promises.”
3. My constantly wandering mind
“Give me some credit. I do follow a routine of chanting the holy names on a set of beads: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I start off with a bang. That is to say there is some enthusiasm, willingness, eagerness, attention, inspiration and so forth.
“But let’s be honest, who can keep their attention for that long? My mind starts to drift. On to the issues of the day. The errands to run. The difficult tasks to overcome. A review of the previous day. Reminiscing about wonderful times from the past. Next thing you know, I can barely hear the Sanskrit words that I am reflexively repeating.
4. My poor adherence to regulative principles
“No gambling. No meat-eating. No intoxication. No illicit sex. These principles are important. They form the basis of basic religious life. Without the accompanying qualities of honesty, compassion, cleanliness and austerity, you are more or less following a system of faith.
“I want to be clear in consciousness. I want to taste the sweet fruit of the transcendental experience. I am ashamed to say, however, that my adherence hasn’t been as rigid as it needs to be. There are many bumps along the road. I resort to my old ways. I feel as if it won’t harm me, since no one is looking. Likely no one will ever know, though I am aware of the Bhagavad-gita verse explaining the all-pervasive nature of the Supreme in His feature of Supersoul.”
सर्वतः पाणि-पादं तत्
सर्वतः श्रुतिमल् लोके
सर्वम् आवृत्य तिष्ठति
sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādaṁ tat
sarvataḥ śrutimal loke
sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati
“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.14)
5. My inability to properly express what Bhagavan means to me
“There is the common phenomenon wherein people take significance from a popular song as an indication that they are in love. The tunes playing on the radio finally make sense. All these years they never paid attention. Now that they have a strong attachment to someone else, they marvel at the artist’s ability to put sentiment into poetry.
“Well, I feel the same way about different songs I hear praising the Almighty. I can’t believe the skill in composition. Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, must be so pleased with them. Me, on the other hand, what ability do I have? I can barely say anything. Maybe a “thanks” here and there. That does not properly convey the impact the all-attractive one has had on my life.”
In an incident briefly described in the Ramayana, Shri Rama offers to share the kingdom of Ayodhya with His younger brother Lakshmana. The gesture is not necessary. Rama is the proper successor to the current leader, King Dasharatha. Lakshmana wants only the best for Rama; he would never think of stealing glory.
Rama, an avatara of the Supreme Lord, is so kind that He shares experiences with others. Lakshmana has the best qualifications. He is the number one devotee of God; if there were ever to be a ranking system. Lakshmana lives up to that qualification on countless occasions.
Yet Rama is so merciful that He allows anyone to enlist in service, whether they are qualified or not. I may be the most worthless person, with nothing going for me, but if I at least try, then even something simple like an offering of wild berries from the forest will be appreciated by that eldest son of King Dasharatha.
Since He has the best memory, the Supreme Lord never forgets even a single kind gesture done in His favor. He remembers forever, even if I am so miserly as to forget His mercy upon me. He is the best person to serve, and despite repeated failure in my progress on the path of liberation, I will continue to forge ahead.
Despite success lacking,
Where illusion attacking.
And in progress retreating,
My self-control defeating.
Shri Rama still to accept,
Sincerity never to reject.
So again ready to try,
On His mercy to rely.