“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।।
“I like that the Sanskrit word Bhagavan has such a specific meaning. It is superior to the generic ‘God’, that most people use. It is no wonder that you can turn heads, drive people away, make them upset, and so forth by invoking that term.
“Each person has their own idea, gathered through experience, positive or negative. For some, God is the entire purpose for living. They will act in such a way that the man upstairs is pleased. For others, they see hypocrisy, crime, punishment, and irrationality associated with God. They would rather turn in the other direction.
“The word bhagavan says that not only is there a superior Divine Being, but that He also has specific features that can be enumerated. Bhagavan possesses bhaga, or fortunes, to the highest degree and simultaneously. As described by Parashara Muni, there is beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation.
“That last opulence always gets my attention; almost like it doesn’t fit. The rest make sense. Since God is all-attractive, He is known as Krishna. He is the wealthiest person in the world, since He has original claim to property. He is so strong that He can dominate others. No one is better known throughout the world, and He is so wise that a book like Bhagavad-gita has eternal relevance.
“But how does vairagya work? Why is that included? Why should someone be impressed with that feature? We don’t really see authorities pushing for renunciation in the modern way of living.”
For starters, there are certainly subtle ways of promoting vairagya. Every television infomercial about diet, exercise, weight loss and the like deals with controlling the senses. Not eating whatever you want, whenever you want. Putting a lid on sense gratification, at certain times.
Also, in the modern day there are prohibitions on certain intoxicants. At one time in the United States there was a total ban on alcohol consumption. During the time of the Founding Fathers, there was emphasis on temperance. Control in drinking. Acquiring good qualities. Being virtuous.
The easiest way to understand vairagya in Bhagavan is to look to the situation in Ayodhya described in the Ramayana. This occurred thousands of years ago, during the second age of creation, Treta, as named through the relative timeline based on the beginning and end of population of creatures.
Bhagavan is in front of the people in the avatara of Shri Rama. He is born into wealth; the Raghu dynasty. He doesn’t simply live off the excess, sleeping the day away. He is part of the royal order, which means He must defend the innocent against attack. He has to accept this duty; it is the family business.
One day Rama has to abandon the kingdom. Leave and not come back for fourteen years. A simple solution is to withdraw some of the royal wealth and build a palace in exile, taking servants with Him. Then the time would pass without issue.
The problem was that there were rules to this transition. Rama had to leave and live like a mendicant. Literally, riches to rags, in a matter of moments. We know that Rama is Bhagavan because He handled the change in plans in stride. He was not affected in the slightest.
Moments prior He was preparing to be the next king. Rama had approached His younger brother Lakshmana and asked to share in the glory. The two would rule together. Lakshmana appreciated the gesture, but he would never take away any honor that rightfully belonged to the eldest brother in the family.
So dedicated was he that upon the news of Rama’s exile Lakshmana insisted on accompanying. Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, did the same, without being urged. This shows that while God has renunciation to the fullest degree, the devoted servants do as well, to an extent.
While they can live without a royal kingdom, they cannot live without Rama. To this day they keep Him by their side, always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Parashara Muni with the list,
That Bhagavan with opulences six.
Beauty, wealth, wisdom and strength,
Fame stretching universe’s length.
Renunciation curious to see,
How God renounced to be?
That even kingdom to Him not mattering,
Rama equal though plans shattering.