“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra’s ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)
बली दत्तवरोदर्पादाजगाम तदाश्रमम्।।
तेन दृष्टः प्रविष्टोऽहं सहसैवोद्यतायुधः।
मां तु दृष्ट्वा धनुस्सज्यमसम्भ्रान्तश्चकार सः।।
balī dattavarodarpādājagāma tadāśramam।।
tena dṛṣṭaḥ praviṣṭo’haṃ sahasaivodyatāyudhaḥ।
māṃ tu dṛṣṭvā dhanussajyamasambhrāntaścakāra saḥ।।
“I guess one of the fears a devotee might have is preservation. Start with the boundless joy from following devotional service, bhakti-yoga. I have finally found something fulfilling. I don’t have to jump into something else. The holy names are everything to me: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
“We see in professional fields that reaching the pinnacle is not enough. You have to constantly work at staying up to date. There is pressure to maintain the stature, lest you get left behind, washed over by the changing tides of time.
“I think there is a similar concern with devotional life. How will it be maintained? I found something I truly enjoy, but I am afraid that circumstances beyond my control will interfere. The rise of communism around the world. Totalitarian local leaders locking everyone in their homes for months on end. Shutting down the houses of worship. Viewing everyone around you as a set of germs. Disinformation campaigns. Speech and thought control.
“What should be the strategy to combat? Is it even worth the effort? Will that not become the distraction itself? I am so worried about how to maintain the devotional culture that I abandon my religious practices altogether. Do you see what I mean?”
अनन्याश् चिन्तयन्तो मां
ये जनाः पर्युपासते
योग-क्षेमं वहाम्य् अहम्
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)
There are several notable examples in this regard. There is the story of a brahmana living in the kingdom of Ayodhya during the time of Shri Rama, who is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The brahmana, who is a member of the priestly order, felt terrible pains of separation whenever Rama had to leave town on official business.
To bring to the brahmana what he lacked, Rama donated a family deity. Worship of the deity would be considered as good as seeing Rama, the king, personally. Thus the devotional life was maintained, and it thrived even more going forward. Spiritual life is not limited in the way material life is. One plus one can equal four when immersed in the devotional culture. What we previously considered to be the height of bliss can expand ever greater due to the grace of the Almighty.
There is another story from the Ramayana period, this time notably narrated by one of the great enemies of dharma. The Rakshasa named Maricha describes an incident where he attacked the sacrificial fire of Vishvamitra Muni.
This was another case of a brahmana worshiping. The life of tapasya needed to be preserved. Vishvamitra and other men like him took up residence in the remote forests. The setting was conducive to religious practice. Fewer distractions. A better opportunity to really focus on the ultimate aim of life.
Maricha was accustomed to obstructing. Interfering with dharma. The Rakshasas carry this mentality, even to the present day. Rather than leave well enough alone, they cannot stand to see worship of the Supreme Lord thrive.
During one such attack, Maricha surprisingly was thwarted. This is because Shri Rama was there personally. Though only a youth, with barely any signs of manhood on His face, Rama defended perfectly. He was not stunned by the lightning-like strike of Maricha. There was no fear in the Supreme Lord.
This defense was something Vishvamitra and others lacked. They did not have to work hard to procure it, though. The devotion itself was enough for the Supreme Lord to take notice. He will defend our faith in Him, regardless of the circumstances. He is the ultimate determining factor in our success, and He never abandons those who are surrendered to Him.
Like Rama’s arrows extending,
Our faith in Him defending.
So worrying not over outside,
As long as bhakti inside.
Such as with Maricha attack,
Fierce reply sending back.
So that sacrificial fire raging,
Despite enemy onslaught waging.