“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)
नैव देवा महात्मानो नात्र कार्या विचारणा।
शरा रामेण तूत्सृष्टा रुक्मपुङ्खाः पतत्रिणः।।
सर्पाः पञ्चानना भूत्वा भक्षयन्ति स्म राक्षसान्।
येन येन च गच्छन्ति राक्षसा भयकर्शिताः।
तेन तेन स्म पश्यन्ति राममेवाग्रतः स्थितम्।
इत्थं विनाशितं तेन जनस्थानं तवानघ।।
naiva devā mahātmāno nātra kāryā vicāraṇā।
śarā rāmeṇa tūtsṛṣṭā rukmapuṅkhāḥ patatriṇaḥ।।
sarpāḥ pañcānanā bhūtvā bhakṣayanti sma rākṣasān।
yena yena ca gacchanti rākṣasā bhayakarśitāḥ।
tena tena sma paśyanti rāmamevāgrataḥ sthitam।
itthaṃ vināśitaṃ tena janasthānaṃ tavānagha।।
As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada describes, with the vision of the personal God known as Vishnu, there is a corresponding item for each of the four hands. Though two of the items symbolize peace and the other two punishment, in the eyes of the devotee the auspiciousness is equal.
The club and the disc are equally as beautiful as the conch and the lotus flower. The same can be said of the vision of Vishnu’s avatara of Shri Rama heroically combatting night-ranging aggressors in the forest of Janasthana. The arrows He releases are as beautiful as the garland of lotus flowers around His neck.
1. They uphold righteous principles
What kind of person sends fourteen thousand military men to take on a single foe? What person raises hostilities in an undeclared fashion, when no act of aggression has occurred? When there was no violation to begin with, why apply overwhelming force?
The Supreme Personality of Godhead was not bothering anyone. He was living peacefully with His wife Sita Devi. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana was also with them. He had an equal ability to defend, but Rama sent Sita and Lakshmana to a nearby cave during the attack.
Rama’s arrows uphold the principles of righteousness. It is easy to give a speech on the need to adhere to the rule of law. It is easy to castigate a violator during a hearing of the legislature. But position papers, court rulings and fiery speeches can only do so much. Eventually, there needs to be some force applied against the aggressors.
2. They maintain a level of sanity in an otherwise insane playing arena
In what kind of a world does a shape-shifting ogre attack people in a remote forest? Why even bother? What is to be gained? Why not stay in Lanka, which is full of gold? The leader of the ogres, Ravana, had countless beautiful queens, with every kind of enjoyment available in the palaces.
जनस्थाने हतस्थाने निहते रक्षसां बले।।
अशक्तेन त्वया रक्षः कृतमेतदसाधु वै।
janasthāne hatasthāne nihate rakṣasāṃ bale।।
aśaktena tvayā rakṣaḥ kṛtametadasādhu vai।
“O Rakshasa, when your Rakshasa army had been killed in Janasthana, turning it into Hatasthana [land of the dead], being powerless you committed this wicked deed.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.29-30)
The field of Janasthana, which refers to the living beings, became hatasthana, or the land of the dead. This is a neat play on words spoken by Sita Devi at a later time. Though generally kind in nature, Rama is fearless in defense of morality and virtue.
3. They highlight Rama’s amazing dexterity, intelligence, and strength
The arrows enabled Rama to fight multiple attackers at a single time. Such dexterity was in the family, as King Dasharatha was known for his ability to defend against attackers coming from the ten directions, simultaneously.
The son of Dasharatha embeds intelligence into His weapons. As Akampana testified to Ravana later, the arrows followed the enemy. The targets could not find relief. The arrows showed the face of a five-headed serpent at the end. This force was overwhelming; the fourteen-thousand expert fighters did not stand a chance.
4. They pay homage to spiritual guides like Vishvamitra
Vishnu does not require a teacher. He is the original spiritual master of this universe; the adi-guru. Yet in order to show the proper way to advance the human condition, as a human avatara He accepts spiritual guides for instruction in the areas necessary for success.
The arrows released by Rama honor the spiritual guides. Vishvamitra gives to Rama sacred formulas to be used in augmenting the potency. The arrows become something like nuclear weapons; such is the power of sacred sound, shabda.
5. They rescue the entire world
Nothing can be more beautiful than this. The husband of Sita stands tall in victory. He is ready to protect the saints at any moment. Today, the onslaughts continue, from the enemies of good qualities, virtue, and devotion. We call upon the same hero to protect us through the sound of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Targets intelligently tracking,
Repelling army attacking.
Nowhere to hide or run,
By own sinful deeds undone.
Punishment by arrows delivered,
Extension of His potency considered.
To Rama this life surrendering so,
Safe in His shelter to know.
Categories: the five