“O Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)
परवानस्मि काकुत्स्थ त्वयि वर्षशतं स्थिते |
स्वयं तु रुचिरे देशे क्रियतामिति मां वद ||
paravānasmi kākutstha tvayi varṣaśataṃ sthite |
svayaṃ tu rucire deśe kriyatāmiti māṃ vada ||
Friend1: One of the opulences of the Almighty is wealth. I forget the exact Sanskrit word, but we know the truth based on the explanation of Parashara Muni.
Friend2: In his delineation of the properties of Bhagavan, as far as they can be enumerated.
Friend1: Parashara is the father of Vyasadeva, who is something like the greatest literary scholar of all-time.
Friend2: He is also known as Vedavyasa for a reason. He took the original Veda and divided it into four, to make it easier to understand. He gave us the many Puranas, the Mahabharata, and other sacred literature. No one can compare to him.
Friend1: It makes sense that Bhagavan is the wealthiest person. He lays original claim to property in its entirety. We think of property in terms of divisions. My house. Your house. My country. Your country. To God it is only one, since He owns everything.
Friend2: Beyond this universe, even. He is the source of the material and spiritual worlds:
अहं सर्वस्य प्रभवो
मत्तः सर्वं प्रवर्तते
इति मत्वा भजन्ते मां
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
Friend1: Though someone might not be aware of the wealth category attributed to Bhagavan, they have a general idea of God’s potency. The extent to which they know Him, they understand that someone above, a Divine Being, can shower them with gifts.
Friend2: Yes, absolutely. This is one of the reasons people pray. This is one of the four categories of people who initially approach Shri Krishna.
Friend1: I guess you can say people are asking to share in God’s fortune:
“O Lord, you have everything. I acknowledge that. Can I share in some of it? To you a million dollars is nothing. You would laugh at someone’s net worth figure, as most of the time it is based on share prices on a trading exchange. You could maneuver world events in such a way that the share price tumbles overnight. You are thus always the wealthiest and thereby equipped to help others in need.”
Friend2: That is a wonderful prayer, but not on the highest standard. The acharyas of the Vaishnava tradition teach to serve God in a mood of love. Bhakti-yoga. What can I give to Him instead of what can I take.
Friend1: Okay, but how does that manifest, exactly? He owns everything. I tend to want to share in His fortune. How can He share in mine, if I have nothing?
Friend2: You can look at it another way. Sharing in God’s misfortune.
Friend1: Interesting. Explain further.
Friend2: We can look to the Ramayana. Bhagavan is on earth in an avatara manifestation. Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. Though the owner of everything, His residence is fixed in Ayodhya. He is the sun of the solar dynasty, the current heir apparent to the throne previously held by so many pious rulers.
Friend1: Are you saying that in such a capacity the Supreme Lord can experience misfortune?
Friend2: You knew where I was going. Exiled from the kingdom for fourteen years, with not a dollar to His name, Rama has to one day leave. The younger brother Lakshmana decides to share in the misfortune. So does Sita Devi.
Friend1: Rama’s wife.
Friend2: There is a dialogue in one section where Lakshmana promises to continue to serve Rama, accepting orders to complete tasks, for one hundred years consecutively. The idea is that the enlistment does not have a beginning and an end; proving that devotion is sanatana. If something bad should happen to Rama, Lakshmana will share in the misfortune.
Friend1: Instead of running away. People tend to abandon the leader who has lost everything. It is a great way to tell who is loyal and who is not.
None more loyal found,
Who always to Rama bound.
Even when kingdom to lose,
And forest residence to choose.
Where to build hut commanded,
To continue forever if demanded.
The bhakti spirit demonstrating clear,
That God the one most dear.