“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।।
“You quite often reference the story of Shri Rama, the warrior avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, successfully defending the ashrama of Vishvamitra Muni. This is against the attacks of two Rakshasas in particular, Maricha and Subahu.
“There are many lessons to draw, with the obvious one being the victory of light over darkness. You turn on the light in a dark cellar, and suddenly the insects start to scamper. They don’t know what to do. They never want to risk exposure. They would rather carry out their activities when no one is looking.
“This is the same with Maricha and Subahu. They were known as nishachara, or night-ranger. They preferred to attack at night, just as Vishvamitra’s yajna was nearing completion. He, of course, had little recourse. He could not defend against what he could not see.
“Shri Rama, being the personification of light, also taking birth in the solar dynasty, dissipated the darkness that was the mode of ignorance on display from the attacking side. He rose to the occasion, relying on sound to defeat the enemy. This proves another important truth, that God can see and hear everything.
“What I find particularly interesting is the setting; where this stuff went down. Vishvamitra was in a place known as tapo-vana. The literal translation is a forest conducive to austerity and penance. My question is how and why someone would go there? I don’t think any person in the modern day would be able to survive.”
The key is the lack of distractions. Someone like Vishvamitra is especially prominent within society, so they are bound to attract others. This request and that.
“Please bless me so that I will do well in the future. Please help me out in this situation.”
The transition to the tapo-vana location is not accidental. Comparing to modern times, we see that there are many distractions absent within that place of residence.
1. Shovel snow
“This is the absolute worst. People often ask me how much snow we typically get in my area during the winter months. There is no accurate number, since the totals vary from year to year. For instance, the last two seasons we barely had any snowfall.
“Then this year it is coming like every week. Usually a few inches cause a minor inconvenience, but these blizzards are the worst. I have to worry about digging my car out, just to be able to make it to the store. The shoveling is not easy; you get tired. You have to go out in a series of trips to fully complete the cleaning. Some people are lucky and have neighbors willing to help. I would pay so much money for someone else to do this, but no one is around.”
2. Deal with crying babies
“Literally, morning until night. I think I have the worst child in the world. No one is as unfortunate as me. I am willing to do everything else. I will play. I will drive them to places. I will sit and watch television programming for children.
“Yet I don’t even get to work. As soon as I start, I hear the screaming. It is beyond irritating. Sometimes I want to run away and never come back. If there was a boarding school for toddlers, I would send my child there in an instant.”
3. Check the latest news
“It is almost like a different universe. A false reality, though with some connection to the truth. Checking the news doesn’t really do anything for me. Most of the outlets are straight-up liars. They distort the truth to further their agenda. I used to think it was limited to politics, but actually they are dishonest about practically everything.
“Nevertheless, I still end up checking. It is like an addiction. I wish I could get rid of our television and smartphones. Just live peacefully, without the noise. I think the entire human society would benefit from the same.”
4. Prepare meals
“Work, take care of children, shovel the snow, get upset over the latest fraud carried out by public officials in broad daylight, and then worry about what to eat for dinner. There is no one around to help. You are too exhausted to even think of stepping foot in the kitchen. No choice but to rely on prepared meals, which are unhealthy.”
5. Take out the garbage
“The rubbish piles up rather quickly. You have to separate the recyclable items from the regular trash. Place everything into bags or containers and then drag them out to the curb on the appropriate days. Make sure to pick up the empty containers later in the day; otherwise the wind will carry them away.”
Modern day living actually carries a mountain of responsibilities, which renew on a daily basis. The tapo-vana is like the ultimate form of roughing it, but there is a tremendous benefit. If you are someone like Vishvamitra Muni, you can directly call for the Supreme Lord and His association. Rama and Lakshmana, the protectors of the universe, then roam that wonderful area, bringing fruit to the time spent in isolated devotion.
अब्-भक्षः कतिचित् पक्षान्
वायु-भक्षस् ततः परम्
ab-bhakṣaḥ katicit pakṣān
vāyu-bhakṣas tataḥ param
“In the tapo-vana, Maharaja Prithu sometimes ate the trunks and roots of trees, and sometimes he ate fruit and dried leaves, and for some weeks he drank only water. Finally he lived simply by breathing air.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.23.5)
Taking up a similar residence is not practical in the modern day, but the spirit of the endeavor can still be carried out. We can be renounced in spirit, living simply and thinking of the higher goal of purification of consciousness. In any corner of the world, we can dedicate some time to the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Like dhama at home making,
Through chanting process taking.
Not like eras before,
Which tapo-vanas for.
Like Vishvamitra ashrama setting,
Protection of Shri Rama getting.
Difficult today to follow the same,
But through bhakti spirit attain.
Categories: the five