“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 ||
1. Air conditioning
“This summer has been brutal. Worse than any in recent memory, I am not sure exactly what is going on. The ‘experts’ blame it on a tropical storm that affected mostly the region to the south of us. The remnants then moved their way up north, towards us, but lessening in intensity.
“You hear people often talk about a dry heat, as if to say the experience is not as uncomfortable as the numbers display. For instance, it might be one hundred degrees Fahrenheit in a specific area, but the humidity is only ten percent. You get differing viewpoints on the situation, with people in favor of the argument and others against.
“Well, where we live the temperatures have been in the upper eighties. Not as bad, by comparison, but consider the humidity. It has hovered around ninety percent for weeks on end. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather take the dry heat. This has been unbearable.
“The one saving grace has been air conditioning. We have a central cooling unit in our home, and it has been running constantly. No oversight necessary, just set a certain temperature on the thermostat and everything takes care of itself. What a relief.”
2. A soft cushion
“You don’t realize what a difference the type of cushion makes until you sleep on a really good mattress. I happened to experience that recently, while visiting a friend. It felt as if the cushion was protecting you from every side. You sunk into this wonderful experience.
“We have since replaced the mattresses at home. We are sleeping much better. We wake up refreshed in the morning. We have more energy throughout the day. I think if more people paid attention to the little details, they would be much happier in life.”
3. Weather reports
“Can you imagine how people lived only a few centuries ago? They had to guess as to the weather. They had recorded observations from past years, for sure, but that only gives a general idea. The falling of leaves from the trees in the autumn. The blossoming of flowers on trees in the spring.
“These give an indication, but how would people know to prepare for a blizzard or hurricane? There was no way. They had to constantly adapt. Fortunately, we have prior warning nowadays. Sure, the forecast isn’t always correct, but at least we can prepare. We know to stay home during periods of potential flooding. This way we don’t get stranded on the road.”
4. Protective shoes
“These can be so refined that a professional athlete has a different set based on the surface for their particular sport. They might even be able to switch in the middle of a match, if the grip isn’t to their liking.
“We don’t have to worry about walking through rain or snow, since there is footwear designed for each condition. If we have to stand all day at our place of business, there are shoes that make the experience less miserable.
“I especially couldn’t imagine walking through the woods without the proper attire. There are bugs everywhere. The ground is hard in some places, soft in others. You might come upon mud unexpectedly. You have to be prepared for the unexpected.”
5. An architectural firm
“You hear about these survivalists, the ones who can make do in the wilderness. They figure out a way to find food and then cook it. They can light a fire without a convenience store nearby. They might even be able to build a place to live. It is unimaginable, to me, as today we have high-priced architectural firms who design buildings after careful consideration and input from the people who will move in.”
Shri Ramachandra, the avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, went without such amenities for a considerable period of time. A fourteen year exile sentence, to be spent in the forests, wandering like an ascetic. No access to the royal family and its army. No ability to phone home for help. No throwing in the towel when the hardships became too much.
Rama’s wife Sita came along, as did His younger brother Lakshmana. They did not have air conditioning. They had to face the prospect of mosquitoes and other living entities attacking them without proper justification. There were no soft cushions to sleep on, and Lakshmana was so vigilant that he refused to sleep at night.
They had to deal with whatever the weather brought, including the consecutive months of rain during a particular portion of the year. There was no advanced protection for the feet, as this was one of the concerns Rama had about Sita following Him. She was born and raised in royalty and later married into it. Now they would have to “rough it” in the wild, and for a long time.
There was no architect, but Lakshmana again stepped up to the plate. He built a perfect hut for the trio to live in, and the spirit of devotion was so strong that he vowed to continue in that service for as long as Rama was standing next to Him.
It was a period of excellence in terms of display of the opulence of vairagya, which is renunciation. The Supreme Lord can make such sacrifices and more for the wellbeing of the people who love Him. It is not required that we reach such extremes, but even a little time spent in worship will do us so much good. A few minutes in formal worship, in front of an altar in the home, and constant chanting of the holy names for experiencing the highest taste: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The extreme elements to bear,
Insects and hard ground there.
Built by hand a dwelling,
After Rama to Lakshmana telling.
Supreme these sacrifices can make,
And inspiration from episode can take.
So that for Him a little time to give,
Vowing in dharma’s way to live.
Categories: the five