“I am His younger brother, Lakshmana by name. Due to His transcendental qualities, I have taken up service to Him, as He is grateful and very knowledgeable.” (Lakshmana speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.12)
अहमस्यावरो भ्राता गुणैर्दास्यमुपागतः
कृतज्ञस्य बहुज्ञस्य लक्ष्मणो नाम नामतः
ahamasyāvaro bhrātā guṇairdāsyamupāgataḥ
kṛtajñasya bahujñasya lakṣmaṇo nāma nāmataḥ
1. A moment
“Wow, I can’t believe how close I cut it. In today’s world, it is easy to be distracted. I’m carrying two laptops with me. One for each job. Two smartphones. One for each required multi-factor authentication setup. I have got the car. I have got ringing on the phones, alerts for messages and emails, and the like. Notifications from every direction.
“I stopped by a repair place. Someone else’s phone was broken. I was carrying everything with me, and I needed to finish the errand in time for a meeting. Well, they fixed the phone in ten minutes. A brand new screen and all. Can you believe that? I was able to make my meeting in time, even while carrying all of that stuff. I am really grateful.”
2. A day
“I would have missed the flight. It was a long-haul international one. It’s not one of those where you wait at the airport for the next one. The next scheduled departure might not be for a few days. We had a rough night prior. That explains why I was still sleeping when the alarm went off.
“Well, this other person remembered. They knew I had to be at a certain place at a certain time. They alerted me. They woke me up. They rushed to drop me off to the airport. I made the flight. I keep thinking about how lucky I was. Both in avoiding the turmoil of a missed flight and in having someone close by who is so attentive.”
3. A week
“I have gone shopping every day this week. Not from the comfort of the home. Not while swiping left and right on the smartphone. This is the old-fashioned way, of walking through a mall. You ask how one person can require more than one day to pick up everything they need. You have obviously never met my spouse.
“There is nothing I hate more than the shopping mall. Ever since I was a child, I dreaded the trip. It was like the coordinators of nature had me in mind when they invented internet shopping. You can find everything you need and you don’t have to speak to a single person. There is the preciseness of the order. No making mistakes since you are selecting specific items instead of asking around.
“A week ago my spouse did something amazing for me. I cannot forget it. In return, I promised myself that I would do whatever they wanted for an entire week. It is worth the torture. I will tolerate the discomfort. What they did was that important.”
4. A lifetime
“What that person did for me during childhood, I will never forget. I have seen the difficulties firsthand. I understand the struggle. It is not as easy as going about your life and the children raising themselves. There is sacrifice. There is pain. There is heartache.
“I remember this person every single day. Though they have moved on to the next life, the memory remains. They left a lasting impression. I would not be where I am today if not for their influence.”
The juxtaposition with the different lengths of time is necessary for understanding the standing of bhakti-yoga. Pure devotional service stretches beyond the boundaries of time and space. We can only reference that with which we are familiar, so we can compare the sentiment in devotion against other kinds of favoritism.
There is a section in the Ramayana poem where Lakshmana describes his position. He is in the forest at the time. He is a warrior by occupation, so it is strange to find him outside of a royal community. Lakshmana is the younger brother of Shri Rama, who is the prince of Ayodhya.
Lakshmana follows Rama. This is due to loyalty. This is due to love. But it is also due to recognition of Rama’s gratefulness. The qualities in that eldest son of King Dasharatha are what make Him attractive. Other people are drawn to Rama.
परवानस्मि काकुत्स्थ त्वयि वर्षशतं स्थिते |
स्वयं तु रुचिरे देशे क्रियतामिति मां वद ||
paravānasmi kākutstha tvayi varṣaśataṃ sthite |
svayaṃ tu rucire deśe kriyatāmiti māṃ vada ||
“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)
Lakshmana is grateful in return. The sentiment stretches through eternity. When Rama asks Lakshmana to build a hut, Lakshmana will dutifully abide. He will continue to listen, up to and beyond one hundred years, if necessary.
He is not looking for anything in return. He is not taking, but only giving. This is one way to understand how someone can repeat the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They can say this mantra over and over. They can follow the routine day after day.
They are forever grateful to the people addressed within that mantra. They have surrendered fully. They do not want anything in return. They are not looking to advance in a temporary situation. They will stay in devotion for lifetime after lifetime.
Appreciate for a day,
Maybe an impression to stay.
Such that for a week or more,
That deed my benefit for.
Bhakti with gratitude in mind,
Since gratefulness to find.
Like Lakshmana for one hundred years ready,
Fixed as Rama’s servant steady.
Categories: the five