“O queen, I tell you in truth that I am firmly attached, with loving devotion, to my brother Rama. I swear this on my bow, on charity, and on sacrifice.” (Lakshmana speaking to Kausalya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 21.16)
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अनुरक्तोऽस्मि भावेन भ्रातरं देवि तत्त्वतः ।
सत्येन धनुषा चैव दत्तेनेष्टेन ते शपे ।।
anurakto’smi bhāvena bhrātaraṃ devi tattvataḥ।
satyena dhanuṣā caiva datteneṣṭena te śape।।
One way to know that Shri Rama is God is from the qualities of His brother. That celebrated avatara of Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has the best brothers anyone could ever imagine.
Lakshmana is particularly noteworthy because of the extent to which he will support Rama. Since Lakshmana is one of the younger brothers, he is also known as Ramanuja. He follows the eldest out of duty and also love.
अहमस्यावरो भ्राता गुणैर्दास्यमुपागतः
कृतज्ञस्य बहुज्ञस्य लक्ष्मणो नाम नामतः
ahamasyāvaro bhrātā guṇairdāsyamupāgataḥ
kṛtajñasya bahujñasya lakṣmaṇo nāma nāmataḥ
“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)
A person can follow Rama because of His qualities. He is grateful. He never forgets a single deed done in His favor. I may not remember that period during childhood when I was desperate to worship on a daily basis, to keep deities and to follow a routine.
I struggled through the teenage years. I even dabbled in atheism, speculating that there was no meaning to it all. Everything is just chemicals colliding together. You take birth, you remain for some time, and then you die. Nothing more, nothing less.
I may forget. That is the cause of my continued stay in the material world. For as long as I remain in forgetfulness, the illusion continues. I can escape at any time, but I usually require a little help.
Lakshmana is a part of that support system. As part of the kshatriya order, everything important to him is used for the service of Rama.
1. Swearing on his bow
Lakshmana swears on his bow that he is devoted to Kausalya’s eldest son. His bow is striking in that it can defeat the greatest enemies known in the world. Lakshmana is something like a twin of Rama on the battlefield.
While Kausalya’s son is dark-complexioned, Lakshmana is fair. The sound of voice might be a little different, but in interests everything points in the same direction.
The bow is for defending dharma. It is for protecting the sages in the forest of Dandaka. It is for helping Rama in dealing with menaces like Tataka and Subahu. The bow is an integral aspect to Lakshmana’s occupation, and it is on that bow that he swears allegiance.
2. Swearing on charity
Bhagavad-gita lists some of the qualities of a kshatriya. One of those qualities is danam. This is charity or generosity.
शौर्यं तेजो धृतिर् दाक्ष्यं
युद्धे चाप्य् अपलायनम्
दानम् ईश्वर-भावश् च
क्षात्रं कर्म स्वभाव-जम्
śauryaṁ tejo dhṛtir dākṣyaṁ
yuddhe cāpy apalāyanam
dānam īśvara-bhāvaś ca
kṣātraṁ karma svabhāva-jam
“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kshatriyas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.43)
Lakshmana utilizes his arms for defending the pious. He also uses the same arms for giving in charity. He swears on that charity, that there is full devotion to Rama. If Dasharatha’s eldest son should happen to walk into a blazing fire, know for certain that Lakshmana is right there in front of Him.
3. Swearing on sacrifice
In reading Vedic literature, we come across many yajnas conducted by kings from ages past. They satisfy different purposes, but the general idea is purification. Work in such a way that there is always consciousness of the original source.
Lakshmana swears on that sacrifice, that he is devoted to Rama. This means that there is no questioning the truth. You get one, you get the other. You get Vishnu, you get Ananta Deva. That support embodies the spirit of the spiritual master, who has no other business than devotion to the Supreme Lord.
Swearing on bow in sight,
On weapons used with might.
On charity to brahmanas giving,
Who for higher welfare living.
On sacrifices the saintly kings known,
That pure devotion shown.
To eldest brother in clan,
Like to blazing fire a fan.
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