By Giriraj Swami
For Sri Rama-navami, we shall read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Two, Chapter Seven: “Scheduled Incarnations.”
asmat-prasada-sumukhah kalaya kalesa
iksvaku-vamsa avatirya guror nidese
tisthan vanam sa-dayitanuja avivesa
yasmin virudhya dasa-kandhara artim arcchat
Due to His causeless mercy upon all living entities within the universe, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, along with His plenary extensions, appeared in the family of Maharaja Iksvaku as the Lord of His internal potency, Sita. Under the order of His father, Maharaja Dasaratha, He entered the forest and lived there for considerable years with His wife and younger brother. Ravana, who was very materially powerful, with ten heads on his shoulders, committed a great offense against Him and was thus ultimately vanquished.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
Lord Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His brothers, namely Bharata, Laksmana, and Satrughna, are His plenary expansions. All four brothers are visnu-tattva and were never ordinary human beings. There are many unscrupulous and ignorant commentators on Ramayana who present the younger brothers of Lord Ramacandra as ordinary living entities. But here in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the most authentic scripture on the science of Godhead, it is clearly stated that His brothers were His plenary expansions. Originally Lord Ramacandra is the incarnation of Vasudeva, Laksmana is the incarnation of Sankarsana, Bharata is the incarnation of Pradyumna, and Satrughna is the incarnation of Aniruddha, expansions of the Personality of Godhead. Laksmiji Sita is the internal potency of the Lord and is neither an ordinary woman nor the external potency incarnation of Durga. Durga is the external potency of the Lord, and she is associated with Lord Siva.
As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (4.7), the Lord appears when there are discrepancies in the discharge of factual religion. Lord Ramacandra also appeared under the same circumstances, accompanied by His brothers, who are expansions of the Lord’s internal potency, and by Laksmiji Sitadevi.
Lord Ramacandra was ordered by His father, Maharaja Dasaratha, to leave home for the forest under awkward circumstances, and the Lord, as the ideal son of is father, carried out the order, even on the occasion of His being declared the king of Ayodhya. One of His younger brothers, Laksmanaji, desired to go with Him, and so also His eternal wife, Sitaji, desired to go with Him. The Lord agreed to both of them, and all together they entered the Dandakaranya Forest, to live there for fourteen years. During their stay in the forest, there was some quarrel between Ramacandra and Ravana, and the latter kidnapped the Lord’s wife, Sita. The quarrel ended in the vanquishing of the greatly powerful Ravana, along with all his kingdom and family.
Sita is Laksmiji, or the goddess of fortune, but she is never to be enjoyed by any living being. She is meant for being worshiped by the living being along with her husband, Sri Ramacandra. A materialistic man like Ravana does not understand this great truth, but on the contrary he wants to snatch Sitadevi from the custody of Rama and thus incurs great miseries. The materialists, who are after opulence and material prosperity, may take lessons from the Ramayana that the policy of exploiting the nature of the Lord without acknowledging the supremacy of the Supreme Lord is the policy of Ravana. Ravana was very advanced materially, so much so that he turned his kingdom, Lanka, into pure gold, or full material wealth. But because he did not recognize the supremacy of Lord Ramacandra and defied Him by stealing His wife, Sita, Ravana was killed, and all his opulence and power were destroyed.
Lord Ramacandra is a full incarnation with six opulences in full, and He is therefore mentioned in this verse as kalesah, or master of all opulence.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
Srimad-Bhagavatam is the supreme scripture, or book of knowledge, in the science of God. It explains the Absolute Truth in detail. The Vedanta-sutra says, janmady asya yatah, that the Absolute Truth is that from which everything emanates, and Srimad-Bhagavatam begins with the same words—janmady asya yatah—and proceeds to explain that the Absolute Truth is a person, the Supreme Person, Krishna. Krishna expands Himself into various plenary portions and portions of plenary portions, and the Bhagavatam, after listing so many incarnations of Godhead, says, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam, that all of the abovementioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord but that Lord Krishna is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead.
So, Lord Rama is an expansion of Krishna. There are so many expansions of Krishna mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam, but Rama is an expansion of Vasudeva, who is an expansion of Krishna. Laksmana is an expansion of Balarama, who is the first expansion of Krishna. Bharata and Satrughna are also direct expansions in the category of visnu-tattva. They are all God but manifest in different forms. Sri Brahma-samhita gives the example that from one candle you can light a second, from the second you can light a third, from the third you can light a fourth, and so on. All the flames are the same fire, and all have the same strength, but still, there is one original candle, and that is Krishna. Still, Rama, Laksmana, Bharata, and Satrughna are all God. They are all the same as Krishna, but they descend into the world for different pastimes. The verse says, avatirya. Avatarameans “one who descends.” They descend from the spiritual world into the material world out of mercy—prasada—for the conditioned souls, to deliver the conditioned souls from the quagmire of material existence.
All of us here, from Lord Brahma to the insignificant ant, have somehow or other fallen into the material world and thus are forced to suffer. We are being attacked at every moment by some sort of misery, big or small, gross or subtle. Certain major sufferings, major miseries, afflict all of us, and they are mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita: janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi—birth, death, old age, and disease. None of us wants these miseries, but they are forced upon us. Once we come into the material world and accept a material body, we are forced to suffer repeated birth, disease, old age, and death—and rebirth.
The purpose of human life, as explained in the Vedic literature, is to become free from this repetition of birth and death. And the way to become free is to become God conscious, Krishna conscious. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, yam yam vapi smaran bhavam, that in whatever state one leaves one’s physical body, one attains the same state in the next life.
yam yam vapi smaran bhavam
tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.” (Gita 8.6) The Bhagavad-gita further states that if one thinks of Krishna at the time of death one will go to Krishna, back home, back to Godhead.
anta-kale ca mam eva
smaran muktva kalevaram
yah prayati sa mad-bhavam
yati nasty atra samsayah
“And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Gita 8.5)
The Lord descends into the material world to show us who He is. Everyone speculates about God. They know that God is the oldest, so sometimes they imagine that God must be an old man with a beard and gray hair. They know that God is the ruler of the universe, so they imagine that He must sit on a throne. Therefore God Himself descends into the material world to show us who He is, and He does so in His original form as Krishna as well as in the form of Lord Ramachandra, who has the same, full potency as Krishna. Thus Ramachandra is described here as kalesa; He is full in all opulence. The Lord displays His pastimes to attract the fallen, conditioned souls to Him to engage in His service. The pastimes of Krishna and those of Rama are very attractive.
The history of Lord Rama, summarized in Srimad-Bhagavatam and elaborated on in the Ramayana (in particular, we accept the authoritative version of the Ramayana by Valmiki), has existed for thousands of years, and people still read it, hear it, recite it, and stage dramatic performances of it. It is ever fresh, as the Lord is ever fresh. We never tire of hearing the pastimes of the Lord. The ordinary news of the conditioned souls is not so attractive or fresh. Once, when a newspaper reporter from The New York Times came to meet Srila Prabhupada, Prabhupada held up the Bhagavad-gita (it could just as well have been Srimad-Bhagavatam) and said, “Every day your employer prints so many newspapers. Especially on Sunday, the paper is so big that one can hardly carry it. But after reading it an hour, people throw it away. Here is the Bhagavad-gita. People keep it and read it for a lifetime, and in this way it has been read for the past five thousand years.” And the reporter acknowledged the truth of what Prabhupada said.
So, these descriptions of the pastimes of the Lord are ever fresh. We relish them year after year. We relish them day after day, moment by moment. The pastimes of Lord Ramachandra and Lord Krishna can be discussed eternally, and to cover even the basic history would take many days and hours, so in the limited time we have now we can’t really discuss in detail. But I will comment on this one point that is mentioned in the verse, that the great demon Ravana, who was very materially powerful, kidnapped Sita and that in the end he was killed by Lord Ramachandra and his entire dynasty and opulence were destroyed.
Sita is the energy of the Lord. In fact, everything we see is the energy of the Lord. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says that He has two energies—the spiritual energy, which includes the living entities, and the material energy, which we experience as earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and ego.
bhumir apo ’nalo vayuh
kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakrtir astadha
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.
apareyam itas tv anyam
prakrtim viddhi me param
yayedam dharyate jagat
“Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.” (Gita 7.4–5)
Basically, whatever we see is the energy of the Lord—either the material energy or a combination of the material and spiritual energies. The Lord Himself is fully spiritual (sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah). But until our senses are completely purified and spiritualized, we cannot see the Lord in His original form. What we can see is the Lord’s energy, which is the Lord’s property and is meant to be engaged in His service. To take an ordinary example, if you go into someone’s house, whatever is there is meant for the pleasure of the proprietor of the house. Of course, if the proprietor is a devotee, he knows that Krishna is the true proprietor and therefore everything is meant for His pleasure. But in any case, you can’t take the property for yourself or use it for yourself—at least not without permission.
Sita is the internal potency, the pleasure potency, of the Lord, and Ravana made the grave mistake of coveting her, lusting after her, to the extent that he abducted her, which was a great insult not only to her chastity but also to the dynasty of Lord Ramachandra.
It is a long story, but ultimately Lord Rama, who on the order of His father was in exile in the forest, gathered together a band of monkeys and bears who marched on Lanka armed basically with trees and boulders. They didn’t have any weapons of modern warfare. And Ravana had a massive army with very sophisticated weapons. When Rama and His forces reached the southern tip of India, they had to cross the ocean to reach Lanka. And at that stage Rama glanced over Lanka with red-hot angry eyes, as described in the next verse:
yasma adad udadhir udha-bhayanga-vepo
margam sapady ari-puram haravad didhaksoh
“The Personality of Godhead Ramacandra, being aggrieved for His distant intimate friend [Sita], glanced over the city of the enemy Ravana with red-hot eyes like those of Hara [who wanted to burn the kingdom of heaven]. The great ocean, trembling in fear, gave Him His way because its family members, the aquatics like the sharks, snakes, and crocodiles, were being burnt by the heat of the angry red-hot eyes of the Lord.” (SB 2.7.24)
There at the ocean, a small incident took place that is very instructive in terms of bhakti. After Rama cast His glance, the ocean personified came before the Lord and said, “You may use my water as You like. Indeed, You may cross it and go to the abode of Ravana, who is a great source of disturbance. Please go kill him and regain Your wife, Sita. Please construct a bridge over my waters and spread Your transcendental fame.” So, Lord Rama’s soldiers, chanting Rama’s name, started to hurl into the ocean great stones, all of which floated, and thus they constructed a bridge over which Rama and His army could pass. There at the shore, a small squirrel was putting little grains of sand in the ocean, to contribute to the effort, and Hanuman, the mighty servant of Rama, chastised the squirrel, “What are you accomplishing with your little grains of sand? Can’t you see that I am throwing these huge boulders? Get out of my way.” And the squirrel replied, “But I want to serve Lord Rama too.”
Lord Rama overheard this exchange and rebuked Hanuman, “This squirrel wants to serve me, just like you. And he is serving to his capacity, just as you are. So in My eyes you both are the same. And besides, I am the one who is making all the boulders float. Ultimately, I am the one who is doing everything.”
This is a very instructive point. The qualification to engage in devotional service is simply one’s sincere desire. It doesn’t matter what one’s material qualifications are. The Lord does not require anyone’s service. He just wants to see our mood of devotion. If one has the sincere desire to serve, that’s enough. Whether one is an insignificant ant or a spider or squirrel—or a great monkey like Hanuman, a powerful human being, or Lord Brahma himself—what the Lord sees is the living entity’s sincere desire to serve. That is what He considers—whether we are sincerely serving to our full capacity—however great or small that capacity may be. It is said that the Lord sees not what we give but what we hold back. If a poor man can afford only ten dollars and gives ten dollars, the Lord will see that he has given to his capacity. And if a rich man can afford ten million and but gives only ten thousand, the Lord will see, “Oh, he gave Me ten thousand, but he is keeping 9,990,000 for himself.”
The essence of bhakti is the desire to serve the Lord fully, to one’s capacity, and the opposite of bhakti is the desire to exploit the Lord or the Lord’s energy, as exemplified by Ravana. He didn’t want to serve the Lord. He wanted to steal the Lord’s energy, to enjoy the Lord’s property, in opposition to the Lord, in defiance of the Lord, and that is demonic.
Sita, the Lord’s energy, is Laksmi, who is associated with wealth, opulence, good fortune. Generally, conditioned souls, who are materialistic, want Laksmi—they want to engage Laksmi in their service. But Laksmi is meant to be engaged in the service of her husband, the Lord, Narayana. As devotees, we worship the Lord and His energy together as the complete whole, as Radha- Krishna, Sita-Rama, Laksmi-Narayana, Laksmi-Nrsimha, and that satisfies both the Lord and us. But if we, like Ravana, try to enjoy the Lord’s energy independent from the Lord, we will never be satisfied, and in the end we will be vanquished and all that we had will be lost.
The pastimes of the Lord are not mythological stories. They are factual—recorded in authentic books such as the Ramayana and Srimad-Bhagavatam—not imaginary or symbolic. Although there are lessons to be learned from the pastimes, the persons and events are real. Rama is real, Sita is real, Laksmana is real, Hanuman is real, Ravana is real, Lanka is real—all are real. And we can learn from these historical accounts. In ordinary affairs, people say that the only thing we learn from history is that people learn nothing from history—and that may be true in material society, where people don’t learn. But in the association of devotees we can learn and improve. By hearing the pastimes of the Lord, we can learn that the Lord’s energy is meant to be engaged in the Lord’s service. We can learn from the example of Hanuman, who jumped over the ocean to Lanka to find Sita and discovered her in an asoka grove. His purpose was not to exploit her, enjoy her, or keep her for himself. His purpose was to find her for the sake of Rama, so that she could be reunited with Him to serve and please Him. The Lord’s energy is meant to be engaged in the Lord’s service.
Once, a devotee told me that Srila Prabhupada had said that all of our service here in the material world is meant to bring Radha and Krishna together in the spiritual world. I wasn’t sure about that statement, so I asked Srila Prabhupada. He replied that materialists are like Ravana and that they have kidnapped Sita, or Laksmi. And we, as devotees, act as Hanuman to get Laksmi back from Ravana and return her to Rama, or Narayana, by engaging the materialists’ money in the service of the Lord. Of course, Rama is an expansion of Krishna, and Sita, or Laksmi, is an expansion of Radha. Transcendentally, taking money from the materialists and engaging it in the Lord’s service is reuniting Radha and Krishna.
Especially in Kali-yuga, everyone has these two tendencies—to serve the Lord and engage the Lord’s energy in the Lord’s service, and to exploit and try to possess the Lord’s energy and enjoy it for ourselves. The process of bhakti-yoga is meant to purify the consciousness, so that the Ravana-like tendency to exploit and enjoy slackens and the devotional tendency to serve becomes more prominent. And the way to purify our hearts, especially in the present age of Kali, is to chant the holy names of the Lord.
The Personality of Godhead appears in different ages. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (4.8),
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge
“To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.” He says, paritranaya sadhunam: to deliver the devotees, vinasaya ca duskrtam: to destroy the miscreants, and dharma-samsthapanarthaya: to establish the principles of religion, sambhavami yuge yuge: I appear in every millennium. Yuge yuge means “in every age, or millennium.” In Treta-yuga He appeared as Lord Rama, some two million years ago. In Dvapara-yuga He appeared as Lord Krishna, some five thousand years ago. And yuge yuge suggests that He also appears in Kali-yuga; in Kali-yuga He appeared as Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
yajanti hi su-medhasah
“In the age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions.” (SB 11.5.32) Krsna-varnammeans that He is in the same category as Krishna, which means that He is Krishna, because no one else can be in the same category as Krishna other than Krishna, and is always singing the glories of Krishna. Still,tvisakrsnam: His color is not blackish like Krishna is in Dvapara-yuga; as described in shastra, it is golden. Sangopangastra-parsadam: He is accompanied by His associates. Every incarnation descends with eternal associates—Rama with Sita, Laksmana, Bharata, Satrughna, and others; Krishna with Nanda, Yasoda, Balarama, Radharani, and others; and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with Nityananda Prabhu and others. Yajnaih sankirtana-prayair: in Kali-yuga intelligent people (su-medhasah), people who have good intelligence, will worship (yajanti) the Lord by sankirtana-yajna, by the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. And that is the method by which the heart is cleansed (ceto-darpana-marjanam), the demonic mentality of Ravana is vanquished, and the devotional mood of Sita, Laksmana, Bharata, Satrughna, Hanuman, and others—even the squirrel—is manifest.
nitya-siddha krsna-prema ‘sadhya’ kabhu naya
sravanadi-suddha-citte karaye udaya
“Pure love for Krsna is eternally established in the hearts of the living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, this love naturally awakens.” (Cc Madhya 22.107) Nitya-siddha krsna-prema—pure love of Godhead exists eternally within the heart. ‘Sadhya’ kabhu naya—it is not to be gotten from any other source. Sravanadi-suddha-citte—by hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord our consciousness is purified, and karaye udaya—that eternal love is awakened.
This is our goal. By hearing the pastimes of Rama, the pastimes of Krishna, our love for Them awakens. When we chant the maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—our love for Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, and Gaura-Nitai awakens. That is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy.
Two full chapters in the Ninth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam are devoted to summarizing the Ramayana. There Srila Prabhupada remarks that everyone wants Rama-rajya, the ideal kingdom that existed during the reign of Lord Ramachandra. Lord Rama cared for the citizens exactly like a father, and the citizens, accepting Him as their father, loved and obeyed Him. Although He became king during Treta-yuga, because of His good government the age was like Satya-yuga, and everyone was fully religious and happy. Srila Prabhupada states that the same conditions can be evoked now by the chanting of the Lord’s holy names, which have been made available to us by Lord Chaitanya—by Lord Ramachandra, who has so kindly appeared in the present age as Chaitanya-chandra.
“If people take to this sankirtana movement of chanting Hare Krisna, Hare Rama, they will certainly be freed from the contamination of Kali-yuga, and the people of this age will be happy, as people were in Satya-yuga, the golden age. Anyone, anywhere, can easily take to this Hare Krsna movement; one need only chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, observe the rules and regulations, and stay free from the contamination of sinful life. Even if one is sinful and cannot give up sinful life immediately, if he chants the Hare Krsna maha-mantra with devotion and faith he will certainly be freed from all sinful activities, and his life will be successful. Param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam. This is the blessing of Lord Ramacandra, who has appeared in this age of Kali as Lord Gaurasundara.” (SB 9.10.51)
We should take advantage of the mercy of the Lord. Out of His causeless mercy upon all living entities (asmat-prasada), He appears in every age (yuge yuge)—as Rama, as Krishna, and in the present age as Krishna Chaitanya. And we should take advantage of the special mercy that They give us in the form of the sankirtanamovement, which teaches people to engage in the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and in the entire process of devotional service (bhakti-yoga). Lord Krishna gave the preliminary instructions in the science of God, the science of bhakti-yoga, in the Bhagavada-gita; Lord Chaitanya and His followers, especially the Six Gosvamis, explained the science elaborately; and Srila Prabhupada has presented it to us in a way that we can very easily follow, to cleanse our hearts and awaken our love for God. But those little Ravana-like demons in our hearts keep telling us, “You can enjoy. Why should Krishna have all the fun?” Of course, we want to enjoy—that is natural. The Absolute Truth, Krishna, is by nature full of pleasure (ananda-mayo ’bhyasat), and we, as His parts and parcels, are also meant for pleasure. But we cannot enjoy real, eternal pleasure based on these dead bodies, these bags of blood and stool and other such things. We, as spirit souls, can enjoy true pleasure, ananda, on the spiritual platform, in relationship to the Supreme Soul, in the spiritual energy, in the spiritual world.
The Lord doesn’t want us to suffer. He wants us to be happy, but He knows that we can be truly happy only in relation to Him. Therefore He comes—as the ideal king as Lord Rama, in His original form as Krishna, and most recently in His devotional form as Krishna Chaitanya—to show us the way. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, with Nityananda Prabhu, came especially to give us this method of chanting Hare Krishna and dancing, hearing the pastimes of the Lord (krsna-katha), worshiping the Deity, and taking krsna-prasada. And this method, as described by one great devotee, is kevala ananda-kanda: simply joyful—just chanting, dancing, hearing about Krishna and His incarnations, and taking prasada.
So, we should take advantage of this wonderful opportunity that has been given to us by Lord Rama, who has appeared as Lord Gaurasundara, and which has been presented to us in the most pleasant and accessible way by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. Even the smallest effort—by anyone—can bring the greatest result, as demonstrated in the pastimes of Lord Ramachandra. He engaged even monkeys and other creatures of the forest in His service—even the little squirrel—and in the end He took all the residents of Ayodhya back home, back to Godhead.
na janma nunam mahato na saubhagam
na van na buddhir nakrtis tosa-hetuh
tair yad visrstan api no vanaukasas
cakara sakhye bata laksmanagrajah
[Sri Hanuman says:] “One cannot establish a friendship with the Supreme Lord Ramacandra on the basis of material qualities such as one’s birth in an aristocratic family, one’s personal beauty, one’s eloquence, one’s sharp intelligence, or one’s superior race or nation. None of these qualifications is actually a prerequisite for friendship with Lord Sri Ramacandra. Otherwise how is it possible that although we uncivilized inhabitants of the forest have not taken noble births, although we have no physical beauty, and although we cannot speak like gentlemen, Lord Ramacandra has nevertheless accepted us as friends?
suro ’suro vapy atha vanaro narah
sarvatmana yah sukrtajnam uttamam
bhajeta ramam manujakrtim harim
ya uttaran anayat kosalan divam iti
“Therefore, whether one is a demigod or a demon, a man or a creature other than man, such as a beast or bird, everyone should worship Lord Ramacandra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appears on this earth just like a human being. There is no need of great austerities or penances to worship the Lord, for He accepts even a small service offered by His devotee. Thus He is satisfied, and as soon as He is satisfied, the devotee is successful. Indeed, Lord Sri Ramacandra brought all the devotees of Ayodhya back home, back to Godhead.” (SB 5.19.7–8)
Thank you very much.
Sri Sri Sita-Rama-Laksmana-Hanuman ki jaya!
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Rama-navami, April 14, 2008, in San Diego]