The Glories of Lord Rāmacandra (Pt 1/2)
Compiled from the Srimad-bhagavatam 9.10.8-15 (original, unrevised), showing translations and purports by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Rāmacandra’s father exiles Him to the forest
Carrying out the order of His father, who was bound by a promise to his wife, Lord Rāmacandra left behind His kingdom, opulence, friends, well-wishers, residence and everything else, just as a liberated soul gives up his life, and went to the forest with Sītā.
Mahārāja Daśaratha had three wives. One of them, Kaikeyī, served him very pleasingly, and he therefore wanted to give her a benediction. Kaikeyī, however, said that she would ask for the benediction when it was necessary. At the time of the coronation of Prince Rāmacandra, Kaikeyī requested her husband to enthrone her son Bharata and send Rāmacandra to the forest. Mahārāja Daśaratha, being bound by his promise, ordered Rāmacandra to go to the forest, according to the dictation of his beloved. And the Lord, as an obedient son, accepted the order immediately. He left everything without hesitation, just as a liberated soul or great yogī gives up his life without material attraction.
While wandering in the forest, where He accepted a life of hardship, carrying His invincible bow and arrows in His hand, Lord Rāmacandra deformed Rāvaṇa’s sister, who was polluted with lusty desires, by cutting off her nose and ears. He also killed her fourteen thousand Rākṣasa friends, headed by Khara, Triśira and Dūṣaṇa.
O King Parīkṣit, when Rāvaṇa, who had ten heads on his shoulders, heard about the beautiful and attractive features of Sītā, his mind was agitated by lusty desires, and he went to kidnap her. To distract Lord Rāmacandra from His āśrama, Rāvaṇa sent Mārīca in the form of a golden deer, and when Lord Rāmacandra saw that wonderful deer, He left His residence and followed it and finally killed it with a sharp arrow, just as Lord Śiva killed Dakṣa.
When Rāmacandra entered the forest and Lakṣmaṇa was also absent, the worst of the Rākṣasas, Rāvaṇa, kidnapped Sītādevī, the daughter of the King of Videha, just as a tiger seizes unprotected sheep when the shepherd is absent. Then Lord Rāmacandra wandered in the forest with His brother Lakṣmaṇa as if very much distressed due to separation from His wife. Thus He showed by His personal example the condition of a person attached to women.
In this verse the words strī-saṅgināṁ gatim iti indicate that the condition of a person attached to women was shown by the Lord Himself. According to moral instructions, gṛhe nārīṁ vivarjayet: when one goes on a tour, one should not bring his wife. Formerly men used to travel without conveyances, but still, as far as possible, when one leaves home one should not take his wife with him, especially if one is in such a condition as Lord Rāmacandra when banished by the order of His father. Whether in the forest or at home, if one is attached to women this attachment is always troublesome, as shown by the Supreme Personality of Godhead by His personal example.
Of course, this is the material side of strī-saṅgī, but the situation of Lord Rāmacandra is spiritual, for He does not belong to the material world. Nārāyaṇaḥ paro ’vyaktāt: Nārāyaṇa is beyond the material creation. Because He is the creator of the material world, He is not subject to the conditions of the material world. The separation of Lord Rāmacandra from Sītā is spiritually understood as vipralambha, which is an activity of the hlādinī potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead belonging to the śṛṅgāra-rasa, the mellow of conjugal love in the spiritual world. In the spiritual world the Supreme Personality of Godhead has all the dealings of love, displaying the symptoms called sāttvika, sañcārī, vilāpa, mūrcchā and unmāda. Thus when Lord Rāmacandra was separated from Sītā, all these spiritual symptoms were manifested. The Lord is neither impersonal nor impotent. Rather, He is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1], the eternal form of knowledge and bliss. Thus He has all the symptoms of spiritual bliss. Feeling separation from one’s beloved is also an item of spiritual bliss. As explained by Śrīla Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī, rādhā-kṛṣṇa-praṇaya-vikṛtir hlādinī-śaktiḥ: the dealings of love between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are displayed as the pleasure potency of the Lord. The Lord is the original source of all pleasure, the reservoir of all pleasure. Lord Rāmacandra, therefore, manifested the truth both spiritually and materially. Materially those who are attached to women suffer, but spiritually when there are feelings of separation between the Lord and His pleasure potency the spiritual bliss of the Lord increases. This is further explained in Bhagavad-gītā (9.11):
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
One who does not know the spiritual potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead thinks of the Lord as an ordinary human being. But the Lord’s mind, intelligence and senses can never be affected by material conditions. This fact is further explained in the Skanda Purāṇa, as quoted by Madhvācārya:
svarūpo ’sau yato vibhuḥ
ato ’sya rāma ity ākhyā
tasya duḥkhaṁ kuto ’ṇv api
sītām āsīt smarann iva
jñāpanārthaṁ punar nitya-
sambandhaḥ svātmanaḥ śriyāḥ
pratyakṣaṁ tu śriyā sārdhaṁ
rāmo rāmo rāma iti
sarveṣām abhavat tadā
yadā rāmas tv apālayat
It was actually impossible for Rāvaṇa to take away Sītā. The form of Sītā taken by Rāvaṇa was an illusory representation of mother Sītā—maya-sītā. When Sītā was tested in the fire, this māyā-sītā was burnt, and the real Sītā came out of the fire.
A further understanding to be derived from this example is that a woman, however powerful she may be in the material world, must be given protection, for as soon as she is unprotected she will be exploited by Rākṣasas like Rāvaṇa. Here the words vaideha-rāja-duhitari indicate that before mother Sītā was married to Lord Rāmacandra she was protected by her father, Vaideha-rāja. And when she was married she was protected by her husband. Therefore the conclusion is that a woman should always be protected. According to the Vedic rule, there is no scope for a woman’s being independent (asamakṣam), for a woman cannot protect herself independently.
Lord Rāmacandra, whose lotus feet are worshiped by Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva, had assumed the form of a human being. Thus He performed the funeral ceremony of Jaṭāyu, who was killed by Rāvaṇa. The Lord then killed the demon named Kabandha, and after making friends with the monkey chiefs, killing Vāli and arranging for the deliverance of mother Sītā, He went to the beach of the ocean.
When Rāvaṇa kidnapped Sītā, he was obstructed on the way by Jaṭāyu, a large bird. But the powerful Rāvaṇa defeated Jaṭāyu in the fight and cut his wing. When Rāmacandra was searching for Sītā, He found Jaṭāyu almost dead and was informed that Sītā has been carried off by Rāvaṇa. When Jaṭāyu died, Lord Rāmacandra did the duty of a son by performing the funeral ceremony, and then He made friends with the monkeys to deliver Sītādevī.
After reaching the beach, Lord Rāmacandra fasted for three days, awaiting the arrival of the ocean personified. When the ocean did not come, the Lord exhibited His pastimes of anger, and simply by His glancing over the ocean, all the living entities within it, including the crocodiles and sharks, were agitated by fear. Then the personified ocean fearfully approached Lord Rāmacandra, taking all paraphernalia to worship Him. Falling at the Lord’s lotus feet, the personified ocean spoke as follows.
Why the Lord’s punishment through nature is necessary
O all-pervading Supreme Person, we are dull-minded and did not understand who You are, but now we understand that You are the Supreme Person, the master of the entire universe, the unchanging and original Personality of Godhead. The demigods are infatuated with the mode of goodness, the Prajāpatis with the mode of passion, and the lord of ghosts with the mode of ignorance, but You are the master of all these qualities.
The word jaḍa-dhiyaḥ refers to intelligence like that of an animal. A person with such intelligence cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Without being beaten, an animal cannot understand the purpose of a man. Similarly, those who are dull-minded cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but when punished severely by the modes of material nature, they begin to understand Him. A Hindi poet has said:
duḥkha se saba hari bhaje
sukha se bhaje koī
sukha se agar hari bhaje
duḥkha kāthāṅ se haya
When one is distressed he goes to the church or temple to worship the Lord, but when opulent he forgets the Lord. Therefore, punishment by the Lord through material nature is necessary in human society, for without it men forget the supremacy of the Lord due to their dull, blunt intelligence.
Lord Rāmacandra proves His omnipotence
My Lord, You may use my water as You like. Indeed, You may cross it and go to the abode of Rāvaṇa, who is the great source of disturbance and crying for the three worlds. He is the son of Viśravā, but is condemned like urine. Please go kill him and thus regain Your wife, Sītādevī. O great hero, although my water presents no impediment to Your going to Laṅkā, please construct a bridge over it to spread Your transcendental fame. Upon seeing this wonderfully uncommon deed of Your Lordship, all the great heroes and kings in the future will glorify You.
It is said that a son and urine emanate from the same source—the genitals. When a son is a devotee or a great learned person, the seminal discharge for begetting a son is successful, but if the son is unqualified and brings no glory to his family, he is no better than urine. Here Rāvaṇa is compared to urine because he was a cause of disturbances to the three worlds. Thus the ocean personified wanted him killed by Lord Rāmacandra.
One feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Rāmacandra is omnipotence. The Lord can act without regard to material impediments or inconveniences, but to prove that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and was not merely advertised as Godhead or elected by popular vote, He constructed a wonderful bridge over the ocean. Nowadays it has become fashionable to create some artificial God who performs no uncommon activities; a little magic will bewilder a foolish person into selecting an artificial God because he does not understand how powerful God is. Lord Rāmacandra, however, constructed a bridge over the water with stone by making the stone float. This is proof of God’s uncommonly wonderful power. Why should someone be accepted as God without displaying extraordinary potency by doing something never to be done by any common man? We accept Lord Rāmacandra as the Supreme Personality of Godhead because He constructed this bridge, and we accept Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead because He lifted Govardhana Hill when He was only seven years old. We should not accept any rascal as God or an incarnation of God, for God displays special features in His various activities. Therefore, the Lord Himself says in Bhagavad-gītā (4.9):
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” The activities of the Lord are not common; they are all transcendentally wonderful and not able to be performed by any other living being. The symptoms of the Lord’s activities are all mentioned in the śāstras, and after one understands them one can accept the Lord as He is.