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96. Nine Virtues

Parashurama told Rama that his brother was completely mad.  He looked over at Lakshmana who continued to smile back at him with a look that just made him even more furious.

Your brother is foolish!  He may appear in front of us with a fair complexion but there is darkness in his heart.  Was he fed poison as a child instead milk from his mother? He is not like you at all Rama, he is foolish not to consider me as the god of death himself!

Lakshamana said,

You appear to be lost to anger and passion Parashurama…people often do the silliest things when overcome by these emotions.  I am just a young man, in fact, consider me your student.  Put away your anger and shower your kindness upon me.  It’s not as if anger is going to fix this bow anyhow.  You must be tired, why don’t you come and sit down Parashurama.

Lakshmana’s constant teasing of Parashurama made Janaka very nervous.  He said,

Please stop. He is already mad enough.  You are going to cause unnecessary suffering for all of us.  The people of my kingdom are shaking like leaves on a tree in the wind.

But Lakshmana wouldn’t stop, he kept teasing and jibing Parashurama.  The enraged Parashurama was fuming with anger.  The veins on his head looked as if they were about to burst.  The only reason he had not already attacked Lakshmana was out of a reverence for Vishvamitra and because of Shri Rama’s polite request.

Shri Rama raised his hand slowly, signaling to Lakshmana to stop smiling and teasing Parashurama.  He walked over to Parashurama and knelt down with hands in prayer and said,

In all humility I pray that you ignore my brother’s words.  I recognise you as someone who lives with good intention.  As a great man, you should ignore Lakshamana.  Like a bee that buzzes around us which can be annoying, children can often act in the same way.  Saints and Siddhas never find faults with children, they only express love for them.  Besides, it was me who broke the bow.  If you should feel obliged to punish anybody it should be me.  I am ready to accept your punishment whatever it may be, death, imprisonment.  Keep me as your servant if that is what you want.

Even though Rama’s words were pacifying Parashurama’s heart.  His mind was still raging with anger.  How could it not be? Lakshmana was still there grinning away.  He said,

My axe is now filled with anger.  The powerful vibrations of this axe causes queens and maidens throughout the city to have miscarriages out of fear!  It causes suffering just at the thought of it.  How can I hold this powerful weapon and this boy still be allowed to get away with his foolish game.  Thousands of kings have been slaughtered by this axe and today I find myself unable to act.  It is as if my axe has become blunt.  I have never felt compassion in my heart.  Today I feel a warmth within me that is indeed difficult to describe.  But my mind still wants to kill this foolish boy!

Lakshmana bowed his head towards Parashurama and said,

O great sage, although your words appear saintly like sunbeams on a cold day, you obviously consider compassion and kindness as bad things!  If this is what you are like when you are feeling compassionate, heaven forbid, we must see what it is like when you are angry!

Parashurama shouted,

Janaka! Stop this foolish boy at once!  He seems destined to die today!  Take him out of my presence at once!

Lakshmana stepped in front of Janaka and said,

If you close your eyes, not just me, but the entire world will disappear!

Parashurama then turned to Rama and angrily said,

You broke Shiva’s bow and your brother is full of wickedness!  Then you speak these humble words and expect me to show patience?  What trick are you two trying to pull here?  You come to me with hands in prayer but I am not falling for your lies.  Either give up your name Rama in shame or stand up and fight me like a man.  I consider you an enemy of the mighty Lord Shiva, and as such you should prepare to fight.  I am ready to fight both of you right here, before all of these kings.

Rama again bowed to Parashurama and said,

Forgive us my lord.  Lakshamana is at fault for the way he is acting, but you should punish me alone.  I am the one who broke the bow and so deeply offended you. Cease from falling into the lap of anger O great sage.  You are holding the axe and if you wish cut off my head, but do not be angry for even a moment more.  I truly am your servant.  There should never be animosity between a teacher and a student.  Do not give in to anger.  You are a noble brahmin, it is only because you speaking and dressed like a warrior that he spoke in such a rude manner, please forgive him.  You approached us with a bow, axe, and all of these weapons, he didn’t realise your greatness and true nature.  He as any normal warrior would, reacted in a fearless way, ready to do battle.  I know my brother very well.  If you had approached us dressed as an ordinary sage, I am sure he would have placed the dust from your feet on his forehead.  Please show forgiveness to him for he did not know any better.  A brahmana should always exhibit the quality of mercy within his heart.

We are no match for you Parashurama, what comparison is the head to one’s feet?  Even if you compare our names–yours is greater.  Mine is Rama and yours Parashurama.  There is no comparison.  My bow, is simple and basic, yours I can see has the divine thread.  I consider myself to be beneath you in every possible way my lord.  Each of the nine virtues are within you in abundance.  Shama (tranquility), dama (restraint), tapasya (austerties), shaucha (purity), kshama (patience), saralata (simplicity), jyana (knowledge), vijyana (spiritual knowledge) and astikata (faith).

Forgive me O lord, forgive me great sage!

Shri Rama gives here a list of the nine cardinal virtues. This list is also given in the Bhagavad Gita (18.42) where Shri Krishna discusses the ideal nature of a person of spiritual disposition.  Shri Rama himself is giving the example of these virtues in the way he deals with Parashurama’s anger.  He is unaffected by the outward response of Parashurama.  Like all great spiritual beings, he is even willing to die for what he feels is right.  

Lakshmana represents our reactionary mind here, quick to respond to attacks, perhaps it is right for a warrior or soldier to act in this way, almost preparing themselves to fight.  But for those of us who wish and dream of peace, we should follow the example of Rama and the nine qualities he describes.  If we follow these virtues, even in the face of the jaws of death we can hold our heads high and know that we stand for a higher cause.  These virtues are inclinations towards godliness, they are the jewel of culture, religion and tradition and should be cultivated before all else. 

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