The incident of Lord Rama and the Dog

By Shyamasundara Dasa
[The following history from the Valmiki Ramaya is full of import for anyone who wants to be a guru, GBC, temple president or leader in ISKCON or any spiritual institution.]

From Valmiki’s Ramayana Uttara Khandha between chapters 59-60

Part one

Thereafter in the bright morning Sri Rama, of lotus-like eye having performed forenoon rites, took his seat in the Royal Council-chamber along with the Brahmanas, who were masters of the Vedas the priest Vasistha and the sage Kasyapa in order to look into the royal business.(1-2) The royal council (assembly) consisted of ministers, knowers of common practices, legal procedures and other teachers of laws who recite scriptures, diplomats (statesmen), kings and other members of the council.(3) The assembly of Sri Rama, the chief of kings and unwearied in actions looked graceful like the assembly of Indra, Yama and Varuna.

Then Sri Rama said to Laksmana who was seated there and who was characterized by auspicious marks, ‘O Long-armed Laksmana! Go out and call by turn those, who have come with some business’. Having listened to Sri Rama’s order, Laksmana endowed with auspicious marks, going to the palace-gate himself called those who had come with some request. None there came forward saying that he had some request (to make). (5-7)

During the reign of Sri Rama no one was offended by either physical or mental ailment. The earth abounded in all kinds of plants and fully ripe agricultural produce. Thus in His kingdom neither any child nor any young man nor any middle-aged person died. Everything was administered according to ‘Dharma’ (moral law). No hindrance was ever put, While Sri Rama ruled over the kingdom no one was seen coming with any request with folded hands, Laksmana communicated Him all this. (8-10)
Then the gracious-minded Sri Rama addressed the following words to Laksmana, “Go again and find out about those who have come with some request. When the state policy is formulated properly (and executed well), unrighteousness does not obtain anywhere. Therefore all persons protect one another due to the fear from the king (due to the apprehension of royal punishment). My officers protect the subjects like arrows shot by Me. Even then, O long-armed one! Protect the subjects righteously. (11-13)

Thus told (by Sri Rama) Laksmana went out of the royal palace and saw a dog at the gate, which stood there looking at him and repeatedly barking. On seeing him, then the valiant Laksmana asked – ‘O Illustrious one! Tell me fearlessly your problem.’ On hearing Laksmana’s words the dog replied thus. (14-16)

“I can dare tell Sri Rama, who is a refuge to all living beings, who is ever unwearied in action and ensures protection whenever there is occasion for fear.’ (17) On hearing the dog’s speech, Laksmana entered the auspicious royal palace in order to communicate the same to Sri Rama and after informing Him Laksmana came out of the royal palace and said to the dog, “If you have to say some thing, then tell the king about it. (18-19)

Having heard laksmana’s speech the dog said, “Agni (the Fire-god), Indra, Surya (the sun-god) and Vayu (the wind-god) are present in the temples, the royal abode and the houses of Brahmanas. O Laksmana! We, of the lowest origin, are unfit to go there. (20-21) I shall not be able to enter there (the royal palace). King Sri Rama is ‘Dharma.’ He speaks the truth, He is adept in battle-fighting and is devoted to doing good to all the people. (22) Sri Rama knows the appropriate time for the applicators – practice of the six Gunas. He dispenses Justice. He is omniscient, He sees all things. Sri Rama is foremost among those who delight others. (23) He is Soma, He is Death. He is Yama (God of Death). He is Kubera, Agni and Indra, and He is Surya (the sun) and Varuna. (24) Sri Rama is the protector of the subjects. O Laksmana! tell Him, “Without permission, I do not want to enter (the royal palace).’ (25)

(On hearing this) The illustrious and glorious Laksmana having entered the royal abode out of compassion said the following words: (26) ‘O Sri Rama! listen to what I have to say. O delighter of Kausalya! O long-armed one! O lord! According to what you had commanded, I called on those who have come with some business. A dog, which has come with a request is standing at your palace-gate.’ After hearing Laksmana’s speech Sri Rama said: “Let it enter quickly, which is standing there with some requests.’ (27-28)

Part Two

On hearing Sri Rama’s speech, the wise Laksmana, after hurriedly calling the dog, informed Sri Rama about its (the dog’s) arrival, and presented him before Sri Rama, Having seen the dog that had come, Sri Rama said to him, “O dog! Tell me what you have to say, you need not fear at all.’ (1-2)
Thereafter the dog whose skull was shattered saw Sri Rama seated there. Having seen the king, the dog addressed the following speech. (3)

“The king is the creator of all living beings and the king is the leader (of men). The king remains awake, when others are asleep. The king protects the subjects. (4) The king, who is the protector (of all), protects Dharma by pursuing right policy. When the king does not protect, the subjects perish soon. (5) The king is the creator, protector and father of the entire world. The king is the time (sets the trend of the times) and the ‘Yuga’ (a particular age of the world). The king is the whole world. (6) They call it ‘Dharma’, for it sustains (the world). The created beings are sustained by ‘Dharma’. Since it supports the three worlds together with all the movable and immovable things.

(7) He sustains (even) his enemies, puts them on the right path and delights his subjects by ‘Dharma’. Therefore he (his rule) is known as ‘Dharma’. (8) This act of ‘Dharana’ or sustaining is ‘Dharma’ – this is the conclusion. O king Sri Rama, this is the highest ‘Dharma’, which yields reward after death. My view is that nothing is unattainable by ‘Dharma’. (9) Charity, compassion, honoring noble man, straight-forwardness in behavior. O Rama! This is the ‘Dharma’ in this life and the life hereafter that accrues from protecting the subjects. (10)

O Rama, strict observer of vows! You are the authority par-excellence. You are conversant with the ‘Dharma’, which is practiced by good people. You are the supreme abode of ‘Dharmas’(Duties) and an ocean of virtues, as it were. I spoke out of my ignorance. Bowing my head I pray. You should not get angry on this account.’ (11-13)

On this Sri Rama told the dog:- “Tell me fearlessly what I should do for you. Do not delay, On hearing Rama’s speech the dog addressed the following words: “The king should acquire territory by ‘Dharma’ and should protect it by ‘Dharma’. The king comes to be recognized as a refuge and dispels all fear. (14-15) Having realized this, O Rama! listen what you have to do for me. There is a mendicant, named Sarvarthasiddha, who lives in the house of a Brahmana. Without any cause he struck at me! sinless though I was. (16) On hearing this, Sri Rama sent the gatekeeper, who brought the learned Brahmana Sarvarthasiddha by name. Thus the eminent Brahmana, endowed with splendor seeing Sri Rama there asked him, “O sinless Sri Rama! Tell me what do you want me to do for you? (17-18)

Thus told by the Brahmana, Sri Rama addressed the following words, “O Brahmana! You hurt the dog. What ill did it do to you, for which you struck it with a stick? Anger is a deadly enemy, anger is a friend-faced enemy. Anger is a highly sharp sword. Anger takes away everything (destroys all virtues). Whichever sacrifices a person performs and whatever in charity he gives, all that he destroys by anger. Therefore one should give up anger and control like a charioteer, one’s senses, running forth towards their objects like very wicked horses, after turning them away from their objects (19-23)

A man should do good to the people around himself by thought, by action and by speech. He should not hurt anybody. No sin, therefore, will attach to him. The harm, which is wrought by evil thoughts, are not done by a sharp sword or a serpent trampled by foot or an ever wrathful enemy. One who has learnt discipline, even his temperament can not be changed. Even if some one conceals his (evil) nature, it is surely betrayed by his action. (24-26)

Thus asked by Sri Rama, who was unwearied in actions, the Brahmana Sarvarthasiddha said this in Sri Rama’s presence. (27) ‘While I was going about for begging food the appropriate time for begging had passed, I was overpowered by anger, so I beat the dog. The dog, which was standing on the road (blocking my way) was asked by me to move away. Not moving at all it stood in the middle of the road in an odd manner. (28-29) Overtaken by hunger, O Rama! I beat it angrily. O King of kings! Punish me, a guilty person. O chief of kings! Having been punished by you, I would not be afraid of hell. Thereafter Sri Rama asked all the members of the assembly, ‘What should be done to him, and what punishment should be meted out to him? For if proper punishment is given (to the guilty), the subjects are protected. (30-31)

Bhrgu, Angira, Kutsa and others, Vasistha along with Kasyapa, eminent teachers of laws, ministers and interpreters of the Vedas – these and many other scholars were present there. All of them – the masters of scriptures and those who were well-versed in state affairs told Sri Rama that a Brahmana is not to be awarded capital punishment, it is declared by experts in scriptures. (32-34)

Then all the hermits addressed Sri Rama in following words, “A King holds sway over everyone. O Sri Rama! Specially You, who is eternal god Visnu, are the ruler of the three worlds. (35-36) When all of them had addressed thus, the dog said as follows “If you are pleased with me, O Rama, and if you are to bestow on me a boon (then listen to me) O Valiant One! You asked me what you should do for me, and promised (to do what I would request you to do). So make him O King! a ‘Kulapati’ as promised by you. Your Majesty! make him ‘Kulapati’ of Kalanjara Matha. On hearing this Sri Rama consecrated him as Kulapati. (37-39)

Thus honored, the happy Brahmana went away riding an elephant-back. Then the ministers smilingly with astonishment, said to Sri Rama, “He has been given a boon. O resplendent one. This is not a curse. Thus told by the ministers Sri Rama said “You do not know the truth about the course of actions. The dog knows the reason (and will tell why the Brahmana had been made Kulapati).

On being asked thus by Sri Rama the dog addressed the following speech. “I (In my previous birth) was the Kulapati of the same place (Kalanjara Matha). Partaking of the remains of sacrificial food, O Rama! I would be engaged in worshipping gods and Brahmanas and gave to the male and maid-servants their due. I had a love for good things I would protect the property dedicated to gods. I was modest and well-behaved and was engaged in doing good to all living beings. Even then I have been reduced to this wretched state and lowest position. O Rama! therefore such a Brahmana, who is irascible, who has given up his ‘Dharma’ and who is engaged in harming others, who is hot-tempered, ruthless, harsh, foolish (ignorant) and irreligious will lead to the downfall of fourteen generations. (40-46)

“Therefore, one should not in any circumstances become a Kulapati. Only, he should be made to look after gods, cows and Brahmanas, whom one would wish to condemn to go to hell along with sons, cattle and relatives. (47)

One who takes away the property of the Brahmanas, gods, women and children and takes back again what has been given away in charity, perishes along with one’s all dear ones. O Sri Rama! One who takes away the property belonging to the Brahmanas and the gods, soon goes to the fearful hell known as ‘Avici’ one who takes away even mentally the property belonging to the gods and the Brahmanas, goes down from one hell to another. On hearing the speech (of the dog) the eyes of Sri Rama opened widely due to wonder, the dog, too possessed of luster, went to place from where it had come. It was a high minded soul in its former birth but on being born (as a dog) it has been spoiled. The illustrious one sought death by abstaining from taking food in Varanasi. (48-52)

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