In the sacred narrative of the Ramayana, which illuminates the divine pastimes of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we find a shining example of devotion and dharma in the character of Bharata. While Lord Rama, Sita Devi, and Hanuman often take center stage in our discussions, Bharata’s role offers profound lessons in selfless service, unwavering devotion, and adherence to spiritual principles that are central to the teachings of Krishna consciousness.
Bharata’s life and actions, as described in Valmiki’s Ramayana and elucidated by our Vaishnava acharyas, serve as a beacon for all aspiring devotees. His story reminds us of the words of Srila Prabhupada, who often emphasized that a Vaishnava’s qualities are more important than his birth or position. Bharata exemplifies this truth, showing that true nobility lies not in royal birth but in one’s character and devotion to the Lord.

Bharata’s example teaches us that true greatness lies not in material achievements or positions, but in the depth of our devotion and the purity of our service to the Lord.

The pivotal Ayodhya episode in the Ramayana presents a situation that tests Bharata’s faith, duty, and character. When Lord Rama is exiled to the forest due to the machinations of Kaikeyi, Bharata is initially unaware, being away in his maternal uncle’s kingdom. Upon his return and discovery of the events, Bharata’s reaction reveals the depth of his devotion and righteousness.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam, Lord Kapila teaches that a pure devotee’s mind is always absorbed in the Lord’s service (Srimad Bhagavatam 2.8.6):

“A pure devotee of the Lord whose heart has once been cleansed by the process of devotional service never relinquishes the lotus feet of Lord Krishna, for they fully satisfy him, as a traveller is satisfied at home after a troubled journey.”

Bharata exemplifies this teaching. Despite the apparent opportunity to claim the kingdom, his mind remains fixed on serving Lord Rama. He immediately sets out to the forest, not to enjoy the kingdom in Rama’s absence, but to beg Him to return and assume His rightful place.

This action of Bharata teaches us a fundamental principle of bhakti-yoga – the devotee’s only desire is to serve the Lord, not to enjoy separately from Him. In the words of Srila Prabhupada, “As by watering the root of a tree one automatically distributes water to the leaves and branches, so by acting in Kṛṣṇa consciousness one can render the highest service to everyone – namely self, family, society, country, humanity, etc. If Kṛṣṇa is satisfied by one’s actions, then everyone will be satisfied.” (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 2.41 Purport)

Bharata paying obeisances to Lord Rama

When Lord Rama, adhering to His father’s word, refuses to return before the fourteen years of exile are complete, Bharata’s response showcases the pinnacle of humility and surrender. He accepts Lord Rama’s sandals as representatives of the Lord and vows to rule only as a regent, awaiting Rama’s return.

This act of Bharata carrying Rama’s sandals on his head and ruling as a mere caretaker resonates with the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who instructed us to be “humbler than a blade of grass” (trinad api sunicena). It also reflects the mood of a pure devotee as described in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (Antya 20.22):

“One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honour yet is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.”

Bharata’s austerity during the fourteen years of Rama’s exile – living simply, wearing bark cloth, and maintaining a brahmachari lifestyle – further illustrates his deep commitment to serving the Lord’s mission. This reminds us of Lord Chaitanya’s teaching that a devotee should not hanker for material opulence but should be satisfied with whatever Krishna provides.

Bharata’s life and actions, as described in Valmiki’s Ramayana and elucidated by our Vaishnava acharyas, serve as a beacon for all aspiring devotees.

Bharata’s life offers numerous lessons for devotees navigating the complexities of the modern world:

  • Dedication to Spiritual Goals: Just as Bharata remained committed to serving Lord Rama despite challenging circumstances, we must remain dedicated to our spiritual practices and goals, regardless of material obstacles.
  • Selfless Service: Bharata’s willingness to forgo personal comfort and position for the sake of dharma teaches us the importance of selfless service in devotional life.
  • Humility in Leadership: By ruling as a mere representative of Lord Rama, Bharata shows how true leadership in Krishna consciousness is about being an instrument of the Lord’s will, not asserting our own importance.
  • Acceptance of the Lord’s Plan: Bharata’s acceptance of Rama’s decision to complete the exile demonstrates how devotees should accept the Lord’s arrangement, even when it differs from our personal desires.
  • Spiritual Wisdom in Practice: Bharata’s understanding of the soul’s eternal nature reminds us to base our decisions and actions on spiritual principles, not bodily considerations.
Bharata taking Lord Rama's sandals

Bharata’s Enduring Legacy

As we reflect on Bharata’s role in the Ramayana, we see a devotee whose life embodies the highest principles of Krishna consciousness. His unwavering devotion, selfless service, and spiritual wisdom continue to inspire devotees across yugas.

In our own spiritual journey, we can look to Bharata as a role model of how to remain fixed in devotional service amidst life’s challenges. His example teaches us that true greatness lies not in material achievements or positions, but in the depth of our devotion and the purity of our service to the Lord.

By meditating on Bharata’s qualities and striving to incorporate them into our lives, we can deepen our own Krishna consciousness. May his inspiring example guide us in our pursuit of pure devotional service, helping us to become instruments of the Lord’s will in this world.

As we navigate the complexities of Kali-yuga, let us remember Bharata’s example and strive to cultivate the same spirit of selfless devotion. By doing so, we can play our part in Lord Chaitanya’s mission of spreading Krishna consciousness throughout the world, bringing the eternal truths exemplified by devotees like Bharata to every town and village.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

TAGS: Devotee | Lessons | Values | Vedas | Vedic History