5. Parashurama, the Vengeful Warrior

Parashurama, Raja Ravi Varma before 1920

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Chapter 5

Parashurama, the Vengeful Warrior

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Rama, now full of rage, stole off in the night, leaving that settlement forever. He traveled along the path to the next village, and from there he went on to find soldiers.

To Rama, all the soldiers around were acting for the benefit of evil. He knew that was not how it had to be. Soldiers could act in defense of their people and their country. But in this age, they were acting to support the greed of kings and nobility, those called the “kshatriyas,” who were bent on conquest for the sake of their greed.

Rama set off single-handed to destroy the armies around him. He started by finding the weapons he would need to attack them. He would fight them with whatever he found at hand. And he would defeat them. At any rate, that was his plan.

He was thinking irrationally, but the word irrational has different meanings, and this should be kept in mind. For a person who has the highly developed mind and soul to support it, irrationality does not mean insanity, it simply means that the process does not include reasoning and logic. Without those things, the spirit can acquire its understanding of what to do directly from the energy of the universe.

Once his general plan was set in his mind, he set about more logically working on the strategy of how an individual takes on the armies of all kingdoms around him. And the plan Rama developed was one suited to the abilities of a highly skilled warrior, a Mahamaharathi.

Rama started on the premise that it was not necessary to kill anyone. It was only necessary to render them incapable of fighting. One example of how to do this had been provided by Masumi. If Rama could do to a soldier what that innocent young woman had done to her son, out of the overwhelming love she had for him, that soldier would be injured to the point of having no use for combat. But he could return home in a condition that was still valuable to the people who had raised him and to the children he would raise. The loss of a hand or a part of a foot was better than the loss of life that was happening on a regular basis in the field.

Having achieved that understanding without reason, irrationally, Rama reasoned about it. It was reasoning impelled by anger and painful memory, but it had the guidance he had received as his soul searched for ways to deal with the harsh realities of the times in which he lived.

If every soldier lost the use of a hand or foot, every soldier would return home. And while the soldier might never be compensated for that loss, even in his injured state he would be able to compensate his village for the loss it suffered by his being taken away. He could not only father children, he could also raise them. He might or might not be able to do heavy and important physical work, but he could certainly provide the love and guidance of a father.

If all the soldiers returned home, even in a somewhat debilitated state, it would mean that the nations could prosper based on their own production. They would no longer have to steal from each other to be wealthy. And so every nation could be wealthier. In fact the poorest nation could be wealthier than the wealthiest of the current regime, because wealth would be based on production, instead of invasion, pillage, and destruction.

Moreover, Rama could see that he did not have to attack every soldier. Defeating an army does not require defeating each person in it. It only requires that the army be rendered incapable of functioning effectively. Each army had its strengths and its weaknesses, and any army can be made useless by reduction of the most vulnerable of the strengths it depended upon.

If an army’s strength is in its archers, then it is sufficient to render the archers useless to the army. Similarly, an army can be made incapable of operating if it depends on its cavalry and the cavalry cannot function. Each army has its vulnerability. And each vulnerability carries its own fatal flaw.

Furthermore, all armies have one single type of weakness in common, because no army is stronger than the thinking of its leadership. Rama clearly understood that no leaders can think wisely if its intelligence is clouded. If it is fed bad information, the leadership of an army is rendered unable to act in accord with its own goals.

Giving an army bad information can be as simple as compromising its sentries and allowing whatever would happen next to take place. And rendering sentries useless can be as simple as making them distrust one another.

Knowing these things, Rama launched his first attack. Since he knew how to be invisible, he was able to enter a camp without causing any alarm. He went in at night without disturbing the watchful sentries. He went in among a group of sleeping soldiers, and he took an axe, a spear, a bow, and arrows.

On his way out of the camp, he saw two sentries close together. They had just finished talking, and now were facing away from each other a few feet apart. Rama passed between them, and with his axe, he cut deeply into the tendon at the ankle of one. As that man cried out in pain, the other turned, and Rama brought the axe down on his foot, injuring him badly enough that he would never walk normally again.

Rama did not leave the camp. Instead, he turned back into it. The cries of the sentries brought other soldiers on the run, and as the these men started to reach their fallen fellows, Rama threw the spear in among them, wounding the arm of one severely.

The men soldiers reacted badly to being attacked from within the camp, and soon they were fighting other soldiers who were arriving behind them. They could not identify each other easily in the night, and were too confused to be able to achieve any order.

Rama walked into the countryside.

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“Just out of curiosity,” Justus asked, “did he do this all at night because he planned a night attack? You know, did he plan for the soldiers to attack each other in the night? Or is it just that invisibility is easier in the dark?”

“He probably did it simply as it presented itself to be done,” Tom answered. “After all, that’s the way Hindu deities act, isn’t it, Gus?”

“Often it is,” August answered. “Sometimes they plan things pretty carefully. Sometimes they even do that in groups, planning together. But a lot of the time, they just take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself. It is a pretty efficient way of acting, kind of like traveling on a river. If you want to go downstream, you can just sit on a raft; the only time you need to put out a lot of effort is when you are going against the flow.”

“Well, this invisibility thing bothers me,” Justus asserted.

“Why?” asked a voice. “A lot of people spend their entire lives being invisible.” It was Dora Snyder, who had taken a seat next to Justus without his noticing.

August, seeing Justus in slightly shocked surprise, said, “Yes, and those are the people you have to look out for.”

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The next night, an almost identical attack happened at a camp about twenty-five miles away, in a different kingdom. Between kingdoms, communications were so bad that it took a week before the leadership in either country learned about the attack on the other. By the time that happened, two more attacks had happened in other lands.

These attacks, which injured only about a dozen soldiers in total, show clearly the effects of Rama’s overarching strategy. Every one of four kingdoms found it necessary to increase security at its military camps. This meant that in every case soldiers were taken from other duties to act as sentries. In the tiny, county-sized kingdoms we are talking about, that had an appreciable effect on the numbers of men available for combat.

Also, the kings and military leaders of these kingdoms started to communicate with each other. They felt that they were compelled to search countrysides for the insurrection they believed had risen against all of them. They could see that the attacks were similar, so they correctly surmised that a single person could be planning them all. They also thought there must be a number of people involved in the attacks. They had no idea how many people they were up against, and this frightened them more than a little.

They sent out cavalry on patrols, looking for armed bands of resistance. The patrols, as they moved through the countryside, were vulnerable to further attacks. At first these came as the soldiers cooked, ate, or slept. Attacks were made on stragglers, as well, and these were most often performed by Rama with his bow. In the end, the cavalries of the petty kingdoms were very exposed, very vulnerable, and not at all effective. As they lost riders, more had to be assigned to duty.

The parties that passed into villages to conscript boys were especially vulnerable. The sizes of conscription parties had to be increased to provide greater security. It was not enough, however, as Rama was well aware of the desire of the boys to get away from the armies. Repeatedly, he released them and challenged the pursuers with his bow and arrows. Pursuers did not need to be blocked long for young men on the run to escape.

Amidst all the confusion, the kingdoms found they had to devote increasing numbers of soldiers to internal security. Increasing numbers of soldiers ran off, and the runaways were supported by ordinary country folk. Recruitments were getting ineffective. Passive resistance from the population was growing and becoming active.

In time, it actually became necessary for the petty kingdoms to start communicating regularly. They began sharing information and strategic understanding. They understood that only a small group of kingdoms, geographically bunched together, were being attacked, and this led all of them to be vulnerable, as a group, to attack from those whose strengths were not diminished. They had to be able to act together, or at least for mutual purpose, to counter the attacks Rama was bringing against them.

They did not know until later that those other kingdoms, which Rama had not attacked, were having troubles of their own. While the kingdoms had been largely out of communication with each other, the ordinary folk in them had not. When a border runs along a river, the farmers who work on its opposite banks do not simply stop talking because the kings have. The resistance in one kingdom informed similar resistance beyond its borders.

As we can see, the strength of an army can be brought to nothing by compromising only a fraction of it. And so the wars began to subside. Rama was winning his single-handed war against all the kingdoms, and part of the reason for that was because he was not fighting alone.

Anyone with sense could see that people who did not take sides were actually choosing to be victims. So the common folk acted pretty much in common, and in favor of a quiet life in which they could earn an honest day’s wages for an honest day’s work.

Perhaps Rama could have won his war, except for one thing. Just like all of us, whether we be great gods, like Rama, or little gods, like most people, Rama was human. And like all human beings, he was vulnerable to something that would bring about his death. In his case, it was Destiny. Fate had decreed the extent of Rama’s successes, and he was not allowed to surpass that limit.

One day, as he walked alone, he came across a young bull, contentedly grazing on soft grass. Rama walked past carefully, but as he did, the bull suddenly turned violent. Perhaps he was bitten by an insect. The bull gored Rama with no warning at all. Rama had a deep wound in his abdomen. Clutching it, he crawled into a cavity under a fallen log, and there he died.

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“Why did Fate decide he had to die? It seems like he could have been so successful, if he had just been allowed to carry on,” Dora asked.

“There was more to this story than anyone knew at the time,” Tom suggested. “Maybe more lessons needed to be learned, both by Vishnu and by the people of the little kingdoms.”

“But Vishnu was a god,” Justus protested. “What lessons did he need to learn?”

August replied to this. “Remember, Hindu scripture is full of examples of gods failing. They could be tricked, outsmarted, or even defeated in battle. They are not omnipotent, or omniscient, or infinite. If a Mahamaharathi can defeat 207,360,000 ordinary soldiers, can he defeat 207,360,001?”

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