“As long as the sunshine is there, our eyes are useful to a certain extent. But in the absence of sunshine, the eyes are useless. Lord Shri Krishna, being the primeval Lord, the Supreme Truth, is compared to the sun. Without Him all our knowledge is either false or partial.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.11.9 Purport)
In the material world, every device or machine has a key component that defines its existence and makes it operate. Without these key components, these devices fail to operate and become utterly useless.
The automobile was one of the great inventions of the twentieth century. Able to transport people from place to place in a very short amount of time, it grew in popularity very quickly. Nowadays it is the preferred method of transportation for people living in industrialized nations. A car, just like the horse and buggy before it, requires wheels in order for it to work. Without wheels, a car cannot go anywhere. If we get a flat tire, we immediately need to replace it, for just having one malfunctioning wheel can stop a car dead in its tracks. The tires and wheels are so important that race car drivers regularly change them during races so that they can maintain the optimal performance of their car. Without wheels, an automobile is nothing but a hunk of shiny metal that just sits still, not being used by anyone.
A vina is a stringed instrument that is plucked, and it is very popular in India. It is the instrument of choice for the great Narada Muni. Narada is a rishi, or great sage, who is completely dedicated to serving the Supreme Lord Krishna. On one occasion, he was cursed by Daksha, one of the progenitors of man, to never be able to live in one place for more than three days at a time. Because of this, Narada Muni is always travelling the three worlds, providing spiritual instruction to those who need it. He was the spiritual master of the compiler of the Vedas, Vyasadeva. He was also the spiritual master of Maharishi Valmiki. In fact, he transformed Valmiki from a rogue thief into a true saint and expert poet. Narada always carries his vina with him, for he is always singing the glories of Lord Krishna. The strings are the key component of a vina, for the instrument requires the strings to be plucked in order for it to produce music. Without the strings, it is nothing more than a finely shaped piece of wood.
When Lord Krishna incarnated as Lord Rama during the Treta Yuga, He voluntarily accepted the punishment of exile from His kingdom of Ayodhya. The Lord was ordered to spend fourteen years in the forest, living as a recluse, by His father Maharaja Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya. The Lord happily agreed to the request and His wife Sita Devi also insisted on accompanying Him. Sita was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, who serves as God’s wife in the spiritual world. As the wife is considered the better half of man, so Sita was considered the better half of Rama. She took personally any order given to her husband. If He was to live as a homeless person for fourteen years, then as His wife, she felt it was her duty to suffer the same fate as her husband.
“The Vina without strings does not sound, and the car without wheels does not move, so although having a hundred sons, a woman without her husband cannot attain happiness.” (Sita Devi speaking to Kausalya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 39)
Just prior to leaving for the forest, Rama’s mother Kausalya gave some words of advice to her daughter-in-law. She requested Sita to always remain by Rama’s side and to always serve and honor Him while living in the forest. Sita obviously knew all of this since she was a perfect devotee of God. Devotees, through their sincere service to the Lord, acquire all knowledge relevant to the codes of dharma, or religiosity. After listening to her mother-in-law, Sita humbly replied that she was well acquainted with the proper duties of a wife. Just as a car cannot function without wheels, and a vina cannot product music without strings, so a wife cannot have happiness without her husband. This is the Vedic tenet relating to marriage. Once married, a husband and wife become one person. There is no concept of independence. If the husband is forced to go to hell, the wife must follow. They equally share the merits and demerits of their action. Knowing this, it is in the best interest of the wife to faithfully serve the husband, so that he may be very pious and devoted to the highest dharma, devotional service to Krishna. If a husband becomes a top-notch devotee, the wife is guaranteed to ascend to Krishnaloka or Vaikunthaloka, along with her husband in the afterlife.
Though Sita was referring to happiness in relation to husbands and wives, what she was really saying is that we living entities cannot achieve true happiness without having God in our life. We may have all the material facilities available to us such as a nice car, a large bank balance, a high-definition television, or the latest music player, but these things can never bring about true happiness. The same goes for our family life. We may have a very beautiful wife and wonderful children, but in the end these things are temporary. Our relationship with God is absolute and permanent. The bond we share with Him remains alive even after death.
Material life means constantly hankering and lamenting. These two things are going on constantly and they are the cause of all our pain and suffering. Elevation in spiritual life means putting an end to hankering and lamenting.
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)
Sita Devi could feel no happiness without her husband, who was God Himself. While in the forest, she was kidnapped by the evil demon Ravana, who held her captive in his kingdom for many months. She was able to persevere through such a horrific condition by always keeping her mind fixed on Lord Rama. We may not always have the benefit of personal association with the Lord, but thinking of Him, remembering His pastimes, and chanting His names are equal substitutes. God and His names, forms, attributes, and pastimes are all non-different from Him. Simply by remembering, we can have association with God.
Sita Devi gave us the path to true, eternal happiness. Our relationship with Krishna is what defines us, for without Him, we cannot have any happiness. In the Vedic system, the brahmanas, or priestly class of men, are referred to as dvija, or “twice-born”. Our first birth is when we come out of the womb of our mother. The second and more important birth is when we take initiation into spiritual life from a guru, or spiritual master. Real initiation means sincerely devoting oneself to serving Krishna. Pledging our unending devotion to God, we can all take our second birth and begin our real life. Krishna is our dearmost friend and inner life partner. He is always with us, we just need to recognize and love Him. We spirit souls are meant to be eternally blissful and full of knowledge.