Friday, June 26, 2009

Right By Your Side

Sita Rama “Regarded by her husband, Sita of dark eyes, and intent upon her husband’s welfare, followed Him to the entrance and said, ‘I shall be ministering to you, seeing you initiated, engaged in ceremonies, wearing excellent deer skin for cloth and carrying horns in my hands.’” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 21)

Lord Rama, the incarnation of God in the Treta Yuga, was all set to be installed as the new king of Ayodhya by His father, Maharaja Dashratha. On the day set for the Lord’s installation, a messenger came to the palace where He and His wife lived and informed Him that the king wanted to see Him. Unaware that the plans had changed and that Bharata, Rama’s younger brother, was instead going to be installed as the new king, the Lord set off for His father’s palace. Just prior to leaving, He informed His wife, Sita Devi, that He would be right back and to not worry. In response, Sita Devi addressed her husband as noted above.

Sita’s statement to her husband represents the one thing every person wants from their spouse, support. As long as the wife is supportive, the husband is happy and vice versa. Sadly, the level of support shown by Sita is not always present in marriages. Many times, it is seen that a husband or wife can become jealous when their spouse suddenly comes upon good fortune. This is quite natural as we all have a little bit of envy inside of us. According to the Vedas, mankind suffers from four distinct defects, those being the propensity to cheat, the tendency to be easily illusioned, possessing imperfect senses, and being prone to committing mistakes. Greed, wrath, envy, and hypocrisy also naturally exist in everyone in varying degrees.

In any close relationship such as a marriage, when one person’s fortunes suddenly take a turn for the better, the other person often feels slighted and left out. We all want to be important and make a difference. Each of us is special and knowing this, we want to matter in life. When we are involved in a close relationship with a loved one, we want to think of ourselves as the only source of pleasure for our significant other. Being in love or loving someone means surrendering everything unto them, be they a husband, wife, or significant other. Thus the lover voluntarily puts themselves in a subordinate position, requiring the reciprocation of love in order to feel happiness. Put into this dependent position, we hope that our loved one feels the same way that we do and is as equally dependent on us for their happiness. If our spouse or significant other suddenly becomes rich or famous, it is natural for us to worry that maybe they will derive more happiness from their newfound fame than they will from their relationship with us.

With Sita Devi, none of these feelings existed. Her husband was on the precipice of something really great. Lord Rama was born into one of the most famous dynasties in history, the Ikshvakus. They were all very pious rulers, and to take birth in that line was considered a great boon. Rama was the eldest and most cherished son of King Dashratha, so ascension to the throne was inevitable and eagerly anticipated by the citizens of Ayodhya. On the day set for her husband’s installation, Sita reassured Him that she would be there right by His side, supporting Him throughout the ceremony. She wanted to let Him know that she would always be there for Him and that they would share this momentous occasion together.

According to the Vedic system, once married, a husband and wife equally share the same fate in this life and the next. They are considered to be one person. Even God, in His various forms, is always worshiped alongside His pleasure potency, who acts as His wife or eternal consort. Lord Krishna is worshiped with Shrimati Radharani, Lord Rama is worshipped with Sita Devi, Narayana (Vishnu) is worshiped with Lakshmi, and so on. Since they both share the same fate, it is in the best interest of the wife to make sure that the husband is always happy and performing his religious duties. For the husband, it is imperative that the wife always remain protected and feel safe, so that they can together perform their prescribed duties as householders. Those in the grihastha ashrama, householder life, are required to perform many Vedic sacrficies, or yajnas, as part of their samskaras (sacraments or religious training). Since they are in the only stage of life where fruitive activity is sanctioned, they are required to perform sacrifices and to be charitable to the rest of society. Sita Devi was well acquainted with this system, so she was ready for all the specific aspects of the installation ceremony. Since she was God’s wife, she was pious right from her very birth and all her actions in life were exemplary.

Aside from acting as an ideal wife, Sita showed us the example of how to serve all of God’s needs. The Vedas refer to the Supreme as atmarama, meaning one who is self-satisfied. He is in need of nothing, but through His mercy, He voluntarily places Himself in situations where His devotees can serve Him. This was the case with Sita Devi. He wanted everyone to see just how great a devotee she was. In order to glorify her and give her everlasting fame, He created situations where her dedication could be put on display.

When we see Lord Krishna’s forms, especially that of Lord Vishnu, He always appears very opulent and beautifully dressed. His body is adorned with the Kaustubha gem, earrings, a flower garland, and other such paraphernalia. He is God after all so naturally He will be very beautiful, but actually the Lord appears this way due to the desire of His devotees. Just as car owners take very good care of their cars, washing them regularly and making them look very nice, the Lord’s devotees love Him so much that they put His happiness and pleasure above their own.  They want Him to have all the fame and glory and for Him to always be adorned with beautiful paraphernalia. In the spiritual world, Sita Devi is known as Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune. Sometimes the Lord is addressed as Madhava or Shripati, meaning the husband of the goddess of fortune. Lakshmi Narayana She is always by Lord Vishnu’s side, massaging His feet and attending to His every need. Appearing on earth in the form of Sita, she assumed the same role. We would all be well served to follow her wonderful example and pledge our support to the Lord and His devotees. Though God is not always physically present before us, He deputes His pure devotees to serve as His bona fide representatives. By always keeping our minds on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord and by offering our services to the great devotees like Hanumanji, Tulsidas, Shrila Prabhupada and others, we perform the highest service for the Lord.