Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Good Wife

Sita Rama “It is that you speak to me thus, thinking me, no doubt, mean minded. I cannot but laugh at your words.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand Sec 27)

A good wife, who loves her husband very much, is typically found to be very critical of him. A loving wife tends to look at her husband as helpless and not knowing the rules of propriety and proper conduct, similar to the way parents view their children. Because of this love, a wife is never afraid to correct her husband or even to make fun of him if she thinks he is behaving improperly.

Men typically get very annoyed at such behavior from their wives. The idea of the “nagging” wife is very common and it forms the basis of most stereotypical male-female humor. Any opposition from their wives is viewed as nagging. Men love to get together with their friends and tell stories about their wives and how they are constantly haggled by them to clean up their act. Men don’t like to be criticized in their choice of clothing, or being told how late they can stay out when hanging out with their friends, or even questioned on the purchases they make. Husbands like to feel in control and like to be supported in their decisions.

Yet in the best of marriages, especially those that have lasted a long time, we see just the opposite situation, where husbands and wives freely and openly argue with each other. In reality, a wife who nags is a wife who loves. When we love someone, we want more for them than we want for ourselves. At the same time, in a loving relationship, there is a strong feeling of attachment and closeness between couples. The more we love someone and the more comfortable we are around them, the more likely we are to be open to criticizing them. If we see a stranger doing something wrong and behaving improperly, we aren’t likely to say anything. We think, “Oh I don’t know this person. Let them be, I will just mind my own business.” Yet if our loved ones act improperly, be it our children, parents, or significant others, we won’t hesitate for a moment to correct them. Often misidentified as unnecessary criticism, such interjection is representative of the highest form of love.

Lord Rama, the incarnation of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appeared on this earth during the Treta Yuga, was all set to be installed as the new king of Ayodhya by His father, Maharaja Dashratha. On the morning of His installation, He was called to His father’s royal palace. Leaving His wife Sita Devi at home, Rama speedily repaired to the king’s quarters. Upon arriving, He was given the news that the plans had changed, and that Rama’s younger brother Bharata was to be installed as the new king instead. This was all due to Dashratha’s youngest wife, Kaikeyi, who had called in favors that were due her from the king. Also by her request, Rama was to be exiled from the kingdom and forced to live in the forest for fourteen years. Lord Rama, being God Himself, was the ultimate renunciate, so He had no problem whatsoever with the new plans.

Lakshmi Narayana Returning to His palace, Rama informed Sita of the news. While explaining the situation, He also told her not to come with Him to the forest. He warned her about the dangers lurking in the woods and told her that dharma, or religiosity, decreed that she should stay in Ayodhya and serve the elders and the new king. Sita responded by laughing at her husband. Sita Devi was the incarnation of the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi. Lakshmi is always serving Narayana, who is Krishna Himself residing in the spiritual world. So when Lakshmi appeared on this earth as Sita, she was married to Lord Rama and completely dedicated to Him. Being a loving wife, she knew no other truth than Rama. The idea of being separated from her husband seemed outright preposterous. She immediately dismissed this idea just at the mere mention of it. When we feel very strongly about something or someone, we project our feelings onto other people, meaning we find it difficult to imagine that someone else doesn’t feel the same way that we do. This applies to foods that we like, our favorite movies, or even to songs that we enjoy. Since our feelings are so strong, we naturally assume people think the same way that we do. Sita loved Rama so much that the idea of being separated from Him made no sense at all. Naturally she assumed that her Lord felt the same way. So when she heard Rama suggesting separation for fourteen years, she naturally laughed at Him. “Why are you being ridiculous? My life is you and only you. You know that! Why are you pretending that you don’t know that? Have you lost your mind? There’s no way I’m going to live in this kingdom or anywhere else without you.” These were the thoughts that went through her mind. A good wife is always the first one to point out her husband’s momentary lapses of insanity, so Sita was perfect in this regard. The wife is the better half, and Sita proved it by her devotion to Rama.

Now Lord Rama is flawless so there wasn’t actually anything wrong with His suggestion that Sita remain in the kingdom. His love for Sita was equal to her love for Him, and He was just trying to protect her. She was the most beautiful woman in the three worlds, born and raised as a princess. Forest life would be very difficult for anybody, let alone one as lovely as herself. Rama was acting out of pure love by dissuading her from going to the forest. This is the relationship between God and His devotees. The devotees are always thinking of God’s interests and God reciprocates. These are the loving exchanges that take place in the spiritual world. We are eternally grateful to Lord Rama and Sita Devi for bringing that same love to this material world, allowing us to take pleasure in their pastimes and learn from their example.