Monday, July 6, 2009

The Perfect Marriage

Marriage of Sita and Rama “Then bringing the beautifully ornamented Sita near the fire and placing her before Lord Rama, Maharaja Janaka spoke to Rama and said, ‘Take this, my daughter Sita, as your partner in the observance of all duties, and do take her hand and place it by yours. May she always be pious and devoted to you, and always follow you like your own shadow.’ (Valmiki Ramayana, Bala Kanda, Sec 73)

When Lord Krishna incarnated on earth as Lord Rama, He accepted the goddess of fortune herself, Sita Devi as His wife. Sita was the daughter of the extremely pious King Janaka of Mithila. On a previous occasion, Janaka had been given a sacred bow of Lord Shiva. Since he held both the bow and his daughter in high regard, Janaka decided that whoever would be able to lift and string the bow would win Sita’s hand in marriage. At the occasion of Sita’s svayamvara (ceremony where a groom is chosen from a list of eligible suitors), Lord Rama not only lifted the bow, but He broke it as well. In this way, He won Sita’s hand in marriage.

Like most Vedic sacrifices, a marriage ceremony takes place in the presence of a fire. In the above referenced verse, King Janaka is asking Rama to accept Sita as His wife, and wishing for his daughter to be forever devoted to her husband. In doing so, Janaka here is describing the dharma, or religious duties, of a wife in marriage. The Vedas tell us that the prime duty of a wife is for her to faithfully serve her husband. The husband in turn is to provide complete protection for his wife. This way, the couple can live happily and peacefully, each equally adhering to their prescribed duties. Modern day society likes to preach the equality of men and women, and how marriages should be fifty-fifty partnerships built on compromise and give and take. Technically, they are correct in one sense since the husband and wife are both equal on a spiritual level. The most important Vedic tenet is that we are not our bodies.  We are spirit souls at our core. All living entities are equal in their constitutional position. As far as a marriage goes, the husband and wife both share the same spiritual fate, so they are equal in that sense. A marriage is a partnership in that the husband and wife should both equally perform the specific duties prescribed for them. In this way, they will be happy in marriage and have time to focus on the real aim of life, serving God.

Many people misconstrue the meaning behind the Vedic tenet that a wife should serve her husband. They view this as a sort of slavery system, but it is not so. Vedic life is centered around the idea of God realization. The human form of life is very auspicious since only human beings have the capacity to understand who is God, and to use that knowledge to break out of the perpetual cycle of birth and death. Thus Vedic prescriptions are all geared to help one achieve this goal.  Since the material world is always pulling our senses in every which direction, serving Krishna is a very difficult thing to do. God gave us the institution of marriage so that we would have a partner in our service to Him. There are many specific samskaras (rites) and ritualistic performances enjoined in the shastras. Married couples should perform these specific purificatory rites together. From our own experiences, we find that our duties are easier to perform when we have our friends and family helping and supporting us. A good spouse is someone we can count on for support at all times. The Vedas tell us that a devoted wife earns all the religious merits accumulated by her husband, so she elevates herself simply through serving her pati or husband.

The Mahabharata tells us that the main occupation of those in the grihastha ashrama, householder life, is to feed Krishna by preparing and offering food to Him, and then to take the prasadam and distribute it to guests. Through hospitably serving guests and brahmanas, a married couple becomes purified and elevated in their spiritual consciousness.  Householders should always have guests at their home, for they receive tremendous spiritual merit by serving their guests and attending to their every need. In this day and age, especially in the Western countries, most people are accustomed to eating animal flesh and other dirty things. These types of food all have negative karma attached to them. Married couples that are devotees of Krishna have a tremendous opportunity to distribute the mercy of the Lord in the form of His prasadam to people who desperately need it. Prasadam is food that is completely karma free, for Lord Krishna has given His spiritual glance over it and left the remnants for us. Any guest received by a householder should be served this wonderful prasadam, for it is the easiest way to infuse people with spiritual consciousness, giving them the chance to reconnect with the Supreme Lord. There is no higher form of charity than this.

Sita Rama In modern day society where men and women freely interact, the system of marriage has deviated quite a bit from the original system God created.  It has become an institution where both the man and women try to love each other, while at the same maintaining their independence. While this may seem like a nice idea, the result is that either the marriage or the independence suffers, both of which lead to unhappiness. The Vedas tell us that there is no concept of independence in a marriage. A woman is to dutifully serve her husband no matter what, and the man is obligated to provide complete protection for his wife. These principles were practiced by the divine couple, Sita Devi and Lord Rama. Sita was completely devoted to Rama in all her thoughts, words, and deeds. She supported Him through thick and thin, even following Him to the forest. Janaka prayed that she would follow Rama like a shadow, and she obliged.  Lord Rama, for His part, was equally devoted to her.  He was always dedicated to her welfare, even going to great lengths to rescue her when she was kidnapped by the demon Ravana.

From the example set by Sita Devi and Lord Rama, we can learn the proper means to having a happy marriage and a successful life. True love means wanting more for the person you love than you want for yourself. Sita Devi always wished for her Lord to be happy and to always be devoted to Him. Even her father Janaka wished the same for her. This is the true aim of life, to have pure love for God.  May we always have the blessings of Sita-Rama in all our endeavors and we may our minds always be concentrated on their lotus feet.  The husband and wife who devote themselves to being servants of Sita-Rama, they will enjoy everlasting felicity in this life and the next.  They will have the perfect marriage.