Thursday, August 6, 2009

Feeling Right At Home

Sita Devi“Happy shall I live there as if in my paternal house, giving no thought upon the prosperity of the three worlds, thinking only of the services that are to be rendered to my husband.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

Most of us tend to have fond memories of our childhood home. As youths, we were under the protection of our mother and father, so feelings of nostalgia arise when remembering such a time. Material life means always hankering after things we want and lamenting over things that we don’t have. In Sanskrit they are referred to as shochati and kankshati:

“… The material civilization means, shochati kankshati, two businesses. Kankshati means desiring. While the body is moving we are desiring, making plans: ‘I want this. I want this. My son requires this. My nation requires this. My community requires this.’ This is kankshati; desiring to possess this, possess... And when the body is lost, then shochati: ‘Oh, my father is lost. My brother is lost. My son is lost.’ Two businesses. So as long there is no spiritual knowledge, we have got on the material conception of the body two businesses— shochati, kankshati: desiring for things which we do not possess and lamenting for things which we have lost.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Lecture, 751017BG.JOH)

Remembering our childhood lets us escape these feelings. Eating dinner with our parents, watching television, playing in our yard; these were the primary activities of our youth that we now miss. Home is where we felt most comfortable and secure.

When we grow up to be adults, we get married and raise our families in a new home different from the one we grew up in. We hanker after independence and thus we want to start new traditions and create new memories with our spouse and children. Even so, the home of our parents, the home where we grew up and felt most comfortable, that is the home that we usually prefer.

According to Vedic philosophy, we are all individual spirit souls existing eternally as part and parcel of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We have fallen into this material world due to our desire to lord it over and to imitate God. We mistakenly identify ourselves as the doer of activities, taking credit for the fruits of our material actions, when in fact God and His energies are responsible for everything. Trapped in the mindset of thinking in terms of “I” and “mine”, we develop karma and are forced to live by its effects. We are forced to constantly transmigrate between bodies, sometimes as animals, and sometimes as human beings. Any feelings we have of so-called happiness are only temporary.

Rama DarbarReal happiness comes from association with Krishna. When one is in the company of God, lovingly serving Him, then one becomes infused with pure bliss resulting from spiritual happiness. When Lord Rama, the incarnation of Lord Krishna in the Treta Yuga, appeared on this earth, He played the part of a young prince, the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha. Due to bad judgment on the king’s part, Lord Rama was ordered to spend fourteen years living as a recluse in the forest. Married to His wife Sita Devi at the time, the Lord went to inform her of the bad news and to try to convince her to not accompany Him. Sita rejected His appeal and put forth her own plea to the Lord to allow her to follow Him. Sita told Rama that living in the forest with Him would be just like living in her parents’ house.

Sita Devi grew up in the royal kingdom of Maharaja Janaka and his wife Sunayana. Janaka was the highly respected king of Mithila, coming from a long line of pious kings who were also known as Janaka. Sita was his most precious jewel, someone he loved more than life itself. Being naturally pious from her birth, Sita was afforded all the regal comforts while growing up. Yet at the same time, she was not spoiled in any way, for she was trained in austerity and virtue by her parents. In Vedic culture, when a girl is married off, she in essence relinquishes all ties to her original family and adopts her husband’s family as her own. Such a transition is not very easy, but Sita managed it without a problem due to her devotion to dharma and to Rama.

Sita Devi’s above referenced statement describes how devotees feel when they are in God’s company. The Vedas tell us that there are three worlds or planetary systems belonging to the material creation: bhur, bhuva, and svah.

“Heaven (svah) was established as the residence of the demigods, Bhuvarloka (bhuva) as that of the ghostly spirits, and the earth system (bhur) as the place of human beings and other mortal creatures. Those mystics who strive for liberation are promoted beyond these three divisions.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.24.12)

Equivalent to the concept of heaven, svah loka is the planetary system intended for those who are pious and situated in the mode of goodness. Such people ascend to svah loka where they can enjoy heavenly comforts for a period of time commensurate with the weight of their good deeds. Beyond these heavenly planets are even more planets such as Satyaloka, Maharloka and Janaloka, which are reserved for those yogis seeking liberation.

“Lord Brahma created the region below the earth for the demons and the Naga snakes. In this way the destinations of the three worlds were arranged as the corresponding reactions for different kinds of work performed within the three modes of nature. By mystic yoga, great austerities and the renounced order of life, the pure destinations of Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka are attained. But by devotional yoga, one achieves My transcendental abode.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.24.13-14)

Pure devotees don’t find material comforts to be very appealing, for they prefer the direct association of Krishna. Only through devotional service can one enter the highest planets, God’s personal abode, after giving up their present body.

Sita Rama Lakshmana in forest Devotees like Sita prefer to always be with God or to always think about Him, wherever they may be. When one is in complete Krishna consciousness, then all material desires become immediately eradicated. Sita Devi was Goddess Lakshmi herself, the eternal consort of Lord Narayana, a form of Krishna. Sita is always in complete Krishna consciousness, and thus has no desire for any material rewards or enjoyments offered by the three worlds. Lord Rama was very worried that His wife would be unhappy living an austere life in the forest, a place which was meant for wild animals, beasts, and certainly not for human beings. Sita made sure to tell Him that such tough conditions wouldn’t affect her because the Lord would be with her. So we should all take her lesson to heart and try to give up our hopes and dreams for material enjoyment. True bliss comes from serving God. If we always chant His name, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” and follow the processes of devotional service, then we will feel at home wherever we are.