Friday, August 21, 2009

Giving To The Lord

Lord Rama “(Those) who rejoice to see another’s prosperity and are sore distressed at their misfortune; to whom, O Rama, You are dear as their own lives, in their hearts be Your blessed abode.” (Maharishi Valmiki speaking to Lord Rama, Ramacharitamanasa)

According to Vedic philosophy there are three kinds of miseries in this material world. Adhidaivic miseries are those brought on by nature, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. Adhyatmic refers to miseries brought about by physical and mental ailments. Taking birth in the material world means that we are eventually bound to catch some disease or another. Many times our mind can cause us ailments as well, through excessive hankering and lamenting. The third kind of misery, known as adhibhautic, is that brought about by other living entities. These miseries can come from animals such as insects who bite us, or other human beings who may torment us.

Though one may sometimes derive pleasure from mocking and annoying others, such behavior isn’t considered proper. In the Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas, Maharishi Valmiki beautifully elaborates on the qualities of a devotee. One thing that he mentions is that devotees of God always feel bad when others are in distress and feel good when others are happy. Envy is a quality that we all possess to some degree, so it is not surprising if we sometimes feel happy at the miseries of others. We think to ourselves, “Oh good, I’m not the only one who isn’t happy all the time. It’s good that they found out just how hard life can be.” This sort of behavior is very immature because another’s fortunes or misfortunes actually have no effect on us. A truly saintly person is one who sees everyone on an equal footing. According to Lord Krishna, a devotee even has compassion for a dog and a dog-eater:

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste] .” (Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

When Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, was pleading with her husband to allow her to accompany Him to the forest for fourteen years, she made it a point to tell Him that she would not cause Him any afflictions while in the forest.

“Undoubtedly I shall always live upon roots and fruits, living with you always I shall not bring about your affliction.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

Lord Rama, God Himself, was ordered to live in the forest by His father Maharaja Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya. Being married at the time, the Lord wanted His wife to remain at home where she would be protected. Maintaining a wife is not an easy task for a husband, even in the most perfect of conditions. During that time, the Treta Yuga, forest life was meant only for people in the renounced order of life, sannyasis. It would have been very difficult to protect Sita while living in such austere conditions. The Vedic injunction is that a wife must be protected at all times by the husband, and she is to be looked after with the same attention as one would give to a child. It is for this reason that the Lord wanted Sita to remain in the kingdom for the duration of the exile period.

Sita Devi, however, was the incarnation of the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the wife of Lord Narayana, who is God Himself residing in the spiritual world. If one comes across paintings or photos of Lakshmi-Narayana, one will often see Lakshmi massaging the feet of a resting Lord Narayana. It is not that the wife is treated as a servant. That would be missing the meaning behind such a scene. The constitutional position of all living entities is to serve God, but this fact is only realized after one makes steady progress in the execution of devotional service. Sita Devi, being a pure a devotee of God, always wanted to serve her pati or Lord, and it is for this reason that Rama allowed her to do so by eventually acquiescing to her request. God is very nice in that he voluntarily enters into loving relationships with His devotees based on their desires. Sometimes God will assume the form of a son, a husband, or even a lover simply to satisfy His devotees.

Lakshmi Narayana From Sita Devi’s example, we can learn the proper method of devotional service. Obviously God is purely spiritual, so He is not capable of suffering any afflictions. Still, our attitude should be that we shouldn’t needlessly bother the Lord for material things.

"One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Krishna favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service." (Shrila Rupa Goswami, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu)

Instead of repeatedly asking from the Lord, we should give to Him. By constantly chanting His name, reading His books, serving the lotus of feet of His devotees, and offering Him prayers, we can offer all our thoughts, words, and deeds as a sacrifice to the Lord. In return, He rewards us with eternal devotion to Him, which is the greatest boon in life.