“Do you accept this entreaty from one whose heart is entirely yours, knows none else, is ever attached to you, and who is resolved to die if forsaken by you. Repairing to the forest with you, I shall be in no way a burden to you.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)
Love is a natural feeling and sentiment that all of us feel and desire. It is not something that has to be taught to us, it is innate in all humans, and even in many animals. We often see two dogs sharing love, a bird caring for her eggs, and even lions protecting their cubs.
According to Vedic philosophy, everything in this material world is a reflection of the spiritual world.
“janmady asya yatah (The Absolute Truth must be the original source of everything)” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.1.1)
Everything that exists in the material world also exists in the spiritual world, but in a pure form. For example, in Goloka Vrindavana, the spiritual abode of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, God is eternally involved in loving affairs with Shrimati Radharani. When Lord Krishna descended on this planet some five thousand years ago, He performed the pastime of regularly dancing with the cowherd girls (gopis) of Vrindavana. Under the moonlit night, this dance was performed and was known as the rasa lila. In fact, this rasa lila is occurring regularly in the spiritual world. Not to be mistaken with the mundane loving affairs of this material world, love in the spiritual world is completely pure. This love is defined as love for God, and love in the material world is a diluted version of this.
Love in the material can be very difficult and painful. When we see a man or a woman that we really like, we go to great lengths to get them to love us. Many times our feelings for them are so strong that we feel compelled to express our love for them openly, in hopes that they’ll return the same sentiments to us. Sadly, it is often the case that love is only one way. The other party may not feel the same way about us, and this is the cause of great distress. Many movies and songs are dedicated to this feeling known as unrequited love. Loving somebody and having them not love you is one of the most painful feelings in this material world.
The pain caused by unrequited love can be very difficult to overcome. Yet once we are “over” a particular person, we eventually find ourselves falling in love again and repeating the same cycle of hope and despair. This inevitably occurs due to our innate desire to love and to be loved. According to Vedic philosophy, this desire is inside of all of us because we all love God at our core. Though we may falsely identify with our gross material bodies, we are actually spirit souls on the inside that have been forced into this material world. Our natural position is to love and serve God purely, but we have forgotten this through association with maya, God’s illusory energy. Maya makes us think that material sense enjoyment is the ultimate aim of life, and thus we seek love in all areas of life except God.
Lord Rama, Krishna’s avatar in the Treta Yuga, was ordered to spend fourteen years living in the forest by His father, King Dashratha of Ayodhya. The Lord was actually scheduled to be installed as the new king, but as fate would have it, He was instead forced into exile. Being married at the time to His wife Sita Devi, the Lord begged her not to follow Him to the forest. Sita flatly refused His suggestion, and told Rama that she would die without Him. She boldly declared her love for Him and asked Him to return that love by allowing her to come to the forest with Him.
It is easy for one to mistakenly equate this exchange between husband and wife with mundane material love. In actuality, it represented the pure form of love that exists in the spiritual world. Sita was completely devoted to Rama, who was God Himself appearing in human form. This is the ultimate aim of life for every person. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, that anyone who thinks of Him at the time of death never has to return to this material world:
“One who, at the time of death, fixes his life air between the eyebrows and in full devotion engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord, will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bg 8.10)
In the material world, if we declare our love for someone, it isn’t guaranteed that the other person will love us back. However, if we direct our love to God, we can be rest assured know that He will return the sentiment. God is all the all-knowing Supreme and thus He knows what is in everyone’s hearts. If we truly love Him and only desire to serve Him, then He will recognize that and love us even more than we love Him.
God shows His love to us by always appearing in our thoughts, words, and deeds. This is the test. If we always think of Krishna, speak about Krishna, and constantly sing His praises, then we can understand that He is always with us. When we love someone, we crave their companionship and never want them to leave us. In the same way, God’s devotees are very dear to Him, and thus He never leaves their side. Lord Rama was forced to take Sita with Him to the forest. As events would play out later on, Sita would eventually have to be separated from Rama on a few occasions, but never did she think of anyone else. Rama was her life and soul, whether directly in her presence or not. This is the reward of devotion. Devotional service means requited love.