“I heard that when I was a girl, an ascetic woman of well-disciplined character, came to my mother and apprised her of my future abode in the forest.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)
Pre-qualification is required prior to performing many tasks in this world. Governments, schools, and other entities of authority will not sanction the undertaking of important activities unless someone meets the necessary qualifications.
In America, high school students wanting to attend college must take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, known as the SAT. The scores from this exam are reviewed by the admissions boards of universities as a means of gauging how well the student will perform in higher level courses. An above average score on this test is a pre-qualification for one wishing to attend college.
People who already attend college are required to choose their courses before each semester. Students are given a wide variety of classes to choose from, ranging from subjects relevant to their major field of study to courses completely unrelated to their major. However, not everyone is eligible to enroll in every course. Many classes require students to have previously completed pre-requisite courses. This makes sense, as courses in a similar field of study will naturally reference topics covered in a previous class.
In order to be allowed to operate a motor vehicle, one must obtain a drivers license. The requirements for getting a license vary by state, but they almost all include completion of some sort of driving course, and a minimum number of practice hours. This also makes sense because one needs to be familiar with driving prior to getting a license otherwise they will be more prone to causing an accident when behind the wheel. Another field with strict pre-qualification requirements is medicine. Becoming a doctor involves around eight years of schooling, four more years of training, and then passing medical examinations. Since doctors deal with life and death situations, one isn’t allowed to become a physician on a whim.
Pre-qualification serves as a person’s bona fides. Employers take a risk by hiring someone who is unknown to them. They want to know that the person they are hiring will know what they are doing once they start the job. Pre-qualifications acts as a proof of capability. The same concept holds true with consumers. They buy products and services without any guarantee on value or performance. Pre-judging the capability of the manufacturer or service provider gives customers a feeling of security, knowing that they most likely will not be disappointed spending their money.
“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.” (Bg. 4.6)
Many thousands of years ago, the good people of the world were being harassed by an evil demon named Ravana. Ravana had performed great penances in order to please the demigods, and he was awarded with great material benedictions and was feared by all. He was given so much power that he thought himself invincible. This is the mentality of the atheistic class of men. They acquire massive amounts of wealth through nefarious means, thinking that it will last forever and that they will live forever. They forget that it is through God’s energies that one attains prosperity, and that these same energies will require one to give up all his possessions at the time of death.
Krishna incarnated in human form as Lord Rama, specifically to kill Ravana and reinstitute the rules of dharma. As part of His pastimes, the Lord played the role of a perfect prince, the eldest son to Maharaja Dashratha of Ayodhya. Dashratha one day decided to install Rama as the new king, but things took a dramatic turn for the worse when the king’s youngest wife, Kaikeyi, demanded that Rama’s younger brother, Bharata, be installed instead, and that Rama be sent to live in the forest for fourteen years. Dashratha had granted Kaikeyi two boons of her choosing many years before, and she chose this occasion to cash in on them. The king, being committed to truthfulness, was forced to oblige her requests, so Rama was thus ordered to renounce the kingdom and live as an ascetic in the wilderness.
Lord Rama had no problem with these requests, for He was dedicated to preserving His father’s good name. Rama was married to His wonderful wife Sita Devi at the time, so He went to break the bad news to her. In telling her, Rama insisted that she remain in the kingdom for the duration of the exile. Man is meant to live in a civilized society, with the forest being reserved for the animal kingdom. In Vedic times, the only humans that might be found living in the forest were the brahmanas, the priestly class of society. Of the brahmanas, only those who had their senses completely under control, living the renounced order of life, would go to the forest. Sita had lived the life of a princess since her childhood, so Rama was concerned about how she would fare living such an austere life. It was for this reason that He forbade her from following Him.
Sita, however, argued vehemently in favor of accompanying the Lord. Just as any good trial lawyer would do, she presented her case with great alacrity and reason. She made it a point to tell the Lord that she was eminently qualified to live in the forest. For proof, she relied on statements made by brahmanas and an ascetic women while she was a young girl. Sita grew up in the royal kingdom of Maharaja Janaka of Mithila. As was customary during those times, people involved in family life, known as grihasthis, would regularly entertain brahmanas, who are considered the highest class in society. Vedic culture calls for dividing society in four classifications based on qualities, not simply by birth. Brahmanas are the highest social division since their lives are completely dedicated to serving Krishna. Brahmanas weren’t involved in karmic activities, so they relied on the other members of society for support. They would regularly visit homes of grhasthis, where they would be fed sumptuously and be shown the greatest hospitality. In exchange, the brahmanas would provide counsel to the householders. One area they would give advice about would be in matters pertaining to the children of the householders. Good parents are always worried about the welfare of their children, so householders would ask the brahmanas to provide insight into the future of their sons and daughters. Based on Sita’s statement, we can infer that Janaka’s family was no different in this respect.
Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, who for all intents and purposes, is God’s wife. Krishna being the Supreme God, has many different expansions and incarnations, just as a single lit candle can go on to light many other candles of equal strength. According to Vedic philosophy, God’s immediate expansion is His pleasure potency, known as hladini-shakti. God is the energetic and His pleasure potency is His energy. So Sita Devi was the manifestation of this energy. Lord Rama didn’t come to earth all by Himself; He also brought with Him His principal associates from the spiritual world, including His wife. Sita didn’t take birth in the typical fashion from the womb of a mother. She was born out of the goddess of Earth, known as Bhumi Devi. Janaka actually found her one day while ploughing a field. He was so enamored with her, that he immediately accepted her as his daughter and most prized possession.
The ascetic woman that predicted Sita’s future during her childhood surely must have had a hint into Sita’s birth. Having known that Sita was born of the earth, she could observe that Sita had a natural affinity for nature. Living in the forest would be no problem. Qualified brahmanas are also expert in describing events of the past, present, and future, so it was nothing out of the ordinary for the ascetic woman to be able to foretell Sita’s fate. The great sage Vyasadeva wrote all of the Puranas, which describe historical events relating to God that occurred millions of years ago and also events that will occur in the future.
Just as undertakings in the material world require various pre-qualifications depending on the discipline, service to the Supreme Lord has only one requirement…love. From Sita Devi’s example, we can see that she was completely in love with Rama, God Himself. She was an expert debater, so she made references to various pre-qualifications that she had for going to the forest, but it was her devotion that mattered most. It was through her love only that she was finally able to convince Lord Rama to allow her to accompany Him. We should all follow her lead and take up the process of devotional service to Krishna. In this age, the simplest way to rekindle our love for God is to constantly chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. By practicing devotional service, we will be pre-qualified for returning home after this life, back to Godhead.