“Surely shall I go today to the forest with you; there is no doubt about it and you shall not be able, Oh great hero, to dissuade me from so doing.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)
Sometimes when we take up a new task, we have difficulty in finishing it. We may decide to take up the process of learning to play guitar only to have the guitar sitting underneath our bed after attempting to play it only a few times. We may decide to start keeping a journal that we intend write in nightly, only to find that that the journal is left by itself in a drawer after only a few entries.
We seem to come up with new projects that we are never able to finish. What gets in the way? According to Vedic philosophy, this material world has an all-pervading illusory energy called maya that is the root cause of most of our problems. It is due to maya’s influence that we falsely identify with our gross material body and thus constantly seek pleasure in mundane sense gratification. Completing new tasks becomes difficult because maya is always pulling our attention elsewhere telling us that we will be more happy doing something else.
Taking up the process of devotional service is just as difficult as taking up new hobbies. Most people that we know are immersed in material life and have no interest whatsoever in spiritual matters. Lord Krishna Himself declares in the Bhagavad-gita that it is only after millions of births that one finally comes to a proper understanding of their constitutional position as spirit soul part and parcel of God:
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Bg 7.19)
Taking up spiritual life means one has to declare war on maya. Maya doesn’t give up so easily, so she puts even more impediments in our way.
“When we accept any self-realization process, it is practically declaring war against the illusory energy, maya. So when there's a question of maya or a question of fight or war there will be so many difficulties imposed by maya; that is certain. Therefore there is a chance of failure, but one has to become very steady.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Lecture, Los Angeles, Feb 20, 1969)
Our friends and family start to question what we are doing. “Why are you chanting? Who is this Krishna that you always talk about? You must be so lost to have gotten into all this mysticism.” These are the phrases commonly uttered by those who aren’t familiar with the processes of devotional service.
Now these people can’t really be blamed for their ignorance. We can get so bound up in material life that something so natural as chanting God’s name can seem foreign to us. Just as with playing guitar or training for marathons, for one to be successful in in devotional life they have to have steadiness of mind and perseverance.
“…one must take up a particular path and stick to it, obeying all the rules and regulations necessary for success in spiritual life.” (Shril Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita Introduction)
Lord Rama, who was God Himself playing the role of a human being on earth, was ordered to spend fourteen years in the forest by His father King Dashratha of Ayodhya. Rama’s wife Sita desperately wanted to accompany the Lord during the exile period, so she put forth a series of arguments in hopes of persuading the Lord. After reiterating the proper duties of a wife, Sita finally declared that there was no way for the Lord to stop her from coming along. Such determination illustrates just how pure a devotee Sita was.
Having grown up in the royal court of King Janaka of Mithila, Sita was accustomed to having all the material comforts of life. Even nowadays, common folk are so enamored by royal life that they follow all the goings on of the queen of England and her children. Members of the press dream of a life of advanced material sense gratification, so they try to live vicariously through those who already enjoy the high life. Even faced with every material distraction, Sita Devi was so steady of mind that she was completely devoted to God, who happened to be her husband. Lord Rama knew just how devoted she was, so He was forced to acquiesce and allow her to accompany Him. Devotional life begins by following the rules and regulations given to us by our spiritual master, namely voluntarily performing austerities with the goal of gaining spiritual understanding. From Sita Devi’s example, we see that by sticking to these regulations, we can confidently declare victory over maya. God rewards our victory by allowing us to always be in His company.
Material life means we are a slave to our senses. By constantly chanting the Lord’s holy name, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the tables get turned, and the slave becomes the master. The title of Goswami actually means “master of the senses”. One who is directly engaged in God’s service, giving up all hopes and dreams of sense gratification, surrendering everything unto to Him, that person is a Goswami. Though a tender and delicate woman, Sita was actually the greatest of transcendentalists, firm and steady in her vow of devotion. Therefore she is worthy of our highest love and respect.