Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Two For One

Lakshmana “And my father personally gave to Lakshmana for his wife, my younger sister, the beautiful and chaste Urmila.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.53)

Sita Devi is Goddess Lakshmi herself and Lord Rama is a primary incarnation of Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As such, those who are intimately associated with the divine couple automatically acquire all good personal characteristics and good fortune. One needn’t strive for material perfection, for Sita and Rama will provide for all the necessities of a pure devotee.

Sita and Rama There may be different names for God based on the time and circumstance of His appearance or the specific activities He performs, but the Vedas tell us that God’s original name is Krishna, derived from His all-attractive, two-handed form. Contrary to the prevailing opinion, the Supreme Absolute Truth is not formless. Though He can take many different forms, He has an original spiritual body which is full of bliss and knowledge, sach-chid-ananda-vigraha. This vigraha, or body, is real and not temporary nor fake. Everything in this material world is temporary. Some people take everything to be false, brahma satyam jagan mithya. It may be a point of semantics, but since everything in this world is created, maintained, and then ultimately destroyed, material nature cannot be accurately classified as fake or false. Since everything in nature is temporary and subject to the laws of maya, some people think that God and His various incarnations appear on earth in temporary bodies composed of material elements.

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

Lord Krishna Lord Krishna, the Supreme Authority and orator of the Bhagavad-gita, unequivocally states that only the unintelligent think in this manner. All the great Vaishnava authorities agree that Krishna never appears on earth in a material body. In the Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas, even Lord Shiva makes an emphatic point about this very issue while discussing with his wife, Parvati, the pastimes of Lord Rama.

God’s original and complete feature is that of Bhagavan, which means one who possesses all fortunes. Only God can lay claim to being the richest, wisest, most famous, strongest, most renounced, and most beautiful person in the world. He possesses these features to the fullest degree and at the same time. The word Krishna itself has various meanings, with one of them meaning “all-attractive”. Though photography didn’t exist during the time of the Lord’s advent some five thousand years ago, the authoritative scriptures give us very clear descriptions as to the Lord’s facial features and exquisite beauty. Thus when we see paintings and pictures of the Lord, we get a glimpse into just how attractive He is. Aside from the basic descriptions, we have evidence of His attractiveness based on how He charmed the cowherd girls of Vrindavana. All the gopis wanted Krishna as their husband. Even in adulthood, the Lord accepted so many wives, more than anyone can fathom. In today’s world, maintaining one wife is a difficult job by itself, but Krishna easily maintained more than 16,000 wives during His reign in Dvaraka.

The non-devotees like to criticize Krishna on this fact, saying that He acted lustily by accepting so many wives. They fail to understand that the Lord is atmarama, meaning one who is self-satisfied. He is in need of nothing. Yet during His time on earth, so many women prayed to have Krishna as their husband. As pure devotees, the Lord granted their requests. Accepting so many wives was the Lord’s mercy.

As Bhagavan, the Lord possesses all opulences. In a similar manner, those people who are intimately connected with Bhagavan, the pure devotees, are described as bhagavata. There is a book bhagavata, the Shrimad Bhagavatam, but a person can be a bhagavata as well. From bhagavata, we get bhagavata-dharma, which means the occupational duty of the bhagavatas, or the devotees. Since God possesses all good qualities, those who serve Him in a loving way are showered with benedictions and opulences. In this respect, the bhagavata and Bhagavan are the same.

“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 6.30)

Radha Krishna Lord Krishna’s wives were all expansions of the goddess of fortune. In the spiritual world, God likes to enjoy, so His immediate expansions serve as His pleasure potency. This energy is known as hladini-shakti. Depending on the specific form of God, this energy also takes a different form. Based on the conclusions of the Vaishnava authorities, the original goddess of fortune is Shrimati Radharani, who is Lord Krishna’s eternal consort. Her immediate expansion is that of Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Narayana’s consort. When Krishna incarnated as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago, Lakshmi also came to earth in the form of Sita Devi. As the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi bestows benedictions upon her devotees and to the devotees of Krishna. Since Sita was a pure devotee of Rama, she was the ideal bhagavata, and thus Sita and Rama can be considered as one.

As part of His pastimes on earth, Lord Rama lifted the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva at the great sacrifice held by Maharaja Janaka, the King of Mithila. Sita was Janaka’s daughter. The story of the marriage of Sita and Rama was very famous throughout the world even during Lord Rama’s time. In the above referenced statement, Sita is giving a summary of the story to the great female sage Anasuya. Rama, His younger brother, Lakshmana, and Sita had stopped at the hermitage of Anasuya and her husband Atri Rishi. Anasuya was very eager to hear firsthand from Sita the story of her marriage.

Janaka was not Sita’s biological father, for Sita didn’t appear from the womb of any mother. He actually found her one day in a field that he intended to plough. From the moment Janaka held her in his arms, he knew that Sita was meant to be his daughter. When she reached the appropriate age, Janaka was torn about trying to get her married. Since he didn’t know her family lineage, it would be impossible to find a suitable husband based on horoscopes. Add to the equation the fact that Sita Devi was a perfect woman, daughter, and person in every respect, we can see why Janaka was hesitant to marry her off. Nevertheless, Janaka decided to hold a contest to see if anyone could lift Lord Shiva’s bow which was given to him on a previous occasion. Many a prince came and gave a valiant effort, but only Rama could lift the bow. This was destiny after all, for no one except God Himself would be a suitable husband for Sita Devi. Janaka was so thrilled to get Rama as a son-in-law that he gave away his other daughter, Urmila, to Lakshmana.

Rama and Lakshmana eating Rama had three younger brothers, but He was closest with Lakshmana.

“Shatrughna, endued with cleverness, is your helper. Sumitra’s son (Lakshmana) is well known as My best friend. We four worthy sons of that foremost of monarchs will keep him established in truth, O Bharata. Let not your mind despond.” (Lord Rama speaking to Bharata, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 107.19)

Straight from the time of their childhood, Lakshmana was inseparable from Rama. He wouldn’t sleep or even eat his meals unless Rama was with him. Such pure devotion never goes to waste. According to the shastras, Lakshmana was an incarnation of Lord Ananta Shesha Naga, the serpent with unlimited hoods who serves as the resting place for Lord Narayana on the planet of Shvetadvipa. Almost equal in potency to God Himself, Lakshmana’s trademark characteristic was his pure devotion to Rama. Generally, people that are somewhat intelligent seek out the three rewards in material life: artha (economic development), kama (sense gratification), and dharma (religiosity). These three things are gained through pleasing the demigods. People wanting money and good fortune pray to Goddess Lakshmi to grant them all their wishes. Yet from the example of Lakshmana, we can see that Lakshmiji automatically supplies good fortune to the devotees.

Sita and family watching Rama lift the bow Lakshmana’s only dharma in life was to serve Rama. As a small reward for this service, he received the beautiful and chaste Urmila for a wife. The Ramayana doesn’t give too much detail about the character of Urmila, but from Sita’s statements, we can understand that she was a perfect wife. Sita Devi is an authority on devotion and character, so if she praises someone, we can understand that the person must be truly special. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Sita’s sister had a good character. After all, both Sita and her sister were raised by the well-respected Janaka and his wife Sunayana.

The lesson here is that devotional service always reaps benefits, which sometimes come unexpectedly. We don’t need to strive for material perfections since God and His eternal consort will provide us whatever we need to execute our prescribed duties.