“I am faithfully engaged in the service of Rama, who is a hero and prince of wide renown, who has full control over His senses and mind [jitendriyam], who is mighty-armed, and whose face resembles a full moon.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.36)
Passion can be a very tricky thing. It serves as an impetus for work, but at the same time, if it is left uncontrolled, it can lead to our downfall. Therefore, in the Vedic tradition, those who can keep their passions, which are driven by the senses and mind, under control are considered praiseworthy. This especially holds true with passions relating to sex life.
In the modern culture, men and women freely intermingle, thus relationships are formed based off of free will. A boy is attracted to a girl and vice versa, and the two eventually decide to form relationships. The religious institution of marriage is now mostly based on romantic attraction between men and women. The love that results from this attraction can be quite passionate. Since relationships are determined by free will, the art of seduction holds more importance in society. Men who can seduce or attract a lot of women are considered powerful and strong, whereas those who are awkward around beautiful women are considered weak and unintelligent. Many Hollywood films are based around this concept. A young teenager will be deemed a loser or a geek at the start of the movie, and he’ll slowly work his way towards being able to speak to the girl of his dreams and hopefully have a relationship with her.
This type of thinking is based on the idea that material sense gratification is the ultimate goal of life. There is no higher sense pleasure than sex, so those who can enjoy it to the fullest are considered successful, whereas those who aren’t are considered failures. Money, wealth, fame, etc. are all based around sex life. Even exercise regimens such as weightlifting and playing sports have sex desire at their core, for the more attractive a man’s body, the more likely he will be to score with attractive women.
“Material nature consists of the three modes-goodness, passion and ignorance. When the living entity comes in contact with nature, he becomes conditioned by these modes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.5)
Sex life is usually part of the mode of passion, which along with goodness and ignorance make up the three modes of material nature. The Vedas tell us that the mode of passion involves fruitive activity that, when left unchecked, can lead to lust, anger, greed, etc. This then leads to bewilderment and a forgetfulness of the rules of propriety. A classic example of this scenario was seen with superstar golfer Tiger Woods. Extremely successful at the sport he played, Tiger enjoyed universal acclaim and adoration. One of the richest athletes on the planet, Tiger could score with almost any girl he chose to. Though he was married with children at home, it was recently revealed that Tiger engaged in many extramarital affairs. The number of mistresses was so high that Woods is now seeking rehab for sex addiction.
“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.11)
The Vedas tell us that sex life can be very dangerous, and thus should be kept in check as much as possible. This doesn’t mean that all sex is bad, but that the act should only be performed when one intends to beget progeny. On a material level, we all accumulate debts at the time of birth, with one of them being to the pitrs, or the forefathers. We would never take birth were it not for sex life, thus we have a responsibility to our forefathers to beget sons as a way of paying them back. Every person is born with different qualities, with some people being more passionate than others. For those in rajo-guna, the mode of passion, gambling and playing sports are allowed. This is because passionate people need an outlet, and competition is one way of acting out one’s passions. The modern day sports athlete is an example of a person in the mode of passion. In previous times, the kshatriya kings were also considered to be in the mode of passion, thus they were allowed to marry more than one woman. Sex desire is very strong in passionate people, so in order to avoid illicit sex, kings were allowed to marry more than one wife provided that they could guarantee the protection and happiness of each and every wife. So when we see today’s athletes engaging in illicit sex life, it is not surprising considering that they are in the mode of passion.
Regardless of what our predicament is, the Vedas tell us that we should control our passions rather than letting our passions control us. Those who can keep their desires in check are virtuous and praiseworthy, while those who are slaves to their senses are not. This was the point stressed by Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, an incarnation of God. Many thousands of years ago, Sita was living in the forest of Dandaka when her hermitage was visited by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were away from the cottage at the time, so Ravana took it as an opportunity to try to seduce Sita. He first appeared in the guise of a brahmana and offered kind advances towards Sita. After she rejected him, Ravana revealed his true Rakshasa form and insisted that Sita become his wife.
In response, Sita openly declared that she was a devotee of Lord Rama, and that she would never be devoted to anyone else. In addition, she provided details into Rama’s characteristics and personal attributes. In the above referenced statement, we see that Sita is listing Rama’s control over His mind and senses [jitendriyam] as a character trait. This statement is very important, for it serves two purposes. First, it stresses the point that God is the all-powerful and the most renounced. Sex life in the material world is a perverted reflection of the pure form of love that exists in the spiritual world between God and His pleasure potencies, hladini-shakti. By declaring that Rama had His passions under control, Sita also took a direct jab at Ravana and his character.
Rakshasas are demons by nature, meaning they take to adharma, or irreligion, as a way of life. Ravana was very powerful and materially opulent. He had hundreds of beautiful wives. Having multiple wives was surely allowed for a king, but Ravana still engaged in illicit sex. He and his queens were always drunk, eating meat, and enjoying sex life. He was very proud of his playboy lifestyle. Yet we see that Ravana’s passions were anything but under control. Simply upon hearing of Sita’s beauty and bodily features, Ravana was drawn to her. Like a moth to a flame, Ravana sealed his demise by approaching Sita and forcibly kidnapping her. Lord Rama was God Himself in human form, and He would avenge Sita’s kidnapping by marching to Ravana’s city of Lanka and killing him in battle.
Sita also made mention of the fact that Rama had a beautiful, moon-like face, and that His fame was spread throughout the world. Again, these statements served the same purposes of both praising Rama and insulting Ravana. God is known as Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses all opulences. When one sees pictures of Lord Rama or takes darshana of His deity in the temple, they will see a handsome prince who is always smiling. That is the Lord’s nature, for He gives pleasure to others. Rama is unbelievably famous; even Lord Krishna and His childhood friends in Vrindavana used to talk about Lord Rama, Hanuman, Lakshmana, Sita and others when they were playing. The Ramayana, a book which details the life and pastimes of Lord Rama, is probably the oldest book in history and it is still read and revered to this day. God is always God, meaning that not only was Lord Rama famous during His time, but that His fame never diminishes. He is just as famous today as He was in the past.
Ravana thought of himself as beautiful and famous, but his opulences paled in comparison to Rama’s. Ravana performed austerities that secured him ten heads; something he viewed as a benefit. Sita Devi, the most beautiful woman to have ever graced the earth, didn’t find Ravana attractive at all. Ravana was proud of his beauty, but Sita directly insulted him by extolling the beauty of her husband, Lord Rama. Ravana also thought he was very famous, for he had defeated many great fighters in battle. In fact, God only appeared on earth as Lord Rama at the request of the demigods, who were all afraid of Ravana. Sita, of course, wasn’t impressed by Ravana’s fame. She was married to God, so she knew who was the more famous of the two.
The lesson here is that we shouldn’t be led astray by the popular dogma which states that uncontrolled passion and excessive women hunting are virtuous activities. On the contrary, such activities are very dangerous because they bind one to the cycle of repeated birth and death. If a person is addicted to sex life, why would God want to take them away from their passion? On the contrary, the Lord allows such a person to repeatedly take birth, sometimes in a lower species such as a monkey or a dog, where they can enjoy sex life even more. If we can control our mind and senses, we become praiseworthy. A person who has control over their senses is considered sober, or dhira. Self-control is considered a virtue because it increases the likelihood that one will take to spiritual life, which is the ultimate aim of life anyway.
No one was more committed to dharma than Lord Rama. We too should commit ourselves to dharma by controlling our passions and devoting ourselves to God’s service. In this age, the easiest way to honor Sita and Rama is to constantly chant the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. God is beautiful, praiseworthy, and famous throughout the world, and so are His devotees.