“Never in the past was there, nor in the future will there be, a man like Janaka, who had Sita as a daughter, full of all auspiciousness.” (Janaki Mangala, Svayamvara Ki Taiyari, 7)
bhayehu na hoihi hai na janaka sama naravai |
sīya sutā bhai jāsu sakala mangalai ||
What is the best for our welfare? Can there be just one thing that applies universally? If one person is puffed up by the false ego resulting from excessive material opulence and enjoyment, obviously what’s good for them will be a humbling of that pride, something to remind them that they are not in control of everything. On the other hand, someone who is destitute, barely getting by each day with a few morsels of food, can really use some security, the peace of mind that comes with knowing that material amenities will be available in steady supply. Thus what is auspicious for one person is not necessarily beneficial to another. Yet one woman’s company is so delightful that regardless of one’s position, whether they are a powerful king or a renounced yogi, everything beneficial comes as a result of meeting her. She is the ocean of mercy, the reservoir of beauty, and with love offered to her in genuineness comes the fruit of our existence.
It should be noted that even in spiritual life, which is above the temporary pitfalls of acceptance and rejection that swing perpetually like a pendulum, there is not uniformity in desires. The materialist enjoyer is referred to as a karmi in the Vedas. This word points to fruitive work, something performed for a specific benefit. The work has reactions, which are referred to as fruits, or phala; hence the translation of karma into “fruitive work”. The reactions aren’t always intended, nor are they always expected, making karma a complicated business. The enjoyments of even the cherished results don’t last forever, requiring repeated endeavor in fruitive activity.
The jnanis, yogis and bhaktas are above karma. A jnani is in search of jnana, or knowledge. In this sense there is some work applied, but it is only through the mind, so there are no visible fruits that result immediately. Rather, through theoretical exercise, the mental speculator hopefully can alter their behavior in such a way that the reactions to their work are always what they intend and that the enjoyments do not bind them in further misery. The yogis are similarly engaged in a higher cause. Through meditation they hope to block off the influence of the senses, to remain in trance so that the consciousness can stay pure.
For the karmis, yogis and jnanis the cherished rewards are not the same. For instance, the karmi considers success in their ventures to be auspiciousness. A tired worker desiring a nice vacation destination spot views a healthy bank balance and the ability to travel as favorable circumstances. The yogi, on the other hand, considers a sacred place that is quiet and peaceful as an auspicious blessing. The jnani lives off of mental speculation and the ability to accept higher knowledge. The intelligentsia class can be likened to the jnanis, so what they consider auspicious is high knowledge in the form of books and the ability to think rationally.
Only the bhaktas, however, are all-inclusive. They can follow any of the activities of the karmis, jnanis and yogis and find auspiciousness through maintaining a purified consciousness. For the bhaktas, the aim is love, the transcendental variety. When dovetailed with spirituality, bhakti is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Karma, jnana and meditational yoga can also be linked with spirituality, but again the conditions deemed beneficial are not uniform. For the bhakta, the only requirement is the ability to remain in divine trance, to be able to contemplate on the Supreme Lord.
How is this different from the yogis who sit in meditation? For starters, the conditions for performing meditational yoga are very difficult, so much so that the path is not recommended at all for the people of this age. These recommendations come from the Vedas and their derivative scriptures, which represent the original source of knowledge in this world. The entire world consists of various branches of Vedic culture, which started with the instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead that were imparted to the first created living entity, Lord Brahma. From Brahma’s teachings, the initial systems of religion were created, and as further time elapsed from the start of creation, deviation from the original principles increased, so much so that now there are too many spiritual denominations to count.
Common to any system of maintenance is a desired end-goal. Bhakti is the summit of religious practice because it has the highest end-goal that exists: constant association with God. The Supreme Lord is a personality with divine features, qualities which provide Him pleasure and also attract the sincere souls, who are miniature versions of God. Any being that is autonomous in its movement is a small version of God, but since their exercise of that freedom is limited, they are not equal to the Supreme Person. Fear not, however, as there is no need to try to equal God. The Supreme Lord is meant to be enjoyed through His association, a link which thus represents the most auspicious condition.
How can we say this with certainty? The Supreme Lord is described as having a transcendental body full of sweetness. He is the most beautiful, wise, strong, renounced, wealthy and famous. We are already attracted to famous and successful people, those who have bucked the odds and reached the tops of their respective fields. Beauty is attractive to pretty much anyone, as are strength and knowledge. In this way we see that God’s attractiveness is not a sectarian assertion or something that can only be enjoyed by people born and raised in a certain place. Rather, God is attractive to every single person, including the atheists who deny His existence. In the absence of personal interaction with the Supreme Lord and His brilliant features, what the living entity will find appealing are various impersonal aspects, separated energy expansions. Only in these areas are there varieties of auspicious conditions, dualities in what people find beneficial. This, of course, is because of the lack of the Supreme Lord’s personal presence.
In bhakti, the divine’s features are talked about, relished, honored, and most of all, enjoyed. When we have the most attractive person’s image within our minds, our activities will be driven towards maintaining the sight of that image. Thus the bhakta can be doing something as simple as eating and still enjoy full auspiciousness. For one king a long time ago, he was doing the odd job of ploughing a field, when in an instant he felt the thrill of a lifetime, a jolt of happiness that he had never felt before. This moment would forever change his life.
“One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.19)
Why was a king ploughing a field? Wasn’t this an act of karma? If so, how could the happiness he found be the source of pleasure for others as well? Though outwardly engaged in fruitive work, this leader of men was actually doing his occupational duty, remaining unattached to the result. He was a fruitive worker who had burned up the reactions to his work by being fully in knowledge. In one sense, this wonderful king of ancient times could be thought of as a combination jnani/yogi. He had knowledge of dharma, or religiosity, which then guided his behavior. He also had control over his senses, which earned him the title Videha, which means “one who is bodiless”.
As mentioned before, the karmis, yogis and jnanis each have respective definitions of auspiciousness, conditions whose merits may not apply across disciplines. Though he was known as an expert yogi, King Janaka was actually a bhakta, or devotee, at heart. This meant that through his pious acts, he was qualifying himself to gain full auspiciousness, which would arrive on the day he would find the precious baby girl in the ground. Of all the places to find gold in the form of another human being, Janaka found his little treasure in the ground that was being tilled for a sacrifice, or yajna.
What was so wonderful about this event? How would this help Janaka’s piety? Aren’t the karmis the ones enchanted by familial attachment, which is only temporary? This was no ordinary girl. Just as the Supreme Lord is the reservoir of attractiveness, His eternal consorts possess similarly brilliant features. In many ways God’s companions are more glorious than He is, for they are completely devoted to Him. Having the audience of a devotee is the greatest blessing for the person wandering aimlessly through life in search of a higher taste, one that doesn’t leave bitter aftereffects or vanish in an instant.
The girl Janaka found was the Supreme Lord’s wife in the spiritual sky. Since God is the source of all men, He is given the name Narayana. Since He is the most fortunate entity in the world, His wife is known as Lakshmi, who is the goddess of fortune. That same Lakshmi appeared in Janaka’s sacred land to bless him, to give him full auspiciousness. Janaka was the most pious king and thus fully deserved having Lakshmi’s presence.
But why come as a little girl? Why didn’t Lakshmi just visit Janaka’s home and bless him? Bhakti is an eternal engagement; hence it is also known as bhagavata-dharma. In every other area of endeavor there is a state of maturation, where the cherished fruit is received and then enjoyed for some length of time. Bhakti is divine love, so it can never stop. The greatest blessing, the most auspicious condition, is to be able to continue one’s bhakti unabated. God’s presence and the association of His dearmost devotees are considered universally auspicious for this very reason. Whoever comes in contact with such divine figures and knows how to make use of that association will find an eternal engagement that brings forth tremendous delights. The hungry man looking for a meal finds temporary auspiciousness by being fed a few morsels of food, but he who has a tree on his land that produces endless fruits is blessed every day. Having Lakshmi appear as a little girl in his kingdom gave Janaka a wish-fulfilling tree to fulfill all his desires.
Though he was Videha, Janaka immediately had affection for the little girl, deciding to raise her as his own daughter. Since she was found in the ground, he named her Sita. Goswami Tulsidas, in writing his Janaki Mangala, which describes how Sita’s marriage would take place later on, remarks that Janaka is the most fortunate, and that there was never a king like him, nor will there be one like him in the future. He received Sita as a daughter, which meant that it was his obligation to smother her with parental affection. Who can imagine receiving such a benediction? People pray to have Lakshmi, or fortune, all the time, but if they misuse her benedictions, they can lose everything. Thereby Lakshmi can end up harming someone as well, if they are not deserving of her association.
On the other hand, someone like Janaka was so pious that he was desirous to love God and His devotees without hesitation. What better way to allow for that love to continue than by giving him Sita as a daughter? The Supreme Lord knows all. He watches the behavior of the pious and sees whether or not they are qualified for receiving full auspiciousness. In addition to raising Sita as his most precious daughter, on the day of her marriage Janaka would receive Narayana Himself, in the guise of a warrior prince named Rama, as a son-in-law.
Though Sita is Lakshmi and thus a divine figure, Janaka’s love for her never stops. He found real auspiciousness by gaining the ability to practice bhakti as a way of life. To extract his heartfelt emotions, Lakshmi came herself to play the role of his daughter. The king made the most of the opportunity by increasing his bhakti more and more, so much so that he is today considered one of the twelve authorities on devotional service. As Tulsidas states, there is no king like him, and by the same token, for the pious there is no auspiciousness like that of Sita’s association. Just remembering her, her devotion to Rama, and the gloriousness of her father, the mind can find peace, comfort and happiness in any situation.
Something as auspicious do I take,
But not for others also does it make.
One side is looking for much wealth,
While another wants less for mental health.
That Janaka found greatest fortune is true,
Gives happiness to all men, both me and you.
Chance to love Sita in affection, God’s wife,
Keeps flame of bhakti alive, gives eternal life.
Keep on searching past, present and future,
But won't find man like Janaka, king like no other.
King's greatest fortune came from Sita alone,
For she would bring Shri Hari to his home.