“(Hanuman did not see Sita) who was aggrieved over the separation from her husband, whose throat was choked up with tears, whose neck was adorned with the most valuable golden jewelry, who had lovely eyelashes, who had a sweet voice, and was like a peahen dancing in the forest (when with her husband). (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 5.25)
uṣṇārditām sānusṛtāsrakaṇṭhīm |
purā varārhottamaniṣkakaṇṭhīm |
vane'pranṛttāmiva nīlakaṇṭhīm ||
Just hearing of Sita Devi’s intense anguish resulting from separation from her dear Lord - the master of the devotees, the most powerful entity known in the world, the person whom yogis, ascetics, fruitive workers and sense enjoyers are searching after, Lord Rama - is enough to put a pleasantly situated mind into a similarly distressful condition. Who gains pleasure from seeing others suffer? One would have to be rather miserly and cruel-hearted to enjoy watching others in pain. With Sita Devi, however, just hearing of her torments becomes a source of great strength, a humbling vision to keep the wayward spirit soul bewildered by the temporary ups and downs of material life moving forward in the progressive march towards eternal freedom, the kind that allows for free range of movement without any harmful side effects. Anyone who remembers Sita, her qualities, and the pain she felt from being separated from Rama will always have a place waiting for them in the spiritual sky once their present life is over.
“Since he was childless, and due to affection for me, he placed me on his lap and said, ‘This is my child.’ Thus he developed feelings of love and affection for me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.30)
Who is Sita? Why was her suffering any more important than anyone else’s? In her appearance on earth, Sita was a princess, the eldest daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. The pious ruler found her one day while ploughing a field, so she was technically his adopted daughter. Though Janaka was known as videha for having transcended the effects of the senses, he felt a thrill throughout his body on that fateful day when he found his first daughter. The atmarama spiritualist can be likened to a person whose hunger has been satisfied after eating nicely. If a succulent dish is placed in front of a hungry man, he will enjoy the meal both before and during. Right before eating there is the anticipation, with the taste buds starting to water. Then during eating is when the potential for enjoyment gets realized. Afterwards, however, if the same dish is presented again, the reaction of the target individual will not be the same. This time he is full, so there is no desire to eat again. Regardless of the nature of the dish, even if it is the same exact composition having an identical appearance, the eater cannot be influenced to indulge.
For transcendentalists on the brahma-bhutah platform, there is no hankering or lamenting. There is no excitement over the temporary gains and losses encountered by every person. Since Janaka felt such exhilaration upon finding a small baby girl in the field, we can understand that she must have been someone above the three modes of nature, a divine figure capable of thrilling anyone who thinks of her in the proper mood just once. Janaka was enjoying the bliss of brahmananda, but the feelings of elation felt when gaining Sita as a daughter far surpassed any happiness that comes from the absence of material suffering.
Sita’s wonderful effect on people would continue into her adult life, as she would be married to the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama. As an incarnation of Godhead, Shri Ramachandra similarly has a transcendentally pleasing influence on those He meets. The most beautiful woman and the most beautiful man were united in holy matrimony in Janaka’s kingdom. After returning to Rama’s home of Ayodhya, the two lived happily there for twelve years. By happily, we mean that they truly enjoyed each other’s company. During the specific time period, the Treta Yuga, adherence to dharma was quite high. The wives married in Vedic ceremonies were very respectful of their husbands, treating them as their primary deities. With Sita, this deference was at the highest level, as she even treated her three mother-in-laws as her own mother. But more than just a respectful wife, Sita was the source of the greatest pleasure for Rama. She was dedicated to her husband because she knew her company made Him happy. In this way she proved to be the kindest person in the world, as she had not a selfish bone in her body.
As with any beautiful woman, she was highly sought after prior to her marriage. Even after living with Rama for so long, the nefarious elements of the world were still captivated by her beauty to the point that they desired her. Ravana, the king of the Rakshasa community in Lanka, was especially intent on having Rama’s wife, for he had heard of her beauty from his associates. Successfully hatching a scheme to take Sita away while Rama wasn’t looking, Ravana brought the princess back to Lanka with him. Thinking that he could win her over with his opulence and sweet words, Ravana was very excited to have Sita with him.
Devotion is put to the test when there is separation. In the company of her beloved, Sita had no reason not to please Rama or think about Him at all times. But now faced with the punishment of death should she not submit, Sita’s chastity and dedication to the path of dharma would have to withstand the severest test. We know from the Vedic scriptures, including the Ramayana, the poem which gives the most details about the lives of Sita and Rama, that the princess of Videha is really a divine figure in her own right, an incarnation of the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi. Therefore by constitution Sita was dedicated to God, who had appeared in this instance on earth as Lord Rama. Hence there was no chance for Ravana to ever get Sita to agree to his proposals.
“Loving attachment for Me is entirely absorbed in Vaidehi, and loving attachment for Sita is well absorbed in Me.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 1.52)
Hearing of Sita and Rama’s time spent together in Ayodhya and the forests during Rama’s exile period warms the heart. Rama especially loved the spring season, as the flowers and the sweet aroma would increase His loving feelings for His wife, and vice versa. They were always in each other’s company, and most importantly, constantly in each other’s thoughts. When Sita was separated from Rama and forced to stay in the kingdom of Lanka, this connection in consciousness would not break. If anything, it would be further solidified. Nothing could break Sita’s concentration on the thoughts, activities, qualities and pastimes of her dear husband.
Hearing of Sita’s plight while in Lanka and remembering her wonderful devotional qualities are effective ways of remaining on the straightened path. The living entities, the spirit souls roaming the earth in varieties of species, are also linked to God in consciousness. It is the very constitutional position of the essence of individuality, the spirit soul, to be a lover of God. This property is revealed in every activity, as the end goal of action is a pleasurable condition. We see that the highest pleasures, the most cherished conclusions to action, result from service, either to one’s country, community, spouse, child, employer, or any other person.
When the service is first directed at the only person worthy of accepting it, the other pieces fall into place. Those who love God purely can survive through any and all situations, as Sita Devi was case in point. Therefore the Vedic seers, the spiritual masters charged with disseminating the highest truths of life to anyone sincerely interested in hearing them, recommend that we keep our consciousness always purified and connected to the spiritual world by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
Life is full of frustration because there is failure encountered at every step. Even if we succeed in our stated objectives, the pleasure derived does not last very long. If we repeat the pattern of material action enough, pretty soon the initial enthusiasm for the endeavor, the will to live, gets lost. When God and His devotees are remembered, however, the impetus for action can remain in an active state. The fire in the belly that gets the living entity out of bed in the morning and focused on the higher cause of pleasing God can remain lit.
Not even the divine workers are immune to the forces of frustration and doubt. When Sita was taken to Lanka, Rama enlisted the help of a band of forest dwellers residing in Kishkindha. Their best warrior also happened to be the one most devoted to Rama by nature. Known by the name of Hanuman, this brave emissary made his way into Lanka to find Sita and return information of her whereabouts to Rama. Though he had every divine quality in his arsenal just ready to be used, what really fueled his activity was his deep and intense love for Rama. There is no greater servant in any world than Shri Hanuman, and there is no one more dedicated to loving Sita and Rama than he.
When he first searched through Lanka’s streets, Hanuman could not find Sita. Rather, he saw every other type of man and woman. The very diversity witnessed in a big city was seen by Hanuman firsthand. He saw some women who were happy and some who were sighing in anger. Some men were beautiful in appearance, and some were hideous looking. Though he saw many things and people, he had yet to find Sita. Thus he became a little dejected, for the stated objective of the mission was not being met.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, some of Sita’s primary qualities are enumerated. This is done to both contrast her from the women Hanuman had seen and serve as a source of inspiration and delight for both the reader and Hanumanji. We see that Sita was oppressed with the grief borne of separation from Rama. None of the women seen thus far could have been Sita because they didn’t show signs of suffering from lack of association with their husband. Sita’s separation pain would also be more intense than anyone else’s because of the nature of her husband. Though Sita’s suffering was a source of pain for her, remembering this level of devotion can only prove beneficial for the souls wandering in vain search of an engagement that provides lasting happiness.
Sita’s throat would also be choked with the tears incessantly flowing. Men have a difficult time dealing with a crying woman, as the intense outpouring of emotion puts the man in an awkward position. “What do I say? How should I act? Do I give her a hug? Do I tell her everything is going to be alright? How can I get her to stop crying?” When there is slight choking due to the intensity of the tears, the panic feeling in the onlooking man increases even more. With Sita, however, just hearing of her tremendous pain brings delight to the heart. No one loves Rama more than Sita does, and her tears are proof of this. Anyone who is fortunate enough to cry tears borne of separation from God should understand that they have situated themselves on a high platform of consciousness. And anyone who can regularly remember Sita’s apparently pitiful situation will similarly be benefitted in their spiritual pursuits. There is no better way to make advancement in consciousness than by being humbled by the selfless and sterling displays of devotion of those who are already in love with God.
Sita, as a princess, was accustomed to wearing a valuable golden necklace, but now that same neck would be afflicted by the tremendous outpouring of tears. This would be how Hanuman would recognize her, for if a woman wasn’t incessantly crying over separation from Rama, she couldn’t have been His wife living in Lanka. Sita also had delicate eyelashes and a beautiful voice. Her speech could melt anyone’s heart, including her husband’s. It is also said that she was like a peahen who was accustomed to roaming the forests with her mate, dancing delightfully to stir his passions. These comparisons are all made to show just how natural and untainted the love between Sita and Rama was.
Remembering Sita Devi’s qualities kept Hanuman going in his mission. He had not met the princess up to this point, but he had heard of her nature. Since she was so dear to Rama, she was very dear to Hanuman as well. We’d be hard pressed to find a more distressing situation than the one faced by Sita. Her dedication to her husband when no one was looking showed just how wonderful she is and how she is forever worthy of our worship and adoration. Those who remember her divine qualities, her heartfelt emotions exhibited when separated from Rama, and Hanuman’s eagerness to find her and allay her fears will have a much easier time getting through the rigors of life. When the mind remains focused in a divine trance of love solidified through hearing the wonderful qualities of Sita and Hanuman, there will be every chance of reaching the supreme destination.
In her throat there is flood of many tears,
Which raises sympathy in anyone who hears.
Will she ever see her dear husband again?
Will she again show her love for Him like a dancing peahen?
Sita, the princess of Videha, was Rama’s wife,
But she was alone in Lanka, fearing for her life.
Hanuman went to go find her, Rama’s news to bring,
But couldn’t find Sita, of sweetest voice that can sing.
He saw all sorts of men and women in Lanka,
But not she of lovely lashes, Janaka’s daughter Sita.
A golden necklace around her neck she wore,
Pain of separation from Rama she bore.
When apart from husband’s company devotion put to the test,
Sita was emblem of love for Rama, stood above all the rest.
To find a more distressing situation we would be hard pressed,
Remembering her and Hanuman, issues in life addressed.