“Travelling along the way with the rishi they are looking so beautiful. That beautiful image lives within Tulasi’s heart. When the trio was going, it looked like the sun travelling north, taking with it the spring season.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 4.2)
riṣi sanga sohata jāta maga chabi basata so tulasī hiem̐ |
kiyo gavana janu dinanātha uttara sanga madhu mādhava liem̐ ||
From this one verse found in the Janaki Mangala, courtesy of Goswami Tulsidas we get so many lessons coupled with feelings of transcendental pleasure. The simple image of an elderly rishi travelling along the road with two new disciples can be studied over and over - with the mind contemplating on the significance of the parties involved and the righteousness they were upholding - and new delights can be found with each renewed mental effort. The comparison to the sun is most significant, as the fiery body in the sky is the giver of light. Depending on its positioning, the residents of the affected land are either optimistic about the immediate future or unhappy about the change in weather that is about to occur. The sun’s influence is seen in so many areas but is especially evident in the seasons. When a new season ushers in the beginning of life again, the residents feel optimistic. In a similar manner, the sun that is Vishvamitra was taking the two months of the spring season to the residents of the forest.
In the above referenced verse the poet says that the two boys, Rama and Lakshmana, are looking very beautiful travelling with the rishi. Rama is the eldest son of King Dasharatha, a pious ruler of Ayodhya who lived on this earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. Lord Rama is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as stipulated by the Vedas and their foremost literatures like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana. If one is hesitant to believe that God can appear on earth in human form or that Rama Himself is a historical personality and not just a mythological concoction, following the events relating to Rama documented in the sacred texts, hearing about them from those who truly understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His features, will dissipate the darkness of ignorance and provide a kind of enlightenment not found through any other endeavor. The results from hearing about Rama give indication enough of His divine nature. That benefit is there for one and all, irrespective of religious faith, family tradition, skin color, nationality, or the language spoken. Just as the sun distributes its heat and light to everyone, so the spiritual sun that is Bhagavan pays no attention to sectarian boundaries.
Why Rama would appear on earth is always a mystery not completely understood by the living beings that require an education to learn how to do anything important. In the Bhagavad-gita, the same Rama in His original form of Krishna says that whenever there is a rise of irreligion, in order to reinstitute the principles of dharma, or the occupational duty for mankind, He descends Himself to earth in His personal form. The personal form extends to Krishna’s direct incarnations as well, which include Shri Rama. Therefore we can deduce that during Rama’s time there was a rise in irreligion, a fact confirmed when one time King Dasharatha welcomed a notable rishi to his kingdom.
A rishi is a devoted soul, kind of like a priest, but someone who lives a certain lifestyle that maintains a certain type of consciousness. That consciousness is one focused on God. God consciousness is the ultimate objective in life, for every single person. The rishis are those who are fortunate enough, through many austerities and pious acts from previous lives, to pursue the divine consciousness as their primary objective in life. The lifestyle they follow thus aims to foster that thinking of God and keep it at active levels. Just as there are best practices when administering a database, writing code for a new application, or keeping your documents on your computer in order, there are certain ideal principles one can follow that best allow for God consciousness to remain alive.
A common principle in all of the recommendations is minimalism. Keep the attachment to material nature to a minimum, preventing the senses from getting spoiled. If I eat every time I think I’m hungry or if I sleep whenever I get the slightest hint of fatigue, I will actually do harm for myself going forward. This is because the next time I get hungry, it will be even more difficult to control myself. The same goes for sleep. If you sleep for an extended number of hours each night, you will actually be more tired throughout the day, for your body gets accustomed to the rest.
On the other side, if your senses can be trained to remain controlled, you can better stay alert and focused on your tasks. The best way to train the senses is to limit the number of objects of interaction in the immediate environment. Think of it like trying to lose weight by keeping food out of your radar. If you’re on a diet, you won’t do so well if you’re seated at a buffet table the entire day. Similarly, if you’re around material allures throughout the day, you won’t stand a good chance of staying detached.
A famous sage by the name of Vishvamitra was following these principles in the serene setting of the forests. There was one problem, though, which would indicate why Shri Rama advented on earth. A band of night-rangers, Rakshasas who could change their shapes at will, rose in influence and began to harass the peaceful sages in the forest. Vishvamitra came to Ayodhya to ask for King Dasharatha’s protection. The king was not part of the priestly order, but he still had occupational duties to perform that would complement the activities of the rishis. The royal order is to provide protection to the innocent, and by following that obligation with faith and detachment, the same control of the senses can result. Thus we see that although the brahmana class has the best opportunity for arousing God consciousness, the ultimate objective in life is open to anyone to attain, provided they follow the guidelines prescribed for their order.
Vishvamitra asking for help wasn’t out of the ordinary, but what was strange was that he asked specifically for Dasharatha’s eldest son Rama. At the time, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty was not even twelve years of age, but Vishvamitra knew that He had divine abilities, that He could easily fend off the Rakshasas. Dasharatha reluctantly agreed, and Rama took Lakshmana with Him. Lakshmana is an incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga, the expansion of the Supreme Lord that plays the role of the servitor-God, the number one protector of Bhagavan’s interests. True to his nature, Lakshmana would not allow Rama to leave home alone. He had to come along as well.
In the verses preceding this one, Tulsidas remarks that Rama and Lakshmana’s beauty could not be described. They appeared as if Lord Brahma had taken all the beauty in the world and concentrated it into them. Whatever beauty the creator had left over he used for the rest of the creatures. Lord Brahma is the first created living entity. As a spirit soul he lives forever, but since he accepts a material body, he is destined for death, though for him it occurs after billions of years. Since he is in charge of creation, every living entity in the material world is related to him. The comparison to Brahma is very nice because it illustrates that Rama and Lakshmana are not of the material world; their spiritual forms are so magnificent that nothing can compare to them.
The image of Rama and Lakshmana leaving Ayodhya to escort Vishvamitra is so beautiful that Tulsidas keeps it within his heart. In that safe location, the image can be conjured up whenever the poet wants. And what comes from remembering that sweet vision? For starters, one gets to remember how Rama advented on this earth to protect the innocent. The mind is reminded of Lakshmana’s unselfish dedication to Rama and how Vishvamitra was so fortunate to be wise enough to approach King Dasharatha. The mind remembers the kind residents of Ayodhya who took to the streets to bid Rama and Lakshmana farewell. So many things can be remembered just by finding that image in the heart and bringing it to life. Even the image of the poet keeping that scene in his heart is tremendously heartwarming.
The second part of the above referenced verse says that when they were leaving, it looked like the sun was taking the two months of spring towards the north. As winter dissipates, the sun’s repositioning towards the north indicates the return to life of the plants. The spring season is considered auspicious because of the chance for a new beginning, as it also stirs the passions of those who are responsible for keeping life going. It was during the spring season that Rama would remember His wife Sita Devi, whom He would marry soon after travelling the forests with Vishvamitra.
“Those who know the Supreme Brahman pass away from the world during the influence of the fiery god, in the light, at an auspicious moment, during the fortnight of the moon and the six months when the sun travels in the north.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.24)
In the Bhagavad-gita, it is said that the mystic who knows Brahman passes away during the months that the sun is in the northern position. This departure represents a kind of liberation. Reincarnation is automatic for as long as there is not a permanent God consciousness. Mysticism, contemplating on the Supreme Absolute Truth in the impersonal form, is a way of focusing the mind on God at the time of death, but this path is fraught with difficulty. If the mystic should pass away during the six colder months of the year, that same liberation is not guaranteed. Therefore from Krishna’s statements we see that the more auspicious time is when the sun travels in the north.
In the above comparison, Rama and Lakshmana represent the two months of spring and Vishvamitra the sun, or dina-natha. Dina is the day and natha is lord, so the sun is the lord of the day. Though Rama is often compared to the sun, in this circumstance Vishvamitra was acknowledged to be the superior entity, for he was the guru and Rama and Lakshmana his students. By figuratively travelling north into the forest, the sun that was Vishvamitra was taking the spring season in the form of Rama and Lakshmana with him. This meant that the occupants of the forest would be given life through the protection of the two boys. Vishvamitra would impart confidential mantras to them that would augment the power of the arrows shot from their bows. During that particular time period, all warfare took place with the bow and arrow, and Rama and Lakshmana were so powerful that their arrows could create blasts similar in strength to today’s nuclear weapons.
The spiritual master is always like the sun, and with him comes the sweetness of the spring season represented by the personal association of the Supreme Lord. In addition to the external protection, Rama and Lakshmana would grant their divine vision to the residents of the forest, who would have a renewed life thanks to that association. In a similar manner, since the image of those three figures resides in the heart of Tulsidas, there is never a chance for the poet to feel the pangs of winter, for it is always spring when Vishvamitra is travelling north with Rama and Lakshmana.
With Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshmana move forth,
Like spring season going with sun travelling north.
Makes the spring season come and winter go away,
The sun is responsible, is the lord of the day.
That renewed life to sages in forest to bring,
Glories of Rama and Lakshmana they would then sing.
Image of trio leaving Ayodhya etched in poet’s heart,
Bringing to mind that sweet vision gives day the best start.
Take note of the comparison, keep image by your side,
So that in felicity of divine vision to reside.