“By offering good tidings and wishing for all good things to happen, it was as if the people invited auspiciousness to the scene. Rama and Lakshmana then left with the sage.” (Janaki Mangala, 31)
hohiṃ saguna subha mangala janu kahi dīnheu |
rāma lakhana muni sātha gavana taba kīnheu ||
In the Vedic tradition, it is important to keep an eye out for signs of auspiciousness. A long time ago, while the king of Hastinapura ruled over his kingdom after victory in a very bloody war, he began to notice auspicious signs. There was no quarrel anywhere, and greed and fierce competition were not allowed entry into the city. The subsequent inauspiciousness followed the introduction of these unwanted elements in society. Once the bad omens were noticed, that the Supreme Lord had left the phenomenal plane to return to His spiritual abode was evident. As the Lord’s absence represents the most inauspicious condition, King Yudhishthira knew that the immediate future wasn’t so bright. Many thousands of years prior, however, the same Supreme Lord was in the process of leaving from a local town, but instead of relying on the external signs around them, the people of the town offered such nice prayers that auspiciousness personified arrived on the scene as an invited guest.
How does this work exactly? How can you create auspiciousness just by uttering a few words? Whether someone likes me or hates me, does it really matter in the end? If my boss says negative things behind my back or praises me to the hilltops, in the end all that matters is what he pays me. This is especially true if the relationship is based squarely on a business arrangement, where remuneration is expected. Isn’t every relationship the same way? How then can auspicious signs be found when the conditions speak otherwise? Are not the external circumstances the harbinger of things to come?
The outside signals are paid attention to in the Vedic tradition, which is the oldest system of spirituality in existence. Spirituality is an all-encompassing field. From knowledge of the internal comes the ability to cope with the external. It doesn’t work the same way when the order is reversed. I may know how to maintain a shirt and coat, but this doesn’t mean that I can automatically take care of myself. On the other hand, if I feed myself regularly, go to bed on time, and properly treat illnesses, I can then figure out how to get dressed properly and wear the clothes appropriate to the situation.
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
Spirituality deals with the internal spark at the lowest level, the tiny but powerful force of spirit localized within the body. The fact that spirituality is considered separate from any other endeavor or narrow in scope shows just how much attention the external gets. The Vedas provide the first instruction that we are spirit soul, not part and parcel of the body. Our current dwelling changes constantly, from boyhood to youth to old age. However, the spirit soul’s fortunes can be shaped by how this body is utilized. To be put to the best use, the body must take actions under the proper conditions. Every collection of matter has an ideal utilization. If that property is violated, the item is not put to its proper use. Think of driving your car in the snow or using a fork to eat soup.
With the duties prescribed to each member of society based on their specific order, there is a proper time and circumstance for action. When marriage arrangements take place, members of the priestly class determine an auspicious sign based on the qualities of the participants and the specific alignment of stars. If the conditions are not conducive to a future full of wedded bliss, the marriage ceremony will not be held at that time. On a larger scale, the outside conditions at any given time can portend good or bad things for the future. For a group of citizens a long time ago, their desire for future auspiciousness was so strong that they did not worry about the external circumstances. Instead, they gave everything - body, mind and soul - over to their beloved Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana, who were on their way out of the town to escort a venerable rishi in his travels through the forests.
Why were the townspeople so enamored with Rama? Why not offer the same dedication to their own children? Shri Rama is the soul of all creatures, the original life force. From one have sprung many, and that one is supporting all the many at the same time. Because of His inherent qualities, every single life form is naturally attracted to Him. In the perverted version of that natural desire, the love turns to hate, but the attraction is still there. Even in apathy the attraction leads to association with the external feature of the Lord known as material nature.
With the residents of Ayodhya during the Treta Yuga, the personal presence of that original person was available. Everyone made the most of that opportunity by offering their love purely, without motive. An absence of motive means that there is no desire for personal benefit. I work at the office so that I can get paid. I go to school so that I’ll get an education. I give money to the poor so that I won’t feel as bad about their situation. I offer help to someone because I am afraid of the negative consequences that will come from not offering that help.
The residents of Ayodhya had no such motives or fears. They were tied in a bond of affection to the eldest son of King Dasharatha. Rama was a boy of less than twelve years of age when He had to leave the town for a short while. Vishvamitra Muni, a member of the priestly class, previously faced harassment in the forests from a Rakshasa named Maricha. That demon had fellow night-rangers with him to help in attacking the priests. Rama was a member of a royal family, so He was trained in the military arts. Vishvamitra knew that Dasharatha’s eldest son could protect him. Rama took Lakshmana with Him because the younger brother could not live without Rama. Lakshmana was equally as capable a fighter, with the duo combining to have a fire and wind effect. Fire can only burn the local area, but if combined with wind, it can spread across a much greater distance. With Lakshmana by His side, Rama could extend the reach of His protection to all the saints residing in the forest.
“Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana, has reddish eyes and a voice that resounds like a kettledrum. His strength matches that of Rama’s, and his face shines like a full moon. Just as wind gives aid to a raging fire, Lakshmana has joined forces with his brother. It is that best of kings, Shriman Rama, who has brought down the Rakshasas fighting in Janasthana.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.16-17)
Now that we have this information, the behavior of the residents seems odd. On the one side you have a mature adult approaching the king of the town for help in getting protection against the wickedest terrorists in the world. The rishi came to Ayodhya only to ask for this young boy to protect him. Meanwhile, the residents of the town viewed the same youth as helpless. Therefore when Rama was walking away, they prayed for His welfare. They asked God that Rama return successful and that He not as much have a single hair removed from His head while taking a bath. Can we imagine such purity in emotion? They prayed to God for God’s welfare. It seems silly to do this, but this behavior actually represents the height of devotion. It is the embodiment of selflessness.
Goswami Tulsidas very much appreciated these sentiments. In the above referenced verse from his Janaki Mangala, we see that the poet has personified mangala, or auspiciousness, and said that through their offerings of good tidings the residents essentially invited auspiciousness to the area. Omens be damned, what they offered to Rama was better than any external sign of nature. It was during these conditions that Rama and Lakshmana walked away with Vishvamitra. The same practice has been followed ever since that time by sincere devotees. In temples where God is worshiped, the deities are awakened to the chanting of the holy names. Auspiciousness is invited to the scene by first offering prayers to Tulasi Devi, the Lord’s beloved servant. Next, the spiritual master is honored, for he is the Lord’s representative. With the blessings from Tulasi Devi and the guru, the proper mood of worship is created, allowing the further proceedings to have lasting effects.
Though there are different methods of religion, and even smaller sub-religions that meet targeted goals, nothing can be higher than the mood of worship shown by the residents of Ayodhya. They prayed to God for God to be safe, and the same type of prayer can be invoked by reciting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Not to be confused with a prayer asking for personal wealth, the elimination of distress, or the perfection of mysticism, the sacred syllables uttered in the most wonderful prayer ask God and His energy for the benediction of being able to continue in service to Him.
Yet the innocent people of Ayodhya didn’t even ask for that. They just wanted Rama and Lakshmana to be okay. Of course the duo would always be in good spirits, and their vision would remain in the minds of the sweethearts protected by King Dasharatha. The boys would protect Vishvamitra well, and they would have the pleasure of escorting him to Videha, where a grand sacrifice was taking place. The auspicious conditions under which Rama and Lakshmana left were matched with the wonderful atmosphere of their return, when Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune herself, came to Ayodhya as Rama’s wife.
Just as the residents did not worry about outside conditions, time or circumstance when praying for Rama’s welfare, the sincere devotee does not have to pay much concern to the circumstance when reciting the holy names. The sound vibration representation of the same Shri Rama can be invoked, honored, cherished, and held on to for sustenance at any moment. Correspondingly, Shri Rama’s association, including the vision of His beautiful form leaving Ayodhya with His younger brother Lakshmana, can be created at any moment, even right at this very second, should we so choose.
When sadness upon the residents of Ayodhya fell,
Their worries for Rama’s welfare God they did tell.
Typically, future guessed from outside omens’ sight,
But residents decided auspiciousness to invite.
For proper time and circumstance why wait?
Insisted that brothers live in pleasurable state.
Let them successful in protecting sage return,
Then their eyes fruit of existence to earn.
Chant holy names at any time,
For auspiciousness to find.