“Like an ocean of purity are the mother and father of these children, who are like a heavenly desire tree, who have a spotless beauty that gives the eyes so much happiness that is without end.” (Janaki Mangala, 43)
punya payodhi mātu pitu e sisu suratarū |
rūpa sudhā sukha deta nayana amarani barū ||
The vision of Shri Ramachandra and His younger brother Lakshmana is so sweet that there is really no way to properly describe it. It is one thing to look at something beautiful and be awestruck, but it is another to try to put what you are feeling into words. Goswami Tulsidas, in singing of the famous initial meeting of Lord Rama and His beloved consort Sita Devi, touches on some of the emotions felt by the different parties, describing what they felt when they first laid their eyes upon Rama and His brother. Indeed, the eyes exist for this very purpose. The eyes can move very quickly, and depending on what is in front of them, they may inadvertently glance upon something that is unpleasant. But the act of seeing should not be shunned, for under the right circumstances the reason for existence can be revealed through a quick glance.
How does this work exactly? So one day we’ll be lucky enough to see something that is out of this world, something which will force us to ask the right questions? If you look into the sky on a clear night, you’ll notice the many stars in the solar system. You can’t see everything that’s out there, but the infinite beyond reveals a portion of itself to the person viewing it from thousands of miles away. In a second you can go from feeling important to knowing how insignificant you really are. The universe is so vast and complex, and this fact is reinforced just by looking into the night sky.
If you are fortunate enough to gaze upon the spiritual form of the Personality of Godhead, a higher realization will come to you, provided you have the proper mood. You’ll wonder how anything could be so beautiful and how you lived so long without having seen it. With King Janaka, the astonishment went further. He immediately thought of the parents of the vision in question. Where did they live and what did they do to get such beautiful sons? Surely they must be full of virtue, like an ocean of purity. To be pure in thought, word and deed is very rare, for it requires a long time of practice and dedication in saintly life, administered by bona fide spiritual leaders who are themselves pure.
As is so nicely revealed in the Bhagavad-gita, whatever we think of at the time of death is the state that we will attain in the next life. This occurs without fail. There is no flaw to the system; what we think is what we get. Obviously the moment of death is the time of greatest panic in one’s life, so there is little control over the faculties of the brain at that moment. What you will remember is what you thought about most during your time on earth. For the pious individual, a pure consciousness will be the reservoir of thought at the precise moment of exiting the body.
In the next life, the reward for that piety is birth in circumstances that are favorable for spiritual elevation. The quickest pathway towards the ultimate destination of the imperishable spiritual sky is the association of that land’s leader. When that association exists through a bond of love, which involves service flowing in both directions, there is no requirement to even wait for the afterlife. The present circumstances turn into a spiritual land, a place where there is no concern over past, present, or future. There is no worry over change because the association you have is with the changeless. The only concern is over whether or not the love will be offered properly, and because of this sincerity, the object in question ensures that the conditions are always auspicious.
King Dasharatha of Ayodhya in his previous life accumulated pious merits by regularly observing the Satyanarayana-vrata. The vow relates specifically to a form of the Supreme Lord that accepts a certain kind of worship offered at regular intervals by householders and those looking to gain pious credits. The vow isn’t directly related to bhakti, which is the pinnacle of religious practice. Nevertheless, pious behavior followed under authorized guidelines never fails to provide spiritual benefit. In his subsequent birth, Dasharatha would taste the fruit of his existence.
That would come through obtaining Shri Rama as a son. Rama is God Himself, who appears on earth in every Treta Yuga, or second time period of creation, as a warrior prince to annihilate the miscreants and protect the pious. No one was a better defender of religious principles than Dasharatha, who followed the example set by the ancestral line he belonged to known as the Ikshvakus. Thus Rama blessed the family further by appearing in it and granting Dasharatha a way to offer love without motivation and without interruption. Dasharatha’s three wives also had gained many spiritual merits from previous lives. Queen Kausalya got Rama as a son. The bond the mother has with her son is unique. The good mother cares for her son so much that she is not concerned with what he asks for or what he wants. Mother knows best, so the son can never stop her from offering love.
Dasharatha had three other sons through his queens. They were all sweethearts in behavior and reservoirs of pleasure. Shri Rama is a direct incarnation of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, and His three younger brothers are partial incarnations of Vishnu. Thus they were really one and the same, though Rama was the leader. Every day the parents got to enjoy the company of their divine children, who were seemingly sent from heaven to delight everyone in Ayodhya.
On the particular day referenced in the quote above, King Janaka was attune to noticing qualities of parents. He was holding a bow-lifting contest to determine who would marry his daughter Sita. In the spiritual world Sita Devi is Rama’s eternal consort. She is the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, who is also an incarnation of Krishna’s pleasure potency Shrimati Radharani. Janaka, while welcoming the many guests that came to his kingdom to witness the ceremony, paid attention to the attributes of the participants. In the arranged marriage system, the parents are just as important as the children. The wife is marrying into the groom’s family after all, so the support system must be in place for the girl to be protected for the rest of her life.
The more pious the parents are the more likely the children will be to grow up pious. Seeing how beautiful Rama and Lakshmana were, Janaka immediately noted that the children’s parents must be an ocean of purity. The boys are compared to a surataru, or heavenly desire tree. If one is still on the material platform at the time of death, if they have acted piously enough they get to enjoy many years of life on the heavenly planets. In that place, which is still part of the perishable material world, there are trees that can grant any desire immediately.
Shri Rama, or God, is often compared to a desire tree because whatever you want from Him you can get. This seems strange because don’t many people not pray to God at all and still get benedictions? Ah, but what is it exactly that they receive? The absence of a desire to approach God is simultaneously a desire as well. While there is not an explicit desire to turn away from God, the implicit is just as good in this scenario. If someone doesn’t want to love God, they are granted every ability to exercise that mistaken choice in an arena where the personal influence of the supreme master is absent. Hence even the spiritually disinclined get benedictions from God.
But the desire tree is best used to receive specific rewards. In the case of Rama, the reward He granted was supreme happiness, which was facilitated through His spotless form, which was as sweet as nectar. Nectar gives happiness to the person who consumes it. If it is in liquid form, it is enjoyed through drinking. With Rama and Lakshmana, the nectar came through their vision, the spiritual forms that stood before whoever was fortunate enough to see them. The eyes which drank that nectar received so much happiness that was amarani, or immortal or unending.
How can one vision give so much? Well, think about this specific occasion. Rama was in the kingdom of Janakpur, with He and His younger brother Lakshmana escorting the exalted sage Vishvamitra through the forests. The son of Gadhi had brought the two sons to Janaka’s kingdom to have Rama try to lift the bow. Janaka had sent invitations out to every kingdom across the world to come to his town to participate in the contest, but Rama was not home at the time. He was the eldest son in the family, so only He could attempt to win Sita’s hand. In the traditional Vedic system, it is considered a sin for a younger brother to get married before an elder one does.
Rama was away from home, but were the parents back home bereft of their beloved children’s company? Were King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya unable to see Rama when He wasn’t at home? Dasharatha certainly felt the pain of separation when Rama left with Vishvamitra. The sage kindly asked for protection in the forest, and the king was ready to send his most capable fighters, his whole army if he had to. Ah, but Vishvamitra knew what he was doing. He only asked for protection as a pretense to have Rama’s company. The saintly class are selfish in this regard, as they want to spend as much time with God as possible. Thankfully there is plenty of Him to go around, as any person can hold on to the Lord as their best friend by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
A brahmana’s request should not be denied, especially by a king. Therefore Dasharatha had to agree to allow Rama to go, who in turn took Lakshmana with Him. It should be noted that Lakshmana was as beautiful as Rama, a spitting image of the jewel of the Raghu dynasty except that he had a fair complexion while Rama was dark. Sumitra, Lakshmana’s mother, was not happy to see Lakshmana go either, but she knew that he couldn’t live without Rama. The faithful younger brother would never leave Rama’s side, for he would only eat after Rama had eaten and sleep after Rama had fallen asleep.
While Rama and Lakshmana were with Vishvamitra, their visions remained within the consciousnesses of the parents. In this way we see that God’s personal form grants a nectar to the eyes that never dies. Seeing God is only the beginning, for that sight ideally results in a dedication to service that continues forever. Janaka was amazed at the purity of the children’s parents, but little did he know that he was equally as qualified to see God. He already had Sita as a daughter, so there was no questioning his spiritual merits. Through his contest, the divine couple would be reunited, and that divine vision would remain in Janaka’s mind eternally.
From contest where Shiva’s bow to lift,
Vision of Sita and Rama in Janaka’s mind to sit.
First all the royal families from around the world were called,
To Janaka’s capital city their royal entourages were hauled.
But two boys accompanying Vishvamitra were different,
Sparked full attraction in king who to world was indifferent.
Parents of the boys must be of purity an ocean,
Get to see children and their daily playful motion.
Piety brings God’s company, from Janaka’s thoughts believe,
Endless happiness from desire trees Rama and Lakshmana receive.