“The king went and received blessings and then paid so much honor and respect after that. When he saw Rama, he experienced a happiness one hundred times that of Brahman realization.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 5.2)
nṛpa gahe pāya asīsa pāī māna ādara ati kiem̐ |
avaloki rāmahi anubhavata manu brahmasukha sauguna kiem̐ ||
There is happiness when one realizes Brahman, or the all-pervading spirit. With maya, which is not Brahman, there is perpetual misery. The resulting happiness felt only arrives in short bursts and then vanishes very quickly thereafter. The next time the same experience will not bring as much happiness, for the living being gets accustomed to sense satisfaction, in effect raising the threshold for sense pleasure. The concept of a “proper perspective” can only apply in a realm where ignorance reigns supreme. Though the happiness of association with Brahman is everlasting and different from temporary sense pleasure, the source of Brahman is the real reservoir of pleasure. For a famous king a long time ago, the thrill felt from seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead gave him a happiness he never experienced before.
How do we know that the senses spoil us into requiring more for gratification? Think about why athletes and celebrities involve themselves in children’s charities and other philanthropic ventures. If you’re worried about performing well in the big game, the mental toil will have an impact on your psyche, on your overall happiness. At the same time, when you see a young child suffering from cancer, your problems don’t seem to be as big. One side is worried about how to succeed in a life where living is taken for granted, while the other side is struggling for existence at a young age. Because of the influence of the senses it is easy to lose sight of the proper perspective.
In the larger scheme, even death itself isn’t that big a deal. Sure we don’t know what lays ahead in the future, but the uncertainty of upcoming time doesn’t mean that our existence will cease. The present moment is the culmination of much past thought and struggle. Ten years ago we likely worried about the immediate future, and yet somehow we managed to make it through. Prior to our birth we had no say in the circumstances of our upcoming life, but everything worked itself out anyway.
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
The Vedas reveal that everything in life that we know about is temporary in its manifestation. Those who are illusioned by the temporary easily lose perspective, both in the short and long term. That which is permanent, knowledgeable and blissful is the opposite of the material nature. The Vedas refer to this force as Brahman, and its realization is the main objective of the living entity gifted with a human birth. Within a human body the dichotomy between Brahman and maya can be studied. The most mature living entity can follow instruction and guidance to train the senses to cope with hardship. The marathon runner can run for long distances without any discomfort, while the person new to running finds one mile difficult to complete. The difference between the two individuals is in the training of the body.
In the larger picture, if the body is trained to rely only on limited sense interaction, the realization of Brahman can be attained. The entire breadth and scope of religion is meant for this connection with Brahman, the understanding that I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. Though the ultimate realization may not be disclosed immediately to the sincere spiritualist, the purpose of austerity, sacrifice, and religious practice is the knowledge of the Absolute Truth.
From that knowledge comes happiness. And why shouldn’t there be happiness? If I know that I am an eternal spiritual force, will I get distracted with temporary ups and downs? The greatest fear for the mature human being is death, similar to how the ripened fruit on the tree has nothing left to do but fall. With a fear of death gone, so many other fears are eliminated. Absorbing the authorized information of the Vedas, which reveal the process of transmigration of the soul, which is better known as reincarnation, the living being understands that there is no reason to lament the loss of the temporary body. Neither is a temporary gain a cause for excessive celebration.
“He who is without attachment, who does not rejoice when he obtains good, nor lament when he obtains evil, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.57)
Brahman realization is meant to continue uninterrupted. You can know theoretically that you are spirit soul and not body, but practically every activity you are inclined towards from birth follows the realization of maya, which requires no effort. Thus to attain and stay on the Brahman platform is quite difficult. King Janaka a long time ago mastered the art of real yoga to keep the Brahman vision within his mind at all times. He still followed work. He did not become a robot or give up his obligations without cause. Brahman realization can occur through any type of activity, provided it is authorized and the worker keeps the proper vision within the mind.
King Janaka had a kingdom to rule over, but he carried out his responsibilities with detachment. He did the work because that was his duty, but he had no concern for the result, success or failure. Through his equipoised condition he realized Brahman. He knew what brahma-sukha, or the happiness of realizing Brahman, felt like. Nevertheless, when he saw one young man in particular, the immediate happiness he felt was like no other.
By the very nature of the reaction we can understand that the object viewed was not maya. Thus in the above referenced verse Goswami Tulsidas has affirmed Lord Rama’s position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. King Janaka saw the eldest son of King Dasharatha enter his kingdom alongside Vishvamitra and Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. As a good king, Janaka kindly welcomed the arriving party. Their entrance wasn’t as pronounced as the others, but Janaka nevertheless followed protocol.
Who were the others that arrived? At the time, Janaka was holding a bow-lifting contest to determine the husband for his daughter Sita Devi. Interestingly enough, when Janaka found Sita as a baby girl one day on the field, he immediately felt tremendous affection for her. He loved her so much that he took her in as his daughter. Again, this happiness was not related to maya, for it did not distract from his religious duties. If anything, having Sita as a daughter only made Janaka more committed to the righteous path.
Seeing Rama now Janaka felt a happiness that was one hundred times that of brahma-sukha. The Personality of Godhead has this effect on the pure souls who cherish His company. Janaka didn’t know that Rama was God appearing on earth in the guise of a human being to do the work of the demigods in eliminating the nefarious character Ravana, but he didn’t have to. The purity of the Brahman realization made Janaka eligible for appreciating the transcendental form of the Lord.
That form is meant to provide happiness to the observer. The eyes have a purpose. Through fulfilling that purpose they provide a fruit that can be enjoyed. More than anything the eyes exist to gaze upon the sweet, charming, lovely, and beautiful vision of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who so innocently goes about His business, caring for the welfare of His devotees at every step. It should be noted that seeing Rama is not dependent on Brahman realization. The reference to brahma-sukha made by Tulsidas is only for comparison purposes. One seeking the happiness of merging into the spiritual light of Brahman does not get the same happiness that the devotees do.
Why did Janaka ever bother with Brahman then? Why didn’t he just go straight for God realization at the start? It is said in the scriptures that one who sincerely follows the devotional path, bhakti-yoga, has already performed so many religious sacrifices and penances. In this way we see that the other methods of yoga do have a purpose. The target aim of the human form of life, the fruit of the eyes, is not reached when personal interaction with Shri Rama is absent, but there are still benefits to be gained with disciplines such as jnana-yoga, karma-yoga and hatha-yoga.
If one has the good fortune to hear about bhakti, they should take to it right away, bypassing Brahman realization altogether. Know it for certain that if you have the rare chance to bask in the sweet vision of Shri Rama entering Janakpur to lift Lord Shiva’s bow, you have certainly performed all the necessary rituals and regulations in a previous time. The soul’s reward for pious behavior is the company of the person whom Janaka so delighted in welcoming as a guest. In a short amount of time, that same guest would formally join the king’s family.
Maya, with her illusory visions deceives,
Allows not the eyes the fruit of existence to receive.
Brahman is truth, with maya nothing to do,
Above karma, victory and defeat too.
To feel brahma-sukha is surely a great chore,
But know that happiness can have even more.
The supreme pleasure of seeing God Janaka felt,
Knew brahma-sukha, but this time his heart did melt.
Supreme Lord is wherefrom Brahman has come,
Follow bhakti and know your ascension done.