“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 ||
Like it or not, your behavior is a reflection on your upbringing. The people who raise you are responsible for making sure that when you’re an adult you follow the proper standards of conduct, that you obey the law and don’t cause a nuisance to society. A parent especially understands how difficult it is to raise a child and make sure that they grow up to be properly educated and well-behaved, so when they see good traits in another child they immediately think of the role of the parents. This was the case with a famous king who cast his glance upon the transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Rama.
What is a transcendental form? Can God have any other kind of form? God is everything, a fact which isn’t too earthshattering. In mathematics there is the concept of sets and what different values they can contain. The most inclusive set is that which has the most values, the largest amount of numbers that represent the possible aggregations one can find. If we looked at the entire creation from a mathematical perspective, we’d see that there is a sum collection of space and its component objects. Obviously the measurement of that collection is unfathomable, but there is nevertheless a total amount. If we see a jar full of jellybeans, we can’t be exactly sure to the number how many jellybeans there are, but there is still a specific total.
If we calculated a total for the universe, it’d be a representation of God. His universal form, or virat-rupa, is one way to think of Him, but at the same time this only represents a partial view. “How is this possible? If we include everything, is that not the limit to existence? The Absolute Truth is the entire collection of gross matter, or a form that is considered invisible to the mind. We can’t see the universal form but we know that it exists. Therefore God is not a perceived reality. He must be accepted as an impersonal force that is always present in some way.”
But the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, reveal that the Supreme Lord is both formless and with form. The distinction itself is a necessary product of illusion, pointing to a limitation in understanding. Just as we say that the sun is not out on a particular day because of the influence of the clouds, since we can’t understand what a spiritual form is, we say that the macrocosmic vision of the Lord is His only feature. But to show what it means to have a transcendental form, that Absolute Truth kindly appears before our eyes every now and then. The foolish still don’t understand His true nature even when looking directly at Him, but for those who are humble enough to know their limitations and accept the statements of the bona fide acharyas on faith in the beginning, the fruit of existence is revealed.
Shri Rama, the young boy who accompanied Vishvamitra Muni through the forests many thousands of years ago, showed the pious exactly what God looks like. The Lord has many spiritual forms and the fact that they appear within this material world is not extraordinary. A person who is superior and in charge of a particular energy can never be beholden to that energy’s influence. The material nature, which spreads illusion that results in an identification with dull matter, has no existence on its own. Rather, it is consciousness that brings the presence of life, and the source of that consciousness is God.
In every vibrant life form, including our own body, the consciousness derived from the Supreme Lord’s superconsciousness is present. We can think, feel and will because we are similar in quality to God but vastly inferior to Him in quantitative powers. We can be illusioned, but He cannot. With proper training in the system of spirituality descending from Shri Rama, illusion can dissipate, paving the way towards basking in the sweetness of God’s transcendental form.
Even the exalted figures are sometimes bewildered by this apparent duality, the fact that God is everything and still capable of appearing within a smaller section. Mother Parvati once asked her dear husband Lord Shiva to describe the glories of Shri Rama and explain how Rama is actually God and not an ordinary man. Lord Shiva began his discourse by remarking that there is no difference between the personal and the impersonal features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is only a perceived difference, and due to that one tends to think that Rama accepts a material form and then rejects it. The Supreme Lord is never subject to illusion nor is He ever away from us. He pervades all of space and at the same time He is not personally present within everything. His divine vision is granted to the kind souls who know how to properly utilize His energies.
When King Janaka saw Rama and Lakshmana entering his kingdom, he was enamored by their beauty. Vishvamitra brought the brothers to Janakpur to witness the bow-lifting contest that was taking place. Up to this point, Janaka was intimately familiar with Brahman, which is a theoretical understanding of spirit but one that is still not complete. To know Brahman is to know that spirit is the essence of identity and that it is transcendental to matter. Knowing Bhagavan, however, is knowing that Brahman has an origin.
Rama is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing before the eyes of the earth’s creatures in the guise of a warrior prince. In Bhagavan’s original feature, He is Shri Krishna, the charming youth with a blackish complexion holding a flute in His hands and enchanting the residents of the spiritual planet of Goloka Vrindavana. The personal expansions of Krishna are identical to Him in potency. The only difference is in the transcendental mood of devotion that they instill in their followers. Rama was especially attractive to Janaka upon first sight. The king couldn’t believe what he was feeling, a sort of ecstasy that he did not think was possible. By understanding Brahman one learns to keep their emotions in check, to not be distracted by temporary highs and lows. Indeed, Janaka was holding this contest only to follow dharma. Personally he did not wish to part with his beloved daughter Sita, but dharma called for the king to marry off his daughter when she reached an appropriate age.
When Janaka, a good parent in his own right, saw Rama and Lakshmana, he immediately thought of their parents. He thought that the parents must be an ocean of purity, for the boys were like a wish-fulfilling tree whose beautiful forms granted so much unending happiness to the eyes. The children are produced by the parents, and in the Vedic culture one follows so many rules and regulations to ensure that their offspring are beautiful and virtuous. Rama was the most beautiful and Lakshmana was like His twin, so whoever produced them must have had the largest store of virtue.
Rama would uphold the good name and fame of His parents by His outward beauty and by His actions. As God, Rama does not have any parents, but to give pleasure in the mood of bhakti known as vatsalya-rasa He appears from the womb of mother Kausalya during every Treta Yuga, or second time period of creation. He accepts King Dasharatha as a father to give the pious leader an heir to the throne of Ayodhya. Dasharatha also develops a firm attachment to Rama, who becomes the king’s life and soul.
Rama would give so much fame to His family line by winning the contest, being the only man capable of lifting Shiva’s bow. It was almost as if Lord Shiva had coordinated the events, for he delights in hearing about Rama and discussing His pastimes with others. Goswami Tulsidas, the author of the Janaki Mangala, follows Mahadeva’s example by giving the world delightful poetry to be used in remembering Sita, Rama, Lakshmana and the Lord’s most faithful servant Hanuman.
King Janaka was very sweet in his observations on Rama and Lakshmana and their family, and the same sentiments could be applied to him. How pious the parents of Janaka must have been to get a son who would take care of the goddess of fortune, Sita Devi, and then invite Shri Rama Himself to the kingdom. Tulsidas sparks the same question in the reader. Where did Rama find someone so kind to describe His pastimes? Where does Rama find a dedicated brother like Lakshmana and a heroic servant like Hanuman? These questions are difficult to answer even for the Lord, for He is so pleased by the service of the devotees.
From this incident with Janaka we get a good idea on how to serve our parents, who do so much to protect us in life. The parents have a difficult job because they cannot slip in their behavior. The impressionable young child will follow the behavior of the parents more than their words. If we do acquire any good qualities, if we are fortunate enough to chant the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, it should be understood that our parents did a good job in raising us, even if it may seem otherwise. Somehow or other we were put into the position to connect with the holy name, which fully represents the Supreme Lord and His personal self.
To repay the service offered by the parents, one should follow the highest system of piety, which is known as bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service. Rama upheld the virtue of His parents and ancestors by following the prescribed duties of His order, the kshatriya. The kshatriyas are royal administrators, so they must exhibit bravery in combat and impartiality in the distribution of justice. In the current age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the lines have been blurred to the point that one can’t figure out what their occupational duties are. Thus there is only one dharma that need be followed: devotion to God. From regularly chanting God’s names, hearing about His pastimes and worshiping and honoring His servants, we give the highest service to our parents. We represent them in our behavior, so if we can show that life’s mission of understanding God is reached, we prove that they are full of purity as well, for they gave the world a sincere servant of the Lord, whose association is a terrific boon.
Know that responsibility with everything you do,
Represent your character and your parents’ too.
Thus if you point your behavior in right direction,
On the merits of mother and father a good reflection.
Seeing Rama and Lakshmana, of their origin Janaka unsure,
But could guess that their parents were like an ocean pure.
Endless happiness to eyes that their forms see,
Thus boys appeared as if they were heavenly desire tree.
When your consciousness to divine realm you send,
The pious credits to your good parents will extend.