Friday, June 1, 2012

A Beautiful Picture

Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra“Who, O leader of munis, are the parents of pious merits who have sons like these, one fair and one dark, who are a reservoir of beauty and are holding bows and arrows?” (Janaki Mangala, 44)

kehi sukṛtī ke kum̐ara kahiya munināyaka|
gaura syāma chabi dhāma dhareṃ dhanu sāyaka ||

Lord Rama is dark-skinned, of the shyama complexion, while His younger brother Lakshmana is fair, or gaura. Despite the difference, they are both equally as beautiful, and together they make for an enchanting portrait, a divine vision for the eyes to feast on. They are carrying their weapons so innocently, ready to protect the elder muni, the exalted Vishvamitra. Just from their faces not a single blemish can be detected in the boys, and their beauty is so splendid that the eyes don’t want to look anywhere else. In a state of amazement, the onlooker searches for answers, as so many questions immediately come to mind.

If you see something that you’ve never seen before, will you not ask from where it came? If you stop at a farmer’s stand on the side of the road and purchase some mangoes, if the fruits taste better than anything you’ve ever had before, will you not seek out the cause of the distinction? “What makes these particular mangoes any better?” The same concept applies to eating out at restaurants. If you’ve had the best pizza in the world, you will like to know more about what went into making it. “What is the chef’s secret? Pizza is just a collection of simple ingredients after all, so why should there be such a contrast from establishment to establishment?”

The journey through life is a series of questions and answers. With each new experience there are new questions, and sometimes the answers just lead to more questions. Especially if something is extraordinary and very well liked, the questions will start to mount. If you purchase a DVD set of a particular television series that you enjoy, the discs will often contain bonus content. There really should be no need for this. The customer has proved that they are willing to buy the product based only on their appreciation of the original content. They perhaps watched the television series when it first aired on network television or maybe they got into it from watching the reruns that aired during syndication. Regardless, the episodes were preferred so much that the customer felt the need to shell out money to own the DVDs.

EverybodyLovesRaymond_DVDsThe bonus content is there not only to entice potential buyers, but to also answer the many questions fans might have. For instance, how did the initial cast get together? Why is this show successful, while others fail? What goes into the writing, and how much leeway do the actors have in the lines that they read? How long does it take to get a show to air? What is the process of taking an idea and turning it into an episode? To answer these questions and more, the discs will contain audio commentary for many of the episodes. A writer, producer, or actor will sit and watch the episode and provide commentary as the show moves along. You get more insight into the same episodes that you saw many times previously.

What are some of the things that you can learn? For starters, if one of the female actors was pregnant during the shooting, you can start to notice some of the camera angles. “Ah, so that’s why she is always pictured seated in bed or on a couch with a pillow over her. They were just trying to hide her stomach area. Oh wow, they continued this practice for several episodes. I never would have known were it not for this commentary.” The intent of providing behind-the-scenes information is to give the inquisitive fan a greater appreciation of the show they like so much.

Many thousands of years ago, King Janaka was holding a well-known contest in his kingdom. The event was known to the world because the king had broadcast the news of it to everyone. He was looking for a suitable husband for his eldest daughter Sita. She was found one day when she was a baby, so the king didn’t know who her biological parents were. Thus he could not use astrological signs at the time of birth to determine a suitable match in a husband, as was customary during that time. Indeed, the same horoscope comparisons are used to this day for marriages that are arranged in traditional Hindu families.

The arranged marriage seems like a sentence to torture for those who are not accustomed to it, but the fundamentals behind the tradition help to ensure a successful and lasting bond between bride and groom. The two families are joined, and they are there to support the young children who enter the marriage arrangement. If the participants are compatible based on personal characteristics, which are revealed in the constellation of stars at the precise moment of birth, then there is a good chance that the two will love each other and remain committed throughout life.

For the father, the lasting protection of his daughter is the most important matter to consider. He is her guardian, and with marriage the responsibility of protection is handed over to the new husband. King Janaka could not think of a proper way to pick Sita’s husband, so he decided to hold a ceremony where all the princes from around the world would be invited. They would participate in a contest where they had to try to lift Lord Shiva’s bow.

Sita DeviWith the rules of the contest, you would think that arriving first would be to your advantage. Ah, but this was no ordinary bow. It was so heavy that likely no one would be able to lift it. If someone could, it would be a sign from above that they were meant to marry the beautiful daughter of Janaka, who was his most valuable possession. When the time came for her marriage, he felt like a rich man that was about to lose his fortune.

“After seeing that I had reached an age suitable for giving me away to a proper husband in marriage, my father became overcome with fear and anxiety, like a man who was about to become poor.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.34)

Janaka was a pious king, so he was very hospitable to the many guests who arrived in his kingdom. Oddly enough, Vishvamitra Muni also came. He wasn’t on the so-called guest list, but then again a brahmana didn’t require an invitation for coming to Janaka’s kingdom. The pious rulers during those times were known as rajarishis, or kings who are devoted souls. Janaka welcomed Vishvamitra and was thrilled to have a meeting with him. A brahmana imparts supreme wisdom that can be used to find happiness in any situation. Therefore their association is always considered a great blessing.

Janaka’s interest was further sparked by Vishvamitra’s companions at the time. Two young boys, splendid in their beauty, were accompanying the exalted sage. Janaka was a famous yogi known for his dispassion. Nothing could phase him. Whether it was a joyous occasion or a time for sadness, Janaka never shirked his responsibilities. He understood that the individual is Brahman, or pure spirit. Brahman has nothing to do with temporary changes to the body. We all emerge from the womb at birth and then quit the body at death. Throughout the time in between shifts may occur, but the essence of identity, the spirit soul, does not ever change.

Whatever Janaka’s level of dispassion was, it ran away as soon as he saw Rama and Lakshmana, the two youthful princes escorting Vishvamitra. The attraction to them was spontaneous, and it was transcendental. This pleasure Janaka felt was like none before. He had felt the bliss of Brahmasukha, or the happiness associated with realizing Brahman. This new pleasure far surpassed that, so when Janaka finally regained control of his senses, he started to ask some questions.

Rama and LakshmanaFor starters, who were the parents of these children? Rama and Lakshmana were like a wish-fulfilling tree, who provided happiness that would never run out. The parents who produced such children must be an ocean of purity. They must have accumulated so many pious merits to get such beautiful sons, who look so wonderful carrying their bows and arrows. Normally, if we see an armed law enforcement person, we don’t think they’re particularly beautiful because of their uniform. We may be comforted to know that they are on the scene, but it is understood that they are on duty. Rama and Lakshmana, though carrying weapons, provided so much pleasure just based on their natural beauty. The weapons actually became enhanced in appearance because of the transcendental nature of the two boys.

This fact is noted by great devotees many times in Vedic literature. The author of the above quoted verse is Goswami Tulsidas, and in his Gitavali he describes how when Rama was a young child He wore so many ornaments that appeared beautiful as a result of being on His body. Typically, we wear jewelry and nice clothes to enhance our appearance. Since Rama is the Supreme Lord, His transcendental body actually enhances the beauty of the ornaments and not the other way around. The same thing is said about the youthful and beautiful form of Lord Krishna, who is the same Shri Rama but in a different outward visible manifestation.

The parents of Rama and Lakshmana indeed did accumulate spiritual merits in their past lives. Of course King Janaka was not to be left out of the equation. His unsolicited affection for Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord, and Lakshmana, God’s number one servant, proved that he was a possessor of tremendous virtue. He also had the goddess of fortune, Sita Devi, as his daughter, and because of his contest Sita and Rama would be reunited. Though youthful and possessing delicate features, Rama was able to lift Shiva’s bow without a problem. He is God after all, so what contest is too difficult for Him? His shyama complexion is the most attractive, and with Lakshmana and his fair complexion next to Him, the Lord’s beauty is enhanced even further. The more questions Janaka would ask, the more he would find out about the two boys, and the more his love for them would grow.

In a similar manner, if we daily consult the Vedic literatures and hear the purports to the many verses from the writings and verbal teachings of the exalted saints who follow in King Janaka’s mood of devotion, our appreciation for God will also grow. And if one is fully anxious to continue association with the Supreme Lord at the time of death, they no longer have to suffer through reincarnation. With that reward they get to appreciate transcendental beauty even more in the subsequent lifetime in the spiritual sky.

In Closing:

To Rama and Lakshmana, Janaka’s eyes like a visual reader,

Posed questions to Vishvamitra, of munis a leader.

 

Amidst pageantry of occasion, playing bugles and drums,

These two boys emerged, but where did they come from?

 

One fair and one dark, of beauty so mysterious,

So of their family host king became curious.

 

From more information about Supreme Lord we know,

Certainly our appreciation for Him will grow.

 

Beautiful picture for Janaka’s eyes a gift,

Shri Rama heavy bow of Shiva’s to lift.