Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sharada Purnima

Rama and Lakshmana“In that royal meeting, the two jewels of the Raghu family were looking so beautiful, like the brightest moons of the fall season amongst the stars that brighten the earth.” (Janaki Mangala, 49)

rājata rāja samāja jugala raghukula mani |
manahum̐ sarada ubhaya nakhata dharanī dhani ||

In the Vedic tradition the auspicious rituals observed every month go off the lunar cycle. The months and years are determined by the position of the moon, how full it is, etc. In the autumn season the full moon is especially auspicious because of its brightness. Known as the Sharada Purnima, this full moon stands out the most in the sky which is already full of so many stars. This particular moon was referenced to try to describe how two sons of King Dasharatha looked in an assembly of kings gathered to participate in a contest where the winner would receive the goddess of fortune as a wife.

The earth is more important than the objects which grow on it because the seeds of life are found within the earth. The vegetation, grass, and general plant life sustain the population, which includes the meat eaters, but without the seeds found within the earth there would be no question of life continuing. Therefore the earth is the more important object to have. In a similar manner, the stars in the sky brighten the dark night, but the sky itself is more important. The sky contains all the stars, so as soon as you have the sky, you will automatically get the stars.

“Just as within the earth are found every kind of seed and within the sky live all the stars, Tulsidas knows that Shri Rama’s holy name is the reservoir of all dharma.” (Dohavali, 29)

PortraitIf you have the holy name of the Lord, you will automatically have dharma, or religiosity. Chant the sacred maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and don’t worry so much about being religious. The holy name is all you need to find enlightenment, freedom from constant distress, and release from the painful cycle of birth and death. The holy name and a deep love and affection for it satisfy the emotional needs of the individual as well.

The secret to the holy name is that it directly represents the Supreme Personality. Wherever He stands, He is complete in Himself. In His avatara of Lord Rama, He is compared to the beautiful moon, as His glowing visage gives light to a world otherwise filled with darkness. Wherever He goes, He stands out, showing that He is not an ordinary person. The same goes for His younger brother Lakshmana, who is the servitor god, essentially on an equal level with Rama.

The brothers once made their way to the kingdom of Janakpur. They were escorting Vishvamitra Muni through the forests because he was being attacked by night-rangers of mighty strength and cunning tactics. They wouldn’t attack during open conflict, nor would they only fight their own kind. They attacked renounced hermits of all people, and after attacking they would eat their flesh. Rama and Lakshmana, two sons of King Dasharatha, were called on for protection. Though they were both young at the time, due to their divine natures there was no one who could defeat them.

Keeping in that line, they entered King Janaka’s land, where a sacrifice was taking place. The pious king had invited the famous princes from around the world to attempt to lift Lord Shiva’s bow, which was very heavy. Rama and Lakshmana weren’t specifically invited, because they weren’t home at the time. Rama was the eldest son, and as He was unmarried only He was a candidate for participating in the contest. When Janaka saw Rama, he remembered his vow and started to worry. What if Rama couldn’t lift the bow? He was perfect for his daughter Sita, so it would be such a shame if another man lifted the bow. Worse, if Rama failed then He would not be eligible to marry Sita.

Rama and LakshmanaEnchanted by their beauty, Janaka gave the brothers nice thrones to sit on. Vishvamitra was also given a throne. This assembly was quite large, as no one could count how many guests were there. Yet Goswami Tulsidas, in the verse from his Janaki Mangala quoted above, likens Rama and Lakshmana to moons from the autumn season. The rest of the kings assembled represented the other stars in the night sky of the Sharada Purnima. They may have been very bright also, but compared to Rama and Lakshmana they couldn’t be noticed.

The Sharada Purnima is also quite auspicious, as it occurs at the end of the harvest season. It was during this particular full moon that Lord Krishna danced with the gopis in the pastime known as the rasa-lila. Shri Krishna is the same Rama but in His two-handed form of an attractive youth who plays on the flute and delights the residents of Vrajabhumi. The gopis are the topmost transcendentalists, for they love Krishna without motivation and without interruption. They renounce ties to family and society in favor of Krishna’s protection. Their only desire is to love Him, and dancing facilitates that desire very nicely.

Since the gopis are married they can only rendezvous with Krishna at night. Of course the drawback with this is that the night is quite dark. It does help in the sense that it keeps their cover, but at the same time seeing their beloved Krishna becomes more difficult. In the full moon night in the autumn season, the light from the moon is so bright that Krishna can be seen without a problem. Therefore it is quite conducive to dancing with the Lord. Krishna is so kind that He will not deny the heartfelt requests of the sincerest devotees. Though the gopis are many in number, Krishna dances with each one individually by expanding Himself.

The brightness of the Sharada Purnima thus creates conditions auspicious for bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. We can just imagine then what the residents of Janakpur were thinking. Here were two bright moons giving light to the largest crowd on earth. They were quiet and well-behaved young boys, without any trace of haughtiness or pride. They followed the command of the spiritual master Vishvamitra, and they were not looking to defeat anyone at the time. But God’s resplendence from His personal self cannot be hidden. Perhaps in the material world those divine qualities are covered from the eyes due to the feverish pursuit for material fame and opulence, but when directly in Bhagavan’s presence His personal features are noticeable.

The stars brighten the earth in the night, and in the same way Rama and Lakshmana brightened the assembly in Janakpur. The many residents looking on were hopeful of Rama’s triumph. They wanted Him to marry Sita very badly. Janaka’s daughter was the emblem of virtue, and her beauty matched Rama’s. Lakshmi Devi is also worshiped during the Sharada Purnima, for she is the goddess of fortune. Just as Rama is the same Krishna or Vishnu, Sita is the same Lakshmi appearing on earth to give delight to her husband Shri Rama.

What would happen? Would the brightness of the morning steal the splendor of the autumnal moons sitting on their thrones? Rama’s brightness never dissipates and His fame would extend throughout the three worlds after He would lift and break Shiva’s bow. He was not called to the assembly specifically, but through Vishvamitra’s influence and King Janaka’s pious nature, the Lord would fulfill the destiny set forth by the celestials and win Sita’s hand in marriage. The couple is always together, but on that particular occasion the anticipation and fear over potential separation enhanced the experience for the onlookers.

Sita and RamaWhat if Rama hadn’t won? What if Sita had to marry someone else? King Janaka would have been vilified by the residents for his vow, for his rules would have prevented the bright moon that was Rama from joining the family. But just as Rama’s name is complete, His personal self fulfills all the desires of His devotees. Just as the gopis desired Krishna’s association through dance during the rasa-lila, the observers cherishing Rama and Lakshmana’s personal brightness hoped for Sita to wed the eldest son of King Dasharatha. God is not known for denying requests that relate to His personal association. His triumphs are also guaranteed, but the devotees nevertheless pray for them to occur.

After Rama lifted Shiva’s bow, the worship did not stop. The people fortunate enough to be there that day kept that sweet vision within their minds, and saints like Tulsidas immortalized that moment by describing it in song. As the Sharada Purnima is already a noted event every year on the Hindu calendar, the next time it occurs the scene from Janaka’s court can be remembered immediately. The two bright sons of King Dasharatha would make the Raghu clan proud with their presence in Janakpur, and through their travels they would eventually rid the world of the wickedest night-ranger, the king of Lanka. Their brightness can never be defeated, and so anyone who chants the Lord’s holy names, having full reliance on that chanting, will never be left out in the dark.

In Closing:

Sharada Purnima such a wonderful sight,

Amidst stars, the full moon stands bright.

 

During this time gopis of Vrindavana took the chance,

For rendezvous with Krishna, to enjoy rasa dance.

 

Rama and Lakshmana were compared to this moon,

When arrived in Janakpur, to eyes a terrific boon.

 

Janaka and others then remembered his vow,

Afraid that Rama might not lift the bow now.

 

Never fear, brightness of God never to dissipate,

Lifting bow, marrying Sita, Rama fears to eliminate.

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