“…deserving only of happiness and unaccustomed to misfortune, (She was) tormented by grief.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.25)
sukha arhām duhkha samtaptām vyasanānām akodivām |
tām samīkṣya viśāla akṣīm adhikam malinām kṛśām ||
You think you have it bad. The days repeat themselves, you’re all alone, and you have no clue what to do with your life. The days follow such a similar pattern that you can pretty much account for every hour, remembering the same period of time from the day before. You can thus predict what it will be like going forward. This knowledge brings to mind the difficult struggle involved with taking on a new task. As every person has to work for a living, or at least occupy their time with some kind of task, whatever you have completed previously needs to be redone in the future. If your job is to build houses, after one house is built, you must move on to the next one. If you build enough houses, pretty soon you’ll recognize the pattern, and knowing the daunting task you have in front of you, just starting a new house will be difficult. Procrastination will set in, as who wants to start something that they know will take a while to complete?
“Why do I have to do this? Why can’t I just sit in peace? But is that even the answer? I know that if I sit around the house the whole day and do nothing, I’ll get bored very quickly. As I’m now an adult, everyone I know has separated from me. My friends are married now with children, so they are busy in their own way. My siblings have grown up and moved on to careers that have taken them to different parts of the country. What is left? Do I want to work every day for the rest of my life just so I can eat and repeat the same patterns?”
Mind you, this miserable scenario is one where material amenities are available. This kind of unhappiness is quite common, as eating, sleeping, mating and defending can only do so much for the human psyche. The animals have these needs fulfilled as well, and they are not nearly as miserable for the simple fact that they don’t know any better. They can’t contemplate on high philosophy and they can’t notice the repeating patterns enough to get sick of them. The human being is all too wise in this area, and without proper guidance, they will look for escapes through dangerous mechanisms like intoxication and daring adventures.
The materially impoverished will look at such predicaments and not see a problem. If the basic necessities of the body can be met, what is there to complain about? When celebrities visit hospitals to see sick children and cancer stricken adults, things are temporarily put into perspective. How can we complain about not having anything to do when someone else has only a week to live? And they are bedridden at that, so they can’t even enjoy their last remaining days.
For a princess a long time ago, her sorrow was quite profound, and what made the scene more pitiable was the fact that she didn’t deserve any pain. She had only known happiness throughout her life, so it wasn’t fair that she was now in a perilous condition. Whether you are bewildered by the daily grind of material life or panic stricken over a potential future calamity, you’ll be more at peace if there aren’t people hounding you every second. Sita Devi did not have this luxury. Female ogres of cruel deeds surrounded her day and night and tried to scare her into submission. They were ordered to act as such by Ravana, the king of Lanka, who wanted Sita for his wife. The problem was that Sita was already married, to the prince of the Raghu dynasty for that matter.
Separation from her husband was the real cause of her grief, and because of that separation Sita was not eating. She hadn’t done anything wrong to bring this terrible fate upon her. Karma is the system of action and reaction that is impeccably fair. A thief who steals money and doesn’t immediately get into trouble thinks that they have gotten away with the crime, but eventually they will get their punishment. It may not come immediately, but it will inevitably arrive. The reaction matures at the proper season and its intensity corresponds with the grievousness of the original sinful act.
“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)
Karma continues into the next life as well, as the spirit soul does not take birth or die. Reincarnation is often assumed to be a belief of the Eastern religions, but in reality it is just a scientific truth. The foundational principle of reincarnation is the distinction between the soul and the body. This separation exists within the current life, and evidence of it can be seen with our own eyes. The body changes at every second, but the living entity’s identity does not. You don’t consider yourself changed once you get a haircut, and neither is your identity altered when your birthday comes around.
With reincarnation the same principle extends beyond the current life. Prior to our present birth we existed somewhere and after our time is up we will move to somewhere else. The presence of the soul is indicated by the autonomous movements of the body. Once the soul leaves, the body becomes useless. Anyone can see this. The soul has come from somewhere and thus it must go somewhere in the future. The determinant of the destinations, the authority in charge of chartering the course, is karma.
But Rama’s wife was incredibly pious. She never committed a sin, and she pleased everyone who knew her. Her father was overjoyed to have her as a daughter, and she listened to all the instructions of her mother. She followed her husband like a shadow and she served her three mother-in-laws without hesitation. When Rama was exiled from the kingdom of Ayodhya due to the ill-motives of Kaikeyi, the townspeople were more saddened by the fact that Sita was forced to go with Him. Rama was a tough fighter; He could live anywhere without fear, but how was a princess with delicate features going to survive in the wilderness?
But she managed without a problem, for she had her husband with her. To her, the punishment was a blessing, as she got to be with her husband all the time. He didn’t have to leave the house now to take care of administrative affairs. But the misery would come upon her nevertheless. And that pain was quite acute, as she was taken away from Rama’s side through a backhanded plot by Ravana. Now Hanuman was in Lanka, sent by Rama to look for her. Hanuman was looking forward to seeing Rama’s beautiful wife, who was full of purity, but what he saw in the Ashoka grove next to Ravana’s palace was disconcerting.
Sita was spotted, but she was in terrible distress. Her beautiful piece of clothing was now covered with dirt, and her body was thin from not eating. The scene was pitiable, and one would have to question how Sita remained alive. She carried on with the hope of one day seeing her husband again. She knew He could rescue her, but He needed to find out where she was. The brave Hanuman would take care of that, and even a pitiable scene wouldn’t deter him.
From Sita’s plight we see that misery comes upon all living entities, even without their explicitly seeking it. Sita’s misery is a little different, as she remains connected to the Supreme Lord in consciousness. Thus the temporary conditions of up and down, high and low, aren’t as important as the permanent placement of the consciousness in the divine realm. Though that area is without the need for electricity and is well beyond the present material realm, one can travel there in a second with the mind.
The travel takes place through thinking of God. To make the process easier, the features of the Supreme Lord are identified in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. Shri Rama showed some of those features, as He is the very same Supreme Personality of Godhead. His eternal consort Sita Devi always contemplates on those features and gives Rama so much pleasure through her devotion. Hanuman thinks about both Sita and Rama, and devotees think of Hanuman. The pattern should be obvious by now. Follow service to the servant of the servant of the servant of God. As many times removed as you can get in servants the better, provided there is fidelity to the service, known as bhakti-yoga, within each link. Our present circumstances may seem bleak, but know that Hanuman comes with life-giving news to the devotee who is eagerly anticipating the reunion with the Supreme Lord, the reservoir of pleasure.
Misery everyone is sure to get,
Even if in peacefulness you are set.
Like a ripened fruit that matures,
Of good and bad all are assured.
But distress Sita never should have gotten,
In Lanka found situation so rotten.
She had it the worst but stayed alive,
On hopes of seeing Rama she survived.
Of Sita, Rama and Hanuman always think,
So that in total despair you’ll never sink.