Friday, August 10, 2012

Block That Vibe

Sita Devi“She was beloved of the whole world like the radiance of the full moon. That lovely woman was seated on the ground like a female ascetic practicing restraint.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.30-31)

iṣṭām sarvasya jagataḥ pūrṇa candra prabhām iva ||
bhūmau sutanum āsīnām niyatām iva tāpasīm |

“Okay, be cool. Don’t let them bother you. Just pretend like you can’t hear what they are saying. At least give it a shot. What if you really couldn’t hear what they were saying about you? What if you had headphones on or kept your eyes closed? In this way keeping your concentration, focusing your mind, would be rather easy. But just because their taunts are within audible range somehow the practice of meditation is a chore. If you can learn to block them out, you can find peace in even the most troubling situations.”

Taking the mind away from a distressful situation is easier said than done. Anger can arise from frustration or the challenge to the ego from an outside party. Frustration can be dealt with by knowing that the individual is quite powerless in the grand scheme of things. Just because you get to work on time every day for many years doesn’t mean that tomorrow’s trip to work is guaranteed to take the same amount of time. Outside factors can get in your way. The car could break down. There could be construction on the road that you use, eliminating one or two lanes from the highway. You could be stuck in traffic and thus be late.

If you do end up getting to work late, should you really be that upset? What could you have done to prevent the situation? Should you get angry at your car for breaking down? The automobile is just a collection of mechanical parts after all. And we know that parts can wear down, just like our own bodies. The human being can get hips, knees, and even hearts replaced, so why shouldn’t an inanimate machine require servicing from time to time?

There is also man’s fallibility to consider. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Perhaps you knew that your car required servicing several weeks prior but you just never got around to taking it into the shop. This fallibility should alleviate the anger directed at yourself and at other people. If you can make a mistake, so can others. Just because they make a mistake doesn’t mean that we have to jump on them and constantly remind them of their error.

If the delay to work is caused by construction, one should remember that the roads break down due to constant impact from the many heavy cars and trucks that travel on it each day. If these roads are not properly maintained, they could cause damage to the car. Drive over a pothole at too high a speed and your suspension system can get damaged. If there are holes scattered throughout the pavement, the speed of traffic will lessen, resulting in a longer commute to work.

In the situations where anger is the result of a challenge to the ego, one should remember that what others criticize has nothing to do with one’s internal qualities. Moreover, words should have no impact on one’s behavior. Someone may call me stupid, but then what do they really know about me? They may yell and curse at me for no reason, but why should I get rattled by their stupidity? The wise person remains cool in such circumstances, using their knowledge to avoid anger.

“As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent Self.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.19)

Staying cool through such difficulty is easier in theory. Who likes to be cursed at? Who likes to be belittled? Who enjoys frustration? Take all the above mentioned difficulties and increase them by a very large factor and you get an idea of what Shri Rama’s wife Sita was up against in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Separated from her husband due to a cowardly act perpetrated by the King of Lanka, Ravana, Sita now sat without any friends or family, a prisoner in a foreign city.

The criminals get a cell in prison. Perhaps they have to share it with someone else, but the majority of the time is spent alone, where they can contemplate on what they did. Not only had Sita not done anything wrong, but she was not left alone to think. Instead, she was harassed day and night by female Rakshasas. The Rakshasas in Lanka were man-eaters, so they were vile creatures. These specific attendants were ordered to harass Sita because she had refused to give in to Ravana. The King of Lanka already had many beautiful queens, but he wanted Sita to be his chief queen. He practically surrendered everything to her, but she would not so much as look at him.

hindu-gods-rama-02Her husband had all the divine qualities, as He was the Supreme Lord appearing on earth in the guise of a human being. With a perfect husband, what could Sita want with any other man, let alone someone as vile as Ravana? The Rakshasa leader didn’t have the courage to challenge Rama to a fair fight. He instead hatched a plot whereby Sita was taken away in secret. The princess of Videha decided that she would rather quit her body than have anything to do with Ravana. She remained alive only due to the faint glimmer of hope that Rama would come to rescue her.

Rama’s faithful servant Hanuman went to Lanka to first find Sita. After an exhaustive search, he finally spotted her. Though he could see that she had sparkling qualities, at the time her radiance was slightly covered by the terrible conditions surrounding her. Her single cloth for a dress was now covered in dirt, she was worn thin from fasting, and she was sighing repeatedly. It’s never comfortable to see someone else crying in pain, and in Sita’s case her crying was nonstop. The sighing was deep and noticeable in volume.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we get some more details on what Hanuman saw. It is said that Sita appeared beautiful to the whole world, like the radiance of the full moon. As she was seated on the bare ground, she looked like a female ascetic practicing restraint [niyama]. King Janaka’s daughter was neither a yogi nor a transcendental scholar. She simply loved her husband purely, without personal motive. In this terrifying circumstance, she proved to be the topmost yogi, as she remained above the influence of the Rakshasis constantly harassing her. She was also thin for a reason. She was fasting the whole time, not wanting to enjoy any part of life without her husband. From her perspective, she was more than happy to look disheveled. This way the evil king would hopefully be less attracted to her. In any case, he did not deserve to see her dressed up nicely, as her beauty was meant for Rama’s enjoyment.

For meditation to be successful, it must have a tangible object of contemplation whose qualities are outstanding. If you focus your mind on a negative image or on something that is inferior in quality, why will you want to keep thinking of it? The mind seeks ananda, or pleasure, so why would one try to force their mind to focus on something that is unpleasant?

When reversed this rule can unlock the meaning to life. If you focus on something unpleasant, you won’t have much of a focus. On the other hand, if you think of that which is the most pleasant, which possesses divine features to the highest magnitude, your concentration can not only stay strong for a long period of time, but it can be invoked at any place, no matter the outside circumstances. From Sita’s ability to practice restraint in a situation where it was seemingly impossible we see that her husband had to be the Supreme Lord. How else could her mind stay so focused, staying aloof from the outside world?

Know that Sita’s husband is meant to be the object of contemplation for every single person. And the mood of that contemplation should be a positive one, wherein the qualities of the divine master are appreciated and adored. Ravana too remembered Rama all the time, but he was in the mood of envy. He kept looking for ways to diminish Rama’s stature, though that was impossible. Ravana’s concentration led to destruction, though he still got to see God at the time of death. On the other hand, Sita is still honored to this day. She is a role model for not only wives but also devoted souls. She is a true female ascetic, at least in the way her mind operates.

Hanuman also always thinks of Rama in the proper mood, and thus he holds one of the highest standings a person could ever achieve. The song that has likely been sung the most number of times in history is the Hanuman Chalisa, authored by Goswami Tulsidas, and it is an ode to Shri Hanuman, who is Rama’s dearest servant. To follow that same concentration on the Supreme Lord’s qualities, the mind can remember the activities of the devotees like Sita and Hanuman, who always think of Rama. Our circumstances are not as severe as Sita’s, but we nevertheless face so many distractions on a daily basis. If you choose any avenue of activity besides bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, you are more likely to fit in with everyone else. But if you should happen to enjoy reading the Ramayana, worshiping Hanuman, and chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, you will face all sorts of opposition. But from Sita’s example, know that the negative vibe can be blocked, and that through the strength of the holy name concentration can be made perfect.

In Closing:

Unconcerned with appearance cosmetic,

Sita in Lanka like a female ascetic,

 

To harass her Rakshasis tried,

But she knew how to block their vibe.

 

Secret is in the mind,

Peace instantly it can find.

 

Must know on what to concentrate,

And mind then from it never to deviate.

 

Supreme Lord Rama for Sita it was,

Benefit all worship of Him does.

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