“One person says: ‘It will be good if Janaka breaks his oath to allow Sita and Rama to get married.’” (Janaki Mangala, 58)
kahahiṃ eka bhali bāta byāhu bhala hoihiṃ |
bara dulahini lagi janaka apanapana khoihi ||
It’s not good to break your promise, for otherwise people will not trust you. The next time you make a vow, no one will take you seriously. If you’re in a position of authority and people don’t assign any value to your word, how can you effectively wield that authority? If a police officer is laughed at for his inability to apprehend suspects, will the innocent people feel safe? What then will be the difference between a police officer and an ordinary citizen? The ordinary citizen would be in a better position because they at least don’t pretend to be capable of defending the innocent. Yet sometimes it is considered good to break a vow, especially if the desired end is beneficial. This was the sentiment of a group of observers at a famous wedding ceremony a long time ago.
If I vow to only eat certain foods in order to lose weight, breaking that vow will not be good. The vow was taken with a specific purpose in mind, that of losing weight. If there is no will power, no ability to control oneself through a difficult time, how can the proper end be reached? Ah, but herein lies the key point. That proper end is what determines whether or not a particular action should be taken. If breaking my vow will help me to lose weight, then perhaps it isn’t so bad.
As another way to think of the same principle, imagine driving along the street and then encountering a red light. The red light says that you must stop. In this particular instance, however, stopping is not an option due to the traffic situation that is ahead of you. If you go through the light, you are not only risking a collision with oncoming cars, but you are also breaking the law. But in some cases, it is better to go through the red light in order to avoid a dangerous situation. The stipulation to stop at the red light exists for the same purpose that is furthered by the special circumstance.
For a king a long time ago, a vow was taken in order to find the perfect match for his daughter. The king wanted a strong and courageous prince to take care of his daughter, who had delicate features and a level of virtue never before seen to the world at the time. Neither has that level of virtue been seen in a woman since. It can only exist in the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Not surprisingly, the actions of Janaka were the will of Providence meant to join the devoted pair, Sita and Rama, together for the eyes to delight in.
Janaka made a vow relating to an extremely heavy bow he possessed that originally belonged to Lord Shiva. “Lift the bow and I will give away my cherished daughter Sita to you in marriage.” This was a pretty safe vow, for if no one could lift the bow, Janaka would be let off from blame. It wouldn’t be his fault that no one in the world was worthy of his daughter’s hand in marriage. If someone could lift the bow, then obviously that person was exceptionally strong and would therefore provide good protection to the beloved Sita.
Shri Ramachandra’s appearance in Tirahuta threw a wrench into the equation. Neither Janaka nor anyone else in the close inner circle knew that someone like Rama existed. They also didn’t think that someone like Rama would be unmarried and eligible for accepting a new wife. Had they known these things prior there would have been no reason to proclaim the vow. If you’re a manager of a business team and you know someone who is perfect to fill an open position, what need is there to put out an ad for the job? Why go through a detailed hiring process, where you interview candidate after candidate, if you already know of someone who is perfect for the job and eligible to be hired?
Lord Rama was so beautiful that people seeing Him for the first time couldn’t believe it. His younger brother Lakshmana was equally as beautiful, and they both arrived in the city with Vishvamitra Muni. If as a man you tell a woman that you devote time to reading to the blind, feeding the poor, taking care of abandoned puppies, or some other good work, you are sure to get a positive response. It is thought that the typical adult-aged male enjoys drinking, partying, chasing after women, sports, video games and a host of other activities relating to personal sense gratification.
In ancient times, the kings enjoyed themselves quite well, as to the victor went the spoils. Yet this youth with a bluish complexion appeared on the scene without fanfare, and He wasn’t roaming the forests out of His desire for fun or the need to practice His marksmanship with the bow and arrow. No, He was there to protect Vishvamitra, an innocent priest-like person, from the wicked attacks of terrorist-like night-rangers.
Add to the fact that Rama and Lakshmana were descendants in the famous Ikshvaku family and you get an idea of why there were new grumblings questioning the king’s decision. The elder Rama was perfect for Sita. There was no flaw in Him. Looking at Him was enough to tell that He was someone special, but His character and dedication to fighting against the most powerful enemies sealed the deal.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we get a sample of the statements of the people watching the contest. One group decided that it would be okay if the king broke his vow. No harm would be done, for the decision would allow Rama and Sita to be married, which is what everyone wanted anyway. Actually, the oath was taken for the purpose of finding for Sita a good husband, especially one who was fit to protect. Vishvamitra’s faith in Rama was the only testimonial needed to vouch for the delight of the Raghu dynasty’s ability to defend the innocent.
In the end, Janaka didn’t break his vow. He wouldn’t need to, as Rama would lift and break Shiva’s bow. The people got what they wanted, a marriage which didn’t relate to them personally. Just the sight of the perfect match joining in holy matrimony was enough to please the devoted souls watching the proceedings. That same vision can be created within the mind by regularly chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” A vow to chant these names every day with full faith, attention and reliance brings the cherished benefit of the divine consciousness.
Lose weight, I must right now,
To eat properly is my vow.
On time and with control I will eat,
The objective of healthiness I hope to meet.
But sometimes the rules okay to break,
Assessment with ultimate objective must make.
The king of Videha some started to denounce,
For Rama to marry Sita vow king should renounce.
In the end no need for king’s word to forsake,
Shri Rama in His hand Shiva’s bow to take.