Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Purpose to Our Existence

Rama and Lakshmana“The ladies say to each other, ‘Look at those two brothers. They brought with them the fruit of our existence today, the reason for our coming to this earth.’” (Janaki Mangala, 56)

nāri paraspara kahahiṃ dekhi dou bhāinha |
laheu janama phala āju janami jaga āinha ||

The women look upon the two brothers seated on beautiful thrones in the assembly. Rama and Lakshmana are special guests of King Janaka, the host of this ceremony. The sage Vishvamitra brought the brothers, two sons of King Dasharatha, to Janakpur to witness the ceremony, and Janaka, seeing an exalted brahmana accompanied by two beautiful youths, gave them a warm reception. The attention was supposed to be on the contest relating to a bow, but the onlookers, which included the women who were talking amongst themselves, couldn’t take their eyes off of the enemies of the enemies of the demigods.

Why the attention on Rama and Lakshmana? What was so special about them? Why not focus on the contest? Ah, but the contest was very important; it was the context for the talking within the crowd. Janaka’s beloved daughter Sita was to be given away in marriage on this day. But since she came from the earth and thus didn’t have biological parents, the foster-father Janaka needed another way to find a suitable match for a husband. He decided to hold a bow-lifting contest, where the first person to raise Lord Shiva’s bow in the air would win his daughter as a wife.

The contest seemed pretty fair. This bow was rather heavy, proof of which was seen in the many princes who arrived in Janakpur who couldn’t even move the bow. They stepped up to the plate, ready to show their strength to the massive gathering, only to be humbled in the end. They would bow down to the bow, bested by its immense weight. After a while it seemed like no one would win Sita as a wife. If that were the case Janaka would be off the hook, as he hadn’t purposefully tried to keep his daughter unmarried.

With such an amazing contest going on, it would take something extraordinary for the attention to be diverted elsewhere. But with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, regardless of the external circumstances He can enchant anyone. In the Vedas the embodiment of lust is known as Kamadeva, who is the equivalent of a cupid. Kamadeva is very beautiful and he can enchant others with his beauty. Yet the Supreme Lord’s beauty is so great that He is known as the enchanter of cupid, or Madana-Mohana.

Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune, the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord in any of His personal forms, is so beautiful that she enchants Bhagavan Himself. Bhagavan is another name for God and it references the full possession of the attributes of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation and wisdom found within the original Divine Being. In this famous ceremony you had both Madana-Mohana and Madana-Mohana-Mohini.

Ah, but there was another player there as well. Rama is the same Lord Vishnu, the opulently adorned, four-armed form of Bhagavan, and Lakshmana is Vishnu’s protector and dedicated servant. Lakshmana is identical in qualities to Rama, except his complexion is fair while Rama’s is dark. Think of twin versions of the Supreme Lord in front of you in forms that are innocent, beautiful, and powerful at the same time. This sort of explains the image of Rama and Lakshmana in Janaka’s court.

They were known to be powerful because they were escorting Vishvamitra through the forests. Though they were quite young, the boys assumed the occupational duty of warriors, protecting the innocent from attack. In the adult human society, no one is more innocent than the brahmana, or priest. They don’t participate in the feverish competition of fruitive activity; they don’t try to best anyone in terms of opulence. They are strictly focused on religious activities, helping others, regardless of their specific position, aiming to attain the ultimate goal of life, that of becoming God conscious by the time of death. The brahmanas require extra protection because their presence adds the most value to society.

Okay, so Vishvamitra was an important character, but why didn’t he get King Dasharatha’s direct protection or the entourage that was the royal army in Ayodhya?

If you held an exalted position that enabled you to get whatever you wanted and you had the chance to have the Supreme Lord personally protect you, wouldn’t you take it? It wasn’t as if Vishvamitra was taking Rama away from home forever. He just needed some protection against the Rakshasas, who were headed at the time by a fiendish character named Maricha.

“Please allow Rama to protect me during those times when I am observing religious functions and trying to keep my concentration. O chief of mankind, a terrible fear has befallen me on account of this Rakshasa Maricha.” (Vishvamitra speaking to Maharaja Dasharatha, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.4)

Lord RamaDasharatha didn’t want to part with Rama, but the pious kings never turn down the requests of the brahmanas. Lakshmana came along because he never leaves Rama alone. The two brothers together would fight off powerful Rakshasas and externally earn the favor and trust of both Vishvamitra and the entire brahmana community living in the forests.

In the scene referenced above, the brothers are in the middle of the assembly on the day of the svayamvara, and the people can’t keep their eyes off of them. This verse from the Janaki Mangala shows that the women in the town weren’t idly gossiping about trivial matters. They were delighted by what they were seeing, and at the same time they knew that the boys weren’t ordinary.

When looking at something beautiful, to say that you have received the fruit of your existence, the reason for your coming to the earth, is likely the highest compliment you can pay to the object in question. Implied in the statement is that all the previous days of your life have basically not amounted to much. You didn’t realize this until today, when you saw the object in question that is so beautiful.

Two beautiful youths created this impression in the observant women, whose opinion was spot on. The women hadn’t studied Vedanta extensively, and neither had they performed rigorous austerities in the forest. They were household women after all, so they weren’t expected to be great scholars. But since they harbored spontaneous loving affection for the Supreme Lord and His direct expansion, they received the most wonderful benediction. They fulfilled life’s purpose through a simple glance.

We are here on this earth to experience the same pleasure, to see the same youths kindly looking over the festivities. Their innocence made them even more endearing. Rama and Lakshmana were in simple clothes and they hadn’t arrived on the scene with the royal pomp of the other guests. Surely they were accustomed to that lifestyle back home, but on this occasion their aura was subdued. Yet the divine qualities can never remain hidden to those who know how to recognize them.

How does one recognize divine qualities? The entire scope of religious activity is aimed at bringing about this recognition. Every authorized rule and guiding behavior that seems foolish or unnecessarily annoying is aimed at purifying consciousness, to help move the pure spirit soul towards a state of mind where they can see the two sons of Dasharatha seated together. More importantly, one should bask in that vision after reaching it, as everything one could ever need is found in those two princes. They protect, they defend, they give pleasure with their playful sport, and they rescue the fallen souls from the cycle of birth and death.

With laundry, the clothes remain in the dryer, spinning around, until they are completely dried out. In a similar manner, the spirit soul spins around the cycle of birth and death until it no longer desires a material body. The up or down vote is taken at the time of death by polling the mood of the consciousness. To make sure that the proper vote is cast, follow bhakti-yoga, whose principal activity is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Simultaneously, avoid the dangerous pitfalls concentrated in the activities of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.

The women in Janakpur talking amongst themselves were correct. There was no argument that the fruit of their existence was met on this blessed day. At the same time, the tasting of that fruit only marked the beginning of many more wonderful things to come. The elder brother would win the contest and join the family by marrying Sita. Though He would take Lakshmana and Sita back to Ayodhya with Him, the residents would never forget that scene. Whether in happiness, danger, or distress, they would remember that scene and relive the same pleasure.

In Closing:

Days we have lived so many,

But real meaning not found any.

 

Until this one special day,

When two brothers came our way.

 

Eyes given to us so we can see,

Delightful vision for worries to set free.

 

For a reason to this earth we came,

That fruit of existence we’d gain.

 

From sight of these boys blessed we have been,

Now hopefully the elder contest will win.

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