“Why don’t your eyes drink fully that pure, nectarean form? Get the most out of your human birth; why live like an animal?” (Janaki Mangala, 62)
kasa na piahu bhari locana rūpa sudhā rasu |
karahu kṛtāratha janma hohu kata nara pasu ||
The thrill of the moment makes us forget the fact that the predicament we are so worried over will likely arise once again in the future. The nervousness over the imminent aftermath is due solely to the fear over what will happen should the result not be in our favor. Because of this short-sightedness so much attention is repeatedly given to tasks that amount to nothing in the long run, while those things which are really important, which are right in front of us, are tossed aside as being insignificant. A long time back the stakes seemed a little higher, as the outcome would determine if a beautiful princess would be brought into the family, but again there was something more important worth noticing. That beautiful gem was so rare that it wasn’t guaranteed to come around again; so the observer was well-advised to really take note.
Think of the nervousness over taking an exam. Perhaps you have prepared well to take a road test to get your driver’s license in a particular state. You put in the time behind the wheel, got used to the turns and how to handle the brakes, and even mastered the art of parallel parking. Now comes the time for the test. You’re very nervous because you know that one slip up and you’ll fail. In this particular state, you don’t get to take the test every day, which means that failure to pass on this day means that you won’t get another chance for a few months.
Ah, but this is actually a benefit, a fact to take comfort in. You will get another chance! Though it may take a while, though it may be after several months, eventually you’ll again have the opportunity to try for the driver’s license. Nevertheless, because you’re not sure how you’ll handle failure, you get nervous both before and during the exam. You’re so worried about passing because you know that a license will open up a whole new world for you. You can drive to wherever you want without asking others for a ride. You can rent a car if you should have to travel somewhere, and you can maybe even purchase your own car and feel independent in that way.
In the game of life, these sorts of obstacles appear all the time. To be swayed by them is not very wise, for the rise of happiness and distress operates on a pattern similar to the onset of the winter and summer seasons. This notable truth is presented by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita as a way to get His cousin, Arjuna, who was hesitating to fight prior to a great battle, to understand how to remain steady in both happiness and distress.
“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
It is strange if you think about it. If the sun is not out on a particular day, you may feel sad, but you know that the clouds will part eventually. The sun was just out the day before, so why shouldn’t it return? Moreover, once it does come back, there may come a time when you want it to be blocked again, for it can give off scorching hot rays that cause discomfort. The reaction to the seasons is similar. If it’s really cold in the winter you long for the comforting heat of the summer, but in the summer the heat may get to you as well.
The person of steady mind is not distracted by these temporary ups and downs. Life is full of opportunities for sense gratification, so a loss on a particular day isn’t so important. The same goes for victory, for we know that winning a championship in a particular sport doesn’t insulate one from heartache and pain caused by failure in subsequent years. There is one aspect of life, however, that doesn’t always come around, and when it does you should make the most of the rare occurrence.
“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.8)
The Supreme Personality of Godhead pervades the entire space in His unmanifested, impersonal form. This means that wherever we are we can get a glimpse of God through His external energy, as within that external force is an internal energy that has a higher potency. The living beings are considered part of the marginal potency because they are by constitution the same as the internal energy but they can be deluded by the external energy. Sort of like choosing sides in a game, the individual spirit souls can pick which energy they want for association.
On rare occasions, due to outside circumstances and also His own personal desire, the Supreme Lord descends to earth in a personal form, one that has features visually identifiable to even those who are otherwise enamored by the material nature. As Lord Rama, God took on the guise of a handsome, valiant and chivalrous warrior prince. He and His younger brother Lakshmana once made it to the town of Tirahuta, where a grand ceremony was taking place to determine the marriage for the daughter of King Janaka, Sita Devi.
Rama is known as Bhagavan because He is the most fortunate, and so anyone who has the opportunity to see His personal form is also very fortunate. At the gathering in Tirahuta, so many people from around the world got to see Rama, but there was a pretense. Famous families were in Janaka’s city to take part in a contest, to see who could first lift Lord Shiva’s amazingly heavy bow. Rama and Lakshmana actually arrived there as an afterthought, following the lead of the venerable Vishvamitra Muni.
King Janaka welcomed all of his guests very well, and his behavior was no different towards Vishvamitra and these two handsome youths, who were protecting the sages in the forests from the attacks of night-rangers. Janaka gave the trio thrones to sit on to watch the ceremony, which allowed the spectators to gaze upon the beautiful two sons of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya.
The observers noticed something special in both Rama and Lakshmana, and since Rama was older, they hoped that He would win the contest. He was eligible to marry Sita, but the rules stipulated that the groom must lift the bow. All sorts of emotions arose in the spectators, with some worrying whether Rama would win and others cursing the king for having taken such a vow. If that vow prevented Sita from marrying Rama, what good was it?
There were also the other princes on the scene, competitors to one another and to Rama, though the Lord was not worried in the least. He wasn’t even there to compete; He just followed whatever the spiritual master Vishvamitra said. Some competitors realized that since there was beauty, fame and splendor in Rama, there was surely strength as well. This was a wise assessment that would later prove to be accurate as well.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala of Goswami Tulsidas, the rival kings are advised to give up the competitive attitude of the animal species and instead drink up the beautiful nectar that was Rama’s form sitting so innocently for everyone to see. Animals compete with each other for food, sometimes fighting to the death. But the human being has a higher intelligence, and he can gather food without having to limit resources for anyone else. Moreover, victory and defeat arrive on their own, like the coming and going of the seasons. Why put so much emphasis on something that will occur again in the future? Why not take the opportunity to bask in the rare vision of the Supreme Lord standing before you?
The ability to have this vision and take advantage of it give the human being a leg up on the other species. Just as the opportunity to take pleasure in Rama’s personal presence shouldn’t be missed, so the wonderful chance to regularly recite His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, should not go to waste. Every person has a chance to recite this sacred formula, if not congregationally then at least to themselves. There is no cost in this most potent method of the discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and the benefits are long lasting. Through the holy names, the same nectarean vision of Shri Rama on the precipice of marrying Sita can arrive in the mind to give supreme comfort and pleasure.
Upon food’s sight,
Animals charge and fight.
Any better they don’t know,
Towards instant pleasure they go.
Human being can discriminate,
Can understand world’s cyclical fate.
Chance to see God is most rare,
So at His beautiful form stare.
Chance of human birth won’t always come,
So chant holy names and with misery be done.