Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stop to Smell the Roses

Lord Rama“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 ||

Your life is filled with pressure. The workplace environment is especially tough, for the boss constantly asks you for things. He’s not really sure what he wants every time, so when you do present the final work, he immediately makes corrections, points of fact that would have helped you more at the beginning. If you were given the proper instructions from the start, you could have done the job right the first time. Oh, and don’t think that your life at home is any picnic. One of the cars won’t start, or maybe someone else in the family has been in a minor car accident that requires attention. You haven’t cleaned your room in a long time and bills that need to be paid are mounting up. The front button just fell off from your favorite pair of pants, so you have to get that fixed. So many issues keep coming up that you don’t have any chance to breathe. But there are roses out there, pleasant things in life that can go unnoticed. A long time back, in a very tense situation the recommendation was made for the worried participants to break away from their concern to instead delight in the sweet vision of the jewel of the Raghu dynasty.

As the main character from the famous Ferris Buehler’s Day Off movie noted, life moves pretty fast; if you don’t take the time to stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. In the same vein, if you don’t stop to smell the roses, you won’t get any delight from having them. It is easy to forget the finer things in life because of the constant worry over the future. Yet the human being has the ability to use discrimination in both thought and action. Therefore, from only a cursory review of past activities, it is seen that the little worries aren’t really necessary in the end. So you have a big deadline approaching at work? In the past you had deadlines and you either met them or didn’t. In the end, did it matter that much? Was the constant worrying a major factor in the outcome?

Let’s say that the worrying enabled you to complete the task successfully. In that sense the attention helped you to reach the desired end. But what did that end get you? On a more abstract level, what does victory in a competition bring? Are you the superior person of this world? Are you the best at everything? Even if you do excel in a particular field, where does it lead? The loser also eats, sleeps, mates and defends, so in that sense no one is really superior to anyone else. The animal lives the life dedicated to sense gratification without all the worry. They are more efficient machines in the game of sense gratification.

The animals also compete from time to time, with the victory often coming at the cost of the opponent’s life. Is this a behavior the rational thinking human being should aim to imitate? What good comes from the victory in competition, especially if there is ample food to eat in either case? The concerns over temporary achievements take primary focus in the less developed consciousness. The auspiciousness of the human birth comes from the ability to direct the essence of existence towards the root of existence. The Supreme Lord, the person most of the world refers to as God, is already superior, so why not bask in His glory instead of trying to mask it?

This was the precise issue raised many thousands of years ago. Kings from around the world had assembled in Janakpur to take part in a unique contest. A bow lay in the middle of a sacrificial arena, and it was to determine the husband for the daughter of King Janaka, who was the host of the ceremony. You may be tempted to think that the order of the participants would influence the outcome. For instance, in many of the reality television series that have contests, in each round it is usually a disadvantage to go first. The other contestants can see how the game is played by watching the first people to go, thereby gathering intelligence on what to do and what not to do. By the time the last team goes, there is familiarity with the game, which boosts performance.

With the contest in Janaka’s kingdom, the ordering really didn’t matter. This bow was so heavy that none of the kings could even move it. Oh sure they tried to, but one by one they were humbled by this divine weapon that initially belonged to Lord Shiva. Shri Rama, though not formally a participant in the contest, caught the eyes of the assembled people. He and His younger brother Lakshmana were there as guests of Janaka, as they had entered the city following the exalted Vishvamitra Muni.

In his Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas mentions some of the idle chatter that was going around while Rama and Lakshmana were seated on thrones watching the contest. Some of the people couldn’t believe how beautiful the two sons of King Dasharatha were. Others worried that Janaka had made a grave error in taking the oath to give Sita away to whoever would lift the bow. What if Rama failed? He then would automatically be disqualified from marrying Sita.

They wanted Rama to win because His features were stunningly beautiful, as was His character. His beauty would defeat the pride of millions of cupids, and His kindness was seen in His unflinching protection He and Lakshmana offered to Vishvamitra and the other sages who resided in the forest. The eyes of the onlookers became truly valuable upon seeing Rama. Previously, the eyes were used to look upon so many other things, but now they were really paying off. “It is worth it to have a vision in order to see the beautiful Rama and Lakshmana,” is what some onlookers thought.

Then there was the perspective of the competitors, the princes who had travelled from far and wide to attend the contest. Some of them noted that where there is beauty, fame and good family lineage, there is strength as well. This meant that it was inevitable that Rama would lift the bow. Since Rama was the elder brother, Lakshmana would not participate in the contest. None of Rama’s other features had any flaws in them, so naturally His strength would be flawless as well.

Ram_Darbar_L_5512The above referenced verse advises the competitors to give up their jealousy. Instead of fighting with God or worrying about losing the contest, let the eyes drink up fully the pure nectar that is Rama’s beautiful form. To relish such a vision is the true purpose of the human birth; otherwise one remains just like an animal. The comparison applies to all aspects of life, not just competition to earn the hand of a beautiful princess. The life of sense gratification is dull and full of misery. The ills of society are all rooted in forgetfulness of God, so the only solution is to turn the eyes towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead and look upon Him with love.

How do we do that when we don’t believe in God? What if we’re not sure of which religion to follow? Isn’t Shri Rama a personality of the Hindu faith? Actually, we can use the attributes described above as a litmus test. Obviously, if your mind is racing from the fever of material competition, you will have a difficult time appreciating God’s features, as was the case with some of the competitors at the contest. Yet, at the same time, enough interaction with pure goodness, exposure to transcendental beauty and sweetness, will bring about a lasting change. The results will be so beneficial that the doubts over the divine nature of the personality in question will vanish as well.

The starting and ending points are the same: the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Association with others who can never get enough of the sweet vision of Shri Rama or one of His other Vishnu forms, including the original personality of Lord Krishna Himself, is a tremendous boon, as such devotees make recommendations similar to the one noted above. Some of the onlookers on the scene in Janakpur were so devoted to Rama that they started to chide the king for his oath. Through their sentiments alone they showed others how to live and how to fulfill the primary mission in life.

In Closing:

How in this human form shall I live?

My sentiments to whom shall I give?

 

Of Supreme Lord we are meant to think,

His nectarean beauty the eyes to drink.

 

Of some onlookers in Janakpur this was the opinion,

Not happy with King Janaka’s oath decision.

 

A match for Sita Rama was ideal,

His lifting of bow destiny to seal.

 

Competition in maya’s fever now forget,

And in worshiping Supreme Lord your mind set.

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