Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Will Write You a Song

Rama breaking Shiva's bow“Today Rama will definitely lift the bow, and the three worlds will sing of the supreme auspiciousness of the marriage with excitement.” (Janaki Mangala, 71)

ajahum̐ avasi raghunandana cāpa caḍhāuba |
byāha uchāha sumangala gāuba ||

If you really want to honor somebody, how would you do it? Would you praise them in front of others? This is the method employed by winners at awards ceremonies. They feel humbled by the honor of receiving the award, and so to show their gratitude they offer up praise to those people they feel are deserving of it. The champion athlete thanks the members of the team, which include the trainer, the coach, the spouse, and the parents. The actor will praise the cast and crew of the production and the winning politician the members of their campaign staff. Such honor lasts for but only a moment, so one way to continue the praise going forward is to use song.

It should make sense if you think about it. As Shakespeare says, brevity is the soul of wit, so the less words you can use to convey a point, the better the presentation will be. The message will also resonate better; it will be easier to recall to the mind. Say, for instance, we want to praise the brightness of the sky. We can either write a four-page dissertation on the inner-workings of the elements in the sky or we can write a short two-line poem describing the same. The dissertation provides a lot more information; it is obviously more detailed. But the defect is that it will only be read once or twice. The poem, on the other hand, can be committed to memory. This means that you could hear the same poem day after day and derive pleasure from it. The person offering the praise feels pleasure, and to hear something of value praised by others is also pleasurable.

An even better method is to turn the poem into a song. A melody is much easier to remember than specific lyrics. So many songs we have memorized, but we likely don’t know all the specific words. The melody is easier to recall, and thus the song is pleasing when we sing it from within. If the content is improved, that same tendency can be used to remember the glories of something that is noteworthy. No one is more noteworthy than the Supreme Lord, and so the exalted saints, those on the highest platform of transcendental knowledge, prefer the route of composing songs.

“While churning the butter, mother Yashoda was singing about the childhood activities of Krishna. It was formerly a custom that if one wanted to remember something constantly, he would transform it into poetry or have this done by a professional poet. It appears that mother Yashoda did not want to forget Krishna's activities at any time.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.1-2 Purport)

As an example, mother Yashoda a long time back would compose songs while she was working during the day. She was not a Vedic scholar or a poet by trade. She was a simple-hearted mother living in the farm community of Vrindavana. Her son happened to be the delight of the town and also the origin of the creation. As His enchanting form was all-attractive, He was known as Krishna. This is another name for God. There is no difference between any of the popular faiths with respect to the Supreme Deity. God is always the same; it’s just that sometimes His features aren’t described fully.

Krishna is considered the best name for God, because what can be better than supreme attractiveness? In Vrindavana this beauty shone through in the features of His tiny body and also in His activities. To better be able to remember those pastimes, Yashoda composed songs while churning butter in the daytime. The song is the highest honor to pay to someone, because it is a way to both give praise and ensure that the outputted item remains relevant into the future. Others can hear those songs, commit them to memory, and then sing them.

Many year’s prior to Krishna’s advent, the same Supreme Lord walked this earth in His incarnation as a warrior prince named Rama. There were many notable events in Rama’s life, with one of them being His marriage to the goddess of fortune, Sita Devi. Sita was Janaka’s daughter and her marriage ceremony was not ordinary in the least. She was an extraordinary princess, so the pious king decided to hold a contest to find a suitable husband for her. The rules of the contest were simple: lift an extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. The first person to lift it wins.

There was some nervous conversation in the crowd on the day of the contest, however. One prince in particular caught everyone’s attention, and His features were so wonderful that people started to wonder whether the contest was a good idea. “This youth named Rama is the perfect match for Sita. He is beautiful, charming, kind, and a protector against the worst kinds of enemies. He is accompanied by His equally beautiful younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra. If Rama can protect the sages in the forest from the attacking night-rangers, then surely He will be able to protect Janaka’s precious daughter for the rest of her life.”

But what if Rama couldn’t lift the bow? Some in the crowd wanted Janaka to renounce his vow, while others knew that this wasn’t a good option. The king was famous throughout the world for his dedication to the truth. The only reason so many princes arrived for the contest was their faith in Janaka’s word, that he would indeed give Sita away to whoever could lift the bow. If he suddenly called off the contest and gave Sita to Rama, it would raise suspicions.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, one group in the crowd states that Rama will definitely raise the bow. With that amazing feat, the three worlds will sing of His glories with excitement. The three worlds are the heavenly planets, the earth, and the hellish planets. These areas are part of the material creation, meaning they go through the cycle of creation, maintenance, and annihilation. For fame to spread worldwide is certainly noteworthy, but as Rama is God and capable of out of this world feats, news of His lifting of the bow would reach the heavenly and hellish realms as well.

Lord RamaThis prediction would turn out to be true, as Rama’s glories are still sung to this day. The Janaki Mangala itself is a songbook authored by Goswami Tulsidas for the purpose of glorifying the occasion of Sita and Rama’s marriage. The central component of that marriage was the contest, which required the lifting of the bow by Rama. Thus the Supreme Lord offered help in the glorification process, as He knows that the soul’s dharma, or essential characteristic, is service to the Divine. In the conditioned state, the Divine aspect is absent, and there is just service. Since no target is as perfect as God, the service jumps from one area to another, in lifetime after lifetime, until finally there is service to God in what is known as bhakti-yoga.

Singing of Rama’s glories in pure love is bhakti-yoga; it never fails to bring pleasure to the singer. As the world today is full of diverse languages and cultures, a single mantra has been recommended for song. It can be spoken repeatedly on a set of japa beads or it can be sung out loud with others, in a call-and-response fashion. Whatever method preferred, the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, brings the soul the pleasure it craves.

In Closing:

Lifting bow, auspiciousness Rama to bring,

Of the glorious occasion three worlds will sing.

 

Earthly planet, and the ones on bottom and top,

Devotees everywhere to sing of glories without stop.

 

Too heavy the bow was considered,

But from Rama rivals’ hopes withered.

 

Occasion and deeds best glorified through song,

In bhakti chant holy names all day long.

www.krishnasmercy.org