“This divine lady’s mind is situated in His and His in hers. It is for this reason alone that she and that righteous-souled man are able to live for even a moment.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.52)
asyā devyā manaḥ tasminḥ tasya ca asyām pratiṣṭhitam |
tena iyam sa ca dharma ātmā muhūrtam api jīvati ||
It is described in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, that the living entities are spirit souls at the core who travel through a process of transmigration, wherein their bodies constantly change. To the perceivable memory the changes start at the time of birth and then continue all the way up until the time of death. This is visible to the knowledgeable observer, but what isn’t seen is that the transmigration continues on into the next life. Moreover, there were changes prior to the current birth. The transmigration operates for as long as desire and work dictate, and so once those are shifted to the proper area, the process stops and a return to the permanent abode is granted.
The required shift also reveals the cause of the initial condition. It is said that the spirit soul is blissful, knowledgeable and eternal. There is also a higher spirit soul, which lives within the individual body, but it is of a different nature. Think of the cable or satellite television feed that comes into your home. You may be watching a certain program in your bedroom through this feed, but the feed is not exclusive to you. It is directed into many other homes simultaneously. The channel represents a kind of energy, and it is more powerful than you because you can only diffuse your influence to the local realm. The more powerful force has a higher range of influence.
In the same way, the individual soul has only a localized consciousness. We can feel, think and will, but nobody else is privy to this. We may tell them about our experiences and they may guess what we are feeling based on human tendencies, but the experience of life within our body is still unique to us. The superior soul, however, is conscious within all beings. He is thus considered all-knowing and all-pervading. He never leaves the individual, but in the conditioned state, wherein reincarnation constantly applies, there is forgetfulness of both the superior’s presence and His influence.
That forgetfulness is the root cause of the descent from the higher realm. In the spiritual plane there is constant remembrance of the Supreme Soul, and so there is no need to change bodies. Therefore how to return to the spiritual realm is quite simple: think of the Supreme Soul always. That higher spiritual force is commonly referred to as God, and all the major religions of the world seek to connect with Him in some way or another. The common thread in all the rituals and regulations is remembrance, wherein there is an unbroken link in thought to the Supreme, a state known as God consciousness.
In the Vedic tradition, God is assigned thousands of names to highlight His features. Krishna is considered the best name because it says that God is all-attractive. The highest state of thought can therefore be referred to as Krishna consciousness. Krishna has personal incarnations and expansions, but there is still only one God. Rama is one of His famous incarnations, and He is the same Krishna. To think of Rama is no different than to think of Krishna, and that thinking keeps one situated in transcendence.
What does it mean to be on a higher plane of consciousness? The body is not your identity; it is simply a temporary covering that is ideally used to help further Krishna consciousness. In the higher state, the body’s influence is secondary; the external surroundings are also transcended. We can look to the example of Sita Devi in Lanka to see how this works. She was in the most terrifying circumstance, separated from her dearly beloved due to no fault of her own. She couldn’t just sit quietly in peace either. She was asked to give in to the evil king of Lanka, Ravana, the fiend who had taken her away from her husband’s side through a backhanded plot. She refused to even look at him, and so the king ordered some of his assistants to harass her day and night.
Why continue living? Why go on in such a pitiable state? Why not just quit the body and be done with the misery? From the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman tells us how Sita was able to survive. Just from seeing her from afar, the spy sent to Lanka to look for Sita could tell that her mind was firmly situated in her husband’s. This meant that she only thought of Him, and since He was God, the process was akin to yoga, or the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. That link is known to help one transcend the effects of the body. The terrifying circumstances couldn’t harm Sita when she remembered Rama.
“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.30)
Hanuman also notes that Rama, who is a righteous soul, or dharma-atma, has His mind firmly fixed in Sita’s. This is a truth we are kindly reminded of in the Bhagavad-gita, the famous scripture of the Vedic tradition spoken by Shri Krishna Himself many years later. In that work the Lord says that the devotees are never lost to Him, since they see Him everywhere. It is not that He ignores the non-devotees, but if someone doesn’t want to connect with Him, the Lord will not force Himself upon them. This means that only in bhakti-yoga, divine connection in love, is there aid from the superior party. All other kinds of transcendentalism are thus more difficult because the burden for success is on the individual, who is known to be flawed based on the fact that they took birth from a womb. Any birth, whether in an animal or human species, indicates that in the previous existence there was a failure to think of God at the time of death.
Rama is God, so He does not die. He can survive in any situation, but since Sita was His beloved, He made sure to show signs of distress when she went missing. This is a most endearing quality, as Rama shows that He is the most compassionate. This trait is passed on to devoted servants like Hanuman, who only continued in his difficult journey because of his love for Sita and Rama. Up until this time Hanuman had never met Sita, but due to her relation to Rama he automatically held her in high esteem.
Reincarnation brings travels through difficult circumstances, so there is constant turmoil, distress, fear, doubt and lamentation over past failures. But know that in any situation, just by thinking of God we can be in a better place. Though we may not be in His direct company, thinking of Him is as effective as personal contact. Sita and Rama showed this during their time on earth, which is documented in the Ramayana poem of Valmiki. Therefore hearing from the Ramayana is one way to think of both Sita and Rama. It also allows us to think of Hanuman, who continues to live blissfully in separation to this day, always singing the glories of the divine couple.
Janaki to live in husband’s mind,
And He in hers in kind.
For this reason her life not to depart,
Though she and husband far apart.
Hanuman knew this from Sita’s face,
Troubles her thoughts of Rama to erase.
Devotees require not God by their side,
For in their hearts He always resides.