“If even the respectable Sita, who is dear to Lakshmana’s elder brother, who was trained well by His superiors, can be struck by distress, then the influence of time is indeed insurmountable.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.3)
mānyā guru vinītasya lakṣmaṇasya guru priyā |
yadi sītā api duhkha ārtā kālo hi duratikramaḥ ||
To be dear to Rama is not an ordinary thing. He is the Supreme Lord after all, so say the Vedas, which span many works. The Ramayana is one Vedic work which deals primarily with Rama’s life and pastimes. Even if one is hesitant to accept Rama’s divine nature, just His standing within society makes Him worthy of respect, and in turn whoever He holds in high esteem is also worthy of honor. This combination of attributes caused a powerful warrior to draw tears, being reminded of the influence of destiny in the process.
Rama’s standing is here established in a few different ways. It is said that Rama is the guru of Lakshmana. Rama is also respectful of His own gurus, which include the spiritual guides Vishvamitra and Vashishtha and also the elders like His father King Dasharatha. Lakshmana is famous around the world for his dedication to Rama. He is a powerful fighter himself, as are all the four sons of the king of Ayodhya. Yet when Rama was exiled to the forest for fourteen years, Lakshmana abruptly left home to keep Him company. Rama didn’t require this, but Lakshmana had no intention of enjoying life for himself while Rama suffered.
This kind of renunciation indicates the ideal position of the soul. Attachment to sense gratification results in bondage to the cycle of birth and death, which continues for as long as that attachment remains. It’s sort of like being put into a playpen by the parents and only let out when you’ve had enough. The material world is the largest playpen, and the toys never really go away; they only get replaced as one matures. Then, at the time of death the clock is reset and the living entity is given a new body to use in the playpen. Even with the lower species there is plenty of room for play, as with less intelligence it takes less to be pleased in the immediate term.
Renunciation from worldly pleasures is a precursor for attachment to God. To love is to offer service, and when the love is directed at the Supreme Lord, the service can continue without motivation and without interruption. This kind of love is known as bhakti, and since it involves connection to God, it is also yoga. Bhakti-yoga is the constitutional position of the soul, and divine figures like Lakshmana show how it can be practiced.
“The culmination of all kinds of yoga practices lies in bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti in bhakti-yoga. Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga; all other yogas are progressions toward the destination of bhakti-yoga.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.47 Purport)
Prowess in fighting risks inflating the ego, which would make one more materially attached. It is easier to be detached when you are not that capable. For instance, if I have no luck in the romance department, it is much easier for me to swear off women than it is for someone who is constantly sought out by attractive females. Lakshmana was expert at fighting and he had a beautiful wife at home, but he nevertheless had no attachment to temporary conditions. Devotion to Rama was his dharma, and it had an open-ended term.
“O Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)
Sita was dear to someone who accepted Lakshmana’s service. Herein we see how to please God. Only in devotion is there pleasure for both parties. In personal sense gratification, the party seeking the pleasure takes advantage of God’s gifts on this earth, but there is no joy for the Supreme Lord, as there is no love involved in the relationship. Moreover, there is no advancement in terms of consciousness for the living entity. So there is really no benefit at all in sense gratification.
Service to God is the way to please Him, and service flows through bhakti-yoga in one of its several implementations. Sita loves God as an eternal consort, and Lakshmana as a dedicated servant. Hanuman too offers service, once courageously crossing the vast ocean to look for Rama’s wife after she went missing. He recognized that Sita was dear to Rama, and so he felt sadness at seeing her sadness. He remarks in the above quoted verse from the Ramayana that destiny’s influence must be insurmountable, for even someone as spotless as Sita has to suffer. She was separated from Rama and daily harassed by female ogres working for the king of Lanka, Ravana.
Since Sita was dear to Rama, she was never really separated from Him. If Rama wasn’t by her side, He was at least in her thoughts. In this particular instance, Rama is about to meet Sita through the messenger Hanuman. For the living entity struggling through the cycle of birth and death, the Supreme Lord is available in the form of His servants, who always keep His interests at heart. They carry His words as well.
God’s primary interest is always to bring the lost souls back to His spiritual kingdom, back into the divine consciousness. Sita was dear to Rama through her service, as was Hanuman. Lakshmana too is forever dear to Rama, so from them know that anyone who practices devotion will never be bereft of the Lord’s company. He will send His trusted servants when the time is right, and in the meantime Lakshmana’s guru’s presence is still available through the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
Seeing her suffer from separation’s fear,
Hanuman cried for wife to Rama so dear.
To be dear to God is not ordinary,
For servants have qualities extraordinary.
Wife and home Lakshmana quickly left,
So that in woods of his company Rama not bereft.
Sita thus dear to Lakshmana’s guru,
Who also has Hanuman working for Him too.
Destiny’s influence made Hanuman cry,
But for pleasing Rama he would continue to try.