Friday, November 30, 2012

What Are Friends For

Sita and Rama“Now in confusion, no words are coming to the queen. Seeing her worried and in thought, her friends are trying to make her understand.” (Janaki Mangala, 75)

You’re too invested in the outcome to think straight. Desire strengthens to the point that the mind no longer can think clearly. The telltale sign that you have temporarily lost your “marbles” is the crippling fear over a potential outcome. This is an unwise course because there were many outcomes in the past that you fretted over, and either way you came out okay. Whether you got what you wanted or didn’t, you still managed to survive. The tiny, pressing issue of the time didn’t mean the end of the world to you, though at the time you thought otherwise. In these instances, your friends are a good support system. They are more distanced from the situation, so they can lend a helping hand.

In the biggest picture, the best friend is the spiritual master, someone we may not have even met yet. The genuine spiritual master, or guru, lives devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. This service is a full-time engagement relying on the always available instrument known as the mind. In the morning while trying to get up out of bed, the mind engages in serving by thinking of God. During the morning hours, the tongue is used to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and offer prayers to the deity in the home or temple. The ears are simultaneously utilized to hear the sounds of the holy name produced by the tongue. The eyes gaze upon the deity and the legs travel to places where the holy names are either heard or distributed.

“Although the Lord was present in Vaikuntha, He was present also in the heart of the brahmana when he was meditating on the worshiping process. Thus, we can understand that things offered by the devotees even in meditation are accepted by the Lord, and they help one achieve the desired result.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch. 10)

The Nectar of DevotionIf the guru should find a situation that is not ideal for the outward display of devotion, within the mind they still chant the holy names, think of God, or plan some type of future service. In The Nectar of Devotion, which is a summary study of Shrila Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, it is said that once a brahmana simply desired to offer service to God by taking sacred waters and other paraphernalia for worship, and in that mental state the offering was as good as made. The sincerity of purpose is what counts most in the highest discipline of divine love, so just by planning out some type of service to God, the act is as good as done.

With respect to friendship, the guru is the well-wisher of everyone. Having studied the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, two of the most important texts of the Vedic tradition, he can relate to pretty much any situation. Even if he hasn’t been married, he can understand what it’s like to have affection for someone else. The issues of dealing with someone else’s desires, getting along with another person on a day-to-day basis, and figuring out where to steer the relationship are not foreign to the guru, who through his service to God acquires the requisite knowledge pertinent to practically any situation.

In Mithila a long time ago, the friends of the queen weren’t necessarily spiritual masters, but since they had the same guiding sentiment, love for God, they could provide good counsel when needed. At one time the queen was swooning over the fear of losing the ideal match for her daughter Sita. The good mother wanted to give away her eldest daughter to an eligible suitor, who would be ideal in the categories of ancestry, appearance, strength and behavior.

The queen’s husband knew the task wasn’t easy, so he settled upon a contest. Whoever could lift an enormously heavy bow would win Sita’s hand in marriage. So many princes arrived, but none of them could so much as move the bow. Now here was this youth that was captivating everyone, including Sita’s mother. Named Rama, He was the eldest son of King Dasharatha. Rama’s trusted younger brother Lakshmana was with Him, as was the venerable Vishvamitra Muni. Sita’s mother worried that Rama might not be able to win the contest because of His delicate features. He was so beautiful in every way, looking like the perfect youth to wed the young and beautiful Sita.

Sita's svayamvaraIn the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the queen’s friends are trying to make her understand that everything is going to be alright. For the mother it was difficult to think clearly when so much was at stake, but the wise sakhis knew that this youth had just come from the forest where He and His younger brother fought off the vilest creatures in the world. This wasn’t a training exercise in military combat either; the stakes were real. The peaceful sages living in the forests had been harassed for too long by these night-rangers, who were enemies of religion. Vishvamitra knew of Rama’s fighting prowess, and that’s why he specifically asked for Him from King Dasharatha.

In the minds of the sakhis, if Rama, this youth who was so beautiful that He gave everyone the fruit of their eyes upon sight, was trusted by the sage for protection, He could surely lift Shiva’s bow. The queen thus had very good friends, who knew just what to say to her at the right time. Also, like the queen they were obviously devotees of God, as they had an appreciation for Rama and Lakshmana. Amazingly, their understanding of Rama’s features came from only seeing and hearing about them for a brief period of time. Know that the best friend in this world is the person who has the same love for the Supreme Lord and who kindly speaks of His glories to us. They provide the most valuable information, allowing us to think clearly in situations where we otherwise can’t.

In Closing:

Because in outcome so much invested,

By fears rational thought is bested.

 

Rama to win contest the queen desired,

But fear in her His youthful form inspired.

 

Friends of the queen then explained,

That from Rama Vishvamitra protection gained.

 

Such devotees the best counsel to us give,

In comfort of devotion they allow us to live.

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