Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Golden Commodity

Sita Devi“Seeing her, who was young and had a golden hue and was beloved to the whole world like Shri [Lakshmi], he went in mind to Rama and spoke these words.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.6)

tām dṛṣṭvā nava hema ābhām loka kāntām iva śriyam |
jagāma manasā rāmam vacanam ca idam abravīt ||

Who doesn’t like gold? It’s shiny, it’s beautiful, and it’s worth something. The money you have saved in the bank is in the form of paper notes of a specific currency, and depending on what that currency is based, its value can fluctuate drastically overnight. Today you may be wealthy, but tomorrow you may be poor. If it costs five dollars to buy a gallon of milk today and tomorrow it costs twice that, all of a sudden the money you have is worth less. Gold is a real commodity, however; it is valuable during any time period and to any person. The same applies to fortune, as who purposefully seeks out misfortune? Thus the comparison to both gold and fortune, especially to the distributor of fortune, was appropriate for Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama.

Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune, an incarnation of Lakshmi Devi. That there is a goddess in charge of fortune is known to us through the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world. Sita’s qualities, pastimes and words prominently appear in the Ramayana, the famous poem composed by Maharishi Valmiki during an ancient time. In this work her identity as Lakshmi Devi isn’t openly discussed until towards the end. In other Vedic texts, especially the poems and songs composed in more recent times, she is immediately equated with the goddess of fortune, but in the original Ramayana the references are more subtle.

In the above quoted verse we see one of those subtle references. The goddess of fortune is worshiped by both the pious and the impious. The pious hope for the favor of the wife of the Supreme Lord Narayana. Narayana is a personality. As a word it is also another way to address the entity the rest of the world knows as God. Narayana in Sanskrit means the source of all men, and so the source is the original, and the original is God. Lakshmi is Narayana’s eternal consort; she is in charge of distributing the inconceivable fortune that Narayana possesses.

The impious pray for fortune which is to be used improperly. Think of praying for money so that you can buy alcohol. Think of praying for an outcome that will be harmful to someone else just because you wish to take pleasure in their misery. These are ways in which prayer is offered to the goddess of fortune, but for non-ideal purposes. Since fortune is desired by everyone, Lakshmi Devi is beloved of the whole world. She is not an enemy to anyone, even to those who take her fortune and find doom as a result. I may purchase a gun to defend myself from attacking gang members, but if I should happen to get hurt by misusing the gun, it is not the gun’s fault. The object has an ideal purpose, and if I don’t know what that is, the fault rests with me.

Sita DeviSita is also youthful in appearance and golden in complexion. This combination stirs up the spiritual senses of the Supreme Lord, who is known as Hrishikesha because He is the master of all senses. Though He is in full control of what He feels, still Sita is able to stir up passions in Him. This fact tells us the proper use of the fortune Sita provides. As she gives pleasure to Hrishikesha through her appearance, so her fortune is meant to satisfy the Supreme Lord.

From seeing the youthful Sita, who had a golden appearance and was beloved of the whole world like Shri, which is another name for Lakshmi, Hanuman’s thoughts turned towards Rama. This is a noteworthy influence particular to Sita Devi. Lakshmi incarnates in the fortune she gives to others, but one may use that fortune in the wrong way. Lakshmi thus has a sort of dual identity with respect to the recipient. With Sita, however, the link is always with Rama. The same Lakshmi was in the kingdom of Lanka, but as Sita there would not be any fortune given to Ravana. Instead, his attempted misuse of Sita would lead to his doom.

Hanuman sees Sita and immediately thinks of Rama, giving us the real potency to her image. The greatest fortune of all is the ability to think of God, as through consciousness alone one can find happiness. You can have all the money in the world, but if your mind is constantly taxed by pressures and laments over failures, how can you be at peace? If you’re always hankering after the next material object, where is the question of peace? On the other hand, with a properly situated mind, you can be in a desert or forest spring and still be happy. You can live in a palatial building or a meager home and be at peace in both places.

Through Hanuman’s example, we see how to properly view the goddess of fortune. It is no wonder, then, that so many devotees prefer to worship Sita and Rama instead of Lakshmi and Narayana, as Sita and Rama are the worshipable figures of Shri Hanuman, someone who never requires nor requests fortune in life. He simply asks to serve, and through that service he gets to see Sita, which then immediately reminds him of Rama. And what can be better than that?

In Closing:

When of Sita’s qualities he thought,

His mind to Shri Rama it brought.


Of exquisite beauties untold,

And a complexion of shining gold,

Beloved to all was she,

Like Vishnu’s wife Shri.


Indeed, Sita is fortune’s goddess,

Gives rewards, both abundant and modest.


To devotees like Hanuman great debt we owe,

For how to use fortune properly they show.