“They are so hesitant and very fearful when seeing the muni that they come back. Plucking flowers, fruits and leaves, they make garlands.” (Janaki Mangala, 34)
sakucahiṃ munihiṃ sabhīta bahuri phiri āvahiṃ |
tori phūla phala kisalaya māla banāvahiṃ ||
When there is an adult around, the young child will be more mindful of the rules. The natural inclination is to run free, but the adult keeps that voice inside the child’s head that says, “No. Don’t do that.” The child may even come close to breaking the rules but at the last minute, looking back as if to see if someone is watching, they will check themselves. Such behavior is very endearing in innocent young children, so the Supreme Lord in His form of Shri Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana made sure to mimic it, giving the guru Vishvamitra tremendous delight.
How can God be fearful? Why should He require a guru? Does not this make the spiritual master the superior entity? Through mental speculation alone we can’t understand the Absolute Truth. When learning things on our own, such as a new language through immersion into a foreign culture, there must be observation of external behavior in order to pick up the necessary components. You can’t just automatically start speaking a new language without having heard it from someone else first.
This principle applies to all areas of learning. The knowledge of the soul and its travels through transmigration represents the most important and difficult to acquire pieces of information. Therefore the mind, which is limited by time and space, cannot possibly alone collect all relevant information in just one lifetime. Even if we could remember every one of our experiences in this life, so many other living beings have accumulated an infinitely larger number of experiences. If the mind could expand to the size of a giant computer and store every single person’s experiences, it still would have no way of knowing what to do with that information. The mind would be something like a library, which in itself has no intelligence. The library can only lend information for brief periods of time to interested readers and researchers.
The highest truths of life are easy to accept, provided one goes to the right source. The spiritual master following in a line of teachers that starts with the Supreme Lord is the only authorized source. Approaching any other teacher for spiritual information will either lead the student astray or cause them to miss out on the opportunity of feeling the pleasure that comes from the company of the reservoir of pleasure. There are different pathways towards true enlightenment, but once that superior vision is acquired, there is only one source of pleasure beyond that. The knowledge that is first acquired is that of Brahman, or pure spirit. Seeing Brahman is difficult because sight itself can be illusory. Start with your own body. You look in the mirror every day but you can’t see that you’re slowly dying, a process which starts from the time you were born and culminates with the exit of the soul from the body. Thus seeing deludes you into thinking that you are your body, which you are not.
Brahman realization sees the spirit soul within the body. Not only is spirit localized internally, but it also exists within every other species. Thus there is a large collection of individual fragments of spirit. The sum total is known as Brahman, and only one who is sober in mind and following the real principles of religion can understand the equality shared between the various species. The bona fide principles of spirituality involve austerity, sacrifice and dedication to study.
The chance to learn about Brahman is a boon for the human birth, affording the opportunity to acquire real knowledge. Knowing how to eat, sleep, mate and defend requires no explicit education, for the animals take care of these responsibilities without a problem. The Vedic tradition stipulates that the person wanting to know about the Absolute Truth should approach a bona fide spiritual master and render service to him.
In actuality, service starts from the very beginning of life. The mother and father are the first worshipable figures, or gurus in a sense. Knowing that there is a God is beneficial, but actually serving Him is difficult because He is considered inanimate. If I want to talk to God, where should I go? How can I see God and know that He is real? The personal interaction with the Supreme Lord is certainly possible, but it can only occur after the purification of vision. That purification takes place after one offers service to those who are worthy of it. From that dedication comes a simultaneous withdrawal from the interest of the senses.
After the parents are served, the spiritual master then takes over as the worshipable figure. He is a servant of God, so he knows how to teach his students the right way, so that through their actions in adult life they can attain the same God realization. It is not that everyone will follow the same path. There are divisions in society based on a person’s natural qualities. From those divisions comes different prescribed work. For the royal order, the primary business is to take care of protection. They must protect the innocent, and especially the priestly class.
As Lord Rama, the Supreme Absolute Truth appeared on earth in the famous Raghu dynasty, which had chivalrous kings dating back to the beginning of time. As God, Rama did not require an education. He is the source of Brahman, so what need does He have to learn about the all-pervasiveness of the impersonal spiritual force? Yet to set the proper example of how one should carry out their prescribed duties, He accepted Vishvamitra as a guru, serving him perfectly.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Shri Rama and His brother Lakshmana are holding back a little after having run through the forests chasing bird and deer for fun. Rama and Lakshmana were escorting Vishvamitra through the forests because the sage was being harassed at the time by wicked night-rangers who could change their shapes at will. Rama was not yet twelve years of age, so He was still very young and showed signs of youthful exuberance.
Vishvamitra was older, so Rama made sure to show the proper respect. In remembering the muni’s presence, the boys drew back and returned to his side. In this way Rama shows that He is a sweetheart who loves His devotees so much. He gives them the pleasure they deserve in their specific mood of choice. Vishvamitra got to have Rama as a protector while outwardly acting as His guardian. Lakshmana was there too, showing the muni the tremendous fraternal affection the brothers felt for each other.
A child listens to people they respect. Therefore Rama coming back to the camp after having run off in fun shows that Vishvamitra was held in high esteem. The muni would give the two brothers secret mantras to be chanted during fighting. With the power of the sound vibrations, the arrows flying from their bows would then pack a punch similar to nuclear weapons. Again, Rama and Lakshmana didn’t require these mantras, but they accepted them to show the value of the guru and how he can help the sincere students to carry out their prescribed duties.
It is also stated above that the brothers plucked flowers, fruits and leaves and made garlands out of them. The beautiful nature we see around us isn’t meant only to further strengthen illusion. If I take nature to be the sum and substance of everything, the very cause of creation, I am obviously mistaken and will have to suffer rebirth in the future. On the other hand, if I use the same aspects of creation to serve the Lord, I am making the best use of those gifts.
In the Bhagavad-gita, the same Rama in His original form of Shri Krishna states that anyone who offers Him a leaf, a flower, fruit or some water with devotion will have their offering accepted. In the case of Rama in the forest, the leaves, flowers and fruits were taken and accepted by the Lord to be a garland worn around His neck. To this day devotees who worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead take the time to make flower garlands and offer it to the deities and the spiritual master. Flowers are nature’s beauty. They are so amazing that no mind except the Supreme Mind could ever come up with something so wonderful to look at, which has a nice fragrance at the same time.
The flowers, fruits and leaves were used for the Lord’s pleasure and thus fulfilled the highest purpose. This material body of ours is intended to be sacrificed in the same manner. The tongue exists to taste the remnants of foodstuff offered to God and to chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The feet are meant to take us to holy places of pilgrimage and to any place where the glories of the Lord are sung. The eyes are meant to gaze upon the wonderful deity. And most importantly, the ears are meant to hear about the Supreme Lord and His pastimes, such as those so beautifully presented in the Janaki Mangala of Goswami Tulsidas.
After chasing the birds and stopping the deer,
Brothers come to muni out of fear.
Flowers, fruits and leaves along the way they take,
So that beautiful garlands for pleasure they make.
Vishvamitra, son of Gadhi, all of this he sees,
Supreme Lord acts so that His devotees are pleased.
Spiritual master has information worthy to know,
Boat towards supreme destination he rows.
Eat prasadam, Lord’s glories do you hear,
To Rama’s vision your eyes do you steer.