“Those sweet forms melt your heart and steal your mind, so why don’t you respect it? Without accomplishing your work you come to this royal assembly, and renouncing shame you seek to ruin yourself.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 8.1)
manasija manohara madhura mūrati kasa na sādara jovahū |
binu kāja rāja samāja mahum̐ taji lāja āpu bigovahū ||
The picture is so sweet. Two young boys taken care of by a much older muni, all while watching a ceremony to be remembered for thousands of years into the future. The observers at the time didn’t know it, but history was about to be made. The precious daughter of King Janaka was to be given away to the strongest prince in the assembly, for immense strength was required to lift up the heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. King Janaka had stipulated the rules of the contest, vowing to bequeath his daughter to whoever could lift this bow first. The youthful delights seated on opposite ends of the sun-like Vishvamitra were ready to join this family shortly, with the elder Rama eligible to participate in and win the contest.
This presented an issue for the other contestants. Rama and Lakshmana were no doubt beautiful. In fact, you couldn’t find a flaw in them. This was the assessment made from the initial glance. We can’t really tell much about a person’s character by looks alone, but we can get an idea of whether or not they are favored by the creator. Nothing happens on its own. Every reaction is the result of a past action. The pistons in the car start firing at the turn of the key by the operator of the vehicle. That engine cannot roar unless there is gasoline in the tank, which requires human effort for transport.
The womb gives shelter to the embryo which eventually matures to the point that it exits into the world. That embryo could not exist without the combined action of the mother and father. Therefore nothing happens on its own, including the workings of nature. There is intelligence behind results, though we may not always see or know who that intelligent force is. The animals also don’t act randomly, as they scour the land for food based on personal desire. They may look like they are running around for no reason, but they have a purpose to their actions. Though their intelligence isn’t nearly as sharp as the sober human being’s, there is nevertheless a specific impetus for action.
On this particular day, by noticing the beauty of the two boys escorting Vishvamitra one could tell that the creator was favorable to them. If we have natural beauty, good parentage, and strong intelligence, it is to be understood that these are the rewards of good deeds from a previous life. The spirit soul exists within all species and continues its existence after the present body is discarded. It also had a form in a different individual in a past life. The cycle continues on for as long as the desire to remain separated from the good graces of the spiritual land remains.
“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.25)
The same point is subtly addressed in the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala. Even with the rival kings Rama and Lakshmana’s beauty was noticed and appreciated. Rama is God, so wherever He goes He carries a glaring effulgence, a transcendental beauty that no one has ever seen before. Just the interaction, the personal presence, however, is not enough to effect change in others. It is what one does with that association that matters.
Think of being stranded in a desert without any water. It’s so hot that you can’t move anymore. You think that you won’t survive long enough to make it to an area where there is water. Now, let’s suppose that you come upon an oasis, a large supply of fresh, drinking water. The potential for the benefit exists with the water, but unless you actually drink it, you won’t be in a better situation. It’s sort of like looking for your car keys when you are holding them in your hand the entire time.
The admonition in the verse quoted above relates to making the best use of the divine vision standing in front of the kings. It’s understandable that the rivals would be proud of their entourage, good work, and kingdom. Indeed, the more opulent your kingdom is, the better it is believed to be. King Janaka was wealthy as well, though he was known more for his perfection in mysticism, his equal disposition. He had not a hint of sin in him, and his daughter followed in his footsteps. That is why there was so much attention paid to her svayamvara, or self-choice ceremony.
The pride that comes with working hard and securing valuable possessions should not prevent one from appreciating God, who is the source of everything. He is the original proprietor, so what we call our “possessions” are actually on loan from Him, meant to be used to help move our consciousness in the right direction. There is no easier way to purify consciousness than to direct it at the Supreme Lord standing in front of you. As if to make the emancipation of the soul easier, the exact form of Godhead on display for the people in Janakpur was one that best elicited spontaneous loving affection.
The child is the essence of innocence, and though Rama wasn’t a baby, He wasn’t a fully grown adult at the time either. He and Lakshmana had delicate features, yet they were still strong enough to be sought out for protection by Vishvamitra, who lived in the forest at the time. The hearts were already melting in the rival kings, and the minds were stolen by the enchanting vision, so what need was there to disrespect Rama and Lakshmana?
Respect for the Supreme Lord is the precursor to spontaneous loving affection that never dies. Renouncing shame, the kings that didn’t respect Rama would have to honor His strength when He would later lift up the enormously heavy bow without a problem. That same bow that previously could not be moved by the proud kings was lifted, strung and broken in a blink of an eye by the jewel of the Raghu dynasty. The onlookers that respected the beautiful form, the murti of the Supreme Lord, got to bask in the sweetness of the vision and celebrate the marriage of the divine couple, Sita and Rama.
That same beauty can exist within the mind of the sincere worshiper. The respect for it can be shown by regularly chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. All the possessions and relationships we have will disappear at the time of death, so rather than squander the wonderful opportunity we have to stop rebirth, why not follow the divine path and show respect for the beloved protectors of the saints? Rama and Lakshmana look beautiful with Vishvamitra, and that vision can melt the hardest of hearts and slowly bring about a sober understanding of the temporary nature of this world and reveal who the original owner of all objects is.
Shame is sometimes good,
With humility God understood.
To Janaka’s kingdom came,
Royal families of worldwide fame.
But accomplish their work they would not,
Bested by bow, vision of Rama they got.
Respect that form, your chance don’t squander,
Else through reincarnation’s cycle you’ll wander.