“With auspicious jewelry and beautiful clothes on the body she is looking beautiful. Looking at her, the foolish kings are illusioned by the illusion.” (Janaki Mangala, 81)
mangala bhūṣana basana manju tana sohahīṃ |
dekhi mūḍha mahipāla moha basa mohahiṃ ||
To believe that the nature around you exists solely for your personal enjoyment is the root cause of the initial descent and subsequent stay in the material world. The elements of nature, including those possessed by the temporary body, give off an illusion. For instance, we look in the mirror and think that the vision identifies us, but in reality the vision is constantly changing. We don’t notice the change until a longer period of time has elapsed, but the shifts are subtly going on regardless. The embodiment of that illusion in its most mature state is described to us in the verse quoted above, which references a famous incident.
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)
The material elements come from somewhere. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is explained that the Supreme Absolute Truth, the original personality, impregnated the material energy to populate the creation with creatures. The same distinction is visible at the local level within each individual. For instance, in my body there is an owner and a field. The local field is the body and the external field the material elements. The soul, myself, is the owner. It was the injection of the soul that led to the development of the body, not the other way around. There is no possible way to gather a collection of material elements, mix them together, and then get them to grow without outside intervention. The initial seed of existence must be present, and that seed is the purusha, or spirit. The matter that develops because of the presence of the purusha is known as prakriti.
In the larger view, the injector of the spiritual force is the father and the nature it enters the mother. But even before that there is a larger abstraction. There is the original Lord Himself and His accompanying energy. The energy belongs to Him; it is meant for His enjoyment. The energy has some independence, however, so there is a choice in behavior. The purified form of that energy is known as the hladini-shakti, or pleasure potency. Every living entity is part of God’s energy, but not all choose to please God. The wayward spirit souls, who want to enjoy other aspects of the energy for themselves, are granted residence in a temporary land governed by illusion.
The illusion was on full display in Janaka’s kingdom many thousands of years ago. The Supreme Lord had descended to earth as the warrior prince Rama, and His pleasure potency as Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. At the svayamvara in Janaka’s kingdom, many princes had assembled, wanting to marry the king’s precious daughter. It was a contest; whoever could lift the bow first would win.
Towards the latter stages, when the contest was about to be decided, Janaka called to have Sita enter the assembly. She was wearing auspicious ornaments and a beautiful dress on her body. The pious people received the fruit of their eyes when they saw her. This is because they saw her properly, as someone meant to serve and please Shri Rama, the youthful son of King Dasharatha who was an attendee and a potential participant in the contest.
The foolish kings, however, were struck by illusion. They are described here by Goswami Tulsidas as mudhas, or fools. They saw Sita as a vehicle for enjoyment, someone they would get to keep. This illusion is the same as looking at the material energy as being solely for one’s enjoyment. The eyes are given to us for a reason. In the verse previous to this one in the Janaki Mangala, it is said that the kings received the fruit of their eyes when they saw Sita; meaning that their eyes were used properly. These were obviously the saintly kings. The collection of material elements that formed their eyes was provided to them for the purpose of viewing God and His closest associates in the proper mood.
When the eyes are used for other purposes, such as for personal enjoyment alone, the fruit of the eyes is not tasted. Only in illusion would we take something for what it is not, and hence the material nature is often referred to as maya. But maya is God’s maidservant, so the illusion exists intentionally. On this occasion, the foolish kings gave a wonderful example of how not to view God and His eternal consort. Sita was always meant for Rama, and the pious people in Janakpur hoped for their reunion.
That would eventually take place through Rama’s lifting of the bow, but later on another foolish king would succumb to illusion. He would try to take Sita for himself, though he was already married to so many beautiful queens. It is said in the Kurma Purana that the version of Sita taken by the evil king Ravana was an illusory version. The effect was similar for the assembled princes in Janakpur, who didn’t really see Sita as she is. The real Sita is always with Rama, and she can never be touched by the miscreants.
To receive the fruit of the eyes, and all the body parts for that matter, engage in devotional service, which begins and ends with reliance on the holy names, such as those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. For the foolish kings their hopes created through illusion would break simultaneously with the bow of Shiva in Rama’s hands, marking the triumph of God and His devotees.
Auspicious jewelry on her body Sita brought,
But in illusion foolish kings were caught.
Didn’t see her in the right way,
Thought that with them she’d stay.
Same illusion with material nature made,
With ignorance into further despair we fade.
Despite what our senses make us feel,
Know that spirit is our identity real.
As energy of God, Him we’re meant to please,
Like Sita, who waited for Rama the bow to seize.
Fruit of the eyes from her auspicious vision,
Not given to fools dominated by illusion.