“The king, queen and people of the city are staring at Rama’s beautiful body, with their hopes like a pitcher constantly filled and emptied.” (Janaki Mangala, 80)
To stare at a picture with rapt attention is not to stop your thoughts altogether. Rather, the thoughts flood into the mind anew, like rushing waves to constantly replenish that which has just departed. The more beautiful the picture, the more thoughts will come to the mind. There is the amazement, the awe in seeing something out of this world. Then there are the questions relating to the origin, such as wherefrom the image came. Then there is the fear, that at one time such an image might cease to please the eyes or that it will vanish from the scene. In a famous incident in the city of Janakpur a long time ago, such thoughts rushed to the minds of the people looking upon a handsome youth. Since He was the Supreme Lord Himself, the constant toggling between fear and safety did not hurt them.
What do we mean by this? To have a material existence means to lament and hanker. One day I want this, and the next day I’m lamenting that I don’t have something else. I win today and lose tomorrow. This all stems from taking birth and then dying later on. That is the definition of material, after all, to have an existence tied to matter, which is mutable, transient, and ultimately not the source of identity.
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)
In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that the Brahman realized soul does not hanker or lament. To realize Brahman means to know the spiritual nature, to understand that the individual is a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. If I know that I am not my shirt, why will I worry so much over what happens to it? If I tear my favorite shirt, I can just get a new one. Moreover, I usually don’t wear the same shirt every day, so perhaps the loss of a single shirt will only affect me for one day out of each week. Nevertheless, I can easily get another one. Along similar lines, the decay and ultimate loss of the body is not that important, as a new one will be provided. We already know that this is true in our present dealings based on the shedding of skin. We are constantly losing skin cells, though we can’t see it. If we get a cut on the skin, eventually the wound will heal. Thus there must be constant regeneration of the cells.
At the time of death, the entire skin covering is left behind, and a new one is accepted somewhere else. Although we can’t see this it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. We couldn’t see the spirit soul injected into the womb, but we know it happened based on the end result. In the same way, we can understand reincarnation, believing more in its validity through accepting the authorized instruction of Lord Krishna and those who follow devotion to Him. Krishna is a personality, but it is also a word which describes God, the same divine figure worshiped in all faiths.
In the brahma-bhuta state, hankering and lamenting cease from the point of view of its effect on the state of mind. Think of it like getting pricked by a pin but not having it take you off your game. You might hear the annoying car alarm outside, but if you stay concentrated on what you’re doing, it’s as if the alarm isn’t even blaring. Through realization of Brahman, you can stay immune to the swinging pendulum of hankering and lamenting. From there you can take up devotional service to God, which is the soul’s constitutional engagement.
But these facts seem to contradict what occurred in Janakpur a long time ago. Rama is the same Krishna, a personal incarnation of the Supreme Lord who descended to earth to delight His devotees. On one occasion, He appeared in the capital city of the kingdom of Videha to take part in a contest to determine the marriage for Sita Devi, the king’s daughter. Whoever could first lift Lord Shiva’s heavy bow would win the contest. The people of the town were taken by Rama when they first saw Him. He was in a youthful figure, so His features were delicate and beautiful. This flooded the mind with thoughts of amazement, keeping the eyes attracted to the enchanting vision.
That meditation eventually led to fear. “What if Rama doesn’t win the contest? How is He going to lift this bow? He is like a delicate swan and this bow like a mountain. They don’t mix well together. If He doesn’t win, then He won’t marry Sita, and we will all be devastated.” When these thoughts would arrive, they would vanish soon after, replaced by loving attraction to Rama. “This boy is not of this world. He must have been sent by the creator himself for our benefit. If He is here, then He must also win the contest. There is no doubt.”
Then thoughts would later return to fear. This constant swinging between hope and despair is likened to a pitcher that is constantly filled and then emptied. This captive audience consisted of devotees, which meant that they were already Brahman realized.
If so, why were they lamenting? Also, why were they hankering for Rama to win? Isn’t marriage a temporary thing, an aspect of the material existence?
Actually, offering rapt attention to God is the pinnacle achievement in a human birth. The sentiments of the people were pure, as the mood was one of support. The people wanted Rama to win because they loved Him. Fear also brings a kind of thrill, as we know patrons flock to the amusement parks with rollercoasters for this very reason. Horror movies are also popular because of the thrills they provide. With the thrills created by Rama, the outcome is always beneficial, as the attachment to Him only increases. On this occasion, hankering and lamenting were on the spiritual platform, ensuring that the mind’s racing would not bring negative consequences. In fact, the event was so wonderful to behold that it is still talked about to this day. The devotees sing of that glorious occasion, and through their retelling the sincere listeners get a glimpse of the thrill of anticipation felt by the fortunate witnesses that day.
With nectar a pitcher constantly filled,
And then with fear everything spilled.
By Rama’s vision the residents amazed,
But then worry as the more at Him they gazed.
A boy of such beauty and delicate charm,
Will not Shiva’s massive bow to Him cause harm?
To normal hankering and lamenting was not the same,
To worry over Supreme Lord part of reaching highest aim.