Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sacred Earth

Janaka finding Sita“She arose from the surface of the earth when it was pierced by a ploughshare. She was covered with auspicious dust from the field that resembled the pollen from a lotus.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.16)

utthitā medinīm bhittvā kṣetre hala mukha kṣate |
padma reṇu nibhaiḥ kīrṇā śubhaiḥ kedāra pāṃsubhiḥ ||


Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has declared that just as Krishna is worshipable, so is His land. Therefore places like Vrindavana, Mathura and Dvaraka are popular pilgrimage destinations. The earth of these areas is considered sacred because Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, placed His feet on it. In the same way, the land of Tirahuta is also sacred, for the Supreme Lord’s eternal consort, Lakshmi Devi, arose from underneath its ground one time when a famous king was ploughing the field for a sacrifice. That earth was auspicious before Janaka’s daughter arose, and afterwards it became even more important.

The idea that certain sections of land would be more important than others should make sense if we think about it. In the United States, there are tourist areas relating to the Founding Fathers, the group of men who founded the country. These landmarks include the family estates of the famous men, along with other areas of interest. There is also the famous Graceland, which relates to the rock n roll singer Elvis Presley. These areas sport ordinary homes built on ordinary dirt, but since they relate to famous personalities, they take on an added significance.

In one sense, this whole world can be thought of as sacred, since it emanated from the Supreme Lord. There is an original creator, though we can’t get our minds around the concept of eternal time. Keep going back in time as far as you can and you still won’t reach the beginning. Travel into the future as far as you can think of and you still won’t reach the end of time. Yet from our own experiences we know that the things we see had to be created at some point. They don’t just appear from nowhere. We can speculate that the unknown source is a collection of chemicals, an impersonal force, or a personality that is a supreme being.

The wise know it to be a supreme being because only through life can we get life. Chemicals don’t combine together to create life; it is just not possible. Through logical deduction alone, we can assume that a person was responsible for this vast cosmos. In the Vedas, more information is given about that person. It is said that He is all-attractive. He is also all-pervading. Hence two ways to address Him are Krishna and Vishnu. He is the origin of matter and spirit, and while the material creation is a representation of His external potency, sometimes He personally arrives to walk upon that which He created. Those visits are documented in the sacred texts like the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam.

It is said in the Vedas that Krishna is the original form of Godhead and that He appears in Mathura during the Dvapara Yuga, or the third time period of the creation. He then spends His childhood years in the neighboring town of Vrindavana. These areas still exist today, so one can walk on the same land that Krishna walked on. Krishna’s body is non-different from Him. His body does not undergo change like ours do. His body is transcendental, immune to the effects of karma.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.24“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

Krishna’s name is also non-different from Him. Therefore the easiest and most effective way to stay in God’s company is to always chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Food that has been offered to the Lord is also non-different from Him. Therefore devotees regularly prepare items in the mode of goodness for offering and then eat the remnants known as prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. The devotee who always thinks of and glorifies Krishna is also non-different from the Lord. Therefore the wise souls always crave the association of devotees, as this is like being in God’s company.

A long time back, in the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, a famous king named Janaka ruled over the sacred land of Tirahuta. In his Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas refers to this area as the tilaka of the earth, or its sacred mark. The tilaka on the forehead represents Lord Vishnu, who is the same Krishna. Tirahuta thus also represents Vishnu with its earth. Its leader back then also represented Vishnu, as he was a devotee.

“That country is looking so beautiful, and the Vedas have described its purity. Known in the three worlds, Tirahuta [Janakpur] is the tilaka of the earth.” (Janaki Mangala, 4)

Sita and Rama weddingNot surprisingly, that devotee welcomed Vishnu’s wife, Lakshmi Devi, into his family when she appeared on earth to accompany her husband, who appeared as Lord Rama from the Raghu dynasty. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman mentions the unique circumstances of Sita’s appearance. She arose from the earth as it was being pierced by a ploughshare. As a pious king, Janaka was preparing for a sacrifice, and wouldn’t you know it, the fruit of that religious act arrived before the ceremony officially began. A beautiful baby was found in the ground, and Janaka named her Sita because of where she came from. The dust covering baby Sita resembled the pollen from a lotus flower. Originally, Sita is Lakshmi, who is very fond of lotuses. Therefore it wasn’t surprising that she would be covered by this kind of dirt when she appeared in Tirahuta.

Hanuman remembered this event as part of an identification process. He finally found Sita after an extensive search. Her husband Rama started looking for her after she went missing from the Dandaka forest. Hanuman had to find her based only on descriptions of her given by others. In this Ashoka grove inside of the kingdom of Lanka, Hanuman saw Rama’s wife, and to glorify her further, he reviewed some of her noteworthy features, such as her relation to the sacred earth in Tirahuta. And just as that land is worshipable, so is Sita.

In Closing:

When Supreme Lord walks on the land,

Earth same as Him understand.

 

The same for His holy names go,

Thus the devotees chant them feverishly so.

 

God’s wife to arrive in Janaka’s family chose,

From sacred earth of Tirahuta she arose.

 

To protect her as daughter Janaka avowed,

Gave her the name Sita, new father proud.

 

When Hanuman saw her in the Ashoka grove,

Her divine vision to that history drove.

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