Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Not Meant to Be

Shiva's bow“Then Janaka’s vow was announced to the people. The kings arose excited, but none could get the desired result of lifting the bow.” (Janaki Mangala, 88)

taba bideha pana bandinha pragaṭa sunāyau |
uṭhe bhūpa āmaraṣi saguna nahiṃ pāyau ||

At the end of each week in the National Football League season, there is extensive analysis of all the games that just completed. This is one of the contributing factors to the profitability of the league. Since most of the games are played on a single day, and each team plays only one game per week, there is ample buildup for each upcoming game. The rest of the time is spent in contemplation of the previous week’s games, increasing the anticipation over what lies ahead. An inevitable part of the review process is looking at the missed opportunities. What could have been done differently to receive a better outcome? From an incident a long time ago, we get another reminder of a harsh reality of life. If your desired outcome is not in the cards, if it is not meant to happen, nothing can be done to reverse the fortune. By the same token, that which is meant to occur by the divine will can never be prevented.

For the sports fan, a well-known indication of the ability of a single event to shape destiny is the last minute field-goal kick. In American football a field-goal is worth three points, and since the games are played under the direction of a sixty-minute game clock, you can ostensibly kick a field-goal as the last play of the game. If the addition of the three points puts your team in the lead, the kick essentially wins the game for you. On the flip side, if you’re trailing and your team misses the last second kick, you lose the game.

In the postgame review, you can tell yourself, “Oh, if only we would have made that kick. It was so easy too. Our kicker never misses from such short distances. Man, if the kick was good we would have won, and with that win our record would be better.” That win can shape the fortunes of the team going forward, and so you can analyze the kick forever and ever. Other plays from the game can be similarly analyzed. Perhaps something went your way at a pivotal moment. Perhaps the other team made a costly error at an inopportune time.

These close encounters show that preparation and ability are not the sole determining factors in victory. A victory is nothing more than a desired result, a successful end to the output of energy. There are all kinds of victories; they are not limited to sports. The same principle applies to those outcomes, wherein personal effort alone is not a guarantee for success. I can try as hard as I want in a particular endeavor, doing everything right, and still not get the desired outcome. On the flip side, sometimes I can do everything wrong and still end up on top.

Many thousands of years ago, famous royal dynasties from around the world assembled in a city known as Janakpur. They knew why they were there; they wanted to win the hand in marriage of the king’s eldest daughter. News had gone out that the king was to hold a bow-lifting contest. The most powerful princes in the world were gathered there that day, but there was a brief distraction when Shri Rama from the kingdom of Ayodhya arrived. He wasn’t there specifically for the contest, but His arrival was nonetheless noteworthy. His beautiful features indicated a divine presence, one so strong that people forgot about the contest for a moment. When they returned to normal consciousness, they still couldn’t forget Rama. They tied the contest to Him, wanting Him to win it.

But a contest is a contest. After the visual attention paid to Rama, who was there with His younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra, King Janaka, the host of the ceremony, had the rules of the contest announced. It was an oath. The king vowed to give Sita, his daughter, to whoever would first lift the bow. Janaka was known around the world for his virtue, and Sita followed in his line. Therefore she was considered a great prize, a tremendous fortune to whoever would welcome her to their family.

The princes assembled there that day arose with excitement upon hearing the king’s vow. It was “go time.” This was akin to the gun in a race going off. No more sitting around and waiting. Here was their chance to prove to thousands of people that they were the strongest person in the world. The bow in the middle of the sacrificial arena was not ordinary. It originally belonged to Lord Shiva, a heavenly figure in charge of the mode of ignorance. The three modes of material nature are described in detail in the famous Vedic scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, which is also known as the Gitopanishad. In summary, living entities can adopt bodies belonging to the modes of goodness, passion, or ignorance. Sometimes the modes are mixed together in varying proportions, and so you have the many different species. People in each mode have a corresponding deity, and Lord Shiva is the worshipable figure of those in the lowest mode, wherein real knowledge is completely lacking.

Lord ShivaBut Shiva’s actual position is devotee of the Supreme Lord, who is the worshipable figure of those in the modes of goodness and pure goodness. Therefore this bow couldn’t be lifted by just anyone. It was, in a sense, Lord Shiva’s representative at the contest. He could make the bow extremely heavy or light at a moment’s notice. Though the princes assembled there wanted very badly to win, they couldn’t even move the bow. All that anticipation, all that excitement on the way to Janakpur, was for naught, as they walked away defeated.

Rama was meant to lift the bow. He is the Supreme Lord, the worshipable deity for Lord Shiva. Sita is Rama’s wife for life, the eternal consort of God. She is His energy, and He is the energetic. The two together make for a wonderful sight, and their reunion on earth took place at that contest in Janaka’s kingdom. Victory was not meant to be for the rival princes, and it was guaranteed for Shri Rama. That same lifter of Shiva’s bow guarantees to protect His devotees who always chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Though to Janakpur all the princes went,

To win contest of the bow weren’t meant.


Go for victory, try as hard as you will,

Defeat can come in an instant still.


Put in the effort worst,

And you still might get first.


Know that everything from God arranged,

If He wills it, outcome never can be changed.


Shiva there at the contest through his bow,

Prize of Sita Devi only to Rama would go.