Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bad Company

Sita in the Ashoka grove“She, who is forgiving like the earth, has lotus-like eyes, and was previously protected by Rama and Lakshmana, is now guarded under the tree by Rakshasis of deformed eyes.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.29)

kṣiti kṣamā puṣkara samnibha akṣī |
yā rakṣitā rāghava lakṣmaṇābhyām |
sā rākṣasībhir vikṛta īkṣaṇābhiḥ |
samrakṣyate samprati vṛkṣa mūle ||


“Boy, I’m so excited to go to this thing. I’ve been waiting all week to go. I haven’t been able to think about anything else. Sure, it is the middle of the winter season and today happens to be the coldest day of the year, but I’m not going to miss this for anything. I’m going for sure; I’ll accept whatever conditions come my way in the journey.”

A little later…

“Okay, that walk to the train station was a little difficult. The chilling wind hitting up against my face felt like ice smacking against my cheeks. I have my winter gear on, but that is only a little help. When the temperature is well below freezing like it is today, there is not much you can do to keep yourself warm. I keep thinking to myself, ‘If I didn’t somehow make it indoors within a few minutes, I would literally freeze to death out there. Makes you wonder why man ever decided to inhabit this area when there are so many other places that are warm year round.’

“Okay, now I’m on the train. It’s warm in here. Everything is going to be alright. We’re at our first stop. I’m seated in a row of three, with two empty seats next to me. This train is for everyone, so I don’t mind if others sit next to me. They are individuals just like me, headed somewhere for the day. There is no reason to be afraid of them.

“Oh, here is a person coming this way. And now he has sat down next to me. No worries, right? But he looks odd. He has so much layering on that it looks like he’s from the North Pole. He could easily be mistaken for an Eskimo. He’s got a bunch of bags and stuff that he’s laid on the empty seat next to me. Still, no big deal. But wait, what’s that smell? It’s awful. It’s starting to make me sick. It’s like toxic fumes mixed with terrible body odor. Oh no, it’s coming from this person. He smells as if he hasn’t showered in days. His long beard tells me that he likely doesn’t have a home. I shouldn’t judge, especially when we are in the dead of winter like this.

“Considerable time has passed, and the situation is not getting any better. I really can’t stand this smell. It’s not fair. Why do I have to endure this situation? I’m actually travelling for a good cause right now. I made this choice all on my own. No one is forcing me to go. I easily could have gone home after work and relaxed in the comfort of my bed, but I chose this instead. Why am I being punished like this? This smell is so bad; I can’t wait until I am rescued by the arrival to my destination.”

In this scenario, the incredible discomfort is due to a situation where there is unwanted company. The smell in this case is what makes the person’s company unwanted. Such situations occur all the time, and they get worse when the length of the time spent in the unfavorable association increases. A princess a long time ago faced the worst company, and it was immediately after she had the best company. Seeing this, a warrior who went to find her felt pity. At the same time, he made sure to do whatever he could to fix the situation.

Sita with Rama and LakshmanaThe above referenced verse from the Ramayana gives us some more details about the woman in question. She has eyes that are like lotuses. The shape of the eyes is what resembles the petals of the lotus flower. Her face is thus pleasing to the eyes of others, as who wouldn’t like to look at lotus petals? It is also said that she is as forgiving as the earth. The earth accepts whatever others do to it without balking. Sometimes she has earthquakes, but more or less there is no response to the constant treading on her land. Therefore the best way to compare forgiveness is to use the earth as a reference.

Mentioning this woman’s forgiving nature is important due to the situation at hand. A person who is forgiving is considered superior to someone who isn’t. As such, they don’t deserve bad fortune. For the woman in question, the situation was really bad. She was underneath a tree, surrounded by female ogres. Unlike her, these ogres had hideous looking eyes; they weren’t pleasant to look at.

This woman previously had the protection of Rama and Lakshmana. She stayed with them in the forest of Dandaka. Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation as a warrior prince. In His appearance, He comes as the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Lakshmana is a partial incarnation of the same Supreme Lord, considered the servitor God. On earth He is Rama’s younger brother. He can also be addressed as Ramanuja, which means “younger brother of Rama.”

There is no better company than Rama and Lakshmana, especially for Sita. She is Rama’s wife. She loves Him more than any person can love someone else. She is not interested so much in what Rama does for her; she only cares about what she can do for Rama. The two brothers are the best bow fighters this world has ever seen, so she feels protected in their company. They are also highly chivalrous, which matches well with her spotless character. Therefore the three of them never deserve bad fortune, though they were in the forest of Dandaka due to the envy of Rama’s step-mother.

Shri HanumanNow here was Sita surrounded by vile creatures. Hanuman did not like that. He was sent by Rama to look for Sita after she went missing. Here he has finally found her. He will offer a short-term solution by giving Sita news about Rama, relaying how the Lord is dedicated to finding and rescuing her. We are in a similar situation today. We may or may not have a person with a foul odor sitting next to us on a train, but such situations are only temporary and not so important, even if we think otherwise. The more pressing problem is the lack of company of Rama and Lakshmana or their representatives. As individual spirit souls, we are meant to serve God, but how can we serve Him if we’re unsure of what He looks like, where He lives, and what He wants from us?

The saints kindly disseminate information about God to those who are willing to accept it. We all need it, but suffering from the illusion of the material nature we think that we’ll be better off on our own. In that fearful condition, we meet all sorts of unpleasant situations with unpleasant company. The heroic warriors like Hanuman are sent from above to give us the warmth of the company of Godhead. In Sita’s situation, the relief came from words about Rama, and in our situation the same powerful presence arrives through just the name of God alone. Thus hearing, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” from a devotee of the Lord can turn things around very quickly.

In Closing:

Foul smelling person on the train,

Slow and reckless driver in our lane.

 

If in motives we are pure,

Why bad company to endure?

 

Sita staying in Ashoka grove on ground,

Rakshasis of wicked eyes in circle around.

 

Came to scene Hanuman of no fear.

To give news of brothers to her very dear.

 

Know that from only His name,

God to arrive all the same.

 

Saints thus to give association the best,

Through their hard work we are blessed.

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