“Both the picture of Sita and Rama and the day were incomparable. In happiness, the society and the queen look at them and receive bliss moment after moment.” (Janaki Mangala, 110)
rāma sīya chabi nirūpama nirūpama so dinu |
sukha samāja lakhi rāninha ānam̐da chinu-chinu ||
“How can you describe God accurately? If He is everything, the complete whole, then aren’t the words you use to describe Him part of Him? If even your words, which come out of your mouth moment after moment, are part of His definition, how can you ever completely describe Him? Every time you open your mouth to glorify Him you are further expanding the definition. By doing this you’re also saying that the previous descriptions were not sufficient. If God is so impossible to explain, why even try? Why frustrate yourself?”
We use comparisons to try to accurately describe things. For instance, if we go to a new pizza restaurant and try out the pizza, we will explain its taste by comparing it to the pizza from other restaurants. “Oh, this is even better than that other place. Previously, that was my favorite, but not anymore.” We can take the same approach when saying how bad something is. “This is worse than even that other place, and you know how much I didn’t like that place. So just imagine how horrible this place is.”
It is natural, then, to attempt to describe the Supreme Lord, the source of all things, by using comparisons. For the comparisons to be meaningful, they should reference objects which are known to the audience. I can explain how I make my decisions throughout the day by invoking references to computer programming and database querying, but if people aren’t familiar with these disciplines, my comparisons won’t mean much. The Supreme Lord is thus typically explained in terms of objects of which people know.
The radiance from His complexion is compared to the bright moon. His fragrance is compared to the beautiful lotus flower, as is the softness of His skin. His beauty is compared to Cupid, who is the god of love. His strength is compared to the lion and the elephant. His fighting prowess is compared to the leader of the heavenly realm, Lord Indra. The breadth of His fame is described in terms of known space, namely the three worlds. His longevity is compared to the time span of the living entity, which remains manifest between the times of birth and death. Though He is compared to so many things, He is actually incomparable, or nirupama. The same holds true for the image created when He unites with His eternal consort.
If He is incomparable, why do the scriptures give us comparisons? The reason is the constitutional position of the living entity. Whether we like it or not, we are inherently linked to God. And there is nothing we can do to permanently get rid of the link. We can try to forget it, and this is to our detriment. The forgetfulness causes us to fall into the material ocean, which is miserable due to the fact that everything exists temporarily. Whatever you have today will eventually be gone. Though you search for temporary fixes, trying to forget about imminent death, know that the end will approach all the same.
Death is the end of the current life, but the cycle repeats in the next life. In this way the forgetful soul continues to spin through acceptance and rejection, enjoying temporarily only to suffer separation in the end. The link, however, is available at any time. In order to get it back all it takes is a desire to reactivate it. It’s like that book that you bought months ago that’s remained on your bookshelf, gathering dust from remaining untouched. You mean to get around to reading it, but you’ve constantly put it off. Just because you put it off doesn’t mean that the book ceases to exist. At any time you can open it up and get the experience you originally desired.
In the same way, the connection to God can be rekindled at any moment. The scriptures, such as the Vedas, make the process easier by explaining the glories of God in terms that we can understand. Even if you have no interest in philosophy and get bored hearing about the difference between matter and spirit, you can get the same idea of God by listening to stories about Him. These stories describe factual occurrences, such as the time when the Supreme Lord incarnated on earth and lifted the extremely heavy bow of Lord Shiva to win the contest in King Janaka’s court.
This is the event of focus for the Janaki Mangala poem by Goswami Tulsidas. Though not part of the original Vedas or their direct supplements known as the Puranas, the work is Vedic literature nonetheless, as it describes the glories of God as they are explained originally in the famous Vedic texts. The language may be a little different and the storytelling more streamlined, but since the focus is on the Supreme Lord and His activities, the work serves the same purpose as the original scriptures.
If you know nothing about God at all, from the verse referenced above you can at least know that He once lifted a bow to win a contest. The prize was the hand in marriage of Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. God was in His incarnation of Lord Rama, and in that form He looked so beautiful. When He received the garland of victory from Sita’s lotus-like hands, the picture was so beautiful that you couldn’t compare it to anything else. The fact that the image was incomparable proves that it could only be about God, who is everything.
It is valid to say that the image was incomparable. It is said that the day was also incomparable. Nothing can compare to the marriage of Sita and Rama, which had all the drama of a Hollywood movie and the heroism of a competition of strength. Though the Supreme Lord is unlimited and can thus accept an unlimited number of devotees, as Rama He takes only one wife. They only get married one time in each creation, and on only one day. Thus to say that the day was incomparable is accurate.
Though words can’t accurately describe the image or the day, Tulsidas does not throw his hands up and give up. The nature of a true saint is to try to bring that which is most valuable to as many people as possible. Never mind that the image was incomparable, the poet still gives us ways to understand what the image looked like. He says that the queen and her family were in total happiness and that they received ananda, or bliss, moment after moment by looking at Sita and Rama. In this way we know that the image was cherished by the eyes; it was so beautiful that no one wanted to look at anything else. The satisfaction came from the image itself; because the object of focus was splendid enough, there was no diversion of attention.
From their behavior know that immersion into the glories of the Supreme Lord, which are fortunately endless, automatically brings the focus necessary to stay away from the unwanted elements in life. “Don’t do this and stay away from that.” This we already hear from so many people, but what should we do all the time? What should we use our vitality for? Here the answer is given: look at God and His devotee. If you can’t see them directly, hear about what they did and what they looked like on an incomparable day. This version of thought is known as vishno-smaranam, or remembering God, and just like its target it cannot be compared to anything else.
Queens and friends at image did stare,
Of such beauty that nothing to compare.
Moment after moment bliss they did receive,
Feeling happiness that no one could believe.
Though accurate description never can give,
Still saints in hopeless frustration not to live.
Accounts of Sita and Rama they provide,
Mind in that image can thus always reside.