Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Little Discomfort

scroll with writing“Worshiping Vishvamitra, explaining things and getting his permission, the king became happy. Then the tilaka and wedding details were written on a decorated scroll and given to the family guru for being sent to Ayodhya.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 14.2)

kausikahi pūji prasansi āyasu pāi nṛpa sukha pāyaū |
likhi lagana tilaka samāja saji kula gurahiṃ avadha paṭhāyaū ||


The easiest thing to do is give in to your emotions when they flare up. If you are angry, just let it all out. If you’re upset with someone, let them have it with a verbal tirade. If you don’t like someone else, don’t offer them any respect. Don’t even think for a moment that anyone else could be superior to you. As is often the case, the easier route isn’t always the best one. Conforming to the proper code of conduct, even if it sometimes might bring a little discomfort, serves to better our condition. Such was the case with a famous king a long time ago.

“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)

The king in question was named Janaka. He ruled over the territory known as Mithila. This area still exists. It is also known as Tirahuta, and as Goswami Tulsidas kindly informs us, it is the tilaka of the earth and known throughout the three worlds [heavenly, earthly and hellish realms]. The place was sacred before Janaka ruled over it, and based on what would happen there on one particular day its fame would increase even more.

image“From Hrasvaroma came a son named Shiradhvaja [also called Janaka]. When Shiradhvaja was plowing a field, from the front of his plow [shira] appeared a daughter named Sitadevi, who later became the wife of Lord Ramachandra. Thus he was known as Shiradhvaja.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.13.18)

King JanakaJanaka was one king in a long line of kings known as Janaka. He was also known as Shiradhvaja. He was very famous during his time even before he received any children. Kings in those times were selected not simply off birthright. If I am a doctor by profession and so is my wife, if we have children then they will be predisposed to the physician’s culture. They will grow up in a household of doctors, so they will be exposed to various aspects of medicine.

Birthright alone, however, won’t anoint them with the title of Doctor. That they will have to earn in the same way that the parents did. They will have to go through years of schooling, pass the necessary board examinations, and complete training under the tutelage of other doctors. Only then will they be known as doctors.

In the same manner, kings during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, ascended to the throne after they received the proper training. This implies that there were qualifications necessary. Some of those qualifications are provided to us in the Bhagavad-gita, which, among many other things, summarizes the ancient Vedic culture. The kings had to be noble, chivalrous, brave, and impartial. They were the administrators; the people in charge of administering justice. Justice is supposed to be blind; in its constitutional form it cannot play favorites. The same should hold true for the person administering it. If we walk into a courtroom and see the judge fraternizing with one of the attorneys, we have a feeling that the case will not be judged fairly. Sadly these unfair trials are quite commonplace, but in the ideal situation the people in charge of determining guilt and innocence shouldn’t have any bias.

Bhagavad-gita, 18.43“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kshatriyas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.43)

Janaka met all the necessary qualifications for a leader. He had a few special distinctions as well. He was a rajarshi, which is a saintly king. He was well versed in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. He was also expert at meditational yoga. He could withdraw the mind from the senses and thus remain unattached to what was going on around him. Despite his expertise in transcendentalism, he still did all the necessary work in his kingdom. He didn’t use his status as a yogi as an excuse to shirk his responsibilities.

As a result of his behavior, Janaka was well-respected throughout the world. No one could really surpass him in character. When the time came to determine the husband for his beautiful daughter Sita, Janaka decided on a self-choice ceremony. This self-choice would be made for the bride through the vehicle of a contest. Whichever prince attending the ceremony could lift the extremely heavy bow of Lord Shiva would win Sita’s hand in marriage.

Lord RamaAgainst all odds, after it looked like no one would win, Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya, lifted up the bow. This delighted Janaka and his wife. It also thrilled Sita and all the residents of the town. At this point, Janaka easily could have just handed Sita over to Rama and started the wedding ceremony. He could have said, “To heck with all this protocol and tradition. Rama is my preferred choice anyway. He won the contest, and Sita obviously is fond of Him as well. What is there to stand in our way? I’m a very respected king. No one can say a bad word about me. Why should I have to listen to anyone else right now?”

From the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that Janaka did not think this way at all. Though for all intents and purposes the marriage was already determined, Janaka still worshiped the feet of the guru Vishvamitra, who had brought Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana to the ceremony. Janaka also got Vishvamitra’s permission for the marriage. Though Janaka had all the power in the world, he did not abuse his position. With great power comes great responsibility. Part of that responsibility is setting a good example for others. If someone like Janaka makes the voluntary choice to pay homage to saintly people like Vishvamitra, who are we to not respect those who are worthy of it?

Even if our pride is swelling and the bad voice inside is telling us to toss aside the standard code of conduct, the slight discomfort of showing respect to the proper authorities will benefit us in the end. Janaka showed respect to Vishvamitra at the beginning of the ceremony. When the sage arrived, Janaka offered beautiful thrones to sit on. After the contest was over, Janaka again showed respect. As a result, an auspicious time for the wedding ceremony to take place was drawn up. The written announcement was then given to Shatananda to take to Ayodhya. Shatananda was Janaka’s family guru, and so he would represent the king’s family in the talks with Rama’s family in Ayodhya.

Lord RamaLord Rama is the Supreme Lord, and Vishvamitra was His representative in this situation. The same kinds of representatives exist in the world today. We can identify them by the signs of Rama they carry with them. Rama is also known as Vishnu and Krishna. These are the personal forms of the Supreme Lord. The representatives today sometimes wear an image of Rama’s footprint on their forehead. They may also wear a necklace made of beads from the sacred Tulasi plant, which is very dear to Rama. Even if these signs are absent, there is still an easy way to spot them. They are always talking about Rama and chanting His holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

They ask only one thing from others: to chant the same names of their beloved. To chant the names just one time with full sincerity is the best way to offer respect to the Lord’s representative. And the more respect we offer, especially in the form of a formal interaction between guru and disciple, the more benefits we receive. In Janaka’s case he received Rama as a son-in-law. Later on Rama would leave the kingdom and take Sita with Him, but Janaka never forgot about either of them. His devotion to God makes him known today as one of the twelve mahajanas, or authorities on devotional service.

The chanting of the holy names, which may be a slight inconvenience in the beginning, brings us the same association. Chanting these names is also a way to respect the Vaishnava authorities. The chanting, which is part of the transcendental engagement known as bhakti-yoga, also gives respect to Janaka, who gave respect to Vishvamitra, who is Rama’s representative. In this way know that a little respect offered in sincerity to one belonging to the chain of devotion that originates with God brings so much auspiciousness.

In Closing:

Glories of Shri Rama they sing,

His presence to world they bring.

 

Offer them the slightest respect,

Without anything in return to expect,

And auspicious blessings receive,

To reach state you won’t believe.

 

King Janaka followed protocol’s line,

With Sita and Rama his kingdom to shine.

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