“Rama went towards the guru, and the king, queen, men and women all filled with bliss, like thirsty male and female elephants entering a cool ocean of nectar.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 14.1)
gae rāma gurū pahiṃ rāu rānī nāri-nara ānanda bhare |
janu tṛṣita kari karinī nikara sītala sudhāsāgara pare ||
“This life has been unfulfilling. When I was younger I was told that I could be anything that I want to be. I could grow up to be a policeman, a firefighter, a baseball player, a stock broker - the sky was the limit. Though I didn’t go for any lofty position, now in adulthood I have a steady job that provides a sufficient income. I can more or less eat whatever I want, whenever I want. When I’m not working I can do anything my heart desires.
“And yet I’m still not satisfied. I tried playing recreational sports for a while. I joined this league and that, for I thought that since I enjoy these sports with my friends, it would be even better to have a regular meeting of the sorts. The result was just the opposite. I hated having yet another engagement to pay attention to. Showing up on time for work is enough of a burden for me; I don’t need any additional pressures relating to time.
“I’ve tried reading different books. I like philosophy and government. I love to read biographies, to see how other people weave their way through life. The philosophical works kind of bore me after a while and the biographies always make me sad at the end. I’m left thinking, ‘Is that all there is to life? Even these very successful people didn’t really seem to do much. At the end of life they were left with the question of what to do with their time.’
“I think there is something out there that I really want, but I can’t seem to pinpoint it. I know that I haven’t found it yet, because if I had I would never look back. I wouldn’t doubt anymore. It’s sort of like how they say you can tell you’re in love when you don’t have to question it. If I know that I have found what I’m looking for in life, I won’t have to jump from one thing to another. I will only want that one thing and nothing else. It will bring me so much happiness.”
The people in Janakpur a long time ago might not have gone through the same series of events in their quest for the one thing missing in their lives, but they found that invaluable treasure nonetheless. It was so wonderful to them that it was like they became filled with bliss upon receiving it. A famous Vaishnava poet compared the amount of bliss to an ocean, the gift itself to nectar, and the people to thirsty elephants.
“Seems like an odd comparison, no? When would thirsty elephants ever find an ocean of nectar? Nectar is a premium beverage, so by definition it isn’t available in large quantities. To use modern terms, it would be like finding an outdoor pool filled with Cristal champagne. That is highly unlikely, as the beverage is too expensive for anyone to buy in that large a quantity for only filling a pool.”
Interestingly, the comparison made by Goswami Tulsidas actually does not go far enough. Sudha, or nectar, is mentioned because it is what we would consider the best drink for quenching thirst. The more thirsty you are, the more you will appreciate a higher quality beverage. If you are already full from drinking, being presented with nectar might not do so much for you. If you are thirsty, you will appreciate the wonderful beverage all the more. Still, nectar is just a drink; it is not necessarily required for maintaining life. You could survive on just water.
Similarly, the ocean may be very large, but it is still finite in size. The comparison is used here only to help the listener understand to some degree what it is like to see the Supreme Lord wearing a garland of victory after you thought you wouldn’t see Him in such a garb. In this scene He is also walking towards His guru, showing respect to someone else when He Himself is the most worthy of it.
God is impossible to fully understand, and so the parrot-like devotees love to discuss His glories endlessly. The impossible makes the endless glorification possible, a fact which adds on to God’s glories, thus increasing the magnitude of the impossibility in fully understanding Him. In simpler terms, talking about God in a loving way is fun, and since God is endless, the fun never has to end.
In this instance, the male and female observers at the assembly in Janakpur were like thirsty elephants finding an ocean of nectar. Water would have sufficed, but Rama is the best of everything. He explains the same truth in the Bhagavad-gita in His original form of Krishna. There He says that He is the taste of water, the fragrance of the earth, the penances of the ascetic, and so many other things. He also says that among the warriors, He is Rama.
“Of purifiers I am the wind; of the wielders of weapons I am Rama; of fishes I am the shark, and of flowing rivers I am the Ganges.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.31)
The latter point has added significance to the discussion here. The king and queen in Janakpur, along with their protected citizens, were interested in finding the best prince for Sita, the king’s daughter. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, He is Rama among those who use weapons, which means that if one wants to find the best protector in the world, they have to get Rama. King Janaka was very pious and devoted to spiritual life. For his efforts, he received the goddess of fortune as a daughter. Sita thus can only be with Rama. Externally she received the best prince in the world when Rama lifted the bow of Shiva in the assembly. Constitutionally it could not have been any other way. Sita has only one husband: Rama. And Rama has only one wife: Sita. As Krishna He can accept unlimited consorts, but as Rama He accepts only Sita.
The king, queen and residents were well-wishers to Sita. They took her happiness to be theirs as well. When they saw Rama win the contest, especially after so many other princes had failed to move the bow, they were elated. Due to the other failures, they thought that Rama might not win either. If He didn’t win, He couldn’t marry Sita, and thus their cherished desire would be left unfulfilled. This is the condition that created the thirst. They became elephants in the sense that they wanted very badly for Rama to win. Their emotions raged, similar to the way they do in an elephant in the hot jungle.
They found the ocean of nectar in the vision of Rama, who was garlanded by Sita herself. That nectar filled them up, but since it was an ocean, there was no way to run out of it. The cool beverage of the vision was soothing to the eyes, and it filled the people with bliss. That bliss is what we’re all actually looking for, though it may take us many lifetimes to find it. There are different aspects to the Supreme Lord, who has unlimited names, forms and pastimes. The nectar doesn’t come only through the vision of Rama wearing the garland, but it alone is sufficient to fulfill the purpose of life. Such visions and more are given to us through the words of the Vedic texts. And more potent than the actual descriptions is the name of God.
The best names to recite for this age are kindly given to us by Krishna Himself. The most munificent avatara, the golden complexioned Lord Chaitanya, freely distributed love for God, which automatically includes God’s association through various visions from the past. Lord Chaitanya distributed this gift through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
From scorching heat sweating,
Relief hopefully soon getting.
When will the cool pond arrive,
So that into it quickly we can dive?
This the residents of Janakpur found,
When breaking bow made thunderous sound.
All past worries immediately gone,
Then beautiful vision to forever gaze upon.