Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Saint’s Path

Lord Krishna's lotus feet“It must be that either there are no saintly people here to follow or that you do not follow them, for your mind is perverse and devoid of etiquette.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.9-10)

iha santo na vā santi sato vā nānuvartase ||
tathāhi viparītā te buddhirācāravarjitā |

Either the association of saintly people was missing from his kingdom or he wasn’t following the advice of such people. In either case the result was the same, and since that result was not good the king was doomed. Here he had the chance to correct himself. He had the association of a saintly person. She was right in front of him. She also offered him kind words of instruction. It was once said by her husband that good counsel is only offered by someone who really cares for the other person.

“Certainly all these words were spoken by you due to your kind-heartedness and affection for Me. I am very pleased with you, O Sita, for indeed one does not offer instructions and advice to another without caring for them.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.20)

Sita and Rama“Why are you lecturing me? Who are you to tell me what to do? Why can’t you just leave me alone?” Indeed, the path of least resistance is always easier. It takes more effort to stop and pull over when you see someone in trouble on the side of the highway. It takes more effort to go up to a stranger and tell them that they’re doing something wrong. With a friend or loved one there is no barrier of formality. That person already likes you and knows so much about you, so it doesn’t matter whether what you say is palatable to them or not. You’ll give it to them straight when required, the truth and nothing but the truth.

It is thus a very kind act on the part of a person who offers the same counsel to pretty much anyone. It shows that their affection is greatly expanded; it is not just limited to their own close circle. After all, every person is the child of someone else. We may have affection for our children, but why not for children of others as well? Also, every person is a friend of someone else. We are good to our friends, so why not to other friends as well?

The woman in this instance really had no reason to talk to the king. He was a fiend of the worst character. He had forcibly taken her away from the side of her husband. He initially approached her under false pretenses. Taking advantage of her good nature, the king disguised himself as an ascetic. The woman offered him the best hospitality, but he wasn’t interested in being received that way. He wanted to take her away and make her his chief queen. Her spotless character includes her chastity, so there was no way she would agree to his proposal.

Sita approached by RavanaThe king was very proud of his fighting prowess. Previously he had defeated so many other powerful kings. Yet on this occasion he would not fight for the woman who consumed his thoughts. He knew that her husband would defeat him. Her husband has been defeating fiends like that king since time immemorial. In His impersonal form, He pervades the entire universe. His energy expansion known as time has defeated every single living entity. That time is known as kala in Sanskrit. That word also means death, and no one has yet found a way to beat it.

The king, named Ravana, took Sita, the princess, away in secret, against her will. Thus Sita had no reason to talk to Ravana at all. And yet she still offered sound words of advice. All he had to do was return her to Rama. This would be a sign of devotion, the opposite of his present attitude of hostility. If you are hostile towards God you will never get anywhere. The Ramayana informs us that Rama is God, an expansion of His original form. Whether you believe that or not, you must still acknowledge the existence of an origin of matter and spirit. You yourself came from the union of a man and a woman, so there must be an origin for the entire creation. If you are hostile towards that origin, how can you expect to live happily?

His instructions given in scriptures and sacred texts are also a way to get His association. These works give a path to follow. The path of devotion, known as bhakti-marga, is the best one. It is the straightened path towards transcendence, which is above birth and death. All other paths are indirect ones. They zigzag here and there, with many different rest stops. At those stops one is vulnerable to the many distractions. Then they can get lost in their way and have to start all over again.

Ravana thought that he was religious, but he was actually stuck on the path of ignorance. He was essentially heading backwards through his horrible behavior. Sita correctly asserted that either there were no saintly people in his kingdom or they were there and not being followed. Nevertheless, he had a saintly person right in front of him now. If he listened to her, all would end well. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t listen.

In the modern age, there are so many areas where the influence of the saints is not prominent. Therefore the kind-hearted souls who follow bhakti-marga, the same path that Sita is always on, try their best to extend the godly influence. They travel here and there and chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” They have written and continue to write so many books. They try to distribute those books to each and every person. Any such book in the home has the chance of being read. When it is, it is like the sunlight revealing the saint’s path, a path which leads to the best destination.

In Closing:

To find a way in this troubled world to live,

Scriptures of all faiths many paths do give.


By devotees of personal God best path shown,

Bhakti-marga, leads to Lord’s abode alone.


All others zigzag along their tract,

So many objects then serve to distract.


Ravana headed in totally the wrong way,

Not to listen to wise words that Sita did say.


God’s influence saints try to extend,

Thus on their words the wise depend.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Santas to Save Me

Sadhu“It must be that either there are no saintly people here to follow or that you do not follow them, for your mind is perverse and devoid of etiquette.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.9-10)

iha santo na vā santi sato vā nānuvartase ||
tathāhi viparītā te buddhirācāravarjitā |

When someone does something very stupid, we may emphatically ask them: “Have you lost your mind? What on earth are you thinking? Are you drunk? Are you taking drugs? Why are you doing such a stupid thing? Where is your head?” From these questions it is assumed that one should not behave in such a way. The person in question should already have the necessary intelligence to know how to act properly. When the reverse is seen, it is natural to question what has caused the turn in the wrong direction. This was the reaction of Sita Devi as well, as she couldn’t believe why a king of an opulent land was behaving so against the rules of propriety.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita presents some options as to why the king Ravana was showing signs of having an intelligence perverted. He also had no etiquette, for he was propositioning a married woman who wanted no part of him. The two options Sita presents lead to the same condition. The first possibility is that there are no saintly people around. The saint here is referred to as a santa, and such people are described in many places in the Vedic texts. They do everything for God. Society requires at least some people with such behavior.

It is natural to get distracted by the demands of the body. The first demand is maintenance. You have to maintain what you have. The most important thing you have is your life. There is no question of anything else if the life isn’t there. To maintain the body requires food. You also need clothes and shelter. To procure these things, you have to work. Therefore work tends to take the primary focus in the human being. “How will I earn a living? How will I maintain my body?”

It’s easy to get lost in the cycle of dependency. You get one thing and think that you’ll be safe once you get it, but then later on you want to improve upon it. Your ego kicks in as well. You want to have better things than others. You want to have more enjoyment. In reality, though, you don’t need that much. You could actually survive living in a cave, eating fruits that fall from trees, and wearing torn rags. You don’t want to choose this option, but it is there for you all the same.

The santas live with the bare essentials. Not that they all live in caves, but even if they live in a house, they are not so concerned with what kind it is or whether or not it is more spacious than the neighboring house. The santas are fully devoted to God. They read, they write, they teach, and they worship. As all of their activities are a kind of worship, their life is a symbol of sacrifice.

“For the devotees there is no need for performance of prescribed sacrifices because the very life of the devotee is a symbol of sacrifice.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.16.20 Purport)

Shrila PrabhupadaThere is no reason to envy such people; rather society is so fortunate to have any such individuals around to set the best example. I may not be able to devote my life fully to God, but does this mean I should envy and belittle someone who can? Should I not instead applaud their effort and thank God that such a person is around?

From Sita’s second option, we learn what should result from having a santa around. Sita says that perhaps Ravana is not following the saints if they are in his kingdom. If I have a refrigerator full of food, but I don’t know it, what good is it to me? If I’m sitting on the couch starving in such a situation, is that very wise? I can easily walk into the kitchen and get something to eat, but if I ignore the food that is right there, it won’t do me much good. In the same vein, if there are so many devotees around but I don’t approach them or listen to what they say, what good will their close proximity do for me?

From this we also learn that the association of the devotee automatically should build character. If there are saints around you, you shouldn’t be running around stealing other people’s wives and trying to force them to become your chief queen, which is what Ravana did. You shouldn’t try to torture them into submission. You shouldn’t have your attendants harassing them day and night in order to scare them into giving in. Since Ravana did such things, Sita naturally wondered whether there were any saints in his community.

Interestingly, Ravana’s younger brother Vibhishana was a santa. He was pious from the time of his birth. Therefore the second option is what held true in Ravana’s kingdom. Vibhishana was there, but Ravana did not follow him. He did not listen to his younger brother even after he gave so much good advice. Therefore Ravana was doomed. His fate was sealed through his horrible behavior.

Sita, Rama, Lakshmana, HanumanThe santas inform us not only that there is a God but also that He is a personality. He can thus accept worship from both within and without. If you see Him in front of you, you can offer worship. If you don’t see Him, you can still offer worship. You can honor Him with your thoughts, words and deeds. The Ramayana is a lengthy work which pays tribute to Him through describing His deeds and His qualities. The work also describes the qualities of His devotees, the foremost of which are Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman.

Sita is the focus of this verse, and from it we see that she has perfect knowledge. She is a saint of the caliber of which she mentions, and she offered Ravana the best advice right to his face. She instructed him to return her to Rama and be absolved of all sin. Like a president granting a pardon, Sita’s husband Rama, who is also the Supreme Lord, would immediately forgive Ravana for what he did. Sadly, the fiend would not listen. He thought that God didn’t exist or that he himself was God.

In the same way, those who are bereft of the association of real santas or who refuse to listen to their good counsel come up with faulty philosophical conclusions, such as that God is impersonal, that there is no God, or that you only get one life to live so might as well fill it with as much sense gratification as possible. The spirit soul is eternal, and so there is no rush to cram in sense gratification right now. If there is any cause for urgency, it should relate to the turn to devotional service, as tomorrow may not come as planned. We could be somewhere totally different in the upcoming days, with a different corresponding consciousness. We could end up in an animal body, or worse, a place where there are no santas.

Through the influence of saints who follow in Sita’s line so much knowledge of God and His personal form is available today throughout the world. There are continuing efforts to spread the word even more, allowing everyone to act off real intelligence and follow the proper etiquette. The best etiquette is to always think of God by chanting His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This brings the best conclusion to life, commencing the brightest tomorrow.

In Closing:

Since logic not on solid ground,

Perhaps no santas around.


Even if some happened to be there,

Perhaps for their counsel no care.


After her to Lanka Ravana brought,

This Sita Devi, wife of Rama, thought.


Still, best counsel to fiend she gave,

So that his present and after life to save.


Didn’t listen, showed himself a fool,

Soon to drown in misfortune’s pool.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Slated for Ruination

Sita Devi's hand“To a man who is not satisfied with his own wives, fickle and mean-minded and of diverted senses, others’ wives lead him to ruination.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.8-9)

atuṣṭaṃ sveṣu dāreṣu capalam calitendriyam ||
nayanti nikṛtiprajñaṃ paradārāḥ parābhavam |

The wives of others shouldn’t lead to ruination. They are just human beings after all. They should have no different an effect than the husbands of others or the children of others. From this verse from the Ramayana we see exactly what factors must be present in order to shift the effect of the wife of another man. As these factors contribute to a negative outcome, whatever can be done to prevent their emergence is good. Indeed, those factors are not good under any circumstance, whereas the converse factors bring the best results.

Here Sita Devi describes a generic truth, where it is implied that the recipient of her words should take note. At this time she was being held against her will in the Ashoka grove in Lanka by the king of the area. Each person has a choice as to what kind of person they want to be. In the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, the dividing line is pretty simple. You’re either a devotee or not. The devotee acknowledges the supremacy of the highest being, who also happens to be the original. The exact name of that being isn’t necessarily important, as His position is something that can be understood scientifically.

We all have a mother and a father. My mother and father may not be the same as yours, but we both have a set of parents nonetheless. No person can say that they just appeared from nowhere. If you start traversing up the chain of parents, you’ll eventually reach a point where information of origin isn’t available. Perhaps three or four generations up you start to lose track. But just because you don’t know the names of those ancestors doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist. Indeed, if you go back thousands of years, you can still find an ancestral link. The highest being is the original. Before Him is no one. Obviously we can’t get our minds around this. The human being cannot think beyond the bounds of the infinite time and space.

Fortunately, fully understanding infinity isn’t necessary. Acknowledgement of the existence of the original being alone is a great step forward. One who knows of this highest being, addresses Him in some way that is authorized, and takes some steps to think of and please Him is known as a devotee. In Sanskrit, the word used is sura. There is also a sura race described in the ancient texts, but it is the qualities which really matter. The non-devotee is the opposite of a sura. For this reason they are addressed as asura, or the negation of sura. The word “asura” is translated into English as demon, but note that the root word is just a negation of the term that describes someone who believes in God. Sometimes a person with the qualities of a sura is born into the race of asuras, as was the case with Prahlada Maharaja. Thus race isn’t as important; the qualities of the individual are what count.

Bhagavad-gita, 10.30“Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)

Though his father was a brahmana, Prahlada and NarasimhaRavana was born a Rakshasa, which is a race that is even lower than the asuras. One of His younger brothers, however, who was also a Rakshasa, had the qualities of a sura, so again race wasn’t the sole contributing factor to character. Ravana had a choice in his actions. In this instance, he chose to keep the wife of another man away from her husband. He tried every which way to make her his own. The woman was married to a prince who was renounced at the time. And even though the prince was living in the forest, the king Ravana did not try to fight with Him.

Taking the conditions described by Sita above, know that the opposite applied to her husband. He was satisfied with His own wives. In His case He only had one, the best one at that. No one is more beautiful than Sita. No one is kinder, no one is more dedicated to God, and no one is more concerned with the plight of the devotees of the Supreme Lord, who happens to be her husband. This also means that Rama’s qualities are the godly ones. He is the universal Lord, though in a visible manifestation specific to a time and circumstance.

Rama was also very steady of mind. When He had to do something, He did it. He was easily satisfied by whatever came His way. He was living in the forest in order to uphold a promise made by His father, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Not that Dasharatha had promised to kick Rama out of the kingdom. The wonderful king actually had the opposite mentality; he loved Rama very much. The promise, which was more generic, was made on a previous occasion, and it was offered to the king’s youngest wife Kaikeyi. She cashed in on that promise at a very inopportune moment for Dasharatha, and so to remove any doubt from the picture, Rama agreed to her wishes. Sita came along because she wouldn’t let Rama suffer in exile alone.

Lord RamaRama is also kind-hearted and of fixed senses. It’s easy to understand why being kind is good, but the senses aspect may seem a bit confusing. Think of it this way: Say that you have to study for a test. Is it good to get drunk beforehand? Is it good to have your senses desiring this food and that? Is it good to have your senses calling you to chase after this member of the opposite sex or that? Obviously not. You want your senses controlled so that you can focus on the task at hand. In Vedic culture so much emphasis is placed on sense control because only the human being has the ability to control the senses. If you can get by eating very simply, why not do it? If you can get by without sleeping so many hours every night, why not give it a try? If you can fulfill your sexual desires by having a single spouse, why waste so much time jumping from partner to partner?

Such truths are brought to light in this wonderful statement by Sita, which was a response to Ravana’s advances. The positive attributes are inferred from her statement, and the result of lacking them is also clearly stated. One who is the opposite in qualities from Rama can find ruination through associating with the wives of others. This situation especially applied to Ravana. Since his senses weren’t under control, since he was mean-minded and fickle, Sita was going to cause his ruination. Ravana already had so many beautiful wives, why did he need another? Why did he need to take someone else’s wife? Why was he so driven by lust?

Hanuman with Lakshmana and RamaObserving this conversation from a perch on a tree above was Shri Hanuman. He was working at Rama’s behest to look for Sita. She had been taken away by Ravana in secret. Hanuman had the same qualities as Rama. As a pure sura, he had the same level of devotion to Rama that Sita had, except his mood was a little different. Know that in devotional service there is plenty of diversity of action. Leaving home and sitting in front of a tree all day long are not required.

Hanuman was connected to the wife of another, but her association didn’t bring him ruination. In fact, just the opposite occurred. He is famous today for being a heroic warrior who serves the Supreme Lord without outside motivations. He is famous, though he has no desire to be. He is worshiped, though he only relays worship of him to worship of Rama. Instead of leading to the destruction of everything he has, Sita’s association guarantees that he has whatever he needs to serve Rama. Thus the godly qualities always lead to a better end, something the residents of Lanka would have to find out the hard way.

In Closing:

“Why on another’s wife set is your mind,

When so many already in your kingdom to find?


Fickle you are and surely of a mind that is mean,

Thus in ruination your entire world to be seen.


Devoted to another already is my life,

To Shri Rama, I am His chaste wife.


These bad qualities quickly turn around,

And then make judgments morally sound.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Black Heart Scarring Darker

black heart“To a man who is not satisfied with his own wives, fickle and mean-minded and of diverted senses, others’ wives lead him to ruination.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.8-9)

atuṣṭaṃ sveṣu dāreṣu capalam calitendriyam ||
nayanti nikṛtiprajñaṃ paradārāḥ parābhavam |

This verse from the Ramayana presents a profound truth that is commonly voiced today, though maybe in a slightly different way. The interesting aspect is that the words from this verse were spoken many thousands of years ago, in an ancient time period. The ruination would indeed come, as through coveting another’s wife, the king Ravana would lose all of his accumulated gains. These were difficult to get in the first place, but losing them wouldn’t be as much. Because he was not satisfied, because he was fickle, mean and of diverted senses, he was drawn to a woman he couldn’t have. And from that attraction he would be left with nothing.

“Many a great man has been taken down by a woman. If only they had kept their interest focused, they wouldn’t have been defeated. Indeed, if there is no other way to defeat a powerful figure, insert the beautiful female into the picture and see her work her magic. In spite of being happily married, having everything around you, lust for a desirable female is so strong that it can lead astray even the most sober person. Thus man should always beware of the attractive female whose association is forbidden. For the man, such a woman is like a she-wolf who kills her mate while in disguise.”

Such thinking is not out of the ordinary. The thesis comes about through basic observation, of both the present and the past. We see famous world leaders succumbing to the temptations of illicit sex. Sometimes they engage in affairs while in government buildings. Being married doesn’t stop them. Perhaps the association of the wife isn’t good enough, either. When a man gets married, he essentially invites into his life someone who is going to pick out his flaws on day one. This is only natural, as familiarity breeds contempt. In contempt there are arguments, and in order to win arguments one must know the weak points of the adversary. Who better to observe, remember and then later point out weaknesses than the spouse, the most intimate partner?

A person in high office gets treated with respect by everyone. The spouse is in a different position, however. The same holds true in marriages for athletes and celebrities. It is not surprising, therefore, to see frequent divorces among famous people who marry other famous people. If others know you for your fame, they will be adoring in the beginning. But as the relationship continues, the veil of reverence gets slowly pulled back. While all of this is happening, the same celebrity meets with adoring fans and peers in the outside world. If an attractive female happens to be part of the adoring group, it is natural to feel some reciprocal affection for them. The illicit affair thus becomes an outlet for finding a fulfilling relationship, one where the other party doesn’t tear you down by repeatedly pointing out your weaknesses.

Sita DeviSuch conditions don’t apply to this instance, because the king in question had adoring wives. They were quite beautiful as well. It is for this reason that Sita Devi, the object of desire for the lusty king, advised him to remain satisfied in the company of his current wives. Why chase after someone else when you have supportive companions already? You have desires for sex life, that is for sure. Every animal has these desires. In the human species you can control them, but even if you can’t, you’re allowed to get married. If you have one wife, that should be sufficient, but a king like Ravana had many wives. They allowed for his sexual desires to be met. Why, then, did he have to petition Sita, who was already married to someone else?

It is the desire particular to this instance which brings about ruination. We see that there is already humiliation for celebrities, politicians and athletes when they engage in illicit affairs simply to compensate for lack of affection at home, but the ruination is even greater when there is already ample and worthy companionship at home. The pure heart loves the religiously wedded wife, while the black heart looks for illicit affairs in the wrong areas. That heart scars over and over again when it is scorned, rebuked, or completely rejected.

With a scarred heart Ravana continued to plea for Sita’s acquiescence. He wanted her to become his chief queen. He offered her everything that was available in the material domain, but she had no interest. She was married to Rama, and she wanted no other husband. She was still kind enough to give Ravana sound words of advice. She could never be accused of flaunting her beauty at Ravana. She never gave him one sign of hope in his illicit desires. And yet she still looked out for his welfare. The advice given above is applicable to all men, not just to the lusty Ravana.

Sita DeviSita provides additional detail into the cause for the ruination. Being unsatisfied with the wife is only one condition. Being fickle and mean-minded and having unrestrained senses is what strengthens the forbidden object of desire. There are many wives of other men and there are many men who are unsatisfied with their own wives. Yet these two factors alone don’t lead to ruination. Being fickle means you are not strong in your loyalties. This allows you to easily give up the association of your wife or wives. If you are mean-minded, you have no shame in courting the wife of another man. And if your senses are unrestrained, you will not be able to tolerate unfulfilled desires. The overweight person has trouble shedding pounds precisely because their senses cannot be controlled. All weight loss regimens involve some type of control on the senses. Even the surgeries aimed at weight loss eventually tackle the appetite, which is a vehicle for the senses.

The conditions mentioned by Sita were met with Ravana. Therefore the wife of another, who was in this case Sita, led to his ruination. Who would ever think that a beautiful princess who was quiet, kind, peaceful, and observant of all religious etiquette could destroy a king whose fighting prowess was known throughout the world? And yet that is exactly what happened, and through no fault of Sita’s. The same beautiful princess, when loved and adored for her character, high standing, and unwavering affection to her husband Shri Rama, can make any person eternally wealthy. The wise, of steady intelligence, kind-hearted and of restrained senses, always think of Sita and her husband by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Mean and of fickle mind,

And unrestrained senses to find.


Then not even if most adoring wife given,

By desires for another still to be driven.


With these qualities in continuation,

Man destined for ruination.


This sober advice Sita Devi gave,

For Ravana and his kingdom to save.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

If You Can’t Stand the Heat

Sita holding flower“O night-ranger, just as you protect your own wives, you should protect the wives of others. Making yourself an example, enjoy with your own wives.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.7-8)

yathā tava tathānyeṣāṃ dārā rakṣyā niśācara ||
ātmānamupamāṃ kṛtvā sveṣu dāreṣu ramyatām |

“Oh it’s just sex. It’s not that big a deal. The opposition is trying to score political points. What happens between a man and a woman in the bedroom is no one else’s business. It doesn’t mean that the person involved is bad at leading the citizens. His affair doesn’t speak to his job performance. Look at how well the economy is going. Look at how happy the people are. Why should we give so much emphasis to this issue? It is only of interest to those who are bored. The salacious news may sell well on the supermarket shelves, but that doesn’t mean that such issues are important.”

Indeed, how one satisfies their lusty desires shouldn’t play a factor in how they are judged in their job performance. But others tend to follow the lead of a great man. There is no denying this fact. Lord Krishna Himself mentions this in the Bhagavad-gita as justification for taking action when you are in a position of prominence. The person leading may not like that others follow their every move, but there is nothing that can be done to change the situation. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” is how the saying goes. If you don’t want to be followed, then don’t lead. If you don’t want to be considered a leader, don’t accept a position that brings you attention.

The leader of citizens can get their position through various means. In the modern age, it is most often acquired through a popular vote, and in times past it was earned through a display of fighting prowess on the battlefield. That is how a famous king of Lanka earned his position. He took over the helm in Lanka through fighting abilities acquired as boons from celestials. Consider it like paying the piper, putting in the hours of training in order to get the desired result. The wise know that ability is not made of practice alone. The gifts of nature are a mystery to the eye that can’t see beyond the directly perceivable, but the wise know that the higher powers are involved in the results to all actions. Birth is the result of previous action, and not solely those of the biological parents. The spirit soul taking birth did prior work that landed it in the present situation.

The attributes of that situation are shaped by the higher authorities. This famous king of Lanka, as foolish as he was, still knew that he couldn’t acquire great ability on his own. At the behest of his mother, his guide early on in life, he did great austerities for pleasing the higher beings. In the Vedas these beings are known as devas, or gods. They are not the God, but they are godly. They grant material benedictions to those who please them. Ravana pleased them and received tremendous fighting prowess as a result. With his newly acquired abilities, he took over the kingdom of Lanka and then vanquished many rival kings around the world.

RavanaThe attention given to the illicit sexual affairs of modern leaders is warranted for several reasons. The behavior of the leader is a reflection on their character. One who isn’t satisfied with his own wife is considered unfaithful. He essentially cheats on his wife with another woman. Such behavior is considered inappropriate because no one would want the same thing done to them. Though many think of and do eventually cheat, it doesn’t mean that they are fine with it happening to them.

If the leader is unfaithful to his own wife, the person he swore to honor, protect and love until death, why would he be faithful to the citizens? Indeed, it is seen that the leaders who do engage in these kinds of affairs often make it government policy to play favorites. Their campaign donors get benefits and special treatment from the government, while all others are attacked as being selfish and greedy. This is cheating also because the leader is supposed to look after every citizen equally. The leader of an army wouldn’t assign more importance to one soldier over another. To them, a single life lost in battle is regrettable. In the same way, a good leader of a nation holds every innocent life to be important and every person’s property to be worth protecting.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi advises the king Ravana not to cheat. During this time period, kings often had multiple wives. Sexual relations with a wife is generally not frowned upon, though polygamy is. For kings in that era, to protect multiple women through marriage was considered highly chivalrous. Ravana had many beautiful wives, so why should he covet another one married to another man? Sita was happily living in the forest with her husband Rama when Ravana came in secret and snatched her away. That was as far as he could get with her, as she refused his offer to become his chief wife.

Here she tells him to enjoy with his own wives and thus set a good example for others. By enjoying with the women he was already married to, he would be faithful to them, and thus show that fidelity in a marriage is a good thing. Others wouldn’t be as tempted to steal wives as well. Fidelity also represents a kind of offering of protection, which for a leader is a boon. If I’m the leader of a sports team, I protect them from harm. I do what it takes to win, and if there are problems, I shoulder some of the blame. This way others are shielded from criticism.

Ravana's wives lamenting his deathIf the husband protects multiple wives, enjoying with them exclusively, then he is considered a good husband. Ravana had every opportunity to increase his fame. The roadmap was provided by Sita and also later on by his younger brother Vibhishana. Instead, he followed only his sense impulses, which led him to infamy. Through harboring such lust for just one woman, the one neither he nor any other person except Rama can have, he lost everything. All his wives became widows as they watched him defeated by Sita’s husband on the battlefield. In one sense Ravana did set an example, namely of what not to do. Sita couldn’t be blamed for the calamity, as from this verse we see that she tried her best to set the fiend straight.

In Closing:

To a wife that is pious and chaste,

In marriage with her good to have faith.


When together to hold relationship,

King righteous in his leadership.


Enjoying with own wives gives example ideal,

But Ravana intent on another’s wife to steal.


Widows of his own he made,

Cheating God, ultimate price he paid.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Extending the Family

Lion from a throne“O night-ranger, just as you protect your own wives, you should protect the wives of others. Making yourself an example, enjoy with your own wives.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.7-8)

yathā tava tathānyeṣāṃ dārā rakṣyā niśācara ||
ātmānamupamāṃ kṛtvā sveṣu dāreṣu ramyatām |

We protect our own family. We treat them well; at least this is the typical behavior. In the case where our family isn’t very large or we’re not very close with them, there are still others that we consider friends. We are nice to them when we meet them. We’ll pick up the check every now and then at dinner. We’ll buy them things for their birthday. Most importantly, we will be there for them when there is trouble. We will protect them in whatever way we can. That is what it means to be a friend. A public leader ideally should extend that fraternal attitude to all of society, especially to the helpless.

Why should the leader behave that way? What is wrong with holding affection for people who are good to the leader and harboring ill will towards those who are against him?

A leader is someone who is followed. This is the definition. If no one follows me, I’m not much of a leader. If others are going to follow me, it would make sense to try to set the best example. In the example that I set, the principles should apply to more situations than just my present one. If I play favorites and only help out those who I am friends with, others will follow suit. They will choose their friendly parties, who may or may not align with mine, and act only in their interests. This is not what I want, as the citizens are all under my guidance as a leader. The thief can justify their behavior by pointing to my partiality. “Hey, I’m just helping out myself and my family. Why should I care about others’ property? I’m in it for myself, just like you are, sir. Every man for himself.”

Bhagavad-gita, 3.21“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

A righteous principle is one that applies universally; not just to an isolated circumstance or area. Respecting other people’s property is better than stealing because if stealing is invoked by others, I could lose my property without just cause. I wouldn’t like that, though at the moment I may not be so concerned. The thief thinks only in the short term and of their own interests. If they were the target of the same behavior, they wouldn’t like it. With a righteous principle, it is beneficial whether one is the party implementing it or the one on the receiving end.

An abducted princess from an ancient time once tried to impress this fact upon a king whose lust had driven him astray. The princess was already married to a capable husband. They enjoyed each other’s company and they were married in all righteousness. There was no question as to whether they belonged together. Indeed, to this day those growing up in the Vedic tradition use this couple as an example to describe an ideal match between a husband and a wife.

Sita and RamaThe evil king wanted this princess for a wife. Not that he was bereft of the company of women. On the contrary, he had so many beautiful wives who were faithful to him. They enjoyed with him nightly. Think of having a party to go to every night of the week, where they serve the finest wines and the most succulent meats. To the person lacking God consciousness, this seems like the high life, the pinnacle to an existence. But from the vile king’s uncontrolled senses, we see that such a lifestyle does nothing to bring long-term satisfaction, which is known as shreyas. Shreyas is superior to preyas, or short-term satisfaction, because it represents a higher goal, one that will bring real preyas much more often.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the abducted princess is appealing to any decency that exists in the vile king. She also points to a source of pride in men, namely the ability to protect. Manliness is the sign of superiority in a man, and chastity in a woman. Manliness for a king is measured by his ability to protect. This vile king, named Ravana, had multiple wives, so if he could protect them well he would be considered manly. He indeed boasted of strength quite often, though he kindly omitted the fact that he had to steal the princess in question away from her husband in secret. Ravana wasn’t man enough to fight Rama, Sita’s husband. Just as the gambling addict only tells you of their victories, so too the cheating Ravana never dared mention his fear of Rama.

Sita DeviSita, the princess in distress, here tells Ravana to protect her in the same way that he protects his wives. Implied in the plea is that Ravana already does a good job of protecting. This is a sort of compliment. She asks that his protection be extended to her as well. When the leader of a country constantly calls out this business or that, people of this income group or that, he essentially makes distinctions. “Certain people are good and certain people are bad, and it’s based on how much money they make.” This indicates unintelligence and a lack of proper leadership. A good leader extends his protection to all, not playing favorites based on spite or envy. Every innocent citizen is worthy of the protection of the government.

Sita also advises that Ravana make himself an example and enjoy with his own wives. This way others would not be tempted to steal women who were married to others. This is a basic etiquette that any rational thinking adult would not have to be reminded of. Ravana was under the sway of kama, or lust, so such advice was not only warranted, it needed to be repeated over and over again. And even still there would be little chance of it having any effect.

Sita’s husband was the opposite of Ravana. He didn’t even hate Ravana for having done what he did. Rama would eventually rescue Sita after defeating and killing Ravana in a fair fight. Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince, did not hold a grudge afterwards. To do so is not in His nature. He is the ideal leader, and His wife the ideal subject. She is protected by Him no matter what.

In Closing:

Example for others a leader does make,

Citizens proper behavior from him to take.


If favoritism to friends and family only,

Regard for others people not to have any.


Sita to his kingdom Ravana brought,

That he could win her over he thought.


Fixed in husband Rama was her mind,

That fiend had his own wives she did remind.


Better to enjoy with them alone,

And from that best example shown.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

For Another’s Enjoyment

Sita Devi holding flower“As the faithful wife of another, I am not a suitable wife to you. You should well observe what is righteous. And you should follow well the manner of life of the virtuous.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.6-7)

vāhamaupayikī bhāryā parabhāryā satī tava ||
sādhu dharmamavekśasva sādhu sādhuvratam cara |

In a strictly amorous relationship, where there is no attention given to righteousness, religion, tradition, and so forth, the corresponding party is meant to be enjoyed. This is only logical. Why would you want to be with someone if you didn’t enjoy their association? In the amorous relationship, the enjoyment is enhanced by dedication. If you know that the other party feels happiest when they are in your company, then you will feel happier about being with them. On the flip side, if the other person loathes you, if their heart is dedicated to someone else, what is the use in being with them? A distressed princess tried to get this point across to a despicable king a long time ago, but he wouldn’t listen.

The princess referred to herself as a faithful wife, using the word “sati” for emphasis. The “Sati rite” is infamous in Hinduism, and it is commonly misunderstood. In ancient times, the wives were so faithful to the husband that if the husband passed from this earth before them, the wives would voluntarily ascend the funeral pyre. Seems like an unthinkable act today, but it actually supports the sentiment of “I would die without you.” We say such things when we are consumed by loving feelings for another, but most of us don’t really mean it in the way that it sounds. If the other person were gone, we would be tremendously sad, but we likely wouldn’t think of ending our life; nor should we.

Marriage of Sita and RamaIn the Vedic tradition, the religiously wedded wife shares in the merits of her husband. Just as we go to school to earn an education, train at the jobsite to advance in the company, and eat right to improve our health, so the intelligent human being follows dharma, or virtue, to improve their situation both in the present and future life. Real dharma is not so short-sighted as to focus only on that which is visible in the immediate term. If the farmer digs up all the land because the crops haven’t grown after a week has passed since seeding, he isn’t very wise. He needs to see the bigger picture. He needs to visualize what he can’t see right now; that the crops will grow with time, in the proper season.

Similarly, just because we can’t see the afterlife doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Indeed, the current life is the post-term to a past life. The time and circumstance of our birth were determined by prior action, though we can’t remember that action. Only one person can. He is all-pervading, the Supersoul, the supreme witness. As He explains in the Bhagavad-gita, He and others pass through many, many births, but only He can remember them all.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.5“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)

If the husband of the religiously wedded wife follows dharma and earns himself a place in the heavenly realm after death, she earns the same destination. The husband is also considered the protector. If he leaves this earth before the wife, and there are no sons to protect her, by ascending the funeral pyre she immediately enjoys the religious merits acquired by her husband. She won’t have to wait until later on. She also won’t be left unprotected in his absence. As times change, so do traditions, and thus the Sati rite is no longer observed, as the process degraded over time to the point that women were being forced to ascend the funeral pyre against their will.

The use of the word “sati” by the princess nevertheless distinguishes her from an ordinary wife. She was faithful to her husband, so this king who wanted her as a wife was wasting his time. Because she was faithfully engaged in the service of someone else, she would not serve this king. The faithful wife is one who serves. Every living entity serves; but they may not know it. The head of the company serves the customers and shareholders, while the entry level employees serve the senior level people. The head of state serves the citizens, the husband the community, the students the teacher, the soldier the nation, and so on. A person is faithful in their occupation when they are always engaged in that service. The faithful wife serves her husband and is thus ineligible to offer service to another man.

The princess advised the lusty king to well observe what was righteous. A righteous man does not covet another’s wife. Kings during this time period did keep more than one wife on occasion, but never did they purposefully go after wives of other kings. The kings were of the martial order, so they had a fighting spirit. Just as a general needs to have a mission to make his rank mean something, the king needs a kingdom to rule over to give his title meaning. The kshatriya king, who is a fighter, needs combat in order to stay sharp. They have a competitive fire, so they like to have competition from time to time. In those duels between kings, the victor would take the wives of the defeated king. Kshatriyas would also sometimes steal brides-to-be from marriage ceremonies and then defend them while fleeing from the scene.

Sita and RamaNone of this applied to the situation here, which involved a princess named Sita. She was already married to another man, who was named Rama. Indeed, so many kshatriyas had already competed for her at her marriage. Rama won the contest of the bow, so He was known to be the only worthy husband of Sita. The king Ravana was advised by Sita to follow dharma well, to strongly adhere to the code of righteousness.

She also told him to follow well the path of the virtuous. The word sadhuvratam breaks down to mean the vow or path of the sadhus. A sadhu is a saintly man, so he is by definition virtuous. The sadhu is commonly equated with a person in the renounced order who lives by himself in a remote area, but what actually determines a sadhu is consciousness, which then drives behavior. That behavior gives an indication of their internal purity.

It’s interesting to note that Sita advised a king who already had many wives to follow the path of the sadhus. She wasn’t saying to abandon the company of his wives. She asked that he simply give up his lust for another man's wife and enjoy fully with his own wives. This would have constituted the path of the sadhus, as virtue in Ravana’s case did not necessarily mean complete celibacy. The kings in those times would need progeny to keep their family lines going. Having multiple wives increased the chance of progeny, and it also allowed for sex life to remain virtuous. Any sex life outside of the purpose of begetting children and with someone other than the wife is considered illicit and thus the cause of so many negative reactions.

In the scope of conjugal relations the faithful wife of Shri Rama is meant for His enjoyment only. No one else is able to touch Sita, even if they are within close proximity. Ravana thought he could have her, but she rebuked him in no uncertain terms, providing good counsel in the process. Shri Hanuman had Sita’s association, but in the right way. Rama is the universal God, the detail behind the abstract picture painted by those who rely only on mental speculation. He is worshipable for everyone, as is Sita. Ravana couldn’t recognize this, and so he suffered. Hanuman is always a sadhu, and so he took great pleasure in just thinking of how much Sita loved Rama. That same pleasure is available to one and all through devotional service, bhakti-yoga.

In Closing:

If other’s mind on a different course,

Why to be with me I’ll force?


Better in happiness to let them live,

Than for needless pain to them to give.


Hearing of Sita, Ravana infatuated from the start,

But never could understand nature of her heart.


Shri Rama the only husband ever for her,

To path of virtuous better to defer.