Saturday, October 26, 2013

Worshiping the Groom

Rama sitting on a throne“The king worshiped the groom and offered an auspicious throne for sitting. They then gave the order to the sakhis to bring the bride.” (Janaki Mangala, 140)

barahi pūji nṛpa dīnha subhaga sinhāsana |
calīṃ dulahinihi lyāi pāi anusāsana ||

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In modern times, where men and women freely intermingle and marriages are therefore often determined on mutual consent of the two parties, the groom-to-be naturally feels hesitant to approach the father of the bride. The father knows what young men have on their minds, and so they can predict how the prospective groom intends to enjoy with the daughter. Thus the boy naturally fears the contempt of the father, whose job it has been to protect his daughter throughout life. The groom-to-be treads lightly when in the company of the father of the girl, making sure that nothing is done to offend him.

Keeping this behavior in mind, it is strange to hear how in ancient times the groom would be worshiped by the father of the bride. This is exactly what is described in the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala. The father was King Janaka and the groom Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. From the Vedas we learn that Rama is God, the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form. Therefore Janaka’s worship of Him shouldn’t be so strange. But actually such worship is customary in a Vedic marriage ceremony.

The daughter is given over to the groom. It is like a transfer of ownership, with the responsibility for providing protection shifted to the groom. It is a major gamble on the part of the father. Think of your most cherished possession. Think of that object or person that you treasure the most. Now imagine having to part with it. What will you do? Will you not be overprotective? Will you not go the extra mile to make sure that the new person assuming control is full of good attributes?

If you are virtuous, you follow the proper code of conduct without thinking about it; it is second nature to you. If you are lusty, then your mind goes the opposite way. Driven by your desires for eating, drinking, gambling, or sex life, you cast aside what you know to be right in order to get enjoyment in the short-term. Maybe if you want to harm yourself in this way it is fine, but I don’t want my loved one getting in the middle of it. If you can’t control your desires and thus can’t take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of my cherished object?

Rama and brothers at gurukulaOn the other hand, if you are virtuous I can trust that you will know what to do. I can put my faith in you because you have proven in the past to be trustworthy. Such was the case with Rama. Previously He set the right example by following the orders of His teachers in Ayodhya, where King Dasharatha took great enjoyment from having Rama as a son. Since Dasharatha belonged to the Raghu dynasty of kings, one of Rama’s names was Raghunandana, which means one who gives pleasure to the Raghu dynasty.

Rama retained His virtue when He was away from home as well. He protected the powerful sage Vishvamitra from attacking night-rangers. He never asked for anything in return. Sometimes we have to give remuneration to our kids for doing chores. They won’t want to work otherwise. Rama never asked for anything and neither did His younger brother Lakshmana. They were completely virtuous; they followed the right path for the sake of doing things properly. They had trust in their gurus, which consisted of their elders and teachers.

Janaka’s most cherished possession was his daughter Sita. She too was virtuous; a pure lotus flower in both vision and character, perfectly matched for Rama. Janaka didn’t choose Rama as the groom, however. Rama won a contest of strength. It so happened that Providence brought Rama into the family, and Janaka was very happy about this. It was protocol to worship the groom because such a gesture would convey the importance of the daughter. Janaka worshiped Rama as a matter of etiquette and also as a way to please Him. If Rama is pleased then He will do anything for you.

Lord Rama's lotus feetWorshiping Rama’s lotus feet just one time eliminates all past sinful reactions. From simply touching those feet the cursed wife of Gautama Rishi returned to his side. The boatman, Kevat, was afraid to touch those feet because of what had happened with Ahalya. He therefore washed those feet before allowing Rama onto his boat. Sita was also afraid to touch those feet for the same reason, for she would rather be by Rama’s side than leave Him for the heavenly realm.

Janaka worshiped those feet and retained eternal devotion to them. As an added bonus, Rama always protected Sita. Even when she was in danger later on, Rama did not let her go. He put up a massive fight, one that the evil king of Lanka never expected. Rama rounded up uncivilized forest dwellers to help Him. He did not care who or what came with Him; He was going to do whatever it took to rescue Sita. From the time of Janaka’s worship Rama vowed to protect Sita, and so that worship did not go in vain.

Sita and RamaFrom this tradition of worshiping the groom by the father, we get another reminder of how in Vedic culture the emphasis is always on humility. When there is cause for celebration, charity is distributed. Rather than celebrate good news by buying something for yourself, make sure that others are benefitted first. When there is the occasion of the marriage, rather than instill fear in the groom, worship him so that your daughter will be protected for life. Better still it is to worship the Supreme Lord all the time. Through the occasion of the marriage of his daughter, Janaka got this opportunity, and he made the most of it.

In Closing:

Since birth with father she stayed,

Thus new groom of him to be afraid.


In marriage of Vedic culture not so,

Father to groom’s feet with worship to go.


Daughter given to his protection now,

Worship proper function to then allow.


As God, Rama’s feet are the best,

With devotion to them Janaka blessed.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Beyond Reproach

Vedic ritual“All the rituals were done exactly in accordance with family tradition and the Vedas. Both priests here and there did everything with a happy mind.” (Janaki Mangala, 139)

kula bibahāra beda bidhi cāhiya jahan jasa |
uparohita dou karahiṃ mudita mana tahan tasa ||

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Bhagavan is the Sanskrit term to describe the entity most of us refer to as God. It is a compound word that means one who possesses all fortunes. Someone is fortunate if they escape danger in the nick of time. One is fortunate if they get good things without having to strive for them. The more complete definition of “fortunate” spreads to the categories of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation. One who possesses any of these opulences is considered fortunate. Indeed, if someone is wealthy alone and lacking all the other opulences, they get so much attention in society.

God has all of these opulences. He doesn’t have some of them some of the time, either. He isn’t beautiful one day and renounced the next. He isn’t wise one time and then stupid another. He holds these opulences all the time. And by the way, He holds them to the fullest degree. The jocks in school may have gotten all the girls, but they likely weren’t very smart. The nerds could do well in physics, but in beauty they weren’t much of a match. The person who is renounced, living peacefully in a remote area, doesn’t have much wealth. The wealthy man has a difficult time coping without someone to meet his every demand at every second. In this way we see that the opulences are often contradictory; possessing one means lacking another.

Not so with the Supreme Lord, who is thus known as Bhagavan. Since He holds all opulences simultaneously and to the fullest degree, He has no need to follow any protocol. I tell my kids to study in school so that they can get a good job when they grow up. I tell my employees to arrive to work on time every day so that the business runs smoothly. If they fail to do these things, there are negative consequences. When you are the most fortunate person, however, you can skip whatever function you want and not have it affect you.

Lord RamaIn the case of Shri Rama, Bhagavan gives extra attention to protocol. This is Rama’s special mercy. As an incarnation of Bhagavan described in the Vedas, the original books of knowledge of the world, Rama doesn’t need to follow anyone or anything. If He fails to listen to someone, by definition He cannot be hurt. He still follows protocol better than anyone else, just to set a good example. That example spreads to all of His activities, including His marriage to the beautiful daughter of King Janaka.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, which is the wonderful poem of Goswami Tulsidas glorifying that sacred marriage, we see that all the rituals were done in accordance with the Vedas and family tradition. Deference to each can be logically understood. The family tradition is what brings us to the current position. Even if our family happens to be almost animal-like, there is still some tradition that is followed. Maybe everyone meets together on Thanksgiving. Maybe everyone exchanges gifts on Christmas. These may be small traditions, but they are important nonetheless, as they set a moral standard that serves to better the individuals growing up in the family.

The Vedas are the ultimate authority, so anytime you follow them it is to your benefit. The Vedas specifically address the needs of the soul. As every living being is a soul at the core, the Vedas benefit everyone. They are not just for the fruitive workers looking to make money. They are not just for the yogis looking to find mystic perfection. They are not just for the human beings, either. The humans are the only ones capable of adhering to Vedic principles, but in so doing the rest of society, including the protected lower species, are benefitted simultaneously.

One of the quickest ways to destroy a stable societal structure is to remove family traditions. The surefire way to destroy family traditions is to have a society filled with unwanted children. A famous warrior once worried over this possibility. His thoughts are recorded in the Bhagavad-gita, which is itself a Vedic text. With wanted children, which are produced through following the Vedas and family tradition, you help to ensure that the family structure remains solid in future generations.

image“Due to the evil deeds of the destroyers of family tradition, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.42)

The institution of marriage is itself rooted in the Vedic tradition. Family tradition then adds little nuances here and there. In ancient times, each family had their own worshipable deity. These were authorized divine figures; they were not made up on a whim. In the marriage of Sita and Rama, the deities of both families were worshiped. Each tradition specific to each family was also followed. Such traditions are not completely necessary, but by showing respect, the individuals remain centered around godly life. They realize that marriage is meant to be in dharma, or religiosity, and not kama, or sense gratification. The animals live in kama and they don’t have anything like a marriage.

Sita and Rama marriage ceremonyThe two family priests, Shatananda from Janaka’s side and Vashishtha from Dasharatha’s side, performed these rituals with happy minds. They went through all the different aspects, taking care of things here and there in the mandapa, the structure under which the ceremony took place. Since everything was done properly, the marriage ceremony of Sita and Rama was beyond reproach. No one could point out a flaw in what was done. Neither was there a flaw in either of the participants, who are perfect beings, ideal for being worshiped. Indeed, any couple who keeps the image of Sita and Rama with them throughout life will have the best marriage in dharma.

In Closing:

All rituals done in proper place and time,

Priests strict in accordance with family line.


When with traditions to stay,

Progeny to follow proper way.


For Sita and Rama to follow not required,

But example respect in others to inspire.


For love of God, done with happy mind,

All good qualities in couple to find.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Painting Assignment

Spring season“Everyone is enchanted by the groom sitting inside the mandapa, looking so beautiful, like Kamadeva in the middle of the woods during the spring season.” (Janaki Mangala, 138)

bara birāja manḍapa mahan bisva bimohai |
ṛtu basanta bana madhya madanu janu sohai ||

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Let’s say you’re taking a painting class in college. You have some artistic ability, and you want to see how far you can go. If you can refine your skills through the instruction of those who are already talented, you can get the most out of the wonderful gift that God gave you. Now let’s say that one of your assignments is to draw a beautiful person sitting in the woods. These two points combine for the lone stipulation. The rest is up to your imagination.

The person can be anyone. The range of possibilities in this area is infinitely vast. The scene of the forest is a little more limited. You have only a few options. You can choose either day or night. You can choose a heavily wooded area or one that is close to outlets like ponds, rivers and pathways. The most important decision will likely relate to the season. The forest is filled with life. The trees, plants and flowers are living entities in bodies that are incapable of movement. These forms do take birth, remain for some time, and then eventually die. Thus they exhibit the same symptoms as other living beings.

Let’s say that you decide to use a beautiful man for your person. He is fresh in his youth. He has features which are attractive to both male and female alike. Your painting will be viewed by all audiences, so you are not trying to slant the content towards a particular viewpoint. Now that you have the idea of the beautiful youth, where is he going to sit? What is the background going to look like?

Forest in the springThe forest is most beautiful during the springtime. The other seasons present their own unique pictures, but the spring gives all signs of life. It is like the infancy of the human being. The young child is full of innocence and a zest for life. They are new to the world, and so there is so much potential for good things. Similarly, in the forest in the spring the flowers start to blossom, creating a wonderful aroma. The setting is so nice that the moving creatures start to happily frolic about. The peacocks, the deer, and the parrots enjoy the springtime the most.

If one were to look at a painting that had the beautiful youth set in the springtime of the most beautiful forest, all the eyes of the world surely would be enchanted. This is the analogy used by Goswami Tulsidas in the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala to describe how Shri Rama looked when He entered the mandapa at His marriage ceremony. He was a youth of the perfect age. He was set to get married, and His beautiful features were incomprehensible. The eyes of the admirers kept glued to Rama’s form precisely to try to understand how one human being could be so beautiful.

The mandapa looked like the forest in the springtime. The family members and well-wishers from both sides accounted for the life of that forest. The sun is what causes the beautiful lotus flowers to open up, and in this case Shri Rama was the sun to the creatures of the forest that was the mandapa, which is a canopy-like structure under which the majority of the marriage rituals in the Vedic tradition take place.

Lord RamaShri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in an incarnation form. He is the original brain behind the magnificent creation. The lotus flower, the peacock feather, the sweetness of the birds humming - all these come from God originally. He is the painter with the greatest artistic talent combined with an unmatched imagination. It was not surprising, then, that He created a wonderful scene with Himself situated in the center. Kamadeva is known to be the most beautiful living entity to one who understands the Vedic tradition. Kamadeva is the equivalent of Cupid, but he is still a living entity with a temporary body.

Rama is Bhagavan, which means He has all opulences all the time. His body never deteriorates. His beauty therefore is incomparable, or anupama. The reference to Kamadeva is made simply as a way to help us understand how beautiful Shri Rama is. That same beauty extends to His glories, His fame, and His holy names, which the devotees always chant: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Assignment in painting class to take,

Image of person in forest setting make.


First choose person of beauty the best,

Then in spring’s season to take rest.


Such image to catch attention of all,

Beautiful vision their eyes to enthrall.


In this way Shri Rama in mandapa did look,

Blessed eyes of the world attention took.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Best Friend’s Wedding

Arghya vessel“Offering arghya water, taking Rama to the mandapa they went. There the sakhis sang auspicious songs with excitement and bliss.” (Janaki Mangala, 137)

deta aragha raghubīrahi manḍapa lai calīṃ |
karahiṃ sumangala gāna umagi ānanda alīṃ ||

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Sita’s friends strongly approved of her marriage to Rama. They witnessed His accomplishment in the contest in King Janaka’s assembly. They saw that He was the only person capable of lifting the mighty bow of Lord Shiva. They saw His amazing beauty, which was apparently a contradiction. How could such delicate features reside in a person with more strength than the fiercest bow-warriors in the world? How could such strength belong to someone with so much compassion that He would leave home at a young age to protect innocent forest-dwelling sages? The only way to answer these questions was to get to know Him better, a chance they received through their best friend’s wedding.

Rama defending the sagesIf your best friend is marrying the wrong person, you may feel compelled to say something. “Hey man, this girl is not right for you. You are kind and sweet, while she is mean and manipulative. She will walk all over you. You don’t really like her anyway. You’re doing this for all the wrong reasons. You will come to regret this decision.” Another friend might want to say, “He is totally the wrong guy. He is unfaithful and unclean. He will never appreciate you. You will be miserable having to wake up next to him day after day.”

In such instances, though the temptation is strong to offer an objection, one likely won’t be forthcoming. If in the ensuing session, the friend decides to go ahead with the marriage anyway, there will be resentment. After all, they will spend more time with the new spouse than with you. If they remain friends with you, it could hurt their marriage. If they choose in favor of the spouse and lose your friendship, they at least can survive on a daily basis. So rather than lose your friend, you remain silent, keeping your objections to yourself. At the wedding, because of your misgivings you won’t be able to celebrate so much. You won’t be into it emotionally.

In Sita’s wedding, we see that the friends were so in favor of the chosen groom that they happily sang auspicious songs. They first worshiped the groom with arghya water, which is an essential aspect of deity worship. Offering such water is a great sign of respect, so much so that it is used when worshiping God in a temple on a daily basis. Even if one isn’t at a formal temple, the same water can be offered in the home. The value of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is so high that no one is shut out from it. Regardless of what you may or may not know about the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, you can always offer something as simple as water to the Lord and have Him gladly accept it.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.26“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

Lord RamaHere the person worshiped with water is actually God Himself, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Sita is His eternal consort. Thus Sita’s friends are not ordinary souls, though they played well-wishers to a princess on earth. After offering water, they escorted Rama to the mandapa, the tent-like structure to house the various rituals of the wedding ceremony. The friends sang songs with full bliss, or ananda. This means that they were into the wedding. They sang happily because they were themselves happy. They knew that Sita was getting the best husband. Since they were real well-wishers, they were thrilled over her good fortune. They took her marriage to be like theirs, for that is how dear she was to them.

Your friends also give an indication of the kind of person you are. Rama and His family could thus tell that Sita was pretty special. Janaki, which means the daughter of King Janaka, had friends who were very respectful towards Rama. She had friends who were in favor of the wedding taking place. Since Rama is full of good qualities, this meant that Janaki’s friends were very wise. Not clouded by the ignorance of the material world, which causes one to lament over another’s gain and rejoice at their loss, they could see Rama properly. They could recognize His divine features. Though He did not speak much, they knew that He could protect their beloved Janaki. Though He was not brash, they knew that He would not be shy in defending her honor.

Sita and RamaThey also knew that by serving Him, Janaki would meet the best end in life. The partnership of their marriage would be beneficial to both. Rama would get a beautiful queen who would support Him in His exercise of religious duties. Years later He would practically say as much. In thanking Sita one time for her good counsel offered with affection, Rama made sure to describe her as a sadharma-charini, which means a chaste wife who helps the husband in his adherence to dharma, or religiosity.

“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)

A marriage is meant to be in dharma and not kama. A marriage in kama is equivalent to a standard amorous relationship, which even the animals engage in. Dharma is unique to the human species, and its range of applicability is full. Dharma is the source of marriage, and not the other way around. Sita and Rama were always mindful of dharma, though as the goddess of fortune and God Himself they had no need to be. The sakhis were mindful of dharma as well, and they accepted the duty of welcoming Rama with great enthusiasm, making Janaki’s wedding even more memorable.

In Closing:

If friend marrying person wrong,

Not happily to sing wedding song.


Misgivings in Sita’s friends none,

Knew that Shri Rama was the one.


Support to Rama she would extend,

To Him efforts in dharma to lend.


By His enchanting beauty they were moved,

In happiness marriage to Him they approved.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

For the Sake of Others

Indian saris“Then Janaka offered the king and his entourage beautiful and appropriate seats. Worshiping Vishvamitra and Vashishtha, he offered the king new clothes.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 17.2)

taba janaka sahita samāja rājahiṃ ucita rūcirāsana dae |
kausika basiṣṭhahi pūji rāu dai anbara nae ||

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One of the reasons you should follow etiquette when you are a public figure is that others will be harmed if you don’t. It is natural to make fun of this person or that, to find fault with others, when you are having a casual conversation with friends. In journalist speak, these are known as “off the record” conversations. The content is not fit to print. You say things that you otherwise wouldn’t, for people would be watching you and get the wrong idea. A public figure should know better; they should know not to mess up when the lights are on or when the cameras are rolling. In a famous marriage ceremony a long time ago, all the spotlight was on the host, King Janaka. The cameras represented by the eyes of the spectators were rolling and the journalists in the form of the poets had their tape recorders on. Since Janaka is of the purest character, he makes sure never to offend others.

What’s the big deal about offending? Isn’t that someone else’s problem? If I say or do something, shouldn’t the other person know that what I speak are just words? Why should I care so much about what they think?

Cameras rollingA great man is a leader. This is true whether he knows it or not. If he does know it, he wants to set an ideal example because he knows others will want to follow him. In this sense offending others will cause them to not follow him. And this is more tragic when the offense is made unnecessarily. Think of it this way: If you really respect someone and value their association, you will want to hear what they have to say. If they should constantly criticize your parents and best friends, will that not offend you? If that offense continues for long enough, eventually there will be a breaking point. You will have to choose. Since your parents and friends don’t offend you in this way, you will naturally side with them.

Both parties lose out when this choice is made. The respected person misses the opportunity to guide someone else along the proper course. The offended party loses the chance to gain valuable association. Indeed, critics of great leaders will look for any statement that might be deemed offensive to discredit their stature. If the critics can find anything that was said off-camera, during a casual conversation, or during a speech intended for a smaller audience, they will bring it to the limelight when the time is right. This way others will think: “Oh, I don’t like that person. Did you hear what he said about such and such? He’s no good.”

Bhagavad-gita, 18.54“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)

The easiest way to avoid such offenses is to be of pure character. One who sees the spirit soul within every living being is equally disposed. He neither hankers nor laments. In that state he takes up devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, because that service is meant to please the origin of all spiritual beings. Such information is presented to us in the Bhagavad-gita, a famous Vedic text. That text provides the theoretical information, and the practical implementation is found in the example of King Janaka of Mithila.

Janaka was on this earth a long time ago. There were many kings named Janaka in his family ancestry, and so he was particularly known as Shiradhvaja, for he found his beautiful daughter Sita while ploughing a field. Though he was known as a Brahman-realized soul [someone who sees the spiritual equality of all living beings], he is today more famous for being the father of Sita. Sita is a special lady; she is the eternal consort of Lord Rama, who is a divine incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead.

Sita and RamaIn the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we get further accounts of Sita’s wedding to Rama. It took place in Janaka’s kingdom. Here we are in the middle of the actual marriage ceremony, and we see that all protocol is being followed. Janaka is the host, so he brings King Dasharatha and his entourage to the ceremony and offers them appropriate seats. Dasharatha is Rama’s father. He had travelled from Ayodhya to attend the marriage ceremony of his beloved son Rama.

Janaka then worshiped Vishvamitra and Vashishtha, two great sages. Vashishtha was the family priest in Ayodhya. He was Dasharatha’s counselor as well as Rama’s. Rama’s three younger brothers also took instruction from Vashishtha. Vishvamitra was Rama’s teacher particularly in the advanced military arts. He gave special mantras to Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana and took protection from them in the forest. It was at Vishvamitra’s direction that Rama ended up in Janaka’s city, where a contest to determine Sita’s husband was taking place. Janaka also offered brand new clothing to Dasharatha.

If Janaka had failed to do any of these things, he would have committed offenses. The many spectators would have noticed those offenses. So would have the devoted poets who were set to immortalize the events in sacred texts like the Ramayana. Tulsidas is one of those poets, and he can travel back in time with his mind to relive the event. He does so not to find fault. Even if he did, he would not find any. Knowing full well the character of Janaka, the poet takes great delight in relaying Janaka’s behavior to all the world.

Such attention to etiquette was part of what made Janaka worthy of having Sita as his daughter. His devotion to God drove his actions, and so we see that one of the symptoms of devotion is careful attention towards avoiding offenses. If you love God’s wife, you will love God as well. You will love God’s father as well. Though the Lord has no father, in His descents to the material land He assigns various elevated living entities the roles of mother, father, friend, and so forth. More than anything, those associates with Rama are devotees, and so Janaka made sure never to offend them. He thus set the ideal example.

In Closing:

When joke made in manner offhand,

Others possibly to misunderstand.


Then leader’s reputation to take hit,

Others not to think he is legit.


Janaka to king and priests welcome did show,

With devotion proper etiquette always to know.


Love God and those devoted to Him all,

And thus never attention for offenses call.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Conquering Limitations

Chakravaka bird“Not caring for their bodies, in staring at the beautiful picture it is like the enemy of the blinking of the eye has run away. Their eyes were like the chakravaka bird in staring at Rama’s beautiful form; they enjoyed the happiness that comes from having a good ruler.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 17.1)

nahiṃ tana sambhārahiṃ chabi nihārahiṃ nimiṣa ripu janu ranu jae |
cakravai locala rāma rūpa surāja sukha bhāgī bhae ||

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“I have this important test tomorrow. I’ve been so busy with my other classes and also my regular responsibilities that I haven’t had time to study. And then today I was occupied with so many other things throughout the day. I have no other option: I need to pull an all-nighter. It’s going to be tough particularly because I will be so tired. I know I’m fighting a losing battle, but if I have enough coffee and if I find the right setting, I’ll be able to stay up all night.”

“My body says to stop, but my mind says to keep going. This isn’t fair. Why do I get so tired all the time? Why does my body not allow me to have fun? It’s not right. I need to work out some more. I need to keep going. My goal is to lose weight. If I just sleep because I’m so tired, that won’t help me much. Afterwards, I get really hungry too. How am I supposed to stop eating when my body starts giving me pain in the stomach?”

Tired from studyingEating and sleeping are two aspects basic to an existence. They are present in both the animals and humans alike. Who can conquer over them? They are limitations imposed on the body. No matter the objective we may have, we eventually have to eat and sleep. The student cramming for the exam can try to delay that sleep through artificial means, but eventually their fatigue will catch up with them. The person trying to lose weight may successfully avoid food for a long time, but eventually they will have to eat. They will also be forced to take rest instead of exercise.

Along with the larger limitations like eating and sleeping, there are smaller ones as well. One of them is blinking. It is an involuntary movement of the eyelids. Though we can control blinking if we try, that control only lasts for a short while. This is because we don’t have to think about blinking. It happens on its own. It’s sort of like the breathing with the lungs or the beating of the heart. We don’t have to tell ourselves to breathe. It just happens.

These things are good for us. If we don’t blink for too long, the eyes can get dry. This is a common symptom for people who wear contact lenses. Unlike glasses, contacts rest directly on the eyeballs. Therefore when you blink, the reaction is different. It is much easier for the eye to get dry while wearing contact lenses. When the contacts are taken out, the eyes get a chance to catch up, but with prolonged use one can find a situation called “dry eye,” which affects vision.

Dry eye treatmentNevertheless, even with contacts the blinking still occurs. As it is an involuntary movement, when we hear that someone has conquered over blinking through looking at something, we should know that the something is really special. This was the case a long time ago at a marriage ceremony. The people looking at the something were so mesmerized that they stopped blinking for a while. This helped them enjoy the moment; it allowed them to soak up the beauty.

Of course that beauty can only be found in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is not a mean person who tells people to do this and that. He is not vengeful against those who ignore Him. The pain from turning away from Him is automatic; sort of like when the hand is put into a fire. The hand is not meant to touch fire. This is just the way things are. If you put your hand in fire, the fire is not to blame and neither is God.

In the same way, when there is residence in a land that sees only death as the culmination to everything, God is not to blame. The residence is a choice, though the residents may not remember having made that choice. Memory alone doesn’t determine fact. If I do something stupid and I don’t remember being told not to do it, the stupid thing will still hurt me. Someone else may have told me not to do that a long time ago, and if I forgot their sound words of advice, it is my fault, not theirs.

Residence in the material land is caused by ignoring God. To love Him is the constitutional position of the spirit soul. To not love Him is to create a conditional existence. The condition is forgetfulness, and the result is residence in a land that is temporary, where no existence is permanent. If nothing is permanent, it means nothing can live forever. If nothing lives forever, it means everything dies. If everything dies, some will not be so happy from time to time; as they are guaranteed to lose whatever they have. Thus the ultimate result is only misery.

In God’s company, there is no misery. Just the opposite occurs, in fact. The eyes are so happy in looking at God that they are able to conquer over blinking. The victors in this instance were women at a marriage ceremony. They were well-wishers to both bride and groom. The bride was Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. The groom was Shri Ramachandra, the sun of the solar race, or the dynasty of kings that started with the sun-god. Shri Ramachandra is also the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince.

Sita and RamaIn this verse from the Janaki Mangala we are again told how the ladies in the marriage ceremony cast aside concern for their bodies. If we are out of a job or feeling down on our luck, we may not shower on a given day. For women to do this is more rare, as they generally pay more attention to physical appearance. Here the concern was given up due to intense transcendental pleasure. They were so happy to see Rama that they didn’t worry about anything else.

In staring at the beautiful picture that was the handsome groom, the enemy known as blinking ran away. It was an enemy in this instance because it would periodically get in the way of the enjoyment of the ladies. It is also said that the eyes of the ladies behaved like chakravaka birds. These birds come to life in the morning, when the sun rises. The analogy is appropriate because Shri Rama is often compared to the sun. Additionally, His family ancestry is tied to the sun-god.

The women felt the enjoyment that comes from having a good ruler, or suraja. If you have a good ruler, you are protected. You know that things will be alright. Everyone is looking for such a ruler, but none can compare to God Himself. The citizens want protection; they want to feel safe. They want to know that economics will be accounted for, that they will have enough to eat and a place to live. They want to know that foreign enemies will be dealt with. If the ruler can take care of such things, the citizens will be happy.

Rama was indeed like the sun, as He dispelled the darkness of doubt that hovered above the marriage ceremony in Janakpur. As Sita’s husband was to be determined by a contest of strength, there was no telling who would marry her, if anyone. Rama arrived with His younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra and won the contest, bringing His good protection to all the joyful party.

In Closing:

Without even having to think,

To protect eyes lids do blink.


From perfect vision take away,

Eyes not perpetually on it to stay.


Blinking enemy of women did run,

When looking at Raghu dynasty’s sun.


Like chakravaka birds were their eyes,

With supreme delight in sun’s rise.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Touching Up

Arati“They are distributing gifts and doing arati while looking at the groom. They are so overwhelmed with love that they are not concerned about their bodies.” (Janaki Mangala, 136)

kari āratī nichāvari barahiṃ nihārahiṃ |
prema magana pramadāgana tana na sanbhārahiṃ ||

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“She’s always late. Whenever we have to go somewhere, I am the one who is ready first. It’s habit for me. I plan my day around the specific event of importance. If I have to be somewhere at 7:30 pm, I’ll start preparing a few hours in advance. I’d much rather be early to something than late. I don’t like the pressure of missing a deadline. To me it’s not a game. I’m not trying to limit the amount of time spent waiting by being early. I am more than happy to be the first one there.

“My wife, on the other hand, takes her sweet old time. Not that she walks around here and there; she is preparing the whole time. She’s trying on this dress and that. She’s applying makeup and then taking it off, only to reapply it. She needs her shoes to match her dress. Her hair has to be a certain way. Everything has to be just right. She would rather be late and look perfect than on time and not so perfect. I can’t stand it. One of these days I’m going to leave without her. That will teach her a lesson.”

Indeed, a famous American television sitcom portrayed this exact scene in an episode. In the show, the father of the anxious husband had many years prior instituted a rule, wherein if the children weren’t in the seats in the car at a certain time, the car would drive off without them. The husband decided to implement this rule one time, with the prior consent of the wife. Lo and behold, she wasn’t in the car at the allotted time, and so the husband drove off to the event without her. Needless to say, the wife wasn’t too pleased with him.

VanityThese are the stereotypes, that men don’t pay as much attention to cosmetics and appearance as women do. This is nature’s arrangement. Men and women are different in their behavior. They each have their tendencies and characteristics. Knowing that women generally pay more attention to their bodily appearance makes the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala especially significant. These were the most beautiful women in the world, and through offering devotion to a particular bridegroom, they completely cast aside attention to their bodily appearance.

The bridegroom in this case was the Supreme Lord, Shri Ramachandra. He appeared on earth because He desired to do so. There were also ancillary concerns relating to nefarious characters dispersed throughout the world. Typically these characters are dealt with through the Lord’s impersonal forces. His most potent force that isn’t directly under His supervision is time, which is also known as death. No matter how big a person may be, death will eventually knock them down. Thus Rama had no particular reason to knock down foes who were already slated for destruction by death.

He appeared more so to give pleasure to others. Those who would take pleasure in His vision had first priority at seeing Him. This only makes sense. Why waste your time with enemies? They will never turn your way, despite endless well-wishing and insightful words. Better to spend time with those who will appreciate you, for they are deserving of the rewards that accompany your association.

Lord RamaOne of the benefits of associating with God is that you pay less attention to things that aren’t so important. Maintenance of the body is necessary for keeping the internal vital air intact, but beyond that there is really no difference between a good appearance and a bad one. One person wears an expensive suit, while another wears rags, but the two people are identical in their constitution. The clothes are just part of the physical appearance. They don’t change who the person is. The wise don’t pay so much attention to appearance. From a simple life, where there is high thinking about the true meaning to an existence, the body looks fine enough.

This sounds well and good in theory, but it must be difficult to implement in practice. When there is such difficulty, it always helps to see the implementation in those we normally wouldn’t associate with the practice. If the guy on television selling us a weight loss supplement is super thin and has been so their whole life, we may not be so tempted to buy their product. After all, the person is already in good shape. What need do they have for a weight loss supplement? If, however, we see that the same person was previously overweight, then we know that some difference was made. The overweight person is considered less likely to lose weight, so by seeing that they used a certain product, we can understand that maybe it might work.

In the scene of the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, beautiful women are casting aside concern for their bodies. This is due to the love they feel while worshiping the Supreme Lord. They are offering Him an arati, or welcoming light, and showering Him with gifts. While doing this, they are filled with love. This means that they are not following these rituals as a mere formality. They are very happy to do them, as they get to worship someone who has everything. They get to make offerings to someone who is never in need of anything. Since He is following through on a marriage ceremony, with the intent of joining the daughter of King Janaka, He is compelled to sanction the offering of gifts. In other words, there is nothing He can do to stop the ladies from worshiping Him in such a way.

Sita and RamaThrough the love they feel for Rama, they immediately cast aside concern for their bodies. Whether their makeup was right, whether their dresses were properly in line, whether their hair was tightly knotted - these were not of concern since they got to love Rama. If an ascetic were to have the same emotion, then it wouldn’t be so remarkable. After all, an ascetic has a simple garb. They likely don’t have long hair to worry about. Their dress consists of a single cloth. They already give little attention to their body, so to say that worshiping Rama makes them feel less concern isn’t that significant.

When you take women who are always attentive to physical appearance and illustrate the same principle of detachment in them, then you get a real idea of how powerful devotion to God is. Rama is God. He is the Supreme Lord with the features drawn out. He is not an old man who is vengeful towards those who defy His will. Everyone who doesn’t love Him in consciousness right now is going against His will. This would mean that God would be the angriest person in existence. In the Vedas, it is said that He is just the opposite. Since He has all transcendental pleasure, He is known as Rama. Since He is all-attractive, He is known as Krishna. On this particular occasion, He would marry Sita, the beloved princess of the town of Mithila. Through that bond Rama would also be known as Janakinatha and Sitapati.

In Closing:

Wife always to events is late,

To put hair and makeup in perfect state.


Such concern women at wedding to cast aside,

Since worshiping Rama, in whom goodness resides.


Ascetic not worried about look or gain,

So effect in their detachment not the same.


Worship of God highest priority to rate,

Puts consciousness in alignment straight.