“The king returned to the guest house with his sons and their wives, like getting the four rewards in life along with the four sadhanas.” (Janaki Mangala, 158)
ge janavāse rāu sangu suta sutabahu |
janu pāe phala cāri sahita sādhana cahu ||
Having paternal affection for four sons who are expansions of the Supreme Lord Vishnu is a much higher reward than anything the material world can offer. Love gives meaning to life. It is the reason for living. Without love, there seems to be no reason to get up in the morning. The issue, of course, is where to repose that love. Where should one’s undying affection turn? If the affection is undying, then it would make sense to find a corresponding object that never ceases to be. That object should remain in its attractive state for as long as the affection is offered. This qualification belongs only to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and so Dasharatha’s affection represented the greatest boon in life.
To reach the state of loving God is very difficult. It can take millions of lifetimes even. The allures of the material world are very strong. There is an illusion that strengthens the attraction to all things “not God.” To help the individual in their struggle to find transcendental love, religious doctrine is passed on. Not everything is revealed in the opening pages. The spiritual master, who keeps the information safely with him, not selling it for money and cheapening its value, tests the disciple first to see if they are sincere. Even then, the information is shared slowly, with more value coming from the realization of knowledge after hearing the principles and truths.
To one who has not yet achieved the mature fruit an existence has to offer, four rewards in life are taken to be paramount. They are dharma, artha, kama and moksha, which translate to religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and ultimate liberation. To receive all of these rewards in one lifetime is very difficult. Sometimes one reward gets in the way of another. To be religious means to suppress your pursuit of money. To be wealthy means to want to enjoy a lot, which leaves less time for religion. And after spending a lifetime enjoying the rewards of hard work, how is one supposed to get liberation, which is the relinquishing of not only everything accepted during this lifetime but also the desire to ever go through the cycle of birth and death again?
So to achieve these rewards in one lifetime is very rare. To help the process along, there are the four sadhanas, or means to achieving the reward. The four means are being able to tell the difference between material and spiritual things, renouncing material things, developing six qualities conducive to godly life, and desiring liberation. These sadhanas help one to achieve the four rewards. So as rare as it is to obtain the four fruits of life, getting the four sadhanas to help you along at the same time is even more rare.
Goswami Tulsidas references these four fruits and their sadhanas in the above quoted verse from the Janaki Mangala to show how rare it was for someone to get such a gift as that which came to King Dasharatha. The king’s eldest son Rama was married to the daughter of King Janaka. Sita and Rama married in a grand ceremony in Mithila, and here the festivities have just completed. Dasharatha was the guest party; he had travelled from Ayodhya. Janaka was the host. Dasharatha had three other sons as well, and Janaka was so liberally minded that he arranged for their marriages as well.
Rama is God; an incarnation of the Supreme Lord who holds a bow in His hands, wears an enchanting smile on His face, and is always ready to defend the innocent who are practicing their spiritual life. Loving Him is the highest fruit of an existence. Love for God is known as bhakti, and the exercise of that love is known as bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga is above dharma, artha, kama, moksha, sadhanas, attachment, detachment, humility, kindness, strength, nonviolence, peacefulness, truthfulness, and other such virtues and objectives. One who practices bhakti may have one or many of these qualities or rewards, but it is their love for God which dominates.
Nevertheless, the comparison made by Tulsidas is very informative. The brothers are the four rewards and the wives are the sadhanas, which means that the wives help to bring and maintain the rewards. It is considered a great boon to have a faithful wife who is dedicated to helping her husband in his quest for spiritual enlightenment. Great statesmen like Benjamin Franklin quoted the proverb, “He that would thrive must first ask his wife,” which has a similar meaning. As these were wives of the Supreme Lord Vishnu and His expansions, they weren’t ordinary and thus not required to follow duty in the traditional way. Still, they set the proper example by supporting their husbands, who were tasked with upholding dharma, or righteousness, in society.
From this verse we also learn that love for God automatically incorporates every other reward.
So does this mean that if we love God, we automatically get a brand new flat screen television? If we chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” will we get to eat pizza every day prepared by the world’s most famous chef?
Though there may not be a specific material reward received, the enjoyment is superior. With whatever thing we desire, it is the enjoyment from obtaining it that really matters. The four fruits and the four sadhanas bring different kinds of enjoyment, and one who has bhakti automatically receives these enjoyments. In fact, their pleasure is far greater, to a degree immeasurable. Dasharatha had the four fruits and the four sadhanas and so much more, for his mind was always fixed on the lotus feet of Shri Rama.
For four fruits of life to be seen,
The four sadhanas there as means.
For one who bhakti does not know,
Rewards become important ever so.
But pure love for God so much more,
Than rewards of material existence four.
Vision of Dasharatha’s sons and their wives,
Enough to keep devotional fire always alive.