“Janaka did all the rituals and made all the preparations for the departure. Then Rama with His brothers went to the king’s palace.” (Janaki Mangala, 164)
sakala calana ke sāja janaka sājata bhae |
bhāinha sahita rāma taba bhūpa bhavana gae ||
This verse from the Janaki Mangala provides a hint into just how long a current tradition in Vedic culture has been in place. Though times change, the attitude of the saintly people of the world does not. Though carts pulled by horses are no longer the primary mode of transportation, the tradition referenced here still remains. Whether there is extra room or not, the departing guests should expect to bring back a lot of stuff with them.
This situation may sound familiar to some:
“Auntie, please. I don’t need to take anything. Yes, the food was very good, but who will eat it at my home? Okay, fine. I will take it. What about the sweets, you ask? No, I’ve already eaten too much. Okay, well, since you just put it in my hands, I guess I will have to bring this home also. No, no, my sister doesn’t need any more jewelry. That sari isn’t necessary for my mother. You’re giving me too much to take back; there won’t be any room on the plane.”
Another similar situation:
“Oh, you’re going to visit such and such next weekend? Make sure to take this shirt and give it to their son. They will like it. I bought these bangles for your aunt. Give them to her. If you don’t have room in your carry-on, take a bigger suitcase. Give this shirt to your uncle. If it’s the wrong size, then maybe his son can wear it. I’ve thrown a few shirts in there. See which ones they like; let them choose. Here are some sweets as well. Give this to them for eating as prasadam. They can offer it to the Lord first and then everyone can partake.”
Prior to going on a trip, you can be so enthused about travelling lightly, about not carrying so many things through the airport. Even if you’re just driving somewhere, it’s a pain to pack the trunk up with so many things. But those insistent on keeping with tradition will not take “no” for an answer. They are more than happy to burden you with extra tasks for your visit. On the other side of things, the good host feels insulted if you leave their home empty-handed.
In a famed city a long time ago, a wonderful king prepared so many gifts to be taken home by his most beloved visitors. Whether they liked it or not, these gifts were leaving with them. The guests were not poor by any stretch. They hailed from the kingdom of Ayodhya, where everyone lived happily under the protection of Dasharatha. He was a leader famous for his ability to fight attacking enemies coming from ten different directions. When there is government tyranny we long for freedom through elections and the sort. But if a single person can rule justly, fairly and effectively, there is no need for voting. Everyone follows their duties without issue. Such was the case with the rule of King Dasharatha.
The guests who were leaving had just been married. There were four marriages arranged in that kingdom by its leader, Janaka. His eldest daughter Sita was the initial person getting married, but in his happiness Janaka arranged for her new husband’s three younger brothers to get married as well. So four couples were heading back to Ayodhya, and Janaka made sure to pack their caravans with heaps of gifts. Janaka had plenty to give, and the departing guests had no way of refusing anything.
There is a saying in Hindi which means “The name of Rama is the truth.” The name “Rama” addresses an individual who is beyond duality. He is beyond the temporary manifestations that bewilder us. We know that we are not our body, for our body continuously changes. We were once young and enthusiastic. Now we are older and more jaded. We have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and a tough time breaking from the daily routine. We have been the same person throughout, however. It is only rather difficult to see.
As difficult as it is to see our true position as spirit, seeing the entity who is beyond all the duality of this world is much harder. Therefore the name comes into play. Rather than fret over personal and impersonal, matter and spirit, illusion and reality, simply say the name of Rama. That name gives understanding even to the less intelligent. It provides the vision of the Truth even to those who are blind. Even those who have no desire to see it are blessed with it just by saying the name constantly.
“[O mystic] First know yourself, then realize the Supreme Absolute Truth, and then see the material nature standing in between. O wretch, without seeing these how can you understand what the unmanifested [invisible] feature of the Absolute Truth [alakh] actually is? Chant Shri Rama’s holy name instead, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 19)
Rama, the eldest son of Dasharatha, never refuses a gift made in earnest, without motive for gain. Janaka was a king in a wealthy kingdom, so he had nothing to gain from giving gifts to the four new couples. He did so simply out of love. Rama couldn’t refuse. He had to take everything back with Him. He also had to love Sita, who had the same amount of affection for Him. From this episode, we know that in the kingdom of God it is always the “era of good feelings.” That kingdom exists in the spiritual sky, but it can also be replicated here at any time and place, as it was in Janaka’s land a long time ago.
“Leaving now are you?
Take this and that too.
Sweets give your sister and brother,
And these bangles for your mother.”
Though prefer light in travelling to go,
That can’t refuse these gifts you know.
The same with Dasharatha and guests that were leaving,
When genuine, happily Shri Rama all gifts receiving.