Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Satisfying Meal

[Prasadam feast]“On that beautiful night, they played sweet songs with melodious music. The king took his meal, received betel nuts, and then happily returned to the guest house.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 20.1)

so nisi sohāvani madhura gāvati bājane bājahiṃ bhale |
nṛpa kiyo bhojana pāna pāi pramoda janavāsehi cale ||

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What a day for King Dasharatha. He started by taking the long journey to Janakpur after learning that his eldest son Rama had won the contest of the bow. The king was previously worried when he gave permission to Rama to leave the kingdom for a journey into the woods with the venerable sage Vishvamitra. For young children to wander about in great fun is not out of the ordinary. It was Rama’s task in particular that caused worry in the father. From the joyous satisfaction described above, we see that the end result turned out to be very favorable.

[Forest]Not like letting your kids play baseball in the street until the sun goes down or even letting them venture into the woods for a camping trip, Dasharatha gave consent for Rama, who at the time barely had any signs of manhood on His face, to act as the guardian to an elder and wiser brahmana. A brahmana is a priest by trade, but their main qualification is the Brahman vision. We teach our young children not to discriminate. “Don’t make judgments based on race. Just because she is a woman doesn’t mean that she can’t do everything just as well as a man can. Just because this person speaks a different language doesn’t mean that they are less intelligent. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Find out what’s on the inside before you make judgments.”

The brahmanas extend this vision out to the largest scope. They see the spiritual equality in ALL beings. They don’t have affection for one kind of animal and then disdain for another. They don’t sanction the unnecessary killing of one kind of animal and then the protection of another. They see the spirit, or Brahman, within all creatures, and so they are generally nonviolent. They know that not every being will have this same vision, so they don’t always offer the same treatment. Nevertheless, they maintain that vision of Brahman. They can see past the cover and into the heart, where the soul resides.

Vishvamitra had issues with others attacking him. There were other brahmanas living in the forest who had the same problem. Night-rangers of the lowest consciousness would regularly attack them, kill them, and then eat their flesh. The lower consciousness means more discrimination. It means not seeing Brahman. It means judging everything simply based on appearance. It means being fooled by vision and ignoring words of wisdom that are best accepted through hearing.

[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]Vishvamitra asked Dasharatha to have Rama protect him. Therefore the brahmana knew something about Rama. He wouldn’t have made the request if he thought Rama would be in danger. But still, it was certainly an odd request to make. How was Rama going to take care of Himself, let alone defend against the worst creatures? These night-rangers already had no issue with killing innocent priests, so they certainly wouldn’t have mercy for Rama, an adolescent.

Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana came along. And so two of Dasharatha’s four sons left home to head into danger. They were trained in the military arts, which meant that one day they would defend the kingdom. What better test could there be for them? The king made a huge sacrifice, and he put all faith in Vishvamitra to make sure the outcome was favorable.

The next thing he heard was that Rama was going to marry Janaka’s daughter. Thus everything did turn out well for Dasharatha. He and his family were received wonderfully by the hospitable host, King Janaka. After leaving home, through a series of events Rama had made His way to Mithila, where a contest was being held. The winner of this contest would get to marry Sita, Janaka’s daughter. She is also known by the affectionate name of Janaki. This name honors both Janaka and Sita. Janaka is famous for his dispassion; he never lets his emotions get the better of him. Emotions often override the intellect, and if you’re in a position of power you don’t want to allow this to happen. If your emotions win, so many others could lose. Even with his strong affection for his beloved daughter Sita, Janaka still followed his intellect in devising a plan to arrange for her marriage. Since his heart was properly situated, the Supreme Lord guided Him from within on the proper course.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.15“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

Dasharatha’s heart was in the right place when he allowed Rama and Lakshmana to accompany Vishvamitra. Janaka’s heart was equally as situated in righteousness when he arranged for the contest of the bow. The Supreme Lord rewarded both their choices by bringing them together in a family. Janaki joined with Rama, who then earned a new name, Janakinatha, to accompany His many others.

[Sita and Rama marrying]After the festivities were over, Dasharatha and his party had a satisfying meal full of variety. Others made jokes while they were eating, and at the end they sung wonderful songs that were accompanied by melodious music. The king received betel nuts afterwards, as was custom to complete a meal. He then returned to the guest house, feeling so happy.

Dasharatha’s example shows that in life the decisions aren’t always easy. There are many forks in the road, and deciding which way to turn isn’t so obvious. Janaka had similar issues, and since both kings were situated in righteousness, their decisions always favored them in the end. The root of their righteousness was their love for God. Dasharatha had love for Rama and Janaka for Sita, and since Sita and Rama are the energy and the energetic Supreme Lord respectively, the love the kings had was pure. The divine couple guided them along the proper path, as they guide any who are devoted to them in thought, word and deed.

In Closing:

For King Dasharatha decision tough,

To let beloved son go to wilderness rough.

 

By host King Janaka seating,

And with pleasure eating,

To see that right outcome came,

Rama marrying daughter of Sita the name.

 

Right decisions of life never easy to know,

Through love for God be guided properly so.

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