Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ecstasy in Loss

[Rama's lotus feet]“Then when she heard Rama ask for permission to leave, she became filled with sadness. Without hesitation and with much love and ecstasy she touched His feet.” (Janaki Mangala, 166)

mānge vidha rāma ko taba suni karūnā bharīn |
parihari sakuca saprema pulaki pāyanha parīn ||

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A material life can be likened to a swinging pendulum. You are never in a steady position. One minute you accept something and the next you reject it. In Sanskrit, the two corresponding terms are bhoga and tyaga. I enjoy the ice cream someone offers me so much that I don’t stop them from serving me more and more. The next day I’m in such great physical discomfort that I swear off things like ice cream for a long time. “Never again,” I tell myself, only to break my rule the next time the same enticing dish is placed in front of me.

[cookies n cream ice cream]The acceptance and rejection isn’t exclusive to personal desire. It can relate to comings and goings as well. One minute we are sad and the next we are not. One second we accept something wonderful and soon after we have to part with it. We don’t want the latter, as the former gave us so much happiness. But these are the ways of the world, so we have no choice. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, it appears that there is the sadness of parting that immediately followed the ecstasy of a welcome. The difference, however, is that the interaction is spiritual, so even the moment of parting is a time of ecstasy.

Consider this situation: You are a new homeowner. You and your spouse decide that you want to have a dog in the house. The dog will provide someone besides each other to love unconditionally. You go out and pick the one that you both agree on. You are enamored by it, but at the same time you don’t want to spoil it. You need to train the dog. Your day now revolves around the care of this beloved pet.

[Dogs]The initial days are filled with excitement, and though that tapers off, the affection remains strong for many years. Then one day your dog falls ill. You try your best to treat it, but the veterinarian gives you the dreaded prognosis: there is no hope. The dog will die. The previous excitement now doesn’t come close to matching the intense sadness. You haven’t felt this bad in a long time. You can’t imagine going through this again.

From here it is quite easy to predict the next option: get a new dog. You repeat the whole cycle. You just replace the object of affection. You don’t think to yourself that the initial affection was essentially forced on a random object and that since the object can be replaced maybe the affection isn’t so real. You just push on. After a loss, you work again for another gain. Never mind that the gain will eventually vanish, leaving you sad once more.

In spiritual life, physical proximity isn’t required for association. This means that once gained, the company of the Supreme Lord never leaves you. In fact, He is always with us; we just don’t have the eyes to see Him yet. God is present in the rising of the sun, the falling of the leaves, the blowing of the wind, the onset of the winter and summer seasons, and the birth of a new child. He is the life of everything, so anywhere we look that gives signs of life automatically reveals the presence of the Almighty.

[fall leaves]There are times when there is a physical manifestation that makes it easier to notice and develop an attachment to Him. Such was the case with the movements of Shri Rama, who appeared in Janakpur to win the contest of the bow and marry the daughter of King Janaka. In the scene referenced above, Rama is about to leave for home, taking His new wife Sita with Him. Sita’s mother immediately becomes filled with sadness upon hearing Rama’s request to return home.

Juxtaposing this verse with the preceding one in the Janaki Mangala, we see that one moment the mother was filled with happiness and the very next with sadness. An interesting thing happened with the sadness, though. She did not look to replace Rama. She did not bemoan fate and how it was now torturing her. Instead, she immediately reached for Rama’s feet. She did this with love and ecstasy. So even in apparently losing the most precious gift of the association of the Supreme Lord, there are good feelings.

This is the meaning to Absolute. Happiness and sadness, acceptance and rejection, apply only to a material existence. In a spiritual existence, all is good. This doesn’t mean that variety is absent. You get supposed birth and death, comings and goings, but they are not of the same nature. Indeed, in apparent separation from God the ecstasy is stronger than in association.

[Rama's lotus feet]As the mother reached for Rama’s feet when He was in front of her, she remained attached to them even after He left. Rama took her precious daughter with Him. The mother was now all alone; having sort of an empty nest. She and her husband would only have the memory of their beloved daughter, who came to them in the most unexpected way. But they would be comforted by knowing that she was with Rama, whom she would serve without motivation and without interruption. They would remain in ecstasy by keeping attachment to Rama’s lotus feet, from which emanate the sacred river Ganga.

In Closing:

Painful loss to follow pleasing gain,

Replace object, repeat cycle the same.

 

Such are the ways of life material,

Not the case with dealings spiritual.

 

Happy to serve Rama was the mother,

Then sad that leaving with her daughter.

 

With love approaching His feet,

In separation staying in ecstasy sweet.

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