Saturday, February 22, 2014

Return Trip

[Worship of Rama's lotus feet]“Being restless, all of the men and women of the city prayed to the demigods. Again and again they asked when Rama would come again.” (Janaki Mangala, 163)

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khagabhara nagara nāri nara bidhihi manāvahin |
bāra bāra sasurāri rāma jehi āvahin।।

The scene is quite common to film. A young child eagerly anticipates Christmas. On the eve, they leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus by the fireplace. They try to stay awake through the night, but they usually can’t fight off sleep. Then suddenly they awake, as if by fate, and see Santa Claus in person: “Santa, it’s really you. I knew you would come. You must be so busy. Thank you for visiting my home.”

[Santa Claus]Then Santa replies with a few kind words of his own. After a brief conversation, it’s time for St. Nicholas to leave, to the sadness of everyone. The young child then innocently asks, “When will you come back? When will I see you again?” The audience can feel the distress, and it is due to a fear of separation. The fear is stronger because the meeting is rare; it is not expected. A long time back residents in Janakpur, both male and female and young and old, met the origin of matter and spirit. After His brief stay in their town, they too wondered when He would return.

In His avatara of Rama, the Supreme Lord doesn’t come bearing physical gifts. Children are enamored with toys, video games, puzzles and the like, but adults tend to value other things. Association is what they most cherish, and in that association they hope to engage all their senses to the full. Shri Rama gave this gift of association only briefly, and everyone was supremely thankful for it.

[Rama and Lakshmana]The lasting gift was His divine vision. It was accompanied by the equally as blissful vision of Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. The wise human seeks after this vision, even if they are unaware. As the Vedanta-sutra says, the human birth carries with it the call to know the Absolute Truth, athato brahma-jijnasa. The human birth is not the time for only accumulating a lot of wealth. It is not meant for enjoying the senses to the full, without limits and restrictions. It is not meant for sitting idly by as the years pass on.

These things can be done in other bodies. While wealth may be absent in the animal species, the fruit of wealth surely is present. If I have a large home filled with lavish furniture, to enjoy everything I must sit and do nothing. Taking rest, leisure time, is the enjoyment from having acquired so many things. As recently as two hundred years ago, the majority of today’s leisure activities weren’t even invented. There wasn’t television. There were no sports. If people played games, it was likely chess. There was no arguing over the saga of a baseball player accused of cheating the system. There was no outrage over a pop singer’s behavior at an awards show.

So the heralded progress of the human civilization has brought on much more time for idleness. Indeed, how to spend the idle time is of great concern today. But there is idle time in the animal species as well, as the bear hibernates for many months. Idleness thus does not require intelligence. The human being has an advanced intelligence, and it is earmarked for searching after the truth. That truth should be above national, racial, gender, and religious lines. It should be above blind faith and cheap sentiment. It should explain the meaning to everything and also enlighten the individual as to how to act going forward.

While it may not seem like it, in the scene referenced above the residents of a town have found the truth and are behaving accordingly. They have seen Rama and Lakshmana, who are not the exclusive property of any religion. Rama is Bhagavan and Lakshmana serves Him for all of eternity. Rama is beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation personified. Lakshmana is the service personified to such an owner of all opulences.

In seeing the truth before their very eyes, the residents hoped to see it more and more. They prayed to the gods they had previously satisfied for trivial matters such as good health, righteousness, economic development and dispassion. All traditions from all cultures and from all time periods have had such kinds of worship. Here the desire is finally purified, as it is for Rama’s association alone.

[Rama and His brothers]Rama, Lakshmana and their two other brothers were set to leave that day from Janakpur. They had all been married through King Janaka’s arrangement. Thus they would be returning home with beautiful new brides. The residents prayed to have Rama visit them again, to please their eyes with His enchanting vision. The magic of God is that His physical presence is not required for creating that vision. Just as a television image can show what is happening thousands of miles away, the holy name can create the association of the Absolute Truth very easily. The mood of the worshiper is what counts most, and in Janakpur the mood was as pure as it could be. So simply by saying the name “Rama” they would see Him again. We too can meet the objective of the human life by always saying Rama, as that wonderful name is included in the most sacred of formulas, the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

After priceless vision was earned,

Wondered when it would return.

 

With brother Lakshmana by His side,

And now with Sita as His bride,

Made image of beauty the most,

To see again prayed to demigods a host.

 

Can produce same vision using only sound,

As all potency in holy name is found.

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