“Blessed indeed are the great souls, the greatly fortunate sages who have given up all sins, conquered the mind, and for whom there is neither pleasure nor aversion.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 26.49)
dhanyāḥ khalu mahātmāno munayastyaktakilbiṣāḥ ||
jitātmano mahābhāgā yeṣāṃ na staḥ priyāpriye |
As devotion is at the very core of an existence, it is difficult to explain how it is practiced in the constitutional position. As words in a language are defined by other words, so various aspects and behaviors in this world can be used to explain the constitutional position of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There are some paradoxes as well. For instance, the pleasure from devotional service increases when there is separation from the object of interest. Sort of like the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” concept, when there is an intense longing for the association of the all-attractive Supreme Lord, the ecstasy is considered the highest. This is the mood of Sita Devi shown here in this verse from the Ramayana.
Here is another paradox to consider. The person feeling the ecstasy of intense separation from their beloved Lord considers themselves to be the most inferior. They think that every other person in the world is better situated. They have a kind of transcendental envy of others who are not feeling the same separation pain. Sort of like how the adult envies the young child for their innocence and ignorance of the ways of the world, the pure devotee thinks that the materialist is better situated, for they are not subject to the intense pain of separation that occurs for the devotee who always keeps the Supreme Lord in mind.
Here Sita Devi says that those sages who are completely dispassionate are much more fortunate. Imagine if you could get rid of all your worries. Every anxiety that we currently have relates to some attachment. We are attached to our job. We are attached to our school. We are attached to our family members. Those attachments bring obligations. Obligations bring pressure, which brings worry. I have to wake up at a certain time tomorrow morning so that I can make it to my son’s soccer game. I have to study up on the latest technology so that I can do what I have to do at work. “This task is very important, so I can’t make any mistakes.”
With these pressures I am now more prone to sinful behavior. In order to relieve the tension, I take to drinking at night. I don’t have time to cook for myself, so I go out to eat a lot. Since I’m not cooking, and since my mind is focused on meeting my obligations, I’ll eat anything and everything. I’ll lie sometimes if I have to. And there is certainly no focus on the higher aspects of life, such as where my life is going. There is no time to ponder over why I am here and where I will go after death.
So the ascetic who renounces everything seems to find a better situation. They have no attachments. They are not averse to anything, either. They live a renounced life. Since they have less pressures, they can focus on avoiding sinful behavior. Therefore their sins eventually vanish. They are able to stay focused in renunciation because they have conquered the mind. The mind can take away the discrimination of even the most controlled person. To conquer the mind is like trying to control the wind, which seems impossible.
“As a boat on the water is swept away by a strong wind, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man's intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.67)
It is noteworthy that the materialist doesn’t really envy the ascetic. They may marvel at how someone could live like that, but they don’t really think that the ascetic is in a better position. No job. No family. No home even. Who would think that is the superior lifestyle? It is meant for someone who is truly special. Sita, however, says that the sage is in the better position. This is because they don’t feel the pain of separation from Shri Rama. They don’t know what it’s like to be shut out from offering Him service directly.
Rama is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince. An incarnation of Godhead has all transcendental attributes. This means that the face is not an ordinary one. Neither are the actions and relationships. Sita is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord. She is always with Him, if not physically then at least in spirit. She cannot live any other way.
During their earthly pastimes, Sita serves the role of wife to Rama. Since she is at the highest level of devotion, Sita feels the ecstasy of separation from Rama from time to time. In separation, she is unable to serve Him directly. Here she is in a foreign territory, held against her will. The evil king of Lanka wants her for himself. He wants her to be his chief queen, though everyone knows that she is Rama’s beloved. Brute force may help one to become very wealthy and eventually conquer the world, but it can never win over the mind of a devoted soul like Sita.
From this verse we also learn that the dispassionate sage, a great soul who is very fortunate as well, has a higher platform to reach. This is also mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita by the same Rama in His form of Shri Krishna. There He says that the person who is Brahman realized is well situated to take up devotional service. To be Brahman realized means to have no attachments or aversions. It means to see the spiritual equality of all beings. The Brahman realized soul has no hankerings and no lamentations.
From Sita’s time on earth we get an example of a Brahman realized person who then went to a higher platform, one that brought attachments and longings. That soul was King Janaka of Mithila. Known throughout the world for his dispassion, he one day found a baby in the ground while ploughing that field for a sacrifice. He immediately held affection for her, so much so that he one day drew up the contest of contests to find her a suitable husband. That baby was Sita, and that husband was Shri Rama. And just as Janaka had affection for Sita, she would love Rama without motivation and without interruption, following the example of her sage-like father.
Devotional consciousness to bring change,
Envy of the non-devoted, an attitude strange.
Since without attachments to go,
Pain of separation not to know.
But actually devotee in the highest stage,
The goal for even the renounced sage.
Sita, of Janaka most beloved daughter,
Love for Rama, to follow example of father.