“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 |
“So you’re telling me that I have to first change my way of life, everything that I do on a regular basis, how I think, how I eat, how I talk, where I go, etc.? Then only after doing that I can know the Supreme Lord a lot better? I will be of sounder mind and body; ‘sober’ as you call it. Then from there the goal is to reach a point where I feel so much pain in separation from the same person I’m trying to know? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m getting to know Him so that I can miss Him? Isn’t everybody already separated from Him? If what you’re saying is true, shouldn’t they feel happy right now, then?”
It does seem paradoxical that on the highest platform of the devotional consciousness one feels tremendous separation pain from their object of affection. The saying “tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” has some applicability here. The difference is that there is never a real loss once there is love for the person to whom we are intimately tied since time immemorial. The separation anxiety is more a longing, and the conditions are purposefully manipulated to increase the pleasure of the devotee.
Based on physical proximity, there is never any separation. From the ancient science of devotion, as taught at the beginning of the creation and then passed on through a bona fide chain of disciplic succession, we learn that the living entities come to the earth when they have even the slightest hint of envy of God. Long story short, we are here because we want to be here. We don’t know God because we don’t want to know Him. Just as the drunkard is always intoxicated because they want to be, even though it might be bad for them, we remain forgetful of the origin of matter and spirit because we think we will be better situated that way.
Thus the whole point to any religion is to remove that envy and regain the association of the only perfect being. The pursuit in competition with the author of everything good in this world is destined to fail since all living entities are imperfect. To ere is human, which means even the most advanced species in the material world commits mistakes. Man also has imperfect senses, becomes easily illusioned, and cheats from time to time. As God is not imperfect at all, so many of the names used to address Him are negations of other terms. He is known as Achyuta since He never falls down. He is described as anadi since He has no beginning. He is Ajita since no one has ever conquered Him. He is Aja since He is unborn.
As long as a body is living, there is the spiritual force inside. It is the residence of that force that determines life or death. We know someone is dead when the living force has left them. Someone can be on the verge of death, but if they are still alive, it means that the soul is still present. In the same way, no matter how low one has sunk due to their envy, God is always with them. He lives within everyone’s heart as the Supersoul.
“I am the Self, O Gudakesha, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.20)
Thus the separation is only in terms of consciousness. When one is not conscious of God, their separation is in detachment. It’s like walking around looking for money when you’re holding it in your left hand. Or like frantically searching for your car keys when they are in your pocket the whole time. This separation in consciousness leads only to negative outcomes. This is not done on purpose by God; it is the result based on the constitutional position of both parties. The living entity is meant to serve and God is meant to accept that service. Any other orientation does not work.
For the devotee, the separation is in attachment. This is always good since the chance for forgetting God is virtually eliminated. The separation may seem to be painful, but it is actually enjoyable. The person separated in attachment from God even envies others who are not in that attachment. They think, “At least that person doesn’t know what it feels like to be without the true love of their life. At least they don’t have to worry so much if they are serving properly. At least they don’t count the minutes and hours until the next time they get to see their beloved Lord of their life breath.”
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita says that the renounced sages, of great intelligence, who are highly fortunate, are blessed since they have abandoned attachment and aversion. One of the steps towards regaining the constitutional devotional consciousness is giving up attachment and aversion. This only make sense, for what are we really attached to? In Sanskrit the objects of attachment in the material world are described as maya, which means “that which is not.” The goal is to be attached to “that which is,” or God.
There is no reason to have an attachment to anything which is not directly God. There is also no reason to have an aversion to anything, as aversion is just the opposite of attachment. In either case one is affected by another object. The renounced sages are not affected, and so they are in a superior position. However, Sita subtly reveals that their position is not the most superior. This is because they don’t yet feel the pain of separation from Rama, who is Sita’s husband. Rama is the personal God, the detail behind the abstract. He is an incarnation of Vishnu, who is an expansion of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedas go into great detail about all three, but in summary any of them equates to the concept we have of a supreme controller, a divine being.
In pure devotion, the separation happens automatically through God’s intervention. Whereas in the separation in detachment, the Supreme Lord remains a neutral observer in His role as the Supersoul, in separation in attachment He takes an active role. This means that He shows more love towards the devotee. More love from the all-compassionate Lord means a better situation. Sita’s longing showed that she could never forget Rama. In the same way Rama never forgets her, and the fearless servant Shri Hanuman never forgets either of them.
With knowledge of Him be inundated,
So that eventually to be separated.
Illogical seems this path,
Why hope for painful aftermath?
In bhakti separation in attachment,
Unlike forgetting God, with detachment.
From Sita Devi supreme devotion see,
And how never without love she can be.
Hanuman of God thinking in way the same,
Ecstasy from hearing only the name.