“Then the king offered prayers to Vashishtha and the other munis. Approaching Vishvamitra’s lotus feet, he offered many prayers.” (Janaki Mangala, 174)
puni basiṣṭha ādika muni bandi mahīpati |
gahi kausika ke pāi kīnha binatī ati ||
A fully joyful man is known to do strange things. From his ecstasy he throws caution to the wind and starts to give thanks to anyone and everyone. Even if he is in a supposedly superior position, he feels so humbled by his good fortune that he offers respects to so many others. This verse from the Janaki Mangala is an instance of such a mannerism, except that the actor is following protocol at the same time. Though he is described as mahipati here, which means “protector of the earth,” he remains humble before others who are known as the godly figures of this earth.
Consider this scene. A man is out of work for a long time. He has not been able to find a job. More than just struggling to pay for his monthly expenses, he feels down as a person. He feels as if he is not valuable to society. Then one day through good fortune he is able to land a job. His brother knows someone who is in charge at a company. They are able to get this unemployed person employment. The newly hired man feels so happy to finally have gotten a job. He is humbled by the process, and feeling very thankful he offers all respects to both his brother and his new boss.
Consider another scene. A man holds his first child in his arms for the first time. After having been married for a few years, his wife finally got pregnant. Both husband and wife were eager to start a family, and they knew the struggles that lay ahead. Nevertheless, the first moment of holding his child made the husband overjoyed. Knowing that he was now in charge of protecting this innocent person instilled a stronger sense of responsibility in him. He is also very appreciative of his wife, who had been in labor for a long time. He offers her so much respect, love and attention. He is so thankful for her presence in his life.
Life is full of similar situations, but nothing can compare to having God enter your life. The term “God” is rather vague, as one can even mistake a basic auspicious occurrence with God’s direct intervention. With King Janaka, there was no vagueness. The Supreme Lord in a visible form appeared in his life. First came the Lord’s eternal consort, Sita Devi. She entered Janaka’s life mysteriously from a field. Janaka then gladly took on the role of father. Through arranging for her marriage, Janaka received Shri Rama as a son-in-law. Rama is Narayana, or the source of men. He is Krishna, or the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is Vishnu, who is all-pervading and opulently adorned, served by many goddesses of fortune simultaneously. He is Janardana, or the maintainer of all living entities. He is the source of the material and spiritual worlds. Everything emanates from Him.
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
In the scene referenced above, Rama is about to return home to Ayodhya. He is taking Sita with Him, for they are married now. Though Janaka is a powerful king, here he offers respectful obeisances to Vashishtha, who is the family priest in Ayodhya. He gives respects by offering prayers to the other munis, or sages, who are there. He then makes a special approach to the lotus feet of Vishvamitra. It was this forest-dwelling sage who was most responsible for Rama entering Janaka’s life. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were serving Vishvamitra in the forest when they were led by the sage to Janaka’s city. If not for the sage’s mercy, Rama would not have appeared at the contest of the bow and won Sita’s hand in marriage.
Simply by his words and his behavior Vishvamitra earned the respect of someone who protected the earth. The sage did not demand that others worship him. He did not tell others that he was their guru. He did not force Janaka to make obeisances. The wise king, who was so thankful to have the greatest gift in the world, Shri Rama in his life, knew who was responsible for his fortune. He was never puffed up by his stature, for he knew that all good things come through the mercy of the devoted souls, who are rare to this world and yet still carry a far-reaching influence.
All objects in the material world are perishable. Brahman, or truth, is the only thing that remains. Narayana is the source of Brahman, so He is ultimately responsible for giving life to anything. In the darkness of ignorance, the conditioned living entity forgets the presence of Narayana. It is the humble sage who kindly awakens the bewildered soul, reminding them of both God’s presence and the eternal relationship as servant to Him. Through this kindness, the demigods of this earth automatically become worshipable, as shown by Janaka. With every utterance of the holy names, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, the magnitude of their mercy increases. By keeping love for Sita and Rama in his heart, Janaka offered the highest respect to Vishvamitra and the other sages associated with the Lord.
Supreme Lord, source of all things,
To contest of the bow with him to bring.
So much in outcome for king invested,
Pleased when competition by Rama was bested.
Shankara’s bow in arm to lift,
Rama in family most precious gift.
All by grace of Vishvamitra sent,
So Janaka towards his feet went.