Saturday, September 13, 2014

Not Ready To Say Goodbye

[Sita and Rama]“Those who sing of the auspicious occasion of the initiation and the wedding of Sita and Rama with excitement get countless auspicious blessings day after day, says Tulsi.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 24.2)

upabīta byāha uchāha jē siya rāma maṅgala gāvahīṁ | 
tulasī sakala kalyāna tē nara nāri anudita pāvahīṁ ||

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The Janaki Mangala is a short collection of verses that tells a story. Though a story, it is a summary, as the details from that one event alone would fill volumes. The original telling comes from the Ramayana of Valmiki, which was authored in Sanskrit. Since then it has been retold countless times, even by one of the main participants herself, Sita Devi. In the original Ramayana she offers her own summary to the wife of a sage. That sage’s wife already knew the story, but she wanted to hear it again. The same sentiment is shared by Tulsidas here, who blesses those who sing and hear of this tale over and over again.

"I have heard, O Sita, that your hand in marriage was won by the renowned Raghava on the occasion of the self-choice ceremony [svayamvara]. O Maithili, I wish to hear that story in detail. Therefore please narrate to me the entire sequence of events as you experienced them." (Anasuya speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.24-25)

[Sita Devi with Anasuya]Perhaps the following has happened to us on more than one occasion. We pick up a book that interests us. We heard about it on television, where the author was interviewed during a promotional tour for the release of the book. We liked them when they were in the public eye, and so since they now have a book out we’re interested in reading it.

It ends up being more than just a basic memoirs that give notes on events in chronological order. Instead, it is like a compelling story, a page-turner if you will. It is difficult to put down. We get emotionally invested in the outcome, where we are attached to the loveable characters and disgusted by the loathsome ones.

As we’re cruising through the book, something dawns on us.

“Hey, if I finish this book too quickly, what am I going to read later on? There’s only so much of this left. I will feel empty afterwards. I will feel alone. I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should read more slowly. I will ration my reading; this way I’ll get to stay in the story longer.”

If we feel this way about an ordinary book with ordinary characters, imagine the attachment that comes from hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the most loveable character. He has beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation to the highest degree. Above that, He is the most merciful person. He is an ocean of mercy, and that ocean flows to those who love Him and are dedicated to spreading His glories throughout the universe.

Those wonderful qualities belong to His closest associates as well. So we wouldn’t blame someone for wanting to ration their hearing of the story of the wedding of Sita and Rama. Rama is God Himself and Sita is His eternal consort. The Supreme Lord can most certainly appear in the manifest world whenever He so chooses. Just because we can’t see Him now doesn’t mean that He doesn’t exist. Indeed, even when He appears in an incarnation form like He did with Rama, He remains hidden from the eyes of the foolish and less intelligent.

nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya
yoga-māyā-samāvṛtaḥ
mūḍho 'yaṁ nābhijānāti
loko mām ajam avyayam

“I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.25)

[Lord Rama]The highly fortunate see Him in all His glory. They record His activities and then pass on that information to others. There are people who didn’t witness the events firsthand. With the marriage of Sita to Rama, only the people in Janakpur directly saw what happened. The celestials from the sky also watched, but all others were shut out. Then there were the festivities in Ayodhya, Rama’s home. The people of Ayodhya warmly welcomed Sita to their home, who arrived there accompanied by Rama and His three younger brothers and their new brides.

From that story you hear of wonderful characters like Janaka. There was no other king like him, and in qualities he could only be matched by Dasharatha from Ayodhya. Thus it was fitting that Janaka’s daughter married Dasharatha’s son. Then you have the guru Vishvamitra, who kindly led Rama to Janakpur to take part in the contest of the bow. You have the devoted younger brother Lakshmana, who is always there to support Rama. You have the loving mothers in Ayodhya, who achieved the fruit of an existence by having motherly affection for Sita.

[Sita and Rama]The verse above is the last one from the Janaki Mangala. Does this mean that the story is over? Does it mean that one has to return to a life devoid of God’s association? To ease the worried mind, Tulsidas says that anyone who sings of these glorious events, Rama’s marriage and His training in the forest with Vishvamitra, gets auspiciousness day after day. This means that you can hear the story over and over again and not get bored. It is an exercise worth trying. The boon is made possible through the Supreme Lord Himself, who is an infallible and inexhaustible being. His name alone carries that potency, and so one can also repeatedly chant the maha-mantra and never have to say goodbye to their beloved Lord of their life-breath: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

When swiftly a book you read,

Story towards ultimate end to lead.

 

But for more you yearn,

Why to life of sadness return?

 

Story of Sita and Rama never to close,

This Goswami Tulsidas knows.

 

With excitement repeatedly sing,

All auspiciousness to you to bring.

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