Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Show It Again

[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 glories of the marriage of Sita and Rama know no end. Hearing about it is not enough. Each word used to describe that sacred event opens up so many avenues for study and discussion. Rama is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form and Sita His eternal consort, so this infinite expansion makes sense. The material world is like the branches coming from the inverted tree whose root is the spiritual sky, the imperishable abode of God in His personal form.

avyakto 'kṣara ity uktas
tam āhuḥ paramāṁ gatim
yaṁ prāpya na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama

“That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.21)

[Vrindavana]The spiritual realm is described as unmanifest in the Bhagavad-gita, the definitive word on Vedanta, the end of all knowledge. Unmanifest to us means unseen. It’s like the air. We know that it’s there, but we can’t see it. We have to perceive the effect it has on manifest objects in order to detect its presence. Since we cannot see the spiritual sky, we think that the “unmanifest” description means that there is a lack of variety there.

But that is actually not the case. The inverted tree that expands to create the material world is compared to a reflection of a tree seen in water. The reflection is not the real object. If you go to reach for the branches within the water, all you’ll get is water; you won’t get the branches. Similarly, the material world is temporary and always changing; so what you see is not completely real. The real thing is in the original object, which is the spiritual world.

Proof that there is tangible form in the spiritual world comes from events like those described in the verse above from the Janaki Mangala. Here we have glorification of a sacred thread investiture and a wedding. These are not ordinary events. The author, Goswami Tulsidas, says that one who sings of these events with great attention and excitement gets auspiciousness coming to them day after day.

The same events in the material world don’t have the same properties. Take this situation for example. You and your husband recently got married. It was a grand occasion. All your friends, close family, and even distant relatives attended. There were so many photographers there that a passerby would have thought a royal family from England was getting married.

[wedding video]After the ceremony, you and your husband moved in together. As is common for newlyweds in their new home, you invite so many guests to come over and visit. One day your good friends from childhood arrive. Due to a scheduling conflict, they couldn’t attend your wedding. When they come over, you play the video recording from your wedding. They enjoy the presentation very much, and they lament the fact that they couldn’t have attended.

Now imagine that a week later you invite them over to your home again. You decide to show them the same wedding video. Will they like this? Would you want to sit through the entire thing again? Maybe in the odd circumstance you’ll both get a kick out of seeing everything again, but once you reach a third or fourth viewing in so short a timespan, you get little enjoyment. There are diminishing returns; everyone will want to watch anything else.

With the marriage of Sita and Rama, the same event can be relived day after day. Goswami Tulsidas gives his blessing that you’ll get all auspiciousness, kalyana, by singing of the event with excitement. A very similar verse appears in the Ramacharitamanasa from the same author. In that book, the verse says that one gets auspiciousness from hearing about the wedding of Sita and Rama. Singing creates hearing, and so the two verses have essentially the same meaning.

[Sita and Rama]And why is there kalyana from repeated singing? There is complexity to the event. You don’t have only Sita and Rama. You have Janaka, Sita’s father. From hearing his name one time, your mind can go into contemplation of his great qualities. You can ponder how he was a detached yogi, expert in mysticism. You can then appreciate how he loved Sita instantly when he found her as a baby one day in the ground. If you get bored with that direction, you can remember how he is considered one of the twelve mahajanas, or great-souls, who are authorities on devotional service to God. Sita appeared as the daughter to such a mahajana, which only further increased his greatness.

Tulsidas mentions Rama’s upabita, or investiture of the sacred thread, along with the wedding to Sita. In the Janaki Mangala, we don’t get any descriptions of Rama being given a sacred thread by any teacher. The sacred thread comes at the time of initiation, and it marks the second birth, the one into Vedic culture, given by the guru, or spiritual master. We do get descriptions of Rama and His younger brother following the guru Vishvamitra into the forest and protecting him from the attacks of wicked night-rangers. This is the upabita that Tulsidas refers to, as it is the training of Rama and Lakshmana by a celebrated sage of the Vedic tradition. Thus one can contemplate on the exact meaning to initiation and the sacred thread. It is more than just a rite of passage. It is more than just a ceremonial function reserved for the higher classes. Upabita actually means something; it relates to specific training.

Rama does not require such training, but He undergoes it anyway to set the proper example. The tests He passed cannot be imitated by anyone, and neither can His marriage. This earth has never seen such a spectacle. Thankfully there needn’t be competition in this area. One can delight in the marriage of Sita and Rama as if it were for their two best friends, for God is the supreme well-wisher. His eternal consort favors those who are dear to Rama, and so by being happy for the beloved couple’s happiness, one is guaranteed to get auspiciousness day after day, as the author promises.

In Closing:

With excitement of event sing,

Then daily auspiciousness to you to bring.

 

Promise by author Tulsidas made,

In whose mind Rama-lila played.

 

Also from Vishvamitra receiving training,

Rama and Lakshmana upabita gaining.

 

Into contemplation of these your mind,

And renewed inspiration in life to find.

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