“Dwelling in the forest of Dandaka with Rama of immeasurable vigor, I, His lawful wife, was taken away by the evil Rakshasa Ravana.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.30)
vasato daṇḍaka araṇye tasya aham amita ojasaḥ ||
rakṣasā apahṛtā bhāryā rāvaṇena durātmanā |
Here Sita Devi confirms that the Supreme Personality of Godhead has vigor that is beyond measure. This is in the positive direction; the vigor is so great that you can’t quantify it. In the opposite direction, the total absence of a quality can be measured with the term “zero.” “Nothing” also suffices. “Infinity” is when the amount is too great to count, and since God is the all in all, infinity is the only way to describe His glorious attributes.
Sita, the wife of Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form, mentions something else here that seems to pose a contradiction. She tells Hanuman that she was residing in the forest of Dandaka. That is no issue, as God can surely live wherever He desires. He doesn’t require a palatial building. The temple is for the benefit of the worshipers, not the worshiped. He lives both within as the Supersoul and without as the same Supersoul of all creatures. He is in the movement of the blade of grass, the rising of the sun, and the constant onslaught of time.
raso 'ham apsu kaunteya
śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu
“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)
Living in the forest, carrying His immeasurable vigor with Him, Rama failed to protect Sita. At least this is how it looks. Sita says that the evil Rakshasa named Ravana took her away. He perpetrated the iniquitous deed in secret, first luring Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana away with a diversion. The immeasurable vigor seemed to lose to the evil one, duratmana.
The opponent of God views this example as an opportunity to shine the light on other similar defects. We see bad things happen to good people. Some tragedies are so gross that they are unspeakable. We see pain that we can’t imagine in people who seem to be good throughout. Then we see bad people rising to fame and prominence. Where is the vigor of God? Where is His protection?
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.7)
The Bhagavad-gita clears up the confusion. The same Rama, in His original form of Shri Krishna, says that all living entities residing in the material world are struggling. He doesn’t say that only some people suffer only some of the time. He doesn’t qualify the statement by saying that people who deserve to be punished by the laws of nature get their just reward. He doesn’t say that the bad people struggle and the good people don’t.
Everyone has trouble, and it is due to the six senses, which include the mind. In the material existence, the senses are a source of misery. Even in so-called good times, there is fear over the future. There is worry over the inevitable, namely death. Then in so-called bad times there is suffering due to the interactions of the senses with external objects. From both situations we see that no one is prospering.
This does not show a defect in God. In fact, the perpetual cycle of birth and death and the renewed misery that ensues is another indication of the immeasurable vigor belonging to the Supreme Lord. The pain and suffering continue for as long as one desires a material existence. In the spiritual existence, no such suffering exists. The senses and the surrounding nature are used in devotional service, bhakti-yoga. This automatically brings an end to the suffering.
“Sita was with Rama, serving Him in the forest. She is always in devotional service. She does not know any other mentality. How then could she suffer in such a way? The six senses should not have given her trouble. She should not have been made to suffer at the hands of Ravana.”
The suffering here is of a different nature. It is blissful since it brings increased thoughts of the Supreme Lord. The show of weakness from Rama was intentional, as it allowed for other forces to come into play. The bond between Sita and Rama never broke. It never will break, as the devotional consciousness remains regardless of the circumstances.
The apparent lapse in the display of vigor allowed for the indefatigable Shri Hanuman to travel to Lanka to search for Sita. Hanuman is an extension of Rama’s might. Everything he does in devotional service is a credit to Rama. Sita also would not give in to Ravana’s advances. Though the fiend threatened her with death, she refused to give in. Thus she too has immeasurable vigor. This is characteristic of the devotees, who never stop in serving their beloved in thought, word and deed.
Immeasurable vigor in Rama so,
But why weakness in Dandaka to show?
Sita away from His side taking,
Ravana, king who decency forsaking.
To struggle hard each person here,
None spared, even good crippled with fear.
By Rama’s blemish brave Hanuman sent,
And Sita with thoughts of Rama time spent.