“O daughter of Janaka, Rama has eyes like lotus petals. He is enchanting to every living entity. He is endowed with beauty and skill since the time of birth.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.8)
rāmaḥ kamala patra akṣaḥ sarva bhūta mano haraḥ |
rūpa dākṣiṇya sampannaḥ prasūto janaka ātmaje ||
The Sanskrit word manohara means “enchants” or “appeals to.” In the common usage the adjective is complimentary, as man has an innate desire to be noticed. Actors take the stage for this very reason. Updates to social media websites have the same cause. One of the meanings to the Sanskrit word pratishtha is “fame.” The more a person is manohara, the more pratishtha they will get. It should make sense, then, that the most famous person would be the most enchanting.
That person is God. There is not a single aspect of His that is not appealing. But how can that be the case, considering that not everyone believes in Him? The staunch atheist defines their existence by their defiance of all things religion.
“God is a figment of the imagination. He is an idea, a concept more than a reality. Believing in God is a way of coping with the inevitable end that is death. Some use religion as a way to feel superior to others, while others cling to it during times of trouble.”
In fact, even in the case of the atheist God is manohara. Atheism itself is simply the inverse of the natural propensity to love God. The strong emotion is there, but imagine if it gets turned around. Sort of like how the image in the mirror is reversed, the living entity still has the tendency to love, but it gets misdirected. In the mirror image, we part our hair to the right side, but to everyone who meets with us, the hair is on the left side.
The material world is a kind of shadow, a reversed reflection of the original realm. The comparison is to the tree. We know that trees have their roots in the ground and then grow upwards. The leaves and branches are above the earth. The material world is a kind of inverted tree, with the roots starting at the top and the growth occurring downwards.
aśvatthaṁ prāhur avyayam
chandāṁsi yasya parṇāni
yas taṁ veda sa veda-vit
“The Blessed Lord said: There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.” (Bhagavad-gita, 15.1)
The aspect of God that is manohara to the atheists is known as maya. This is an illusory energy, something similar to the concept of Satan, but not actually the same. Satan is an equally powerful force that is like an adversary to the pure goodness that is God. Maya is a faithful servant who intentionally bewilders the living entities who take birth in the material world. Maya acts at God’s direction, and she does so magnificently.
Maya is a separate energy that enchants, and then there are also the things directly relating to the Supreme Lord that have the same effect. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman is describing the Supreme Lord Rama to Sita Devi. She is Rama’s wife, both in the earthly realm during the pastimes described in many Vedic texts and also in the eternal spiritual world.
Hanuman confirms that Rama is manohara to every living entity. One way He accomplishes that is through His eyes. They are like the petals of the lotus flower. These are the most beautiful eyes in the world. We get some idea of the beauty through the archa-vigraha, or deity. The deity is crafted according to specifications from shastra, from authorized statements like these from Hanuman. The deity is thus a factual depiction of God’s transcendental features, making it worthy of worship, honor and respect.
Hanuman says that Rama has beauty and skill since birth. The birth here refers to the timeline of events in question, when Rama emerges from the womb of Queen Kausalya in Ayodhya. The distinction is drawn to show that God does not need to acquire any attributes. He has everything at all times. He is God in any form, in any time period. In whatever form He appears, He is beautiful. He always has tremendous skill.
The daughter of Janaka enjoyed hearing these details about her husband, from whom she was separated at the time. The living entities in this world, enchanted by maya for so long, will similarly derive great pleasure hearing more of the details of the manohara Shri Rama. The requirement is that they have a sincere interest to break away from the mundane, the perpetual cycle of attachment and aversion that accompanies a material birth. When the desire to hear is there, benevolent souls like Hanuman arrive to give the delightful news.
As manohara every aspect appealing,
Even maya’s splendor intelligence stealing.
Material world like tree inverted,
Giving reflection of reality perverted.
Reality in Rama, of lotus petal-like eyes,
To protect on natural strength relies.
Everything from time of birth existing,
In God the goodness forever persisting.