“Hearing the words of the vipra, my father brought the bow forward. Bending the bow in the twinkling of an eye and applying string to it, the mighty prince Rama, who was full of valor, quickly drew the bow at full length.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.47-48)Download this episode (right click and save)
The Sanskrit word Bhagavan means an entity who possesses six opulences simultaneously and to the fullest extent. Those opulences are beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation. Since these attributes can only belong to a person, it means that God is not merely some vague energy, devoid of definition. He is more than an abstract. The countless living entities, which includes the human species, are part of the definition that is God, but He is not part of their definition. He is the complete whole, while everything else is but a component.
mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ
na cāhaṁ teṣv avasthitaḥ
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)
The concept of God as a person is more than just theory. There are many historical examples that give more information; tangible proof, if you will. Since He is a person, He can play any role. Also, when He plays those roles He gives the best performance. One such example showing God as a person is the descent of Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. He was the eldest son of King Dasharatha. Later on He became the husband of Sita. Despite what the less intelligent may say, Rama was the best husband any woman could ever ask for.
1. He lifted the heaviest bow in the world to win His wife’s hand.
The Rama avatara appeared on earth during the Treta Yuga, which is the second time period in the cycle of four. Take the entire timeline from when creatures first appeared to when everything gets destroyed. That is one yuga, and then divide that into four and you get smaller yugas. Since Rama appeared a long time ago, the customs and traditions of society were a little different than they are today. The marriages took place mostly on arrangements made by the parents from both sides.
King Janaka of Videha had so much affection for his daughter that he settled on a svayamvara, which means “self-choice ceremony.” Even the kind of svayamvara chosen was unique: a contest. Whoever could lift the amazingly heavy bow passed down in the family for generations would win Sita’s hand in marriage. So many kings tried but failed. With many of them, the scene was like a monkey examining a coconut. This means they had no chance at all.
“Unable to get the desired result, some made an excuse and stayed where they were, while others went to see the bow. Like a monkey examining a coconut, they each sat back down with their heads hanging down.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 11.1)
Rama was at the ceremony too, directed there by the venerable sage Vishvamitra. Janaka gave Rama a turn, and reluctantly so. He was taken by Rama’s beauty and wonderful features. He wanted the son of Dasharatha to win the contest, but there was fear that Rama would fail like the others. The Supreme Lord is known as Achyuta, which means one who never falls down. He lifted the bow with ease, and while applying string to it broke it in half. He proved to the world that only He was the proper husband for the chaste, beautiful, kind, sweet, and pious Sita.
2. He gives sound words of advice.
The Sanskrit word for husband is pati. This word also means “sovereign.” Another word for husband is bharta, which also means maintainer. A real marriage is not about personal enjoyment. There is duty on both sides. The wife serves and the husband protects. This is the ideal system, and if both follow then they advance towards the ultimate goal of God consciousness. Being a sovereign means having responsibility over, which includes providing protection. Part of protection involves giving sound words of advice. One time when Sita was admonishing Rama, she used some of His own words against Him. This meant that she listened to what He said and took that counsel to heart.
“’A woman cannot live without her husband.’ O Rama, verily this was taught to me by You before.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 29.7)
3. He speaks sweetly.
If you’re living with someone, seeing them day after day, it’s only natural to get into arguments every now and then. The saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” exists for a reason. Yet Rama spoke sweetly to Sita, who was deserving of this kind treatment. One time the couple was in the forest, with Rama carrying His bow and arrows. Sita was worried that by having weapons on Him, Rama would be more prone to unnecessary violence. This would violate His own values, which He held very dear.
“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)
Sita presented these words in a shy and polite manner, and Rama accepted them. Rama responded by saying that the sages in the forest had asked for His protection. If He didn’t carry these weapons, they had no defense against the vile aggressors known as the Rakshasas. Another name for a Rakshasa is nishachara. This means one who ranges the night. The Rakshasas would attack at a time when the sages couldn’t even see them. Rama said it was His duty to protect the innocent. Though disagreeing with His wife’s opinion, He still spoke kindly to her. He was touched by her concern and praised her as a sadharma charini, or partner in His dedication to religious duties.
4. He protects His wife’s reputation.
Likely the most common complaint lodged against Rama by the less intelligent is that Rama is mean because He made Sita test her chastity by ascending a pit of fire. The incident occurred after a great war, in which Rama and His side defeated the Rakshasas and their leader Ravana. Rama went to Lanka to rescue Sita, for she had been kidnapped by Ravana. The fiend took her away in secret, afraid to battle Rama fairly.
Sita was in Ravana’s custody for many months, and so any person would wonder if she had given in to his advances. Sita’s word is always enough, but the demoniac in society would question whether or not she spoke the truth. To protect her good name, Rama refused to accept her back at first. She then ascended the fire to prove her purity. This was Rama’s plan all along. Reputation was very important to Sita. She lived up to the good name of her father and father-in-law. Only a loving husband would go to such lengths to protect something so important to his wife.
5. He is won over by her love.
To the “progressive” minded person living in modern society headed towards animal life, the traditional system of marriage in Vedic culture seems unnatural. Why should the woman be forced to act like a servant? Why should the husband get the final say in everything? Isn’t marriage an equal partnership instead of a boss and worker system?
The secret described in the ancient texts and authorized commentaries is that the wife actually wins over the husband, but through subtle means. It is by shyness and kindness that she can get her husband to do things for her. It was similar in Sita’s case, except there were no ill motives. Rama is the Supreme Lord and He is won over by love. Losing in a marriage means sometimes giving in to what the wife asks.
“Seeing the city of Kishkindha, which was formerly protected by Vali, Sita, who was feeling shy out of love, then spoke the following humble words to Rama: ‘O King, I wish to enter Your capital city of Ayodhya with You, accompanied by the beloved wives of Sugriva, headed by Tara, as well as the wives of the other Vanara leaders.’” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 123.23-25)
Rama did not rule the marriage with an iron fist. Thinking of Sita’s protection, Rama asked her to stay at home in Ayodhya for fourteen years. This was after Rama had been banished from the kingdom by His own father. Sita put up such a passionate plea, full of logic and cutting words, that Rama agreed to take her along. Then one time Sita asked Rama to chase after a deer in the forest, to preferably bring it back alive. She asked so nicely that Rama immediately agreed. Another time she asked for their aerial car to stop in Kishkindha and pick up the wives of the leading monkey-warriors, who had helped in rescuing her. Again Rama agreed.
The best husband is the one who enables his wife to remain conscious of God. In this way Rama always succeeds. Though later on He had to renounce Sita to maintain the good reputation of the Raghu dynasty, there was still protection. When Sita lived in the ashrama of Valmiki, she never forgot about her husband. Being the best judge on pious action, Sita did not think that Rama had made a mistake. Rather, she only worried that He would feel separation pain from her. In this way Sita and Rama are the best married couple. They maintain the universe and they are always thinking of the welfare of each other and those who serve them in thought, word and deed, like Shri Hanuman.
If bent towards criticism in mind,
Know that Rama best husband to find.
Gravity-defying bow for wife will lift,
Steady consciousness of Him to gift.
Situation for Sita the fire pit to ascend,
So that proof of chastity to entire world to send.
Won over by love, listening to her so,
Allowing her to forest with Him go.