“When the women opened up the veils to see the brides, they realized the meaning to their eyes, making their births successful.” (Janaki Mangala, 188)
nāri uhārū ughāri dulahininha dēkhahiṁ |
naina lāhu lahi janama saphala kari lēkhahiṁ ||
How do we make this life successful? We are destined to die, and previously we lived elsewhere. This is the basic definition of reincarnation, and even within this lifetime we see that there is past and present, with a singular animating force within the local body that transcends the different periods of time. We have this one life right now, so what is our true purpose? How do we make this journey successful? Goswami Tulsidas says that it’s as easy as removing a veil. This was literally true for several queens many thousands of years ago, and it is figuratively true for all others. When the veil of ignorance gets removed and one sees with the eyes of shastra, they get the sweetest vision on which to contemplate. A single glance in the proper mood fulfills the human birth, making it saphala, or fruitful.
Who are we? What are we made of? Each aspect of the body contains so many atoms. We could say that we’re a collection of chemicals. Those chemicals get grouped into five distinct elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. These elements constitute all the bodies we see around us. Some living creatures have more fire than water, and some have more air than fire. Therefore not all creatures are the same; there are different species.
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)
The gross elements are those we can see, and beyond the vision are the three subtle elements: mind, intelligence and ego. Intelligence is finer than the mind, and the ego is finer than the intelligence. Finer than the finest is the spirit soul. This soul is who we are. We are not anything else. The ego can change. When we identify with the gross elements that temporarily surround the soul, our ego is false. When we identify as spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, our ego is no longer false.
Even when our ego is real once again, we still have these elements around us. With this covering of the body we get the senses. We can see, smell, taste, touch and hear. So what are we supposed to do with these abilities? Should we eat anything and everything? Should we eat as much as we want? Should we smell nice perfumes only? Should we see beautiful people of the opposite sex? Should we hear our praises and shun those who criticize us?
There are generally two choices. One is to enjoy as much as possible. This is bhoga. The opposite is tyaga, or renunciation. When I’ve enjoyed too much or when I don’t like what I’ve tried to enjoy, I decide to shut off the senses.
“I just won’t eat anything. I’m sick of getting fat. I’ll close my eyes so I don’t have to see the tragedies around us. I’ll never touch anyone ever again, for they only cause me trouble.”
The superior choice is dovetailing the senses and the sense-acquiring objects with service to God. When this is done, we get the true meaning to the senses. In the above referenced verse, Goswami Tulsidas makes one of his favorite comparisons. He says that in devotional service, one realizes the meaning to having eyes. Not surprisingly, the incident that elicits this comparison relates to seeing the Supreme Lord’s closest associates in a loving mood.
Here there are three queens in Ayodhya looking at the four new brides who have come to their new home. These brides are from Janakpur, and they recently got married to the four sons of the king of Ayodhya. The queens, the mothers to the four sons, felt so happy when they gazed upon their new daughters-in-law. They removed the veils on the wives, for typically the married women wore veils. As part of the welcoming ceremony, the mothers were allowed to look behind the veils. They got to see the faces of the beautiful brides. In so doing, they received meaning to their eyes.
Their lives became successful because of their emotions from such an interaction. They had pure love for these women, who are goddesses of fortune. Sita Devi, the wife of the eldest prince Rama, is the goddess of fortune herself. Rama’s three younger brothers are partial expansions of the Supreme Lord, so their wives are also goddesses of fortune.
We are born into the darkness of ignorance. As proof of this fact, we automatically identify with the temporary body, which is nothing more than a collection of the five gross and three subtle elements of material nature. The veil gets removed through the instructions of those who follow in the mood of the queens of Ayodhya. One who loves God can teach others how to love Him. They give the knowledge necessary to derive the true meaning to the Vedic literature, the most comprehensive of all works describing the science of self-realization.
When internally purified, the living entity can see with the eyes of shastra. They can see the influence of the Divine everywhere. With their eyes now opened, they are free to love God all the time. Thus they make their life successful. They understand that all of their senses are meant to be used in service to God, and through such a path all the senses take on their true meaning. The living entity itself, who is a spirit soul at the core, realizes their actual position: servant of God, meant to always be in love.
On the new brides their eyes set,
Fruit of their birth thus to get.
Vision from veils removing,
Most of their senses using.
Though covered with gross elements five,
Divine consciousness soul still can revive.
With love the Supreme Lord just see,
Serve Him so that happy always to be.