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Making the Most

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 13, 2010

Sita and Rama “Thus I was given to Rama at the time of the svayamvara (self-choice ceremony). And ever since then, I have been devoted to my beloved husband, the foremost of those possessing strength.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.54)

Herein Sita Devi concludes her narration of the story of her marriage with Lord Rama. Most importantly, we should take note that Sita was indeed thrilled to get Rama as a husband. This isn’t surprising since Rama was loved and adored by all. The story of His marriage with Sita was known throughout the world at the time. It was for this very reason that the venerable Anasuya asked Sita to tell the story in her own words. In her conclusion to the story, Sita made sure to inform the great female sage that her receiving of Rama as a husband was certainly a great benediction, and that she made sure not to let such an opportunity go to waste. Sita Devi openly declared that she had been devoted to Rama ever since their marriage.

Mother Yashoda with Krishna and Balarama In any good marriage, the husband and wife will often poke fun at each other. The husband complains to his friends and family about how the wife nags him all the time or makes him do things that he doesn’t want to do. A wife is often jokingly referred to as the “ball and chain” since she restricts the carefree lifestyle that the husband was accustomed to in his youth. On the other side, a good wife views her husband as being somewhat foolish and helpless. This is actually a good trait since it is similar to how mothers view their children. A good mother nurtures the child throughout life, giving guidance and protection under all circumstances, even if the child is hesitant to accept such love. This is how Mother Yashoda treated Lord Krishna when He was a child growing up in Vrindavana.

“My dear, the glory of Your family, please come back with Your younger brother Krishna immediately. You have been engaged in playing since morning, and You must be very tired. Please come back and take Your lunch at home. Your father Nandaraja is waiting for You. He has to eat, so You must come back so that he can eat.” (Mother Yashoda addressing Balarama, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 11)

This attitude is required of a good mother. The reason for this is that if the mother thought the child was competent enough to be independent, she would have no reason to offer her love. The same scenario applies to wives. A good wife is always there to support her husband, whom she views as helpless and in need of her guidance. In public situations, this love manifests itself in peculiar ways. When a husband and wife are around others, it is quite common for the wife to poke fun at the husband. “Oh, he is so lazy. He doesn’t help me at all. I don’t know how I manage things.” A smart husband will usually bear such insults because he knows they are spoken out of love.

Sita and Rama's marriage As typical as these scenarios are, they didn’t exist in the marriage of Sita Devi and Lord Rama. Lord Rama was an incarnation of Krishna who appeared on earth many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya. He was a valiant prince, loved and adored by all. Coinciding with His appearance was that of Goddess Lakshmi. In the spiritual world, God doesn’t reside alone, but rather in the company of His devotees. His topmost devotees are His eternal consorts, known as His pleasure potency, hladini-shakti. In God’s four-handed form of Lord Narayana, His consort is Lakshmiji, also known as the goddess of fortune. During Rama’s time, Lakshmi appeared in the form of Sita Devi. When she was a small child, she was given the name Sita by her father Maharaja Janaka of Mithila. Janaka found her one day while ploughing a field. Taking her in his arms and declaring that she was now his daughter, he treated her as his most valued possession. Since it is the duty of every father to marry off his daughter to an appropriate boy, Janaka decided to hold a svayamvara, or self-choice ceremony, to decide Sita’s nuptials. The contest was very simple: whoever could lift Lord Shiva’s bow would win Sita’s hand in marriage. The outcome of the contest was pre-ordained, but nevertheless, many kings came to Mithila to try to raise the bow. All of them failed except for Lord Rama. After lifting, stringing, and breaking the bow in the twinkling of an eye, Rama was garlanded the victor by Sita.

Aside from being Rama’s wife and an incarnation of Lakshmi, Sita was a pure devotee of God. That was her trademark characteristic. She was quiet, kind, dedicated to dharma, and chaste, but she was best known for her unflinching devotion to Rama. This is the point she wanted to convey to Anasuya during their conversation. Receiving Rama as a husband is the greatest boon any woman could ask for. Yet we notice that Sita didn’t state that Rama gave her pleasure throughout their marriage, though this was undoubtedly true. She didn’t say that they had been happily married ever since. No, Sita wasn’t selfish in this way. Actually, she would be excused if she did think along these lines. It is typical for any person in a relationship to analyze things in terms of their own self-interest. This is how we usually evaluate our friendships and intimate relationships. “How is such and such person making me feel? Am I happy? Do they love me as much as I love them?”

Sita Devi We can see from Sita’s statements that this wasn’t how she analyzed her marriage with Rama. Rather, she only thought of serving Him in thought, word, and deed. This is how pure devotional service works. It is human nature to initially seek out God for some personal benefit.

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

Approaching God in these ways certainly isn’t bad. It shows a much higher level of intelligence than those people who think of themselves as the doers or those who don’t believe in God at all. Still, pure love means doing everything for the object of your love without expecting anything in return. Just as a mother gives pure service to her child without wanting anything in return, a pure devotee serves God regardless of the circumstance.

Sita Devi What is ironic is that by loving God in this manner, one automatically reaps other benefits. Rama means one who gives pleasure to others. This means that anyone who is intimately associated with Him automatically is bestowed with the highest pleasure. This happiness isn’t of the material variety either. Sense gratification brings temporary feelings of happiness but transcendental pleasure brings the highest bliss. Sita Devi knew this, so she felt no need to tell Anasuya about how happy Rama made her. Sita made the most of the wonderful opportunity of getting Rama as a husband. This is the point she wanted to convey to Anasuya.

“In this age of Kali there is no other religious principle than the chanting of the holy name, which is the essence of all Vedic hymns. This is the purport of all scriptures.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.74)

The Lord doesn’t personally incarnate in human form all the time. He reserves the right to appear wherever, whenever, and in whatever form He chooses. In this age of Kali, the Lord has kindly appeared in the form of His holy name. His name is found in many prayers, hymns, and mantras. In the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, He appears in the names of Krishna and Rama, and Sita Devi appears in the word Hare. Any person can chant this mantra regularly and enjoy direction association with the divine couple.

Hare Krishna The Lord’s names are found not only in great mantras, but also in the Vedic scriptures. Famous books such as the Ramayana, Bhagavad-gita, and Shrimad Bhagavatam detail the wonderful pastimes of the Lord during His various appearances on earth. Reading and hearing these pastimes is another way to have direction association with God. This opportunity should not go to waste. The goal of human life is to fix ourselves up to the point where one day we too can openly declare that we associated with God, and that we were devoted to Him ever since. This was the path taken by Sita Devi, and for this she is worthy of eternal love and respect.

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Two For One

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 11, 2010

Lakshmana “And my father personally gave to Lakshmana for his wife, my younger sister, the beautiful and chaste Urmila.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.53)

Sita Devi is Goddess Lakshmi herself and Lord Rama is a primary incarnation of Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As such, those who are intimately associated with the divine couple automatically acquire all good personal characteristics and good fortune. One needn’t strive for material perfection, for Sita and Rama will provide for all the necessities of a pure devotee.

Sita and Rama There may be different names for God based on the time and circumstance of His appearance or the specific activities He performs, but the Vedas tell us that God’s original name is Krishna, derived from His all-attractive, two-handed form. Contrary to the prevailing opinion, the Supreme Absolute Truth is not formless. Though He can take many different forms, He has an original spiritual body which is full of bliss and knowledge, sach-chid-ananda-vigraha. This vigraha, or body, is real and not temporary nor fake. Everything in this material world is temporary. Some people take everything to be false, brahma satyam jagan mithya. It may be a point of semantics, but since everything in this world is created, maintained, and then ultimately destroyed, material nature cannot be accurately classified as fake or false. Since everything in nature is temporary and subject to the laws of maya, some people think that God and His various incarnations appear on earth in temporary bodies composed of material elements.

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

Lord Krishna Lord Krishna, the Supreme Authority and orator of the Bhagavad-gita, unequivocally states that only the unintelligent think in this manner. All the great Vaishnava authorities agree that Krishna never appears on earth in a material body. In the Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas, even Lord Shiva makes an emphatic point about this very issue while discussing with his wife, Parvati, the pastimes of Lord Rama.

God’s original and complete feature is that of Bhagavan, which means one who possesses all fortunes. Only God can lay claim to being the richest, wisest, most famous, strongest, most renounced, and most beautiful person in the world. He possesses these features to the fullest degree and at the same time. The word Krishna itself has various meanings, with one of them meaning “all-attractive”. Though photography didn’t exist during the time of the Lord’s advent some five thousand years ago, the authoritative scriptures give us very clear descriptions as to the Lord’s facial features and exquisite beauty. Thus when we see paintings and pictures of the Lord, we get a glimpse into just how attractive He is. Aside from the basic descriptions, we have evidence of His attractiveness based on how He charmed the cowherd girls of Vrindavana. All the gopis wanted Krishna as their husband. Even in adulthood, the Lord accepted so many wives, more than anyone can fathom. In today’s world, maintaining one wife is a difficult job by itself, but Krishna easily maintained more than 16,000 wives during His reign in Dvaraka.

The non-devotees like to criticize Krishna on this fact, saying that He acted lustily by accepting so many wives. They fail to understand that the Lord is atmarama, meaning one who is self-satisfied. He is in need of nothing. Yet during His time on earth, so many women prayed to have Krishna as their husband. As pure devotees, the Lord granted their requests. Accepting so many wives was the Lord’s mercy.

As Bhagavan, the Lord possesses all opulences. In a similar manner, those people who are intimately connected with Bhagavan, the pure devotees, are described as bhagavata. There is a book bhagavata, the Shrimad Bhagavatam, but a person can be a bhagavata as well. From bhagavata, we get bhagavata-dharma, which means the occupational duty of the bhagavatas, or the devotees. Since God possesses all good qualities, those who serve Him in a loving way are showered with benedictions and opulences. In this respect, the bhagavata and Bhagavan are the same.

“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 6.30)

Radha Krishna Lord Krishna’s wives were all expansions of the goddess of fortune. In the spiritual world, God likes to enjoy, so His immediate expansions serve as His pleasure potency. This energy is known as hladini-shakti. Depending on the specific form of God, this energy also takes a different form. Based on the conclusions of the Vaishnava authorities, the original goddess of fortune is Shrimati Radharani, who is Lord Krishna’s eternal consort. Her immediate expansion is that of Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Narayana’s consort. When Krishna incarnated as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago, Lakshmi also came to earth in the form of Sita Devi. As the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi bestows benedictions upon her devotees and to the devotees of Krishna. Since Sita was a pure devotee of Rama, she was the ideal bhagavata, and thus Sita and Rama can be considered as one.

As part of His pastimes on earth, Lord Rama lifted the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva at the great sacrifice held by Maharaja Janaka, the King of Mithila. Sita was Janaka’s daughter. The story of the marriage of Sita and Rama was very famous throughout the world even during Lord Rama’s time. In the above referenced statement, Sita is giving a summary of the story to the great female sage Anasuya. Rama, His younger brother, Lakshmana, and Sita had stopped at the hermitage of Anasuya and her husband Atri Rishi. Anasuya was very eager to hear firsthand from Sita the story of her marriage.

Janaka was not Sita’s biological father, for Sita didn’t appear from the womb of any mother. He actually found her one day in a field that he intended to plough. From the moment Janaka held her in his arms, he knew that Sita was meant to be his daughter. When she reached the appropriate age, Janaka was torn about trying to get her married. Since he didn’t know her family lineage, it would be impossible to find a suitable husband based on horoscopes. Add to the equation the fact that Sita Devi was a perfect woman, daughter, and person in every respect, we can see why Janaka was hesitant to marry her off. Nevertheless, Janaka decided to hold a contest to see if anyone could lift Lord Shiva’s bow which was given to him on a previous occasion. Many a prince came and gave a valiant effort, but only Rama could lift the bow. This was destiny after all, for no one except God Himself would be a suitable husband for Sita Devi. Janaka was so thrilled to get Rama as a son-in-law that he gave away his other daughter, Urmila, to Lakshmana.

Rama and Lakshmana eating Rama had three younger brothers, but He was closest with Lakshmana.

“Shatrughna, endued with cleverness, is your helper. Sumitra’s son (Lakshmana) is well known as My best friend. We four worthy sons of that foremost of monarchs will keep him established in truth, O Bharata. Let not your mind despond.” (Lord Rama speaking to Bharata, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 107.19)

Straight from the time of their childhood, Lakshmana was inseparable from Rama. He wouldn’t sleep or even eat his meals unless Rama was with him. Such pure devotion never goes to waste. According to the shastras, Lakshmana was an incarnation of Lord Ananta Shesha Naga, the serpent with unlimited hoods who serves as the resting place for Lord Narayana on the planet of Shvetadvipa. Almost equal in potency to God Himself, Lakshmana’s trademark characteristic was his pure devotion to Rama. Generally, people that are somewhat intelligent seek out the three rewards in material life: artha (economic development), kama (sense gratification), and dharma (religiosity). These three things are gained through pleasing the demigods. People wanting money and good fortune pray to Goddess Lakshmi to grant them all their wishes. Yet from the example of Lakshmana, we can see that Lakshmiji automatically supplies good fortune to the devotees.

Sita and family watching Rama lift the bow Lakshmana’s only dharma in life was to serve Rama. As a small reward for this service, he received the beautiful and chaste Urmila for a wife. The Ramayana doesn’t give too much detail about the character of Urmila, but from Sita’s statements, we can understand that she was a perfect wife. Sita Devi is an authority on devotion and character, so if she praises someone, we can understand that the person must be truly special. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Sita’s sister had a good character. After all, both Sita and her sister were raised by the well-respected Janaka and his wife Sunayana.

The lesson here is that devotional service always reaps benefits, which sometimes come unexpectedly. We don’t need to strive for material perfections since God and His eternal consort will provide us whatever we need to execute our prescribed duties.

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The Descending Process

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 10, 2010

Lord Krishna "My dear Lord, a person who has received a little favor from You can understand You very quickly. But those who are trying to understand You by the ascending process may go on speculating for millions of years and still never understand You." (Lord Brahma, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.14.29)

In Vedic culture, every activity is performed with knowledge and respect for the shastras, or scriptures, and authority figures. The highest authority figures in life are the parents and the guru, or spiritual master. Just as a citizen must obey the laws of the state in order to live in freedom, a person must abide by the directions of pious parents and spiritual guides in order to be successful in life.

Mother Yashoda with Krishna Parents are nature’s gift to us. They serve as our immediate family, loving us no matter what. They also serve as our initial teachers, guiding us through the early years. When a child is first born, it is completely helpless. If not for the constant attention given by the mother, a child surely would not survive. For the first year or so, a baby can survive simply off the milk supplied freely by the mother.

“Mother Yashoda took her son on her lap and pushed the nipples of her breasts into His mouth. And while Krishna was sucking the milk, she was smiling, enjoying the beauty of her child’s face.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 9)

A father also plays an important role by providing protection and guidance. For most people, their historical perspective begins from the day they were born. Therefore, it is easy to forget that our parents are much older than us and that their knowledge far exceeds ours. It takes a lifetime of pain and suffering, happiness and distress, and highs and lows to gain a proper understanding on the true nature of things. There are two primary ways of acquiring knowledge. Through the ascending process, we can make certain hypotheses and then carry out actions to see if these guesses hold true or not. Through experience, trial and error, we can come to certain conclusions. This is definitely a valid way to acquire knowledge. A much easier way, however, is to learn by the descending process. This method involves less time and hassle because all it requires is for one to hear knowledge from an authority figure.

King Dasharatha with his family For example, in our youth, we may not understand that fire is hot. This ignorance can lead us to putting our hands in fire, which will immediately cause a burn. Still, we might not realize that all fire has this property of heat, so we may try putting our hand in fire over and over again. Since every living entity has varying levels of intelligence, for some people, it may take getting burned two or three times before they realize that fire is hot enough to cause intense pain. In the end, the proper knowledge is acquired, but at a cost of time and pain to our hand. This same knowledge could have been acquired simply by listening to an authority figure such as one of our parents. “Don’t touch that fire. It will burn you!” If we heed this advice and take it at face value, our knowledge on the matter will be perfect.

Of course it is the nature of a child to be rebellious from time to time. This is unfortunate as it is greatly beneficial to have the knowledge and wisdom available to us from our elderly family members. Knowledge of day-to-day affairs is one thing, but the real purpose of human life is to learn about the soul and its constitutional position. This was described elaborately over five thousand years ago by God Himself, Lord Shri Krishna.

“The Supreme Lord said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.” (Bhagavad-gita, 9.1)

Lord Krishna Unlike with the example of how we learn about the heat properties of fire, knowledge about Krishna, or God, can only be acquired through the descending process. The reason for this is that the human brain is simply not capable of fully understanding God. Knowledge of the Absolute Truth must be acquired by hearing from a realized soul. The bona fide spiritual master, or guru, is the authority figure when it comes to understanding Lord Krishna. The guru hasn’t concocted any ideas about religion, for he simply heard the truth from his spiritual master, who in turn heard it from his guru, and so forth. Thus we can climb the chain of succession all the way up until we reach the original source: Lord Krishna Himself.

“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bg. 4.1)

In our youth, the parents are to be treated as our first devas, or gods, followed by the gurudeva, or the spiritual master, later on in life. The authority of the spiritual master is important because the guru is the person who gives us our second and more important birth. In the varnashrama-dharma system, the brahmanas are referred to as dvija, meaning twice-born. The first birth is the one we take from our parents. This is certainly important, but that alone doesn’t make us any smarter than the animals. The true potency of the human form of body can be realized only when we take initiation from a bona fide spiritual master. Initiation is usually associated with a formal ceremony where one is invested with a sacred thread and given diksha by the guru. This ceremony is certainly important, but initiation really signals the beginning of spiritual life. The student sincerely agrees to pursue a spiritual education under the guidance of the spiritual master.

"The worship of My devotees is better than worship of Me.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.19.21)

Hanuman, a great devotee, was the spiritual master of Goswami Tulsidas The spiritual master is the pure devotee of God, so simply by pleasing Him, we can attain perfection in life. In the traditional Vedic system, all important activities are conducted under the advice and consent of the parents and the spiritual master. This holds true especially with the issue of marriage.

Due the effects of Kali Yuga, marriage today primarily signals the codification of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. Men and women freely intermingle today, so their natural attraction for each other leads to the boyfriend/girlfriend paradigm. Depending on age, time, and circumstances, couples may or may not decide to eventually get married. If they decide in favor of getting married, the marriage is merely a formality, since nothing really changes in the relationship. For this reason, many times the actual wedding ceremony is performed in an informal setting and in the absence of the parents.

This may be the way of the world today, but it stands in stark contrast to the original institution given to us by God. In the Vedic system, marriage is a completely religious institution, a time in one’s life where they make gradual progress in spiritual understanding. For this reason, marriage is known as the grihastha ashrama. Simply getting married and living a life devoted to sense gratification doesn’t classify one as a grihasthi. This sort of life is grihamedha. To be a true grihasthi, one must consult parents and gurus in the marriage arrangements. In fact, the boy and the girl should have very little say in the matter. The authority figures know the truth, so by following their lead, the marriage can be successful.

Sita Rama This was the example followed Sita Devi and Lord Rama many thousands of years ago. Lord Krishna had descended to earth in human form as Rama, and Lakshmiji had also incarnated as Sita Devi. Sita’s father, King Janaka of Mithila, held a self-choice ceremony for Sita’s marriage. Many kings were invited to try and lift the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva. Sita would marry whoever could lift the bow. As fate would have it, Lord Rama would come and lift the bow, breaking it in half in the process. Since Rama performed this glorious deed, the marriage was all set. Or was it?

“Though being offered to Rama, I was not accepted by Him at the time, for He did not know the opinion of His father Dasharatha, the King of Ayodhya. Thereupon, after inviting my father-in-law, the elderly King Dasharatha, to Mithila and receiving his approval, my father gave me away to Rama, the knower of the self.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.51-52)

From the above referenced statement, we can understand that the marriage wasn’t formalized until Rama first got permission from His father, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like it was necessary. Rama was God Himself, so why did He need permission to do anything? Sita Devi was also of the highest character. In fact, the whole reason behind the self-choice ceremony was that Janaka didn’t think there was any man worthy of Sita’s hand in marriage. He figured that if he held the bow lifting contest, no one would win it, thereby absolving him of the sin of not having married off his daughter.

Sita and Rama's marriage ceremony Lord Rama’s primary characteristic was His adherence to dharma, or religiosity. Protocol called for the consultation of the parents, so that’s what He did. In fact, He and Lakshmana didn’t even arrive in Mithila by their own whims. They were serving their spiritual master, Vishvamitra, in the forest at the time. It was at Vishvamitra’s insistence that Rama even tried to lift the bow. Of course Dasharatha not only agreed to the marriage, but he was quite thrilled as well. Janaka was a very famous king, so everyone in Dasharatha’s family was delighted to welcome him as a new relative.

By following protocol, the Raghu dynasty received the blessed Sita Devi in their family. She is the original goddess of fortune, a perfectly chaste woman. Her defining quality is her devotion to Lord Rama; a devotion which is second to none. She set the standard for devotional service. Both Sita and Rama gave full deference to their parents and teachers. Anytime we follow the traditions set forth by Sita and Rama, we will surely be on the right path.

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Matchmaker

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 8, 2010

Radha Krishna “Those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

In Vedic culture, much is made about the need to get a daughter married off to a suitable boy when she reaches an appropriate age. It is the duty of every father to provide full and complete protection to his daughter. This protection doesn’t just include providing for food, clothing, and shelter. The protection extends throughout the girl’s lifetime. Though the daughter only lives with the father in her youth, it remains his duty to ensure that the girl is protected in married life. On the flip side of this equation, the duties of the father of an unmarried boy aren’t discussed in the same level of detail. Nevertheless, we can always find the answers to any of life’s questions by seeking out Lord Krishna, or God. If an unmarried boy is devoted to Krishna, he will surely be blessed with a suitable wife should he choose to get married.

Marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati In the Vedic system, marriage is an optional institution. The point of human life is to know and love God, and this is achieved through progressing through the four ashramas of life: brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. Married householder life, grihastha, is the second ashrama in this progression. However, if a student is advanced and doesn’t want to get married, he can remain a brahmachari for life. It is considered a great benefit to avoid marriage since sex life is considered the greatest hindrance to the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. Still, most brahmacharis do end up getting married. In these instances, it is the duty of the father of the boy to find a suitable girl. In the Vedic system, the qualities of both the boy and girl are matched up by expert brahmanas. At the time of a person’s birth, the exact alignment of the stars gives an insight into the child’s character, demeanor, and even their future activities. The famous Savitri, daughter of Ashvapati, had the rare option of choosing her own husband. The boy she chose, Satyavana, was a perfect match as far as qualities were concerned; however, he was destined to die within a year of their marriage. This was known to the great Narada Muni, an expert brahmana in his own right.

So there are many factors that go into marriage arrangements. Families also do some digging into the potential spouse’s family background. The family lineages are compared, for it is considered a bad thing for the boy and girl to both belong to the same gotra. Even with all this due diligence, there is no guarantee that the marriage will be a successful one. The only way to guarantee success in life is to become Krishna conscious. If a person is a devotee, they can rest assured knowing that things will work out for them in the end.

Prahlada - a devotee born in a demon family Since every living entity in the material world has a body consisting of varying combinations of the three modes of material nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance), it is difficult to accurately tag anyone as undoubtedly belonging to a certain group. Nevertheless, on the highest abstract level, every person can be classified as either an asura or a sura. Asuras are non-devotees, or uncivilized people. Basically anyone who is not a devotee of God can be considered an asura. This is the strict definition, but generally speaking, the term asura is applied to atheists, or those who are enemies of the devotees. The suras are the opposite of asuras. They are devotees, engaging all of their time and effort in bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Suras can be human beings or even demigods. Since every living entity is qualitatively the same as God, sometimes people mistakenly think that God and human beings are equal. We are certainly equal in quality to God, but in quantity we are different. God is great, and we can never be as great as Him. He is known as Ishvara, the Supreme Controller, and we represent one His energies. Though we are part of His superior energy, we are still subject to the control of the laws of nature. We can only become liberated from the entanglement of material life through practice of devotional service.

Loving service to God is also known as bhagavata-dharma. Lord Krishna is Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses all fortunes. Those who serve Him can thus become bhagavata, meaning one who is connected with God. By perfectly executing devotional service, we can become god-like. That is another definition of a sura, a person who is like God. Lord Krishna has an eternal body full of bliss and knowledge. Pure devotees similarly possess bliss and knowledge at all times. This is due to their perfect knowledge of the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Shri Krishna.

A devotee automatically inherits all good qualities without striving for them. These qualities come in handy in any and all situations, including marriages. By default, Lord Krishna is neutral to every living entity.

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)

Lord Krishna This rule makes sense. This beautiful creation acts as a field for the fruitive activities of those who want to imitate God. In this pursuit, the Lord gladly steps aside and allows nature to take its course. Yet He makes an exception for the devotees. The bhaktas have decided they want nothing to do with this material world, for they have no desire for fruitive activity, or karma. Due to their sincere desire to engage in spiritual activity, the Lord takes it upon Himself to ensure success for the devotee. This means that if a boy wants to get married, the Lord will provide the perfect wife. The wife may not be perfect in regards to amorous life, but perfect in the fact that she will enable the husband to make progress in devotional service. Evidence of this can be seen by reviewing the lives of two very famous Vaishnava saints.

A great poet and devotee of Lord Rama appeared in India some four hundred years ago. This poet was Goswami Tulsidas and he is best known for writing the Ramacharitamanasa and the Hanuman Chalisa. Yet these great works may never have been written were it not for the help of his wife, Ratnavali. Tulsidas was married at a very young age, which is quite customary in the Vedic tradition. Being a pure devotee, he was naturally very kind-hearted. This led to him forming a deep attachment to his wife. He was so smitten with his wife that he refused to allow her to go visit her parents’ home. One day however, Ratnavali snuck off to visit her family without telling Tulsidas. The saint couldn’t bear the separation so he travelled through a torrential downpour in the middle of the night until he finally reached her parents’ home. Ratnavali couldn’t believe the extraordinary steps he took to see her. Instead of praising him, she chastised him. She scolded him for not having the same devotion to Lord Rama. This turned out to be the seminal moment in Tulsidas’ life. He immediately took to the renounced order of life, sannyasa, and then began writing poems about Lord Rama.

Shrila Prabhupada Probably the most famous devotee of Lord Krishna in the past five hundred years or so is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Shrila Prabhupada founded the modern day Hare Krishna movement and wrote over fifty books, almost all of which were authored after the swami had reached the age of seventy. Yet the world may never have been blessed with his wonderful teachings were it not for his wife. Prabhupada was also married at a very young age, and though his wife was faithful and devoted, he was not very fond of her. Unhappy in marriage, it was Prabhupada’s father who urged him to take it as a blessing. His father told him that he was very fortunate to not be too attached to his wife. Many years later, when Prabhupada was grappling with the idea of taking sannyasa, it was his wife’s actions that finally gave the swami the impetus to take to the renounced order of life. Prabhupada took sannyasa, and the rest was history.

On the surface, it appears that both Prabhupada and Tulsidas received the short end of the stick when it came to marriage. But in actuality, they were extremely blessed by God. The ways of the Lord are a mystery to everyone. What may seem like a curse can actually turn out to be blessing. This doesn’t mean that God will always give us wives of the contemptuous nature. Many people are blessed to be married to pure devotees who actually perform devotional service alongside the husband. The exact predicaments will vary from person to person, but there is one commonality in all instances. If a person is a pure devotee, God will always give them exactly what they need to be successful in their devotion.

Sita and Rama Just as devotees are matched up with suitable wives, God Himself is always paired with the perfect woman, the goddess of fortune. Krishna is the energetic, and His energy manifests in the form of the goddess of fortune. This energy is referred to as hladini-shakti. Just as Krishna can take many different forms, His pleasure-giving energy also manifests in various forms such as Shrimati Radharani, Sita Devi, Lakshmiji, etc. The goddess of fortune herself appeared in human form as Sita Devi many thousands of years ago in Mithila. Raised as the favorite daughter of King Janaka, Sita’s marriage ceremony was a svayamvara, where kings came and competed for her hand.

“As Rama drew the bow back fully, the force He applied caused the bow to break in half. The sound that resulted was as fierce and frightening as that of a falling thunderbolt. Thereafter, my father, who was truthful to his promise, taking a jar of pure water and lifting it up, prepared to give me away to Rama.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.49-50)

It was decided that whoever would lift and string the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva would win Sita Devi as a wife. Many princes and kings from the around world came to give it a shot, but only Lord Rama, God Himself, succeeded. Just as God is never separated from His devotees, the goddess of fortune is never separated from the Lord. When God appears on earth to enact pastimes, His close associates usually come with Him. Lord Rama was destined to be married to Sita. The actual lifting and breaking of the bow were mere formalities.

Sita declaring Rama the winner All of life’s problems can be solved by seeking out Krishna or His bona fide representative, the spiritual master. This may seem like an overly simplistic truth, but it is completely valid. All the day-to-day problems of life are ancillary. The root of all our problems is our forgotten relationship with the Supreme Lord. If we act to rekindle the spiritual spark inside us, the rest of our problems will slowly disappear. Whatever the devotees need, God will provide. We simply have to love Krishna, have an eagerness to hear about Him, and have an affinity for His name, form, and pastimes.

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The Power of God

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 5, 2010

Lord Rama lifting the bow “Having been well-received by my righteous father, Vishvamitra spoke to him as follows regarding the two brothers, Rama and Lakshmana, both descendants of the Raghu dynasty. ‘These two sons of Dasharatha would like to see the bow. Please show that divine bow to Prince Rama.’ 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, 118.45-48)

We often herald the great feats of strength shown by others. Great bodybuilders, long distance runners, Olympic athletes, magicians, mystics, etc. all enjoy great acclaim and notoriety for their extraordinary feats of strength and skill. Lord Krishna, being God Himself and the original person, possesses all opulences. He is capable of the most extraordinary feats of strength, and unlike mere mortals, He doesn’t require any practice, nutritional supplements, or any other crutches to aid Him. By nature, He is the strongest.

McGwire and Sosa In the sport of baseball, the last twenty years or so saw a rapid increase in the number of home runs hit. Not only were players hitting more home runs collectively, but individual records themselves were being shattered at an alarming pace. In the 1998 season, both Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire broke the single season home run record of sixty-one set by Roger Maris more than thirty years prior. By the end of the season, McGwire ended up with more home runs, but the chase for the record captivated sports fans around the country. Both players were celebrated, and baseball attendance skyrocketed as a result. A few years later, Barry Bonds would end up breaking the career home run record set by Hank Aaron. The career home run record seemed almost impossible to break, for it even took Aaron over twenty seasons of steady home run hitting to set it.

Yet all this record-breaking ended up being for naught as recently it was discovered that the majority of players in baseball during that time were illegally taking banned nutritional supplements such as human-growth-hormone and steroids. Steroids were banned in baseball and other sports a long time ago, but the testing procedures were very lax. For this reason, many players tried steroids and began using them on a regular basis once they saw their home run production increase. More home runs meant higher salaries, so the choice to take steroids became an obvious one. The steroid scandal left an indelible black mark on the sport of baseball. The speculation now is that these same great players – McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and others – might not even make the Hall of Fame since their home run totals are viewed as being artificially inflated.

The steroid scandal sheds light on a larger issue. Not every athlete or person possessing extraordinary strength is a cheater. Nevertheless, even natural strength doesn’t come on its own. Every one of us is born with certain qualities, referred to as gunas in Sanskrit. Even if someone is born strong, they still have to go to a lot of trouble to become experts in their field. Great athletes, performers, and even yogis certainly deserve praise for their efforts, but one should keep in mind that such talent pales in comparison to the powers of God.

Lord Krishna There are many annual awards shows celebrating people in the entertainment, science, and political fields, but there are no awards given to God. He is often overlooked in areas relating to strength. According to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, God is known as Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses six opulences in full and at the same time. Strength is one of these opulences. By possessing these attributes in full, it means that no one can be stronger than God. Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Lord Vishnu is His primary expansion. We get information from Vedic literature that this entire material world, with its millions of universes, was originally created by a single exhalation of Lord Vishnu. He breathes out to create and then breathes everything back in at the time of dissolution. Being subject to the illusory power of maya, we living entities easily forget God’s greatness and strength. For this reason, from time to time He personally comes to earth to remind us of just how strong He is.

When Lord Krishna personally appeared on this planet some five thousand years ago, He performed many wonderful feats during His childhood. These incidents are all documented thoroughly in the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The residents of Vrindavana were amazed by all of Krishna’s wonderful acts. The king of Mathura at the time, Kamsa, was deathly afraid of Krishna since a prophecy had declared that he would be killed by the Lord. The king sent demon after demon to Vrindavana to kill the young Krishna. One by one, Krishna foiled each plot by personally killing the demons.

Of all of Krishna’s great feats, His most celebrated show of strength was His lifting of the mammoth Govardhana Hill. Lord Indra was angry at the residents of Vrindavana for neglecting his sacrifice on one particular occasion. This Indra-puja was skipped at the insistence of Lord Krishna, for He wanted to teach Indra a lesson. Indra, being the lord of heaven, is a demigod entrusted with the power to produce rain. He is also the leader of the demigods whenever they are fighting with the asuras, or demons. For these reasons, Indra tends to get puffed up from time to time, thinking he is even greater than God. This proves without a doubt that worship of the demigods and worship of Krishna are two completely different things. The demigods are highly elevated living entities, servants of Krishna. Though they are advanced, they are still subject to the laws of material nature. Illusion, bewilderment, and false ego are some of the forces that living entities fall prey to. Lord Krishna, on the other hand, is the creator of all material energies, so by definition, He is immune to the effects of these forces.

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill Since the residents ignored his sacrifice, Indra poured down a torrent of rain for seven consecutive days. Lord Krishna, a young child at the time, held up Govardhana Hill by His little finger for the duration of the rainfall, and used the hill as an umbrella to protect the citizens from the rain. Afterwards, Indra was very contrite and offered His respectful obeissances to the Lord.

“Within this material world there are many fools like myself who consider themselves to be the Supreme Lord or the all in all within the universe. You are so merciful that without punishing their offenses, You devise means so that their false prestige is subdued and they can know that You, and none else, are the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Indra, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 27)

God’s pastimes and glories are unlimited, so devotees choose to remember and celebrate the more notable ones. Another famous feat of strength exhibited by God was His lifting and stringing of the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva. Prior to His advent as Krishna, the Lord came to earth as a pious prince by the name of Rama. As the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha, Rama and His three brothers were all great warriors following in the tradition of kshatriya kings known as the Ikshvakus. Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana once accompanied the venerable sage Vishvamitra for a period of time in the forest. Vishvamitra and others sages were living in fear of Rakshasa demons at the time, so they required the protection of expert warriors. Rama and Lakshmana rose to the occasion, and in return for their service, Vishvamitra imparted on them very powerful mantras to be used in combat.

Rama and Lakshmana Unlike today’s warfare which is conducted using nuclear weapons and technologically advanced missiles, fighting during Vedic times was done with bow and arrow. This may seem like a primitive style of fighting, but the weapons actually had extraordinary strength. In the Vedic tradition, every important activity is performed with the aid of mantras, which are collections of important words or phrases that are invoked for a specific purpose. Sound vibrations are so strong that a mantra recited with faith and devotion, and at an appropriate time, will yield extraordinary results. Rama and Lakshmana were so pure and devoted to their guru that simply by chanting a mantra, they could make the arrows shot from their bows have the same strength as that of a nuclear weapon. In fact, many of these arrow-weapons were known by specific names, such as the brahmastra. Each weapon also had a counter weapon that could be invoked by its own mantra. This is how warfare was conducted. Not everyone knew all the mantras, for one had to approach an expert guru and learn the mantra from them after offering humble service. Rama and Lakshmana were the perfect disciples in this regard. Rama was God Himself, and Lakshmana was His pure devotee, so it’s not surprising to see that Vishvamitra was pleased with both of them.

After spending some time together in the forest, Vishvamitra brought the two boys to a great sacrifice held in Mithila. The king of Mithila at the time, Maharaja Janaka, was holding a svayamvara (self-choice ceremony) for his daughter, Sita Devi. Janaka had been given an illustrious bow of Lord Shiva on a previous occasion. This bow was extremely heavy and impossible to lift. Janaka wasn’t Sita’s biological father; he had found her one day while ploughing a field. Not knowing her family lineage, he decided that she was too pure to be married off to any ordinary person. Nevertheless, it was the duty of pious kings to marry off their daughters as soon as they reached an appropriate age. Janaka compromised with himself and decided that Sita could get married but only to whoever could lift Lord Shiva’s bow. Many great princes and kings from around the world came to his kingdom to win Sita’s hand in marriage, but they all failed.

Rama lifting the bow From the above referenced statement of Sita Devi, we see just how easily Lord Rama was able to string and lift the bow. He not only lifted it, but He was able to break it, an act which caused a sound reverberation heard throughout the universe. The breaking of the bow seemed like a great act, but to Rama it was a piece of cake. As Sita herself describes, it all happened in a twinkling of an eye. This is the greatness of God. This wonderful event has been celebrated ever since, for it marked the union of Lord Rama and Sita Devi, the divine couple. Anyone who hears of this great feat with faith and devotion will surely always keep Sita and Rama in their heart.

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My Loss Becomes My Gain

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 2, 2010

Mother Yashoda feeding Krishna “If the devotee offers something to the Lord, it acts for his own interest because whatever a devotee offers the Lord comes back in a quantity a million times greater than what was offered. One does not become a loser by giving to the Lord, but he becomes a gainer by millions of times.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 26)

Even those who are engaged in karmic activity, material life, have the ability to take small steps towards transcendental realization. Service to God isn’t reserved exclusively for those in the renounced order of life. Rather, the Vedas recommend gradual progression through the four ashramas (brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, sannyasa). One should abide by the prescribed duties of their particular order, performing them with detachment, all the while fostering a love for Krishna by performing devotional service. For those in the grihastha ashrama, householder life, one of the best ways to rapidly cultivate spiritual knowledge is to perform sacrifices in the home.

Vasudeva and Devaki praying to Krishna A householder is a family man. His or her duty is to engage in fruitive activity in order that they may support their family members. Karma means fruitive activity, or those actions taken with the desire of receiving fruits. These fruits can take many forms, but for the householder, they generally take the form of artha, or economic development. People spend up to forty hours per week at work so that they can provide food, shelter, and clothing for themselves and their family members. The Vedas don’t shun this lifestyle by any means. This stage of life is known as the grihastha ashrama, meaning it is still intended to be a spiritual institution. An ashrama is usually associated with a religious school or a place where spirituality is discussed and practiced. This means that married people have prescribed duties relating to religion as well. Service to Lord Krishna, or God, is the primary duty of people in any ashrama, but the actual type of service varies based on one’s understanding. The primary requirement for a householder is that they must perform yajna, or sacrifice. To sacrifice something means to voluntarily give up something or perform an activity for the benefit of something or someone else. In the case of yajna, the sacrifice is done for Lord Vishnu, who is Lord Krishna’s primary expansion.

“Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.9)

Lord Krishna For the householder, the items to be sacrificed are the fruits of their labor. This usually means money and food. God is the original proprietor of everything. We may cultivate a field, plant seeds, and tend to the resulting crops, but it is still God who deserves the credit for supplying us food. Plants are also considered life, and the source of life is God. For this reason, any food that we receive is actually a benediction from God. Keeping this in mind, the Vedas recommend that we offer nice food to Lord Krishna as a sacrifice. We offer food to the Lord as a way of giving thanks and also purifying ourselves. Food offered to Krishna’s deity in a sacrifice then becomes prasadam, meaning the Lord’s mercy.

“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.13)

This prasadam is unlike ordinary food, for it is karma free. If we cook food for our own sense gratification, then it is has karma associated with it, good or bad. The same goes for food prepared by others, especially non-devotees. Prasadam is completely spiritual since Lord Krishna has given His glance over it. One who eats prasadam immediately becomes connected with God, which is the ultimate objective in life. Prasadam also illustrates another larger point. Sacrifice means to voluntarily give up something. By giving something up, we become separated from that object, but in the case of prasadam, the opposite is true. We take ordinary food in the mode of goodness (fruits, flowers, grains, milk, water) and offer it to the Lord as a sacrifice. Krishna is so nice that He eats the food, but still leaves all of it for us. The food comes back to us in an augmented form. In mathematics, one minus one equals zero. This is an absolute law, but in the spiritual world, one minus one can equal two or greater. Prasadam is proof of this. We give up ordinary food in sacrifice, and God returns us something of even greater value. Therefore sacrificing for Lord Vishnu means we are gaining, not losing.

Prabhupada distributing prasadam marriage_poster_QO87_l This fact was on full display many thousands of years ago in Maharaja Janaka’s kingdom of Mithila. A famous and pious king, Janaka one day was ploughing a field with the intention of performing a grand sacrifice. During previous ages, all governments were ruled by kshatriya kings. Along with the four ashramas of life, the Vedas also prescribe four societal divisions known as varnas (brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra). The kshatriyas are the warriors and they are responsible for providing protection to the rest of society. Since government exists primarily to provide protection, kshatriyas are the ideal candidates to administer government. Janaka was also a householder, thus the dharmas relating to both his varna and ashrama required him to perform sacrifices. A pious king would also regularly perform sacrifices to propitiate the demigods and the brahmanas of his kingdom.

While ploughing the field, Janaka found a little baby girl coming out of the earth. Holding her in his arms, an immediate bond was formed. Janaka took the girl in as his daughter and named her Sita since she was born of the earth. Janaka and his wife raised Sita to be the perfect woman and devotee. What they didn’t know was that Sita Devi was an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the eternal consort of Lord Narayana, or Vishnu. She appeared on earth to aid Lord Rama, an incarnation of God, in His pastimes. When Sita reached an age appropriate for marriage, Janaka decided to hold a grand sacrifice where kings from around the world would come. Janaka had been given the illustrious bow belonging to Lord Shiva on a previous occasion. He decided that Sita would marry whichever king could lift this extremely heavy bow.

“Seeing that greatest of bows, which had the weight of a mountain, the kings offered their respects to it but then left on account of being unable to lift it. After a long time, this Rama, the highly effulgent descendant of the Raghu dynasty having truth for his prowess, arrived along with His younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra to see the sacrifice. (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.43-44)

Vishvamitra and Lakshmana watching Rama break the bow In the Vedic tradition, every important event occurs as part of a sacrifice, which usually has a fire associated with it. A marriage is performed in the presence of a fire sacrifice, with the actual ceremony taking many hours, sometimes even days. Sita Devi’s svayamvara, or self-choice ceremony, was no different in this respect. Many kings came to try to lift the bow, but also many others came simply to witness the sacrifice. During this time, Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were roaming the forest with the venerable sage Vishvamitra. Janaka, being ever pious, welcomed Vishvamitra with open arms. This is the proper etiquette for any householder. It is considered a great boon for a person to have a brahmana visit their home. Vishvamitra then introduced Rama and Lakshmana to Janaka which led to Rama attempting to lift the bow. Being God Himself, Rama lifted, strung, and broke the bow all in one fell swoop. Thus destiny was fulfilled with the union of Sita and Rama.

By holding the self-choice ceremony, Janaka appeared to be engaging in a material activity. In actuality, he was performing his duties as a father and a king with detachment. Since he didn’t know who Sita’s birth parents were, Janaka actually didn’t want to marry Sita off to anyone. Due to her spotless character, he didn’t think anyone was worthy of her hand in marriage. Nevertheless, as a great king, he knew that he would receive ridicule for not marrying off his daughter. Thus he decided on the bow lifting sacrifice as a compromise, for he didn’t think anyone would be able to lift it. By properly executing his duties as a king, father, and householder, Janaka was rewarded by receiving God as a son-in-law.

This proves without a doubt that sacrifices performed for Lord Vishnu only benefit us in the end. It should also be noted exactly how Rama was brought to the kingdom. Janaka met Rama and subsequently gained Him as a son-in-law only through the help of Vishvamitra, a great sage and devotee of God. The spiritual master, or pure devotee of Krishna, is the via-medium to God. As Krishna’s authorized representative, the devotee blesses those who are worthy of receiving God’s mercy. It took two great devotees, Sita Devi and Vishvamitra Muni, to bring Lord Rama to Janaka’s family.

Sita declaring Rama the winner Now King Janaka was a great transcendentalist and devotee himself. According to the scriptures, there are twelve great authorities on devotional service to Vishnu, and Janaka is one of them. Nevertheless, the king was a strict believer in the power of sacrifice. For people living in this age, it’s not possible to perform all the great yajnas of the past. For this reason, God has recommended only one sacrifice for this age: sankirtana-yajna. Sankirtana is the congregational chanting of the holy names of God. Any person, of any age, in any stage of life, can simply chant “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” and make spiritual progress.

Those in the grihastha ashrama should regularly perform sankirtana-yajna with their family, inviting friends, neighbors, and relatives to join them. If possible, they should also invite sadhus, or great devotees of Lord Krishna, to their homes as often as possible. Saintly people visiting the home means that Lord Krishna will come as well. If the Lord feels welcome in a home, He will stay there forever.

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Praiseworthy

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 29, 2010

Shri Rama Darbar “In one who has unflinching devotional faith in Krishna, all the good qualities of Krishna and the demigods are consistently manifest.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.18.12)

Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, and the female sage Anasuya, mother of Dattatreya and sister of Lord Kapila, had a wonderful conversation many many years ago which is documented in the Ramayana of Valmiki. Lord Rama, an incarnation of God, was passing His time in the forest with His brother, Lakshmana, and His wife, Sita. The group visited various places throughout India, stopping by the hermitages of the great saints.

Sages in the forest These events all took place during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. Man was still generally pious during that time so it was not uncommon to find great sages living in the forests. City life is sufficient for most people since it reinforces a community mentality, where goods and services are easily available. Yet for those seeking higher knowledge, or information of the Absolute Truth, the peace and quiet of the forest is preferable. The highly advanced brahmanas, the priestly class of men, would renounce city life to go live in the forests. Generally the wilderness is reserved for the animal kingdom since man is usually too attached to sense gratification to survive such an austere lifestyle. But the performance of austerities for religious purposes is actually one of the important practices recommended by the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. These austerities are referred to as tapasya, and the sages living in the forest were well accustomed to performing them.

While the sages lived in the forest, contemplating the meaning of life and performing various sacrifices for Lord Vishnu, they would often times receive guests in the form of travelers or pilgrims. This is still the case today as millions of people each year visit the famous tirthas in India. It is beneficial for one to visit these sacred places since saintly people usually reside there. The purpose of the priestly class is not only to perform religious functions for themselves, but to also guide the rest of society on the proper execution of dharma. This human form of life is meant for God realization, thus becoming purely God conscious is the ultimate objective. Man has a natural propensity to sin, thus it is the duty of the saintly class to steer society in the right direction.

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana visiting a sage Lord Rama and His family members were all very pious. Since He was God Himself, Rama was the embodiment of virtue and chivalry. Nevertheless, since He took birth in the kshatriya race, Rama followed standard protocol by taking instruction from brahmanas on all matters. The Vedas declare that the highest reward in life is to have the association of a saintly person. This means that if one is fortunate enough to meet face-to-face with a devotee, they should take full advantage. Rama was well aware of this tenet, so He and His group made sure to visit all the great sages residing in the forest. On one particular occasion, the group stopped at the hermitage of Atri Rishi and his wife Anasuya. At the time, both Sita and Rama were very famous throughout the world. Kings during those times were referred to as the lords of earth. Rama’s father, King Dasharatha, was held in very high regard. Rama actually took birth in the Ikshvaku dynasty. Ikshvaku was the son of Manu, the first man on earth.

“At the time of a great sacrifice performed by Daksha, with affection the very intelligent Varuna gave Devarata an illustrious bow along with quivers which would never run out of arrows. Incapable of being moved on account of its weight, the kings could not even dream of bending the bow. Having obtained the bow, my truthful father first invited all the princes of the world to an assembly of great rulers of men, and spoke to them as such: ‘Whichever man is capable of lifting and string this bow will receive my daughter’s hand in marriage. Of this there is no doubt.’” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.39-42)

When Anasuya welcomed Rama and His family, she immediately struck up a conversation with Sita Devi. This practice is customary even today in social situations, where we see women huddling together and the men separating to go have their own conversations. Anasuya knew all about Sita’s family history but she was nevertheless very eager to hear Sita’s narration of the events surrounding her marriage. The above referenced statement was part of Sita’s telling of the story.

Lakshmi-Narayana Maharaja Janaka, the king of Mithila, one day found a little girl in a field that he was intending to plough. A bond was immediately formed and Janaka decided to take the girl in as his own daughter. He named her Sita since she came out of the ground. Sita Devi was actually an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune and wife of Lord Narayana. According to the Vedas, Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but He has many direct expansions. Lord Narayana is one of the primary expansions, meaning He can be considered to be God. Rama is also an incarnation of Krishna thus He is also taken as God. Therefore Sita Devi is to known as the eternal consort of God. Janaka was unaware of her divinity, but he could still tell that she was something special. Her behavior was perfect in every regard. Though she never attended school, her knowledge of the Vedas was perfect. This shouldn’t be surprising to us. A pure devotee of God naturally acquires all good characteristics and knowledge of the scriptures.

“An advanced devotee situated on the platform of spontaneity is already very expert in shastric instruction, logic and argument.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.153 Purport)

Lord Rama lifting the bow Janaka was in a quandary. He didn’t think there was any man worthy of Sita’s hand in marriage, but he knew it was his duty, as the father, to get her married. As a compromise, Janaka decided to hold a self-choice ceremony (svayamvara), where princes would come and try to lift the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva. A long time back, the great Prajapati Daksha performed an elaborate sacrifice. As a result of the events that occurred relating to this sacrifice, the celestial bow of Lord Shiva was given to Devarata, a great king. This same bow was eventually passed down to King Janaka. Its weight was enormous and no king could dare think of even moving it. Ironically, in her youth Sita Devi was once lifted this very bow without a problem. Knowing all these facts, Janaka decided that Sita would only marry the prince that could lift this great bow. In essence, he was confident that no one would be able to lift it and even if they did, that person would surely have to be a celestial.

Herein we get another glimpse into Sita Devi’s greatness. Every person born in this world has certain attributes based on their guna and karma, or qualities and work. When it comes to marriages in the Vedic tradition, these qualities are compared between boys and girls in order to find a suitable match. From Janaka’s decision, we can understand that the only match for Sita was Lord Rama Himself. Only Rama had the necessary strength to move the bow.

Greatness can be described in many ways. We can praise someone based on their qualities and their different accomplishments. Sita Devi’s greatness can surely be characterized along these lines, but her most outstanding feature is that Lord Rama is the only suitable husband for her. This distinction is reserved for only the purest of devotees. God doesn’t just accept anybody as a wife or intimate associate.

Lord Rama with His devotee Hanuman When we make friends with someone, it is usually because the other person is nice to us or has our best interests at heart. We don’t make friends with people that are mean to us or who envy us. We still may be kind to everyone we meet, but that doesn’t mean we’ll befriend every single person. God is similar in this regard. By default, He views every living entity equally.

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)

The exception to this rule applies to the devotees. The bhaktas love God purely and without any motive. This is the definition of true love. For God to accept us as His friend or life companion there must be an exchange of love. This love may be of different varieties, but the sentiment must be genuine.

Sita, Rama, Lakshmana, and Hanuman God is so great. He is kind, compassion, and very sweet. Rama means one who gives pleasure to others and this was certainly true throughout Lord Rama’s time on earth. As great as Lord Rama is, Sita Devi might even be greater, for she loves the Lord and all His devotees so much. She is the standard bearer for the perfect execution of devotional service.

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A Match Made in Heaven

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 27, 2010

Lord Rama winning Sita's hand in marriage “Knowing me to be one not born of any mother’s womb, the king, after great thought, was unable to find a suitable husband for me. After reflecting thus, this thought occurred to the wise king, ‘I shall hold a svayamvara (self-choice ceremony) for my daughter’s marriage. ’” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.37-38)

In the Vedic tradition, marriages are arranged by the parents of both the bride and groom. Marriage itself is known as the grihastha-ashrama, meaning it is meant to be a spiritual institution. For this reason, the covenant of marriage is not something that should be entered into lightly. Great care must be taken to ensure that the bond will be a lasting one.

For marriage arrangements, the primary instrument used by parents of the Vedic tradition is the horoscope. Today the idea of horoscopes and astrological charts bring justifiable skepticism from the general public, but real astrology has its origin in the Vedas. The original scriptures for mankind come from India and they are referred as the Vedas, which mean knowledge. The primary purpose of the Vedas and religion in general is to give mankind a set of guidelines which can help them fulfill their true destiny in life, that of returning back home, back to Godhead. This earth is not our actual home. All the planets of the solar system and even those of other universes constitute the material creation.

“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.8)

Lord Krishna By rule, anything created must be also be subject to destruction. Thus everything in this world is temporary, including our bodies. However, the spark that illuminates this body, the individual spirit soul, is eternal. The soul has no birth or death but due to association with material qualities, it is currently in an embodied form. The Vedas give us sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man, which is a set of guidelines that will help us break free of the repeated cycle of birth and death. The biggest hindrance towards spiritual perfection is sex life. The highest of material pleasures, sex life can lead to an attachment that keeps us bound to this material world, forcing us to repeatedly take birth, life after life. Marriage was created by God so as to allow us to control our sex desire. If we live a regulated life, free of attachment to fruitive activity (karma), it will be easier for us to think of God.

Since marriage is an institution where regulated sex life is allowed, an unmarried person desirous of sexual activity should enter into it as soon as possible. The current model where men and women freely intermingle is not recommended by the Vedas. God doesn’t want to explicitly punish us in any way, for having to live here is cause for misery by itself. The Lord would much rather help us along in our journey towards self-realization. In the Vedic tradition, parents are required to get their children married as soon as there is any inkling for sex desire. This way other problems such as single-parenthood, sexually transmitted diseases, adultery, etc. are all eliminated. When searching for a suitable husband or wife for their child, parents compare the astrological chart of both their own child and that of the potential spouse. The alignment of the planets at any given time signifies certain characteristics of the people born during such a time. There are auspicious signs and inauspicious signs. Expert brahmanas can predict the future of a young child simply by studying their astrological signs.

“After the birth of a child, the astrologers calculate the moment of the birth and make a horoscope of the child’s future life. Another ceremony takes place after the birth of the child: the family members take baths, cleanse themselves and decorate themselves with ornaments and garlands; then they come before the child and the astrologer to hear of the future life of the child.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 5)

Garga Muni reading Krishna's astrological signs Parents will never agree to a marriage if their child’s astrological signs don’t match those of the potential spouse. It’s not that the characteristics of both children have to be the same, but rather they must be compatible. We see that this formula holds true even in love-marriages. The husband and wife rarely have the same personality type or interests. The husband may be quiet and calm while the wife is very talkative and friendly. Yet these relationships can work since the characteristics of each person match well together.

Krishna and Rukmini tending to a brahmana guest More than anything else, the husband and wife should have the same value system. A marriage is a partnership where both parties are required to work for the same goal. Friction will naturally arise in any relationship, but if there is a dedication to dharma, there is no risk of separation or divorce. The common goal should be that of serving Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A householder has clearly delineated duties as outlined by the shastras. They are to offer as much food as possible to the Lord. The resultant prasadam should then be distributed to as many people as possible. “Feed God and guests”; these are the two simple rules for householders. A husband and wife share in the accumulated spiritual merits, thus it is in both of their interests to stay committed to the path of dharma.

Many thousands of years ago, there was a great king by the name of Janaka who ruled over Mithila. One day while ploughing a field for the purpose of performing an elaborate religious sacrifice, he found a little girl coming out of the ground. He picked her up and immediately accepted her as his daughter. This girl was none other than the goddess of fortune, Lakshmiji. Janaka immediately felt affection for her. He named the girl Sita since she was born of the ground. Being a pious king, Janaka knew that some day he would have to find a suitable husband for Sita. When the time came, he was in a quandary. Knowing that Sita had no parents, he couldn’t find a suitable husband for her. Simply based on her qualities as a person, he knew that there was no ordinary man who was worthy enough to receive her as a wife.

Lord Rama lifting the bow Nevertheless, Janaka knew that he would face much scorn and ridicule if he were to keep Sita from getting married. To allay his fears and mollify potential critics, Janaka decided to hold a svayamvara, or a self-choice ceremony. On a previous occasion, he had been given a bow of Lord Shiva which was impossible to lift. Janaka decided that he would call princes from around the world and that whoever could lift and string the bow would win Sita’s hand in marriage. This satisfied all of Janaka’s conditions, for he knew that no one would be able to lift it. Even if someone could, that person surely would have to be a celestial or a highly advanced soul.

As it turned out, only Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, could lift and string the bow. He not only lifted it, but He broke it in half. This wasn’t surprising since Rama was an incarnation of Lord Krishna, God Himself. The fact that Rama was chosen as Sita’s husband definitively reveals her true identity as God’s wife. As the Lord’s eternal consort, Sita can never have any other husband except God. Most of the world’s major religions give us some conception of God. They tell us that He is great. This is most certainly true, but the Vedas go one step further by enlightening us as to just how great He is. The Vedas tell us that Lord Krishna has thousands of names. Actually the entire list of names is impossible to count since God is all-powerful and all-attractive. Nevertheless, each of the provided names describes a specific personal feature. These names also prove that God is a person. An impersonal spirit can never be classified by different names because something that is impersonal, by definition, must be free of attributes. God has attributes, but they are not of this material world. He is completely spiritual, possessing an eternal body full of bliss and knowledge, sach-chid-ananda-vigraha. A few of Krishna’s names are Shripati, Madhava, and Shridhara. These all reference His eternal bond to Goddess Lakshmi. In Sanskrit, the word for husband is pati, which directly translates to lord or master. Krishna is the lord and master of Lakshmi.

Radha Krishna deities God is known as the energetic, while His eternal consorts serve as His energy. They are considered part of His pleasure potency, hladini-shakti. We living entities are part of the Lord’s marginal energy. While we are elevated in a sense, Sita Devi is at the topmost level since she directly pleases God. For this reason, she is given the same respect as God Himself. Whenever we see pictures of Lord Krishna or His expansions such as Lord Vishnu or Lord Rama, They are always seen with Their pleasure potency expansion. Radha and Krishna, Lakshmi and Narayana, Sita and Rama; these are the deities that are worshiped by Vaishnavas.

Sita and Rama both had specific duties to perform during Their time on earth. One can only imagine how exalted a person Janaka was to have to Sita as a daughter. Through his piety and devotion, he had the wisdom and foresight to figure out how to find just the right husband for Sita Devi. Nothing makes devotees happier than to see Sita and Rama always together. Even though they were separated from each other several times due to the course of events, God actually never lives apart from His devotees.

“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 6.30)

Sita's svayamvara May King Janaka forever be praised for bringing the divine couple together. May the beautiful image of the marriage of Sita and Rama forever be imprinted in our minds.

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A Suitable Husband

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 24, 2010

Radha Krishna “O supreme eternal energy of the Personality of Godhead, O supreme mystic power, O supreme controller of this material world, O goddess, please be kind to us and arrange for our marriage with the son of Nanda Maharaja, Krishna.” (Gopis praying to Goddess Katyayani, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 22)

When a young girl reaches an age suitable for marriage, it is natural for her father to feel apprehension. Fathers generally have great affection for their daughters since it is their duty to provide full protection to the girl in her youth. In the Vedic tradition, when a girl gets married, she is given away to the husband and her family. In essence, she relinquishes ties to her birth parents and creates new ones with her husband’s family. Thus it is imperative for a father to find a husband who will provide complete protection for his daughter.

Mother Yashoda chasing after Krishna In any civilized society, it is seen that the women and children are catered to first. There is even a saying for this, “Women and children first”. This rule applies to emergency situations. If there is a fire or other major emergency relating to life and death, it is the standard etiquette to first ensure the safety of the children and then the women. By nature, women are the fairer sex and also the mothers of society. If we see a family where the children are well behaved and pious, it is to be understood that their mother must have done a good job in raising them. The mother carries the child in the womb for nine months and then looks after the child during the crucial early years. A peaceful society can only come about if there are good parents to guide the children. At the same time, women must be protected; otherwise there will be major problems.

“When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Krishna, the women of the family become corrupt, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrishni, comes unwanted progeny.” (Arjuna speaking to Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.40)

Arjuna If the women in society are not protected, one of the negative consequences is the unnatural rise of illicit sex. In the Vedic definition, there are many categories of sins and various definitions of what activities constitute sin. Nevertheless, there are four primary activities which are considered most sinful. By sins, we mean anything that keeps us bound to the repeated cycle of birth and death; something that keeps us away from the righteous path. Our current life is by no means our first one. The gross material body is temporary. It has a time of creation which we refer to as birth. The body also has a time of destruction which we know as death. Throughout this time, our original identity as spirit soul is unchanged. The soul is eternal, but the body is not. The type of birth we have is determined by our qualities and desires. In a nutshell, if we want to remain in the material world, God lets us do so. A sober person will realize that true happiness can never be achieved through mundane sense gratification. The spiritual realm is our true home. If we have a sincere desire to return back to home, back to Godhead, then God will gladly take us there. In this regard, sinful activity is anything which keeps us from achieving the ultimate perfection of life, that of becoming God conscious.

“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 12.6-7)

Marriage ceremony of Sita and Rama The four biggest impediments to spiritual advancement are meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex. Of these four, illicit sex is the biggest obstacle since sex represents the highest form of material sense gratification. For this reason, illicit sex should be avoided at all costs. Sex desire naturally exists, so it doesn’t have to be completely eliminated, but rather it should be controlled. Regulated sex life is allowed through the institution of marriage. In novels and cinema, marriage is depicted as an institution of romantic love, but in actuality it is a completely religious institution, aimed at providing spiritual enlightenment. In the Vedic system, a person’s life should be divided into four stages. These stages are called ashramas since they are meant to provide gradual spiritual enlightenment. Married life is the second time period, known as the grihastha-ashrama. If people are married as soon as they have any inkling for sex desire, there is no question of illicit sex. Today, however, this situation doesn’t hold true. Men and women have the independence to freely intermingle. While on the surface this may seem like a good thing, its major pitfall is that illicit sex becomes rampant.

Sex desire is especially strong in men. The idea of men wanting to “sow their wild oats” is not just a myth. Sex desire is very strong and it is also very hard to satisfy. In today’s world, it is quite common to see men jumping from one sex partner to another. In many instances, a person is lauded for his ability to “score” with girls. These “ladies men” actually cheat other women since all they are looking for is sex. A man meets a woman and then tries his best to woo her into having sex with him. After having sex, the man feels no obligation to ever talk to the woman again. If the woman should accidentally get pregnant, she is left to beg for child support or money from the government to help her raise her child. This type of behavior isn’t even seen in the animal society. Animals have no care for decorum or rules of propriety. They will have sex with pretty much anyone and everyone. Nevertheless, we still see that the male animals will often take care of their consorts should the female get pregnant.

The human society is supposed to be a civilized one. We have a much higher level of intelligence than the animals. This heightened brain power should be used to cultivate spiritual knowledge. In Sanskrit, the scriptures are referred to as the shastras, meaning that which governs. It is man’s duty to act in a regulated manner; otherwise he is no different than the animals.

“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 6.16)

It is quite common to see that those who are expert in scoring with women are also expert in lying. Great politicians have become notorious for their philandering ways. This shouldn’t be surprising. These same politicians are experts at lying to their constituents and cheating others out of their hard earned money. It makes sense that they would have no respect for their wives or the women they use for sex.

Janaka finding Sita Fathers are men after all. They know better than anybody else just how vulnerable unmarried women are. This underscores the importance of finding a suitable husband for the daughter and getting her married as soon as possible. This was the situation presented before Maharaja Janaka of Mithila many thousands of years ago. Through his good fortune, he found a young girl one day while ploughing a field. The girl was none other than the goddess of fortune herself, Lakshmiji, appearing on earth in human form. Janaka immediately took the girl in as his daughter and named her Sita since she was born of the earth.

“After seeing that I had reached an age suitable for giving me away to a proper husband in marriage, my father became overcome with fear and anxiety, like a man who was about to become poor. Even if a father be like Indra himself on this earth, he obtains ill treatment from the people in general, both subordinates and superiors, if he keeps his daughter unmarried. Realizing that this precarious situation was not too far off, the king became lost in an ocean of anxiety and could not cross it, like one who has no raft.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.34-36)

Sita Devi Sita Devi was perfect in every regard. She was actually a devotee all her life. People may have different standards for judging character and for rating another person’s piety, but in the Vedic tradition, those who are pure devotees of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are viewed with the highest respect. Pure devotion to God doesn’t come easily, so those who exude such characteristics should be considered first class. Janaka didn’t know that Sita was Lakshmi, but he still understood just how great a daughter he had. For this reason, he found it very difficult to find a suitable husband for her. He thought to himself, “My daughter is perfect in every regard. I can’t think of anyone who would be a suitable husband for her. She is also my life and soul, and if I lose her, I will have nothing. Nevertheless, if my daughter is of age and still remains unmarried, I will be ridiculed throughout society.” Since the kings belonged to the kshatriya class, it was their duty to provide protection for all the citizens and to also set a good example. Honor and reputation meant everything to the kings. Janaka didn’t think anyone was worthy of marrying Sita, but he resolved to get her married anyway since that would maintain the good reputation of his kingdom and all his ancestors.

Sita and Rama For her marriage, Janaka decided that he would hold a grand ceremony where princes would be called to come and try to lift the bow of Lord Shiva. The bow had been given to Janaka on a previous occasion and it was considered impossible to lift and string. This way, even if no one were to lift the bow, at least Janaka would be saved from ridicule. The result of this plan was that Janaka received Lord Rama as a son-in-law. Lord Krishna had incarnated at the same time as Lakshmi, appearing as the pious prince of Ayodhya named Rama, the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha.

Among many other things, God is the ultimate protector. One who takes shelter of His lotus feet will never have to worry about anything ever again.

"Give up all varieties of religiousness, and just surrender unto Me; and in return I shall protect you from all sinful reactions. Therefore, you have nothing to fear." (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)

Due to his love and affection for Sita, Janaka found the ultimate protector for his daughter. The lesson here is that we should all follow Janaka’s example by leading our dependents towards God. Though it may not be possible to receive Lord Rama as a husband, Lord Krishna in His original form can accept an unlimited number of wives. All women should accept Krishna as their husband, and thus they will always be protected. This was the behavior of the gopis of Vrindavana. As young girls, they visited the temple of Goddess Durga and prayed to have Lord Krishna as their husband. Though they were never formally married, through their personal dealings with the Lord, they had a relationship far more intimate than that of a ordinary marriage.

Radha Krishna Janaka was a great king and great devotee of God. His affection for God and His devotees gave him the intelligence to find the perfect husband for Sita. If we are devoted to God, we can rest assured that we will always find Him wherever we turn.

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A Good Mother

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 21, 2010

Sita Devi “I was then placed under the care of the chief queen, the pious Sunayana. That highly-esteemed lady raised me with the love and affection of a mother.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.33)

In this passage, Sita Devi is describing the circumstances of her birth and how she became the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. Many many thousands of years ago, Janaka ruled over the kingdom of Mithila along with his wife Sunayana. The couple were childless until one day when Janaka found a little baby girl on a field that he intended to plough. The child was none other than the goddess of fortune, Lakshmiji, appearing in human form. Janaka immediately had an attachment to her and decided that he would raise her as his daughter. This was a joyful day not only for Janaka, but also for his wife. It is the dream of every queen to have a nice child to look after and care for. Being gifted with a daughter was a special bonus for Sunayana.

Everybody Loves Raymond scene The mother-daughter relationship is one of the more unique relationship paradigms. Nothing can compare to it, for the mother-son, father-daughter, and even father-son relationships are completely different. It is usually the case that mothers care for their sons by smothering them with love. The famous television sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond illustrates this phenomenon. The mother on show, Marie Barone, has a special fondness for her youngest son, a thirty-something Ray Barone. She takes her motherly duties very seriously. She involves herself in every aspect of her son’s life, making sure that Ray’s wife is serving him properly. Marie also makes sure that everyone in the family is well fed. Though a fictional television series, the episodes mimic the typical mother-son relationships that exist in real life.

The mother-daughter relationship is usually quite different. Girls face unique challenges while growing up, especially physiologically. The mother is there to guide the daughter and deal with any issues that come up. The mother was once a young girl herself, so she can provide better insights in these areas than a father can. A good mother is also a veteran of married life, so she knows how to properly care for young children and how to maintain a happy home. In the Vedic tradition, these duties take on an added importance since the husband generally takes charge of earning money for the family. Women of the Vedic tradition are perfect in every regard. Though they traditionally never received an education, they were by no means unintelligent. Sunayana especially had a firm grasp of the proper duties of a wife. Her topmost trait however, was her devotion to God. Both she and Janaka focused their lives on service to God.

King Janaka and his wife King Janaka belonged to a long line of pious kings, each of whom was also known by the name of Janaka. During his reign in the Treta Yuga, man was pious for the most part. Kings had specific duties they were entrusted with, the foremost of which was the protection of the citizens. Violence is required on certain occasions, and the kshatriya kings were the ones required to use said violence to maintain law and order. In Sanskrit, the scriptures are known as shastra (pronounced shaah-stra), which means “that which governs”. The Vedic scriptures provide great detail in how a kingdom should be governed. It is the duty of the kshatriya king to abide by the shastras, and to also use shastra (pronounced shuss-tra) to punish those who violate the rules of the scriptures.

On the home front, it was the duty of the queen to manage the affairs of the home. While young boys would go off to be trained with a guru, or spiritual master, the girls would stay at home and remain under the care of the parents until they reached an age appropriate for marriage. Sita Devi’s childhood was no different in this regard. Yet just because she was at home, it didn’t mean that she didn’t get an education. As Stia Devi mentios above, she was raised by Sunayana with the tenderness of a mother. This affection was shown in the form of education on proper etiquette and codes of conduct. Brahmanas, or the priestly class of men, would regularly visit Janaka’s kingdom. Not only would they visit, but they would provide counsel on all matters to the royal order. One of the primary areas of concern for any any parent is the proper upbringing of their children. For this reason, brahmanas would be called to come and look at Sita Devi and predict her future. Sita remembered everything the brahmanas would tell her mother. In this sense, she was the perfect devotee, for she had an eager desire to hear Vedic knowledge. Above all other processes, hearing is the most effective way to transmit and take in knowledge about Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Lord Shiva and Mother ParvatiThough this fact may seem controversial in this day and age, the Vedic tradition is that typically the men would learn all about the Vedas by taking instruction from a guru. Women would learn from their parents in their youth and then from their husbands in adulthood. There is no better example of this principle in practice than the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Lord Shiva is known as Mahadeva, or the great demigod. Though classified as a demigod, he is actually sort of in between a demigod and God Himself. He is considered a great Vaishnava, for he spends all his time meditating on the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu, who is God Himself. Parvati is the daughter of the mountain king, Himavat. In her youth, she performed unprecedented levels of austerity for the sole purpose of having Lord Shiva as a husband. Her wish came true and the two have since enjoyed wedded bliss. From reading the Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas, we can see how their relationship is an example of a perfect marriage. One day Lord Shiva decided he would recite the story of the life and pastimes of Lord Rama, Krishna’s incarnation appearing on earth during the Treta Yuga. Mother Parvati took on the role of a disciple, attentively listening to every word from her husband and humbly submitting any questions she had.

This is the behavior of an ideal married couple. The husband makes sure to gain a firm grasp of Vedic knowledge, so that he can then discuss relevant topics with his wife. In this way, the husband and wife forge an eternal bond centered around devotional service to God. Sunayana thus raised Sita Devi to be a perfect devotee, wife, and mother, all by following Vedic traditions. When she reached a suitable age, Sita was married off to Lord Rama in an elaborate ceremony. In marriage, Sita proved to be the most devoted wife and perfect daughter-in-law. There is a common stereotype that a wife and her mother-in-law don’t get along. This sort of makes sense since the wife, in essence, takes over the responsibilities of taking care of the husband. These responsibilities originally belonged to the mother, so naturally there will arise some competition between the wife and mother-in-law in regards to who will better take care of the wife’s husband.

Lord Rama with His brothers and mothers Though this friction is almost always there, it didn’t exist in any sense in the relationship between Sita and Rama’s mothers. Though Rama took birth from the womb of Queen Kausalya, he had two other step-mothers in Sumitra and Kaikeyi. Lord Rama, as kind and sweet as He was, viewed all His mothers equally and never showed favoritism towards any one of them. Sita Devi mimicked Rama’s behavior in this regard.

“One who sees the Supersoul in every living being and equal everywhere does not degrade himself by his mind. Thus he approaches the transcendental destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.29)

Sita Devi’s most important attribute was her pure devotion to God. Since she was Lakshmi herself, she naturally possessed pure devotion as soon as she appeared on earth. Nevertheless, both Janaka and Sunayana raised her properly, telling her to view Rama as her deity. A pure devotee is kind towards everyone, what to speak of family members such as parents and siblings of one’s husband.

King Janaka struck gold the day he found Sita Devi. Since she was God’s wife appearing in human form, Janaka and the queen both treated Sita with the respect she deserved. They raised her to be the most exalted princess, a person we can all look up to as a role model. As the perfect devotee of God, she serves as the guru for the whole world. Janaka and Sunayana had the rare opportunity of having direct association with Sita, and they made the most of it.

Shri Rama Darbar In this day and age, Sita and Rama have incarnated in the forms of Their holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. By constantly chanting these names and committing ourselves to the path of devotional service, we can show the same affection towards Sita Devi that Janaka and Sunayana did. Nothing makes devotees happier than bringing other sincere souls to Krishna consciousness. By humbly serving and respecting the pure devotees of Krishna, we make the Lord happy and thus we achieve the highest perfection of life.

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