“I shall go to the forest, which is very difficult to overcome and is filled with many deer, monkeys and elephants. Taking Your lotus feet, living in the forest will be very agreeable to me, like residing in my paternal home.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.22)
aham gamiṣyāmi vanam sudurgamam |
mṛga āyutam vānara vāraṇaiḥ yutam |
vane nivatsyāmi yathā pitur gṛhe |
tava eva pādāv upagṛhya sammatā
In modern day American society, when a youth reaches adulthood, he or she is expected to live independently from their mother and father. Being able to survive independently is a sign that a person has successfully grown up in a material sense, and that the parents’ responsibilities to the child have ended.
For most people, moving out of their parents’ house is a cause for celebration. Parents are seen as a drag on one’s social life and seen as a hindrance to sense gratification. Modern day society is hinged around sex life and the free intermingling of men and women. If a man meets a woman while out on the town, bringing her back home to the parents’ house really isn’t an option. Living independently enables one to enjoy sex life freely and openly. Single men who live by themselves are often referred as living in a “bachelor pad”, a haven for sense gratification. Even when living with a spouse, not having the parents around means couples have freedom from the responsibility of having to care for others.
Sita Devi, who was an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago in conjunction with the appearance of Lord Rama. Being the better half of God, she didn’t take birth from a mother or father, but was born out of the earth. The great king, Maharaja Janaka of Mithila, found her one day while ploughing a field.
“As he (Janaka) was ploughing a plain intended for a sacrifice, I rose from under the earth; and (in this sense) I am the daughter of that king. Tending me, with my body covered with dust, Janaka, engaged in throwing handfuls of dust (to level hollow spots), was struck with amazement. Being childless, he took me on his lap from affection and saying, ‘This is my daughter’, conceived affection for me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 118)
Sita was given preferential treatment in Janaka’s kingdom and was provided all the pleasures and protections of the most exalted of princesses. According to Vedic culture, it is very important for a father to find the best possible husband for his daughter. Men and women were not allowed to freely intermingle during Vedic times, thus it was up to the parents to arrange for the marriages of their children. In the case of Sita, Janaka felt that only the strongest and most pious prince would be suitable for her. He had been given the bow of Lord Shiva on a previous occasion, so Janaka decided that whoever would be able to string this most precious of bows would be given Sita’s hand in marriage.
At Sita Devi’s svayamvara ceremony, many princes from around the world came to try to string the bow. The bow was so heavy that no one was even able to lift it. Janaka had his mind made up and if no one would string the bow, then Sita would not marry anyone. Lord Rama, the incarnation of Lord Krishna in the Treta Yuga, at that time was a youth travelling the forest with His brother Lakshmana and their preceptor Vishvamitra Muni. At the insistence of Vishvamitra, Rama attempted to the string the bow. Not only was He able to string it, but Lord Rama broke the bow in half. Sita Devi immediately came and garlanded Him as the victor, signaling the beginning of their relationship.
After being married for several years, Lord Rama was set to be installed as the new king of Ayodhya by His father Maharaja Dashratha. However, on the day of the installation the plans were changed and Rama was instead ordered to live in the forest for the next fourteen years. Sita, upon hearing the news, became gravely distressed. She insisted on accompanying the Lord to the forest and she put forth a series of arguments in hopes of persuading Him.
As part of her plea, she twice mentioned that living in the forest with Rama would make her just as happy as when she was living in her parents’ home. Now forest life is very rigid and not suitable for any queen. In fact, the woods are meant for animals and beasts. Among humans, only the most renounced sages would even dare attempt to live there. Yet Sita equated living in the forest with the most secure and comfortable of abodes. Herein lies the lesson for all of us. When living at home with our parents, we are afforded preferential treatment by being under their protection. Yet, living anywhere in the company of God means we are given the highest form of preferential treatment. It is the greatest honor for any person to be in God’s association, for it does not come easily. God is generally neutral towards most living entities as He states in the Bhagavad-gita:
“No one is envied by Me, neither am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all; yet whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me; and I am a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bg 9.29)
As we can see, God makes an exception for His devotees. If one lovingly chants the Lord’s name, thinks about Him, and offers Him prayers, then that person becomes very dear to the Lord. From that point on, Krishna never leaves that person, and that person never leaves Krishna. Even when Sita was forced to be separated from Rama later on life, she always kept her mind on Him and He always thought of her. Sita Devi was the perfect devotee of Lord Rama, so she was always guaranteed special treatment from Him.