A Vow to Keep

Rama Darbar “He who attributes his virtues to you and holds himself responsible for his sinfulness; who fixes all his hopes on you and loves Rama’s devotees; in his heart dwell, you and Sita.” (Maharishi Valmiki speaking to Lord Rama, Ramacharitamanasa)

The Western style marriage ceremony usually follows the same procedure. There is a grand scene where the parents of the bride and groom-to-be walk down the aisle. Then the best man and maid of honor follow, along with the flower girl. The groom then slowly walks towards the altar, followed finally by the bride who is escorted typically by her father. The related parties all stand at the altar where the wedding ceremony is officially performed by a priest or a Rabi. Wedding rings are exchanged and invariably, in order to make the marriage official, the bride and groom are each asked to repeat several vows which they either personally wrote or that are spelled out for them by the officiating minister. The minister will ask both the bride and groom if they promise to love, honor, cherish, and obey each other for “richer or poorer, and in sickness and in health.” Both parties agree to the request and thus the marriage becomes official. The bride and groom then kiss to celebrate the beginning of their new life.

The wedding vows are important because they symbolize the true meaning of a marriage. Being joined in holy matrimony means that the man and wife merge together to start a new life. We are all individuals at our core, but a marriage revolves around the concept of oneness between two people. According to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, the husband and wife share a common fate in their current life and also in the afterlife.

Modern day wedding ceremony Divorce is the legal definition of a failed marriage, where the two parties agree to a permanent separation. Though the religious definition of marriage has no end, the current practice in society allows for dissolution of the marriage in the eyes of the law. A marriage ends usually due to disagreements and the fact that the husband and wife stop loving each other. Being in a conditioned state means obsessing over the idea of romantic love, but according to Vedic philosophy, this love is actually a perverted form of lust. True love is of the spiritual variety, where one surrenders themselves completely to Krishna, or God. Real love, in a material sense, means wanting more for the object of your love than you want for yourself. In the true definition, one can never fall out of love. However, we see that couples break up due to constant arguing, philandering, or loss of sexual attraction to each other. The “love” that once existed, can disappear in an instant.

Divorce renders the original wedding vows null and void. Both husband and wife agreed to love, honor, and cherish each other until death, no matter what the situation. The vows make no exception for falling out of love, cheating, desiring sex with another partner, or constant arguing and bickering. People sometimes marry simply out of attraction, which is not the original intended purpose of marriage.

Vedic style wedding of Sita and Rama According to the Vedas, we spirit souls are constantly transmigrating through various species in this material world due to our karma. The human form of life is the greatest opportunity for the spirit soul, because only humans have the intelligence to know and understand God. With this understanding, we can come to a stage where we love God, and only through that love can we free ourselves from the perpetual cycle of birth and death. For this reason, Krishna instituted the principles of dharma, or religiosity, at the beginning of creation. Dharma dictates the rules and regulations that should be followed to allow us purify our senses and come to an understanding of God. In the material world, sex desire is the greatest impediment to the cultivation of spiritual understanding, and it is for this reason that God gave us the system of marriage. In the Vedic tradition, a boy and girl should be married at a very young age through an arrangement made by the parents. Through consultation with brahmanas, or the priestly class of men, parents can find suitable matches for their children based on qualities and values. Men and women were never intended to freely intermingle with each other, for this would lead to increased illicit sexual activity, which leads to all sorts of other problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancies, and abortions. Marriage was intended to be a system where sex life could be regulated. The husband and wife should engage in sexual activity only for procreation of Krishna conscious children. By bringing a spirit soul into this world, it becomes the parents’ responsibility to ensure that this birth will be the very last one for the child. If men and women freely engage in illicit sex, then naturally there will be an increase in unwanted births, which leads to the breaking of family traditions, and an increase in atheism.

“When there is increase of unwanted population, a hellish situation is created both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. In such corrupt families, there is no offering of oblations of food and water to the ancestors.” (Arjuna speaking to Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.41)

Lord Krishna and Arjuna If parents aren’t ready to raise a child, naturally the child will suffer and not be given the proper spiritual education while growing up. The Vedic system of marriage requires the husband and wife to perform austerities, known as tapasya, and to serve God together. By living peacefully together and abiding by the regulative principles prescribed by dharma, the husband and wife are sure to make spiritual advancement, which is the whole point of life.

It’s not that all love marriages are bad and all arranged marriages are good. It’s just that the strength of maya, God’s illusory energy, is very strong. Living a life of sense gratification is very dangerous because it can cause one to be perpetually bound up in the cycle of birth and death. Sex desire represents the highest form of sense gratification, so this should always be regulated in a marriage, regardless if it is a love or an arranged marriage.

Lord Rama Lord Rama was a pious prince belonging to the kshatriya race, born in the noble family of the Ikshvakus, many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the Vedas, personally comes to earth from time to time in various forms in order to protect His devotees and reinstitute the principles of dharma. In the Treta Yuga, the second of four time periods of creation, He came in the form of Lord Rama, born as the eldest son of Maharaja Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya at the time. Dashratha was deeply attached to his eldest son, so one day he decided “I will install Rama as the new king. Nothing will make me happier.” However, on the day of the proposed installation, Dashratha was forced to reverse course due to the request of his youngest wife Kaikeyi. On a previous occasion, being pleased with her, the king had granted her any two boons of her choosing. Kaikeyi waited until the time of Rama’s coronation to cash in on those boons. Out of jealousy, she requested that her son Bharata be installed as the new king instead. Dashratha had four sons born to his three wives, with Rama being born to Kausalya and Bharata to Kaikeyi. Fearing Rama’s reaction, Kaikeyi also requested that the Lord be exiled to the forest for fourteen years to live as a recluse. According to Vedic codes of contact, a kshatriya king is to stand by his word no matter what. It was for this reason that Rama gladly accepted these two demands, for He wanted to maintain the honor of His father.

Sita Devi The Lord was married to Sita Devi at the time. In the spiritual world, God is served by His immediate expansion, who is in the form of a woman who is completely dedicated to Him. In Krishna’s form of Lord Narayana, Goddess Lakshmi, also known as the goddess of fortune, serves as His pleasure potency. When God descends to earth, His closest associates come with Him. Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi who played the role of Lord Rama’s wife. The two had been married several years at the time of the proposed exile. After hearing the news, the Lord went back to tell Sita what had happened. He knew that she was very attached to Him and that she would not take well to the news. He requested that she remain in the kingdom for the exile period since life in the forest was meant for wild animals, beasts, and ascetics who had their senses under control. Sita was born and raised in a royal kingdom, so the Lord thought she wouldn’t take very well to such an austere life.

“Do you take me, O Kakutshta, who am poor in spirit, devoted to my husband, ever given to your service, and participating equally in your joy and sorrow.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 29)

Sita, however, was quite insulted at such a request from her husband. After duly lecturing Him on the principles of morality, she reminded Him that she was completely devoted to Him. In essence, she ordered Rama to allow her to accompany Him by reiterating the fact that she was completely devoted to Him and that she shared equally in His joy and sorrow. Here we witness the true greatness of Sita Devi. We hear the flowery language that makes up wedding vows today, but Sita actually personified them. Her husband was the most beloved person in Ayodhya, for all the citizens were eagerly anticipating His coronation. He had every material opulence at His disposal. Still, in an instant, He went from being the richest to the most poor, akin to a homeless person. Sita easily could have remained in the kingdom where she would be protected and enjoy the luxuries of royal life. Instead, she decided to adhere to the vows recited at her wedding. Sita’s father was Maharja Janaka, the king of Mithila. During the marriage ceremony of Sita and Rama, Janaka prayed that Rama would always protect his daughter and that Sita would always follow Rama wherever He went.

Sita and Rama wedding“Take this, my daughter Sita, as your partner in the observance of all duties, and do take her hand and place it by yours. May she always be pious and devoted to you, and always follow you like your own shadow.” (Vm, Bala Kand, Sec 73)

These weren’t just words to Sita. She took them seriously, and she was given the opportunity to prove her devotion when it counted most. She agreed to cherish, honor, and love her husband no matter what, even if He were sent to hell.

Hanuman, a pure devotee of RamaThe lesson we can take away from this is that we should follow Sita’s example and vow to love, honor, cherish, and obey God in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until the day we die. Sometimes we only worship or think of God when it is convenient for us. If we are in a good position materially, we are happy with God, but if we fall on tough times, we forget about Him or become angry with Him. Even if we are cast into bad situations, we should think that God is so favorable to us, for we deserve to suffer even more. Devotees always think along these lines.

Sita easily could have complained or bewailed about the situation. She easily could have thought, “Why me? My life is so awful now that my husband is a recluse.” Yet these thoughts never crossed her mind. She immediately decided in favor of going with the Lord, and she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Lord Rama was so touched by her devotion that He was forced to agree to her request. Following in her footsteps, may we all one day have the same eagerness to serve the Lord.

Categories: glories of sita devi

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