Name Calling

Sita Devi “An advanced devotee situated on the platform of spontaneity is already very expert in shastric instruction, logic and argument. When he comes to the point of eternal love for Krishna, no one can deviate him from that position, neither by argument nor by shastric evidence.”  (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.153)

“What thought of you, O Rama, my father the king of Mithila, accepting you as his son-in-law; you who are a man in form but in deeds a woman?” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

In this passage, Sita Devi, the incarnation of the goddess of fortune, is poking fun at her husband, Lord Rama, the incarnation of Lord Krishna who appeared on earth many thousands of years ago. Lord Rama was a very pious prince devoted to the principles of dharma. He had just been ordered by His father, Maharaja Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya, to spend fourteen years in the forest as a hermit, having no access to the kingdom. This came on the heels of Rama’s would-be coronation. Events instead took a different turn and Rama’s younger brother Bharata was chosen to be the new king. Coinciding with that decision, the king was forced to order Rama’s banishment. The Lord, being the ultimate renunciate, had no problem with such an order, for He was dedicated to serving His father and maintaining his good name.

Lord Rama went to inform Sita, and upon hearing the news, she insisted on serving the exile period with her husband. Rama denied her request. He was worried how she would fare in the wilderness where danger would be lurking around every corner. Sita, for her part, refused to give in, and put forth a series of arguments in her favor which were logically sound and supported by the rules of dharma, or religiosity. Lord Rama still wouldn’t budge, so she resorted to the tactics of name-calling and insults.

No one knows how to insult a man better than his wife. A husband and wife share a life together, and thus they have the most intimate knowledge of each other. Such openness leaves each person completely vulnerable since innermost secrets are shared. An affectionate wife is always looking after the welfare of her husband and finding ways to help him. A typical husband is very obstinate to taking any input, for men generally tend to be more stubborn than women. This inevitably leads to clashes, and since the wife’s emotions are stronger, she is more likely to take extreme measures in trying to win arguments. Having intimate knowledge of her husband’s strengths and weaknesses, a wife will hold nothing back when hurling insults. It is all done out of love, for the wife, being the better half, takes it upon herself to make sure her husband is behaving properly. Similar to the way mothers nag their children to do homework and chores, a good wife nags her husband so that he may remain committed to the path of righteousness.

Sita’s insult was a very effective one, for nothing can insult a man more than being called a woman. Just as women are protective of their chastity and beauty, men are very protective of their manhood represented by their strength and ability to protect and defend their loved ones. Men pride themselves on being able to be providers and defenders. The television sitcom Home Improvement centered around this idea of a typical man who loves building things with his hands, working with tools and heavy machinery. The central character in the show, Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, hosted his own television home improvement show where he enjoyed grunting and was always seen wearing his tool belt. He was always getting into accidents when trying to build things. Women, known as the fairer sex, are generally more delicate and nurturing. For a typical man, being compared to a woman is the greatest insult for it strikes against the thing he cherishes most, his manhood.

Lord Rama Lord Rama was no ordinary man either. At the time, the world was besieged by the evil Rakshasa demon Ravana who had amassed great material wealth. Ravana was completely opposed to the rules of dharma, and he would disrupt as many religious sacrifices as he could. It was for this reason that Lord Krishna, God Himself, at the behest of the demigods, appeared on earth. God assumes different roles depending on time and circumstance, and in the form of Lord Rama, He played the role of the perfect husband, son, brother, and king. Everyone in the town of Ayodhya loved Rama, for He was known for His dedication to the welfare of others. From His childhood, the Lord was committed to following the advice of the brahmanas and others worthy of respect, such as his parents. He never swerved from the principles of righteousness for a second.

The Lord was born into the race of kshatriyas, or the warrior class. According to Vedic philosophy, society is to be divided up into four sections based on gunas, or qualities inherently found in each person. The brahmanas are the first class citizens whose duty it is to perform worship of God and disseminate knowledge of Him to the other members of society. The kshatriyas are required to provide protection to the other classes. They are to act as the military and as the government. Lord Rama was trained in the military arts as a youth and was known as the greatest warrior of His time. In fact, just prior to His marriage to Sita, the Lord and His younger brother Lakshmana both ranged the forest with the sage Vishvamitra. Vishvamitra was a pious brahmana who was being harassed by Rakshasas while living in the forest. He provided further training to Rama and Lakshmana in the military arts, teaching them the most powerful of mantras to be used during battle with the enemy. The two brothers showed their mettle by emerging victorious in several battles against the Rakshasas while ranging the forest with Vishvamitra. So in addition to being known for His piety, Lord Rama was famous for His ability to protect and defend others.

Sita Devi Sita, being very keen, was well aware of this. In insulting her husband, she went straight to attacking His strongest traits. She in essence was saying, “How can people call you strong and dedicated to dharma, when you are afraid to take me to the forest? You have nothing to fear by taking me because you are the world’s greatest protector. They say you are a man, but right now you are acting like a woman.” She also made reference to her father, Maharaja Janaka. Janaka was the king of Mithila and was known throughout world for being an expert meditational yogi. The Ramayana hints at his yogic powers, but the Mahabharata gives more details into his abilities. Not like today’s version of yoga, the original hatha yoga system was created as a means to help one become detached from their senses and come into contact with God. Yoga means union with the Supreme, so the various sitting postures and breathing exercises are meant to help one achieve that union. Yet even being the greatest of yogis who had his senses completely under control, Janaka was brought down from his yogic trance when he met Lord Rama. In actuality, getting Rama as a son-in-law was the beginning of Janaka’s real yoga. There is no higher form of meditation than to have direct association with God. This should be a lesson to all of us. The path of bhakti yoga, or devotional service, is always superior to any other kind of yoga, as evidenced by Maharaja Janaka.

Sita’s mentioning of Janaka was another attempt at trying to insult Lord Rama. Rama had the greatest love and respect for Janaka, and Sita knew this. She knew that the Lord would never want to disappoint him or see him unhappy. Sita was basically saying, “I can’t believe my father accepted you as a son-in-law. What was he thinking?” Sita’s insults were a psychological ploy aimed at getting Rama to change His mind and let her come to the forest with Him. “He won’t listen to my logic and reason, so maybe He’ll react to my insults. No man likes to be compared to a woman, so He’ll definitely change His mind now” is what she thought.

Sita and Rama in the forest Sita Devi was a pure devotee of God and her only desire was to serve Him, no matter the time, place, or circumstance. Because of her devotion, she naturally acquired great intelligence in all material areas. She was a great debater and manipulator, and she eventually persuaded Rama to take her. Her manipulative powers were also on full display later on when she, Rama, and Lakshmana were living in the forest. One day, at the insistence of Sita, Lord Rama went chasing after a demon named Maricha, who was in the guise of a deer. The Rakshasa, who was expert in illusion, made a wailing sound in the voice of Lord Rama. Sita, mistaking the sound as coming from her husband, immediately ordered Lakshmana to go and see what had happened. Lord Rama had explicitly told Lakshmana not to leave Sita’s side no matter what. For this reason, Lakshmana was hesitant to listen to Sita. Out of love for her husband, she resorted to yelling and insulting Lakshmana until he finally agreed to leave and see what had happened to Rama.

The lesson to be learned here is that we shouldn’t bother ourselves too much with acquiring great skills in material endeavors. If we sincerely take up the process of devotional service, God will automatically provide us the tools necessary to serve Him. Pure devotees are experts in all walks o life. One great devotee, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, was expert in singing, dancing, writing, lecturing, debating, and even cooking. He needed all these tools in order to serve Krishna by spreading love for Him to others. Prabhupada never sought to excel in any of these areas, but Krishna gave Him the ability to do so. In the same manner, Sita, through her pure devotional service, became the perfect woman, wife, queen, and mother. She would do anything and everything to serve God, and we would be well advised to follow her lead.

Categories: glories of sita devi

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