“The value of a moment’s association with the devotee of the Lord cannot even be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which are for those who are meant for death.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.13)
According to the Vedas, the highest benediction in life is to have association with the saints. Saints are considered the saviors in this world, rescuing those with whom they come into contact.
The importance of having association with saintly people can be understood by examining our own lives. We are all influenced by our surroundings, and more specifically by the behavior of those around us. Our friends and family play a vital role in molding us and shaping our personalities. One need only look to professional sports to see examples of this. Tiger Woods, the famous golfer, was influenced by his father’s passion for golf. As a young child less than two years of age, Tiger one day, without cajoling, grabbed his father’s golf clubs and began to swing them. Wanting to imitate his father, Tiger took a great interest in the game as a young child and the rest was history. Children are a reflection of their parents, as is commonly believed. This fact is easy to understand since our parents are our first teachers and role models.
The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, declare that saintly people are those who are Krishna, or God conscious. Someone may be very pious, kind-hearted, and devoted to benevolence, but that by itself doesn’t grant them the status of sainthood. We may come in contact with such pious people, but such association won’t benefit us greatly in the long run, since pious deeds by themselves don’t lead one to perfection.
“The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.45)
Pious activity falls in the category of the mode of goodness, which is material and not spiritual. This material world is made up of three gunas, or qualities. They are goodness, passion, and ignorance. Living entities possess these qualities to varying degrees, a fact which accounts for the 8,400,000 different species of life. God is so kind that He takes stock of our qualities and desires and rewards us with a body fit to fulfill those desires. Following scriptural rules and regulations, kindness, and being charitable are all qualities in the mode of goodness; a mode which is considered the highest of the three gunas. The problem with material qualities is that they all have karma associated with it. Karma is fruitive activity or works performed with a desired result in mind. Since even pious people have material desires, they are forced to accept another body after death by taking birth again in the material world. People engaged in the mode of goodness, which is known as sattva-guna, ascend to the heavenly planets after death, but residence there is not permanent. The merits earned by their pious deeds have a shelf life, and upon expiry of those merits, the living entity falls back down to the material world taking birth in a rich aristocratic family or a family which is God conscious.
The Vedas consider Krishna, or God conscious people to be above the three material qualities. Since they are engaged fully in serving the Supreme Lord, the acts of devotees are considered spiritual and on the platform of pure goodness, which is above regular goodness. Outwardly, such people may appear the same as materially pious people. This is because truly saintly people automatically acquire all good qualities as a result of their service to God. Krishna is the supreme pure, thus anyone who constantly associates with Him through devotional service naturally will inherit those pure qualities. Maharishi Valmiki provides a beautiful description on the qualities of a bhakta, or devotee, in a conversation with Lord Rama that appears in the Ramayana of Tulsidas, better known as the Ramacharitamanasa.
“O, Rama, conceiving with pleasure that your company is a heaven to me and your absence a hell. If you do not take me to the forest which I count freed from all evils, surely I shall drink poison and never come under the influence of my enemies.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 30)
Sita Devi was one such saintly person, a pure devotee who appeared on earth many thousands of years ago. Lord Krishna had decided to personally appear on earth in the form of Lord Rama to reinstitute the laws of dharma, or religiosity, and Sita’s appearance coincided with His. In the spiritual world, Goddess Lakshmi is Lord Narayana’s wife, so she decided to incarnate as Sita to perform the same role in the material world. Narayana is one of Krishna’s forms, so He is non-different from God. As part of His pastimes, Lord Rama accepted an order of banishment from the kingdom by His father, Maharaja Dashratha. Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya, was forced to give such an order due to a request made by his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. Rama had no problem with the request, but He knew His wife Sita wouldn’t react well to the situation. After hearing the news from her husband, Sita actually had no problem with the order either since she fully expected to accompany Rama during His exile. The Lord however insisted that she remain in the kingdom and serve the royal family. Sita had no desire to do this, and the above referenced quote makes that clear.
She believed that there was no good reason for the Lord to not take her with Him. She openly declared that she wasn’t afraid of forest life, for she would be by her husband’s side, which meant that life would always be pleasant. This is the mood of a pure devotee. They are completely happy in any condition of life as long as God is with them. As part of her plea to convince her husband to change His mind, Sita declared that she would rather kill herself than remain in the kingdom to serve her enemies. In Sita’s mind, her enemies were those people who came up with the idea of the Lord’s banishment, Kaikeyi and Dashratha. Kaikeyi’s son Bharata, who was also Rama’s younger brother, was set to be installed as the new king instead of Rama and for this reason, Sita viewed both Kaikeyi and Bharata as enemies. In actuality, Dashratha and Bharata were great devotees of the Lord who wanted Rama to be king. In Sita’s mind however, she viewed them as enemies because they directly and indirectly caused harm to the Lord.
Though her assessment may not have been correct, her mindset was exemplary. Being a pure devotee of the Lord, she viewed anyone who was inimical to Rama as an enemy and refused to have association with them. A devotee would rather die than spend time around God’s enemies. No greater enemies of God exist than the atheists. Sita would back up her strong words when she was later kidnapped and imprisoned by the evil Rakshasa demon Ravana. A committed atheist and enemy of Lord Rama, Ravana lustily desired conjugal relations with Sita, but she flat out refused. He made threat after threat, but Sita never feared him, for she was ready to take her own life rather than succumb to such a person. In the end, Rama would save her and kill Ravana. Though it appeared that it was Rama’s arrows that killed Ravana in battle, it was Sita and her devotion to God that were the actual instruments of Ravana’s death. Pure goodness always triumphs over evil.
In today’s world, the prevalence of atheism is rampant, with many declaring there is no God, that God is dead, or that we are all God. Many proudly flaunt their disobedience to the rules and regulations of the scriptures. We should all follow Sita Devi’s lead and refuse to have intimate association with such people, and instead avail ourselves of the dust of the lotus feet of the true saints. Though we may not have the opportunity to meet a pure devotee face to face, we can have a connection with them through reading and hearing. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Goswami Tulsidas, and Vyasadeva are all great saints who have written voluminous literature about Krishna and devotion to Him. One can read their books and immediately develop a friendship with them, for they live eternally through their writings. They are bona-fide spiritual masters who continue to teach to any who are willing to listen. Being blessed with the good fortune of having taken birth in this age of advanced technology, where their works are so easily available to us, we should all make the most of this opportunity. Real saints set the best example that, when followed, prove to be most beneficial to us.
Categories: glories of sita devi