“It does not behoove you to repair to the forest without taking me along with you. Be it the austerity of an ascetic, the forest or heaven, with you will I be everywhere.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 29)
Most of us don’t like doing things alone. Whether it’s going shopping, dining out at a restaurant, or even watching a movie, we tend to prefer the company of others. We like having other people around with whom we can share our experiences. As the saying goes, “The more the merrier”.
If we find ourselves in situations where we are by ourselves, we try to reach our friends through indirect means such as the telephone, text messaging, or internet chatting. As a last resort, we’ll turn on the radio or television to act as our companion. We don’t like to be alone because it is the constitutional nature of the soul to crave companionship. According to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, living entities are spirit souls at their core, part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Having accepted a material body, the living entity is put into illusion by the powers of maya. In its original form however, the soul enjoys pure bliss from its relationship with God. God and the spirit souls are one and the same and yet different at the same time. God is the master and the souls are His servants. This is the base relationship from which all our others derive. Originally being Krishna’s friend in the spiritual world, we seek out similar relationships in the material world.
Having friends around gives us a feeling of security. When we are out in public, everyone else is a stranger to us; a fact which can cause a sense of fear. Not knowing whether others are our well-wishers or our enemies, we may go into a protective mode. Bringing a friend along allows us the comfort of knowing that someone else is there who has our best interests at heart. Our friends suffer through our pains, and rejoice in our pleasures. At the heart of any good relationship is the equal and free exchange of feelings and ideas. With friends we can share our most intimate feelings and fears. We gain a sense of relief just by having people to talk to and confide in. This is actually at the heart of what makes counseling and therapy so effective. Therapists don’t necessarily solve anyone’s problems, but they provide a means for their patients to open up and express their feelings in a comfortable environment. Friends serve the same purpose, and this is one of the many reasons we like having them around. It’s always nice to have people to share your life experiences with.
Lord Rama, God’s incarnation as a royal prince dedicated to the rules of dharma, lived in the town of Ayodhya many years ago. As the eldest son of the king, Maharaja Dashratha, Rama was preparing to be crowed as the successor to the throne. However, on the day of his coronation, the king changed his mind and decided instead to install Rama’s younger brother Bharata as the new king. In addition, Rama was ordered to leave the kingdom immediately and spend fourteen years as an exile. The Lord’s wife, Sita Devi, did not like the idea of separation from Rama. She was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, who is God’s wife in the spiritual world as well, so she was completely dedicated to her husband’s welfare. In her mind, the order of the king also applied to her since the husband and wife are considered one person in the Vedic tradition. A husband’s duty is to protect the wife, and the wife’s is to serve his every wish. These are the duties of those in the householder order of life known as grhastha.
Sita and Rama were married in the kingdom of Videha, ruled by Sita’s father Maharaja Janaka. Janaka was a great yogi and a very pious man. It was for this reason that he was blessed with the goddess of fortune as a daughter, and God Himself as a son-in-law. Vedic marriage ceremonies are different than the traditional Christian ceremonies that take place today. In addition to being longer, for Vedic marriages, the bride and groom take their vows in the presence of fire. During the couple’s marriage ceremony, Janaka requested Rama to always protect his daughter, and for Sita to always serve Rama and to follow Him like His shadow. Sita Devi, being the perfect woman, daughter, and wife, took her father’s words to heart. The incident of Rama’s exile was her chance to follow through on her father’s request. Lord Rama did not want Sita to come along to the forest. He requested her to remain in the kingdom where should we enjoy the protections afforded to the royal family. Sita vehemently objected to this request. The above referenced statement was made by her as part of a series of arguments directed to Rama in hopes that He would change His mind.
Sita did not want her husband to serve His exile period all by Himself. Rama loved Sita very much, and it was for this reason that He asked her to stay at home. However, just as much as ordinary people don’t like doing things by themselves, she refused to let her husband suffer alone. She told Him that she would be with Him through thick and thin, wherever He would be forced to go. Sita’s reference to the austerities of an ascetic is important in that women generally didn’t perform such austerities. Ascetics, or yogis, perform austerities as a way of controlling their senses, which paves the way for advancement in spiritual realization. Great sages would usually set up camp in the forest because that’s where they could be alone to concentrate their minds on Krishna. The rough conditions of the wilderness didn’t pose a problem to the sages since they were trained to live off very little. Some fruits and roots for food, and a small thatched cottage were enough to sustain their livelihoods. Lord Rama was born and raised as a kshatriya, part of the warrior class. While He was trained in performing austerities, they weren’t of the same variety as those of the brahmanas, the priestly class. By being ordered to live in the woods, Lord Rama would have to take up the same lifestyle as those great sages. Sita Devi was worried about how He would fare, so she wanted to be with Him and make sure that He was living happily. She had made up her mind that if her husband was going to suffer, then she would suffer with Him.
Sita also mentions heaven and how she would be with Lord Rama there as well. In actuality, she is always with the Lord in the spiritual world. God’s original form is that of Vasudeva, or Krishna. He has many expansions also in the spiritual world, and with each form, His pleasure potency is there right by His side. The Lord is almost never worshiped by Himself. The various deities of the Lord, such as Radha-Krishna, Lakshmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, always include His pleasure potency expansion. By saying she would be with her husband even in heaven, Sita was confirming that service to God is an eternal occupation and not just a passing fad. Religion is generally associated with the concept of faith. One’s faith can easily change, for one may be a Christian one day and then convert to a Jew the next. The Vedas have no such conception of this type of faith. The Vedic term for religion is sanatana dharma. Sanatana means that which has no beginning or end, and dharma means occupation or religiosity. So religion really means the eternal occupation of man. Whether in good times or bad, in heaven or hell, dharma should always be adhered to. Real dharma means being a devotee of Krishna.
While life in the forest is considered tough, life in heaven is considered blissful. Going to heaven means “hitting the jackpot” so to speak. People have a tendency to change when they encounter good fortune. People who suddenly come into wealth have trouble handling the situation. It is seen that people who win the lottery often file for bankruptcy soon after collecting their money. Money, wealth, and fame change people and their behavior towards others. Sita Devi wanted to make it clear to her husband and to everyone else, that her dedication to Rama would not change even if He were to come into great wealth and fame. Wherever the Lord would go and whatever predicament He would find Himself in, Sita would suffer or enjoy with Him.
The lesson to be learned from Sita Devi’s statement is that God wants us to be His companion. Lord Rama purposefully asked Sita to remain in the kingdom just so she could prove her devotion, not only to Rama but to future generations as well. While it is difficult for us to maintain and keep all of our friends happy, God has the capacity to keep an infinite amount of friends. In this age, the best method for cultivating one’s relationship with God is the continuous chanting of His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare”. Krishna is omnipresent, so by chanting His name we can always be with Him. We should follow Sita Devi’s lead and make a promise to always be by God’s side. It is the naturally tendency for people to ask things from God, but Sita offered to give Him something, namely her service and devotion. This is the proper method of worship. May the mother of the universe, the all glorious Shrimati Sita Devi, bless us with eternal devotion to the lotus feet of the Lord.
Categories: glories of sita devi