“Devotional service to the Lord is rendered by all limbs or parts of the body. It is the transcendental dynamic force of the spirit soul; therefore a devotee is engaged one hundred percent in the service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.20 Purport)
Love has a tremendous impact on our actions. It makes us feel things we’ve never felt before and compels us to do things we normally wouldn’t do. The power of love is strong and far reaching.
Our affection for children makes us take part in, and enjoy activities, we otherwise wouldn’t think of. Children love to play with toys, to watch animated television shows and movies, and to play in parks. In general, the first five years of a child’s life is spent simply playing. Aside from sleeping and eating, children spend the whole day pursuing fun. Most adults love children very much, especially those they are related to. The children, having pure love in their hearts, enjoy sharing their activities with their parents and adult relatives. Since these activities make the children happy, adults are more than willing to take part in them. The same concept holds true with husbands and wives, and boyfriends and girlfriends. Men will go to great lengths to please their loved ones, from going to operas, to watching romantic movies. Shopping is one of the favorite activities of a woman, and the one most dreaded by a man. Yet when going to a shopping mall, one will find many couples shopping together, usually with the woman leading the man from store to store. Women also suffer through activities that men enjoy, such as watching sporting events and playing video games.
Normally we wouldn’t engage in these activities on our own. We find them to be painstakingly boring, so we avoid them at all costs. Love is the reason that we voluntarily decide to take part and suffer through them. Loving someone means wanting more for the person you love than you want for yourself. Playing with our children and spending quality time with them gives them great pleasure, and that is reason enough for us. We feel happy knowing that they are happy. This satisfaction nullifies any negative feelings or boredom we may suffer as a result. On a more simple level, we just enjoy the company of our loved ones. Being with our husband or wife gives us a feeling of security, knowing that we have someone else who will love us no matter what. That special someone loves us just as much as we love them, so why wouldn’t we want to spend every waking moment with them? It is the natural yearning of the living entity to love and to be loved.
Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared on earth in the form of Lord Rama many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya, India. The Lord loves His devotees very much, and it was to protect them that He personally came. At the time, the evil Rakshasa demon Ravana was gaining sway over all the world, defeating any forces that would come his way. Lord Rama was destined to kill him and to reinstitute the principles of dharma, or religiosity. Along with His appearance, His wife in the spiritual world, Goddess Lakshmi, also came to earth in the form of Sita Devi. The two were married and living happily in the kingdom of Ayodhya, which was ruled by Rama’s father, Maharaja Dashratha. Through an unfortunate series of events, one day Lord Rama was ordered to flee the kingdom and live in the forest as a recluse for fourteen years. Just prior to leaving, the Lord informed Sita of the news and begged her not to follow Him. Sita was the most beautiful, delicate, and fair princess, so the Lord was worried how she would adjust to the rigid conditions of forest life. This concern was very natural, for Rama loved Sita very much. Sita, for her part, was completely dedicated to her husband, and had no desire to live without Him. She insisted on accompanying the Lord and serving the exile period by His side. Living in the forest would mean having to walk barefoot on the grass and shrubs. Sita was born and raised as a princess, so she wouldn’t be accustomed to such a lifestyle. Nevertheless, she tried to mollify her husband’s concern by informing Him that the various thorns on the ground would actually be very pleasing to her.
“When with you, the various thorny grasses, shrubs, thistles, and brambles on the way (Kusha, Kasa, Sara, Ishika), shall be to me in touch like to linen and deerskin.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 29)
Sita’s statement wasn’t one made out of mere sentiment, but one that was rooted in fact and logic. Lord Rama was God Himself, and being with God nullifies all pains. Performing activities out of love for Him, known as the process of bhakti yoga, is completely of the spiritual variety, transcending any material pain or pleasure.
People may find this difficult to comprehend. “Thorns are pointy and will naturally hurt anyone that is pricked by them. How can Sita factually say that these thorns wouldn’t cause her any pain? The only way to nullify the pain caused by the thorns on the ground is to avoid them altogether.” This line of thinking may seem logical, but it represents a limited spiritual understanding, part of the belief that negation of activities is the only means of achieving peace in this world. The Buddhists and Mayavadis generally prescribe to this theory. Buddhists believe in negating all material activities and desires until they can reach the point of nirvana, where everything becomes zero. Mayavadis, the impersonalist Vedic philosophers, believe in a similar concept, except the end goal being the merging of the soul into Brahman, or God’s impersonal effulgence.
The actual fact of the matter is that desires can never be removed. As long as a person is alive, he must desire something. The Vaishnavas, the followers of Lord Vishnu or Krishna, believe that we must learn to purify our desires instead of running away from them. We don’t have to give up our activities, but instead, we need to dovetail them with service to the Lord. By following this path, we can turn normal activities such as singing, dancing, reading, and eating, into spiritual activities. Singing and dancing to songs about Krishna, reading the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Mahabharata, and preparing and offering food to the Lord, are all completely spiritual activities. An observer may wonder how something so simple as cooking can be a form of yoga, but in actuality it is. A devotee acts simply for the benefit of the Lord, out of pure love.
Sita Devi was put into a very distressful situation due to Dashratha’s order of exile and Rama’s request that she remain in the kingdom. One suffering such pain easily could have chosen the path of renunciation. She could have decided to detach herself from the marriage and shield herself from future pain. Instead, Sita remedied the situation by demanding that she come along to the woods to serve the Lord. Serving Krishna is the only way to turn distressful situations into pleasant ones. The prickly thorns of the forest were no match for Sita Devi, whose mind was completely focused on the lotus feet of Lord Rama. In a similar manner, this material world is full of thorns, constantly pricking us. The heavy metal music band Metallica has a song called Bleeding Me which contains the following verse:
“This thorn in my side…this thorn in my side is from the tree…this thorn in my side is from the tree I planted…it tears me and I bleed.”
Through fruitive activity, known as karma, we continually plant trees hoping they will sprout and secure us sense gratification in the future. In actuality, karmic activity only yields thorns in the form of the fourfold miseries of life (birth, old age, disease, and death). These thorns constantly prick us birth after birth. The only way to stop the bleeding is to take to the path of devotional service to God. By following Sita Devi’s lead, if we surrender everything to Krishna, we’ll be able to endure any painful situation. Having our minds completely fixed on the Supreme, we’ll ensure that this birth will be our last, for we will return back home after this life, back to Godhead.
Categories: glories of sita devi