Dust to Dust

 Sita Rama “The dust that will cover me, thrown up by the gush of wind shall be, O ravisher of my heart, regarded by me as the finest sandal dust.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana‘, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 29)

Material nature throws dust in our faces in the form of the obstacles that hamper our desires for sense gratification. In hopes of securing future happiness, we make repeated adjustments to our lifestyle. Yet we find that whatever plan we come up with, material nature finds a way to obstruct our path.

When we are young children growing up, we may plan on or dream of going to college. If we study hard enough, and get good grades, we’ll be accepted to a high class university. Attending a high ranking college will allow us to hopefully have a high paying job in a career that we love. The plans don’t stop there however. Once we land our dream job, we start to want other things like a nice a car and a beautiful wife. In order to satisfy these desires, we make more plans, such as going on a diet, starting an exercise regimen, and cutting back on unnecessary expenditures. If we are lucky enough to get married, get a nice car, and have beautiful children, our desires still don’t stop. New plans are then made to buy a bigger and better television, or maybe new hobbies and activities are taken up.

If we step back for a second and analyze the situation, it’s not difficult to see the inherent problem with all these plans. The hope is that if successfully executed, each plan will result in happiness. What we actually find is that the happiness is very short lived, otherwise we wouldn’t have to keep devising new plans. Success in material ventures is not easy or guaranteed. As soon as we take up a task, the illusory forces of material nature rear their ugly head and put obstacles in our way. For example, we can go on a diet and successfully lose weight, but then we might also become more irritable as a result of being hungry all the time. We can marry the boy or girl of our dreams, but then the familiarity of the relationship can breed contempt, which can then result in divorce. We may have wonderful children that fill our hearts with pure joy, but then those same children cause us to worry constantly about their welfare. We may buy a new state of the art television, but in a few years, a newer, better model will come out that will make our current model look antiquated.

Lord Krishna speaking to Arjuna These are nature’s laws. This material world was created by God so that we living entities could take up the process of sense gratification. God created an illusory energy, known as maya, which clouds the intelligence of all living entities. It is due to maya’s influence that we keep making minor adjustments to our material life in the hope of finding peace of mind. Despite being kicked repeatedly by maya and having dust thrown in our faces, we forget our past experiences, and continue on our futile attempt to gratify our senses. In the Bhagavad-gita, the most sacred of Vedic texts, Lord Krishna, God Himself, tells His disciple and friend Arjuna that we have all had previous lives, the experiences of which we have forgotten. Only God can remember everything relating to past, present, and future.

“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bg. 4.5)

If we were to remember our experiences from previous lives, we would be more likely to realize that our senses can never be truly satisfied. Taking birth here means always lamenting for things we don’t have, and hankering after things that we want. Lord Krishna declares that the only way to stop this incessant hankering and lamenting is for one to elevate their consciousness to the brahma-bhutah platform.

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Bg. 18.54)

Brahma-bhutah refers to the state of mind where one realizes Brahman, or the all pervading energy of the Lord. According to the Vedas, God is realized in three aspects: that of the impersonal Brahman, Paramatma, or the Supersoul, and Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One doesn’t have to renounce material activities in order to reach the brahma-bhutah stage. Instead, one has to dovetail their current activities with the service of the Lord in the process known as bhakti yoga, or devotional service.

Lord Rama When Lord Krishna appeared on earth many thousands of years ago in the form of Lord Rama, He played the role of a perfect prince. Born as the eldest son to the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha, the Lord was loved and adored by all. When Rama had reached an appropriate age, the king decided to install Him as his successor. Dashratha consulted the local brahmanas, or priests, about whether or not this was a good idea. They all gave their blessings, so Dashratha went ahead and made plans to coronate his son. However, on the day set for the installation, his plans would be foiled by his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. The king had previously granted her any two boons of her choosing, and she chose this time to cash them in. She requested her son Bharata, Rama’s younger brother, to be installed as the new king instead of Rama. For her second boon, she asked that Rama be banished to the forest for fourteen years to live as a recluse. Shocked and dismayed by these requests, Dashratha tried his best to get Kaikeyi to change her mind, but it was to no avail. In those times, the kings were dedicated to their word of honor, so there was no question of Dashratha not granting these wishes. Upon hearing the order, Lord Rama willingly obliged, for He was dedicated to His father’s welfare. Before leaving for the forest, the Lord went to tell His wife, Sita Devi. Sita was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi who appeared on earth to serve as the Lord’s husband, a role with which she was quite familiar. Lakshmi is God’s pleasure potency expansion, also acting as God’s wife in the spiritual world. Being completed devoted to her husband, Sita wasn’t so much affected by the sudden change of events, for she intended on serving the exile period with Rama in the forest. The Lord, however, insisted that she remain in the kingdom for the fourteen years. Life in the wilderness is very rigid. People today like to go camping in the woods from time to time as a way to get in touch with nature. However, living there for fourteen years is a completely different story. Lord Rama wanted to protect His wife from all the dangers and discomforts associated with such an austere lifestyle. The bare ground would be filled with thorns that would surely prick Sita’s delicate feet. He didn’t want His wife to suffer any pain on His behalf.

Sita Devi, on the other hand, was quite determined. She didn’t foresee forest life as being austere at all since her life and soul, Rama, would be with her. In the above referenced quote, she declares that the dust from the ground of the wilderness would be most pleasing to her. Such a statement may seem puzzling, since dust from the ground is by nature, unclean. Ordinary dust is very annoying and discomforting to most. However, since Sita would be in the company of God, the dust in the forest would be viewed to be as beautiful and fragrant as the dust produced by the sandalwood tree.

Sita DeviThe lesson to be learned is that making plans to serve God is the only way to achieve real peace. Instead of trying to eliminate our desires by artificial means such as meditational yoga, we should dovetail our work with service to God. By following Lord Rama to the forest, Sita was serving her husband in the most difficult of times. Her plan to follow Him was not of the material variety, for she had no desire to accumulate religious merits. She thought to herself, “My Lord will be in the woods all by Himself. It is my duty to serve Him. It would not be right for me to live in the luxury of this royal kingdom, while He has been cast off. I cannot be happy unless He is happy. If my husband is punished then I must be also be punished. Nothing will stop me from loving my Lord.” This is the attitude that we should all adopt. This material world is a place full of miseries, dukhalayam. Our temporary pains and pleasures result from the repeated miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death. If we commit ourselves to the path of devotional service, maya can never affect us. In this age, the easiest way to practice bhakti yoga is to chant the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. If we faithfully practice bhakti yoga, we will surely be cleansed of the dust of this material world.



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