“Fruits, roots, and leaves which you will bring yourself and give me, be they great or small in quantity, shall be to me like nectar.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 30)
Who doesn’t love getting gifts? Whether it’s the latest video game, or that big screen television we had our eye on, the joy from getting a nice gift from a friend or loved one is one of the best feelings in life. A gift received unexpectedly can brighten our day. It shows that someone else cares about us.
In general, gifts are given on special occasions. Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, baby showers, and holidays like Christmas and Hanukah, are the usual times that gifts are exchanged. Not everyone views gift giving as a pleasurable experience however. To many, holidays and special occasions bring about feelings of anxiety due to the expectation of receiving presents. For anniversaries, husbands and wives toil over the right gift to get their spouse. For the Valentine’s Day holiday, many men become obstinate and refuse to get something for their wife or girlfriend because of the obligation involved.
In one sense, these feelings are justifiable. Gifts given out of obligation or pressure from a loved one are of the lower class variety. It is a much more beneficial and pleasurable experience to buy something for someone out of feelings of love. Loving someone means wanting more for that person than you want for yourself. We love our friends and family so much that we think to ourselves, “Oh, so and so will surely like this. If I buy this for them, it is sure to make them happy. They love me so much, why wouldn’t I want to make them happy?” This type of gift giving is the highest class because it is done simply to bring joy to the other person. It is done without expectation of anything in return.
There are some people to whom the quality of the gift received is very important. These people are generally very attached to their material possessions, and never being satisfied in life, they crave more and more things. When they are given gifts, they evaluate them and take stock against what their current wants are. If the gift isn’t up to par, they won’t hesitate to let the giver know just how rotten the gift is. Most people, however, don’t really care what kind of gifts they receive. The concept of “it’s the thought that counts” holds true in these situations. If something is given out of love, we gladly receive it, even if it is something we have no use for. It is very common for young children to make drawings in school and then give it to their parents as a gift. Since they are young and inexperienced, children often produce drawings that are of very low artistic quality. However, parents cherish these types of gifts because their children give it to them out of pure love. A child’s love is innocent and untainted, which makes the gift even more special.
Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the Vedas, appeared many thousands of years ago on earth in the form of Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. A handsome, well-built, and pious man, Lord Rama brought joy and happiness to all He met. His father was the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha, and Rama was the king’s most precious possession. Thinking himself to be most blessed, the king one day decided it was time to hand over the kingdom to Rama. On the day set for His coronation, Dashratha was forced to change plans due to requests made by his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. Instead of ascending the throne, Lord Rama was ordered to live in the forest as an exile for fourteen years, subsisting on nothing but fruits and roots, and having no claim to the kingdom. Dashratha had made a promise to Kaikeyi many years prior, so he was compelled to follow through on them. Lord Rama knew this, so He gladly accepted the order. God is always dedicated to His devotees, and in Dashratha, the Lord saw great devotion and love, so He committed Himself to maintaining His father’s reputation and good standing in the world.
At the time, Lord Rama was married to Sita Devi, the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. According to information found in the Vedas, there is only one God, but He expands Himself into different forms to manage affairs on different spiritual planets. Lakshmi is one of the Lord’s pleasure potency expansions, for she is always serving the lotus feet of Lord Narayana. Narayana is one of Krishna’s forms, having four hands and living on the causal ocean. When God Himself comes to earth, His closest associates come with Him, and it was for this reason that Sita appeared on earth. She played the role of God’s wife, being completely dedicated to Him. At the time of the proposed exile, Sita and Rama had been enjoying married life for several years. Being the chaste and devoted wife that she was, Sita was devastated not from hearing the news of her husband’s exile, but on hearing her husband’s reaction to it. Lord Rama loved His wife very much and the Vedic injunctions prescribe that man’s duty is to always provide protection to women. In her youth, a girl is to be protected by her father, in adulthood by her husband, and in old age by her eldest son. This system protects women from being exploited by other men. The modern day system of the free intermingling between men and women isn’t approved of by the scriptures.
So Lord Rama, wanting to protect His wife, requested her to remain in the kingdom for the duration of the exile period. The forest was a very dangerous place, where only the wild animals and beasts would live. Amongst humans, only those who had their senses completely under control, the yogis, would ever think of residing in the woods. Many of them were already living there at the time in hermitages they had set up. They were brahmanas, the priestly class of men, so they lived a very meager lifestyle. They concentrated all their efforts on God realization. At the time, there were a great many disturbances in the forest due to the presence of Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were evil demons committed to dastardly activities and who fed off human flesh. Since Rakshasas were committed to atheism, the brahmanas were seen as their biggest threat. Demons are always threatened by godly people, for the saintly class advises people to avoid unrestricted sense gratification. Brahmanas are always worshiping the Supreme Lord, which has a trickle-down effect on the rest of society. If Brahmanas are regularly performing their duties and offering fire sacrifices to the Lord, then the demigods are happy, which in turns makes the rest of society happy. The Rakshasas were committed to chaos and to ruling the world by themselves. They were the greatest enemies of the demigods. By disrupting the sacrifices of the great sages, they were attacking the core of their opposition. This was the main reason for the Lord’s advent. The most powerful Rakshasa at the time, the ten-headed Ravana, was steadily gaining strength and power. All the demigods feared him, for Ravana had secured several power-augmenting boons from Lords Brahma and Shiva. Only the Supreme Lord Vishnu, in the form of a human, could kill him.
Thus God came to earth as Lord Rama. At the time of the exile order, the Lord wanted to keep Sita away from all the dangers lurking in the forest. She, however, insisted on going. Life without God was not a life worth living in her eyes. She put forth a series of arguments in favor of her going, which were all cogent and well grounded in the scriptures. Lord Rama still refused to allow her to come, so Sita then tried to allay any worries her husband might have had about her living in the forest. The above mentioned quote references her feelings regarding the type of food she would expect to eat in the forest. Though remaining in the kingdom would mean she would have access to the regal life, to Sita, living with Rama in the forest would be more pleasing. It didn’t matter what kind of food she would eat because it would be offered to her with love from her husband, who was God Himself. Fruits and roots that are found in the forest aren’t very appealing to most, but for Sita, it would be regarded as the highest quality gourmet meal. This food would be the most precious since it was blessed by the Lord.
Food given to us from God is known as prasadam. Meaning the Lord’s mercy, prasadam has God’s blessing since He has given it to us out of His kindness. In general, prasadam usually refers to food, flowers, and other things first offered to the Lord’s deity. God isn’t always with us in His personal form, but He is kind enough to appear in the form of a deity. Through the process of archanam, or deity worship, one can have a vision of God and offer prayers to Him, for His deity is considered as good as the Lord Himself. When food is prepared out of love and offered to the deity first, the remnants of what remains is known as prasadam. Unlike us, God doesn’t need to eat with his mouth. He can eat with His eyes directly from His statue form. He is so nice that after eating, He leaves everything for us to partake in. It is recommended that prasadam be distributed to others due to its spiritual qualities.
God is the kindest person, and He will gladly accept anything given to Him out of love and devotion. In India, most Hindu families usually offer various types of sweets made of milk to the Lord. However, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita, He accepts any fruit, flower, or water offered to Him with love and devotion.
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)
God is so pleased to be served by His devotees, but He actually derives more pleasure by turning the tables and serving the devotees Himself. This was the case with Sita Devi. Her devotion was on such a high level, that it was Lord Rama who was offering her food to eat. It is no wonder that she refused to live without Him, for being blessed by the Lord is the greatest benediction anyone could ask for. Lord Rama knew how pure Sita’s love was, and it was for this reason that He would offer service to her. In the end, Sita’s affection won the Lord over. May we always remember Sita Devi’s pure love and devotion, and may we honor her by taking up devotional service to God. If we give Krishna the gift of our unalloyed love and adoration, He is sure to bless us with His mercy.
Categories: glories of sita devi