Steady Under Pressure

Lord Krishna “Whoever knows Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without doubting, is to be understood as the knower of everything, and he therefore engages himself in full devotional service, O son of Bharata” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.19)

Lord Rama, the incarnation of God in the Treta Yuga, played the role of a pious prince dedicated to the rules of dharma. Ordered by His father, the king of Ayodhya, to spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile, the Lord unhesitatingly agreed. Upon hearing the news, His wife, Sita, assumed that the order of exile applied to her as well.

In the Vedic system, the husband and wife are considered equals in a religious sense. They both share equally in each other’s merits and demerits. If the husband ascends to heaven, the wife will follow, and in the same way, if the husband comes upon hard times, the wife suffers along with Him. Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, God’s wife in the spiritual world, so she was inherently inclined to serving the Lord. She also grew up in the kingdom of the well-respected king of Mithila, Maharaja Janaka. Though women customarily didn’t attend school and thus never received a formal training in religious principles, Sita paid strict attention to the teachings imparted on her by her parents and the saintly people in the kingdom. She was so well versed in the Vedic scriptures that her intelligence surpassed that of the greatest sages. Sita lived by one principle: devotion to Rama. In actuality, one who lives by this principle is the most intelligent person. Indian people often chant the phrase “Ram Nam Satya Hai” when carrying a dead body to the cremation ground. The meaning of this phrase is that Lord Rama’s name is the truth, for He is God Himself. If the name of the Lord is chanted when one departs their present body, they will immediately be granted liberation from the cycle of birth and death, and spend eternity in the spiritual world with the God.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

Sita lived by the principle that Rama was the truth. When informing her of the exile order, Rama tried to dissuade her from coming along by telling her of the dangers of forest life. He explained that she would be safer staying in the kingdom serving the elderly members of the family.

“When through affliction I shall not live after separation, better it is, O Lord, that I die immediately at the time of my being forsaken by you. I cannot bear this grief even for a moment. How shall I be able to live without you for fourteen years?” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 30)

Sita DeviSita Devi was defiant and refused to remain without her husband. She put forth a series of cogent and sound arguments in favor of her position. The above referenced quote was the last statement she made, which was a profession of her love. Her statement represents the nicest thing anyone can say to another person. We all want to be loved, especially by our husband or wife. We crave love so much that we often wonder just how much our significant other actually loves us, if they do at all. Sita Devi openly declared that she would rather die than live in the kingdom alone, forsaken by her husband. Love is shown is many different ways, but Sita’s exhibition was one of the nicest. Telling someone that you cannot live without them shows great attachment and affection. Maharaja Dashratha, Rama’s father, loved His son so much that He died of separation pains after the Lord left for the forest.

According to Vedic doctrine, having such a strong attachment to family is normally considered a bad thing. The material world is temporary, for we see people taking birth and dying all the time. We know that inevitably all of us must die, so having attachment to things and people that are temporary doesn’t make good sense. However, Sita’s attachment was not on the material level. Having a loving relationship with God brings true meaning to life, for the Lord is eternal. He is our best friend, our ever well-wisher who is waiting to embrace us. We living entities have forgotten our relationship with Him, and thus coming under the influence of material nature and the forces of karma, we are forced to repeatedly take birth. Sita Devi’s actions serve as a reminder of the real meaning of life, devotion to God.

Sita’s devotion was so strong and pure, that the Lord was forced to acquiesce and allow her to accompany Him to the forest. Lord Rama was won over by her love. The significance of this point cannot be understated. God is known as atmarama, meaning one who is self-satisfied. He has no need for anyone’s love or service. Unlike the living entities who constantly hanker and lament over things, the Lord is unaffected by the qualities of material nature.

“There is no work that affects Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me also does not become entangled in the fruitive reactions of work.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.14)

Sita Rama Even though He is self-satisfied and the supreme controller, He actually can be controlled by His devotees. God willingly puts Himself in a subservient position to His devotees in order to give them pleasure. This was true in the case of Sita, for all her anxieties were immediately removed once the Lord relinquished His opposition to her coming to the forest. This is the sign of true spiritual advancement. One who has steadily progressed in devotion to God no longer hankers and laments like ordinary living entities. In the Vedic system, the shudras are known as the lowest of the four social orders which are determined by qualities and work and not simply by birth. Shudra means one who easily laments. Since they are untrained in spiritual knowledge, they are easily prone to bewailing their misfortunes and becoming dejected over the slightest setback. The brahmanas, on the other hand, are considered the highest class of society since they are very learned in Vedic knowledge. Unlike the shudras, they remain steady through good and bad times due to their practice of tapasya, or austerities. Sita Devi, being a woman, by definition didn’t fall into any of these classes, but from her actions we can see that she was even more advanced than the brahmanas in her mindset. She abandoned all varieties of religion in favor of following her husband. During their marriage ceremony, Maharaja Janaka prayed that Sita would be a good wife and follow Rama as His shadow wherever He went. Even at the toughest moment of her life, Sita would not disappoint her father.

Set to live in the woods for fourteen years, it would appear that Sita’s anxieties should have increased. Lord Rama was the eldest son of the king, thus He and His wife enjoyed all the benefits afforded to someone of such a high stature. In the forest, the couple would have to live as nomads, wandering from place to place, not having a steady source of food or shelter. The forests were inhabited by wild beats, animals, and great sages who lived very austere lifestyles. Also at the time, evil Rakshasa demons were ranging the forests and disrupting the sacrifices of the sages, killing them and feeding off their flesh.

“My dear Govinda, Your promise is that Your devotee can never be vanquished. I believe in that statement, and therefore in all kinds of tribulations I simply remember Your promise, and thus I live." (Draupadi offering prayers to Krishna, Mahabharata)

Krishna protecting Draupadi Similar to how certain people strive under pressure, Sita was immune to the pressures of forest life due to the presence of Lord Rama and His brother Lakshmana. They are the ultimate protectors of this universe, and anyone who takes shelter of their lotus feet is sure to have all their troubles eased. One who is inimical towards God can never be saved in any circumstance, and conversely, one who is devoted to Him will always be protected.

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