The Sweetest Thing

Sita offering food to Ravana in disguise “O Brahmana, do you sit comfortably on this mat. Do you take this water to wash your feet. Do you enjoy these well-cooked eatables growing in the forest, intended for you.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana in the guise of an ascetic, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand Sec 46)

The setting for this scene was a forest in India many thousands of years ago. The goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, had incarnated on earth in the form of Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appears on earth from time to time to enact pastimes and to reinstitute the neglected principles of dharma. As Lord Rama, He came in the form of a pious prince, forced into exile from His kingdom of Ayodhya by His father Maharaja Dashratha.

Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana leaving for the forest His wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana accompanied Him during His stint in the forest. In this particular incident, the Rakshasa demon Ravana had come to the group’s hermitage in the forest disguised as a mendicant brahmana. Lord Rama had left the cottage to chase after Ravana’s associate Maricha, who had come in the guise of a deer. Lakshmana went to check on his brother’s welfare, when Ravana approached Sita and propositioned her. In response to the phony mendicant’s advances, Sita duly welcomed him to her cottage. She treated him like a first class citizen, worthy of the highest respect, for she didn’t know that the mendicant was actually Ravana.

This particular incident was cause for one of the most stressful moments in Sita’s life. The demon Maricha, upon being pierced by Rama’s arrows, bewailed out loud in the voice of Rama, screaming for help. Sita believed the voice to be her husband’s, so she immediately ordered Lakshmana to go see what was happening. Lakshmana knew the voice wasn’t Rama’s, but he obliged anyway. As soon as Lakshmana left, Ravana approached Sita.  In this most troubling situation, Sita still took the time to properly receive a guest. According to Vedic guidelines, a guest is to always be treated respectfully, even if he be an enemy. Guests are offered water to wash their feet, and a nice place to sit. The hosts are to then offer the best food they have in the house. In this way, householders earn tremendous spiritual merit by satisfying the wayfarers that come to their door.

Sita Devi Sita Devi, being God’s wife, naturally possessed the best qualities a person could have. It is customary for women to enjoy nice valuables such as expensive jewelry and fancy clothes. Woman usually enjoy shopping very much, while men usually dread it. However in Sita’s case, there was no attachment to material possessions whatsoever. Prior to her stint in the forest, she was living a life of luxury in the kingdom of Dashratha, for she was the wife of the eldest son of the king. Lord Rama asked her to remain in the kingdom for the duration of the fourteen year exile period, but she refused. She renounced the glamorous lifestyle in favor of supporting her husband. Just prior to leaving for the forest, Sita and Rama gave away tremendous riches to the brahmanas. One brahmana in particular was hesitant about approaching the Lord for receiving gifts. Yet at the insistence of his wife, the brahmana humbly submitted himself before Rama and asked Him for His help. Lord Rama laughed and smilingly said that the brahmana could ask for anything and the Lord would supply it for Him.

This represents God’s true nature. Brahmanas are the priestly class in society, dedicating their lives solely towards God’s service. They generally don’t involve themselves in fruitive activity such as acquiring money or seeking after sense pleasure. They voluntarily live a meager lifestyle, so that they can focus all of their time reciting God’s names, performing yajnas or sacrifices, and teaching the rest of society on the principles of dharma and devotion to Krishna. In America today, the definition of poverty is slightly skewed, as the poor typically have a few television sets, own a car, and even have air conditioning in their homes. The brahmanas during Lord Rama’s time were legitimately poor, depending solely on the charity of others for their livelihood. God is very nice to His devotees. Those who depend on Him for everything are never let down. Sita Devi, a perfect devotee in her own right, was equally as kind to the brahmanas.

In this particular incident, Sita Devi herself was living a life akin to that of a homeless person. In the Vedic system of varnashrama dharma, the third ashrama, or stage, of life is known as vanaprastha. This is the stage where the husband and wife give up their home and travel around to all the holy places. Vanaprastha immediately precedes sannyasa where the husband takes to complete renunciation. Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana were essentially living in the vanaprastha mode of life, for they travelled to the hermitages of all the great sages during their time in the forest. All they had was each other, and that was enough to survive. Yet still when approached by someone she thought to be a brahmana, Sita offered him full respect. Living on fruits and roots herself, she declared that all the sumptuous food of the forest was intended for the brahmana, and not for her.

Rama and His army battle Ravana As events would play out, Ravana would take advantage of Sita’s kindness by forcibly taking her back to his kingdom of Lanka. This was all preordained, for Lord Rama needed an excuse to go after Ravana and to kill him. Sita Devi was the secret weapon of the demigods who were terrified of Ravana and wanted to see him destroyed. Lord Rama not only eventually killed Ravana, but His army of monkeys destroyed the entire Rakshasa family ruling in Lanka. As kind as the Lord is to the brahmanas and His devotees, He is equally as unkind to those who do harm to them. Ravana paid dearly for taking advantage of Sita’s hospitality. Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune herself. If we are fortunate enough to receive benedictions from her in the form of wealth and prosperity, we should use it in the same manner that she did, i.e. for serving the lotus feet of the Lord. Sita was one of the sweetest and kindest people to ever grace this earth. We should take every opportunity we can get to reciprocate that kindness. By becoming devotees of the Lord, Sita Devi will always be pleased with us.

Categories: glories of sita devi

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