Characteristics of a Devotee

Sita and Rama on a boat “Having come near the middle of the Kalindi (Yamuna) River, Sita prayed to her saying, ‘Hail to you, O goddess! I am crossing you. May my husband successfully complete his vow. Upon Rama’s return to the city ruled by the Ikshvakus, I will worship you with a thousand cows and a hundred drinking vessels.’ Having thus prayed to Kalindi with joined hands, that virtuous lady, Sita, reached the southern bank thereof. And by means of that raft they crossed that fleet-coursing daughter of the Sun, heaving with billows, the river Yamuna with her banks abounding with innumerable trees. Then renouncing the raft and passing by the woods adjoining the Yamuna, they came upon a banyan tree, Shyama by name, of cool shade and verdant foliage. On approaching the banyan tree, Vaidehi saluted it saying, ‘O mighty tree, I bow to you. May my husband fulfill his vow, and may we again see Kausalya and the illustrious Sumitra.’ Having said this, Sita joined her palms and circumambulated the tree.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 55)

Radha and Krishna, pure love When someone is passionate about something or loves someone else very dearly, it’s all they can talk about. It consumes their mind so much that they talk about love to whomever they meet, even if they are strangers.

It is quite natural for boys and girls to be attracted to each other. Especially at a younger age, if a girl meets a nice boy and takes a liking to him, she develops a loving attachment to him. After this attachment is formed, she then spends all her time thinking about his qualities. When she meets with her girlfriends, she talks about all things, good or bad, relating to her boyfriend or husband. “Oh my husband did this today, he did that. I can’t wait to spend time with him this weekend.” This same scenario also holds true for boys that fall in love.

Such situations aren’t exclusive to paramours. People can develop passions for many other things including sports and hobbies. Fans of sports franchises spend hundreds of dollars buying various apparel and merchandise. In America, the tailgate party is a popular pastime at stadium parking lots. Generally, professional football games on Sundays start at 1 pm local time, but fans arrive at the stadium as early as 10 am. They pack up the car with a barbeque grill and various food and drink. They have so much love for their team that they want to spend the whole day thinking about them, gearing up for the big game.

Sita and Rama Love is a nice feeling because it detaches us from our own selfish interests. Everyone who takes birth in the material world naturally tries to please their senses first. Thinking in terms of “I” and “Mine” is not something people have to be taught. Loving someone else means wanting more for that person than you want for yourself. In this sense, love can be very healthy. According to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, the feeling of love as we know it, is but a mere reflection of the pure love that exists in the spiritual world. On a material level, we may love another person or thing, but that can quickly dissolve, turning into hate. In the spiritual realm, the love is pure since it is directed at God.

Lord Rama, His wife Sita Devi, and His younger brother Lakshmana were travelling the forests of India many thousands of years ago. Rama was the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha. Through a serious of unfortunate incidents, instead of succeeding His father on the throne, Rama was living the life of a vanaprasthi, having no home nor any possessions. Ordered to spend fourteen years roaming the forest, Rama left the kingdom, with Sita and Lakshmana coming along due to their loving attachment for Him. In the above referenced passage, Sita Devi is praying to the Yamua rivera and a banyan tree to guarantee her husband’s safety and successful completion of His exile stint.

Rama was an incarnation of Krishna, or God. Sita and Lakshmana were also incarnations of celestials, Lakshmi Devi and Ananta Shesha Naga respectively. Sita was a perfect devotee, completely in love with her husband who was God Himself. This is the second such incident where she prays to a demigod for Rama’s safety. In the Vedic tradition, there are famous rivers and trees which are themselves viewed as devatas, or demigods. There is only one God, but He has many deputies who are referred to as demigods. They grant material benedictions to those who please them. Sita, however, wanted no material rewards. Out of pure love for God, she promised to worship the various rivers if they would comply with her requests.

Sita’s behavior is quite exemplary. The forest is an awful place for any person to live, let alone a beautiful princess such as herself. There are no material comforts in the woods, for one is forced to live an austere life when in the wilderness. Sita didn’t complain for one second though. Rather, she was worried about her husband. At every turn and every step, she only thought of Rama and no one else. She was completely unselfish, not asking things from God, but rather giving to Him.

Lord Krishna and devotees Another point to note is her respect for the various trees and rivers. Members of the modern day ecology movement try to get others to respect and love trees and the environment in general. While such behavior is certainly laudable, one actually acquires all good characteristics simply by becoming a devotee of God. Sita had no attachment to nature, but since she loved Rama so much, she naturally loved the rest of God’s creation. She didn’t look at the trees as something she could cut down and use for her personal interests. Rather, she appreciated the shade and protection afforded by the trees. The rivers are even more valuable. Drinking water, a place to bathe, and a mode of transportation are all provided by rivers. “Oh you are so kind and nice. I respect you. Please protect my husband. If you do so, I will always be pleased with you.” These were Sita’s sentiments.

Devotees are passionate about God. For this reason, they are considered to be the highest class people. Though living in the material world, pure devotees always remain spiritual in nature, jivan-mukta. They exhibit the highest form of love, for they spend all their time talking about and glorifying God. They have the highest love and respect for all of God’s creatures. They are true saints, and having their association is the greatest reward in life.

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