“All those things which were pleasurable when she [Sita] was with Me now don’t appear pleasing because I am without her.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 1.70)
If one is really passionate about something, they will try to find ways to accurately convey the intensity of the emotion. Some people will curse, while others will make references to objects which are seen as the height of enjoyment and good feeling and then declare them to be paltry in comparison to the object of their affection. An even higher level of love is displayed by those who are unable to cope in the absence of their loveable object, their significant other who defines their life. The words, “I can’t live without you”, are uttered quite often, but how many people actually mean them? While there are those who can certainly remain in their bodies when separated from their object of pleasure, the quality of life can still be greatly hampered due to the separation. For the Supreme Lord, life without His pleasure potency is not very attractive, nor palatable. Since every individual entity is an expansion of this potency, everyone is meant to be in the Lord’s company and provide Him pleasure. Of all the pleasure-givers, only those purified souls, the exalted entities who have no other business than to please the Lord, succeed in stirring the transcendental passions of the Supreme Lord. One such divine lover is Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama.
“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)
A fish cannot survive when taken out of water. Once it is removed from its natural habitat, a fish doesn’t feel sad, bored, or dejected. No, the fish will die within seconds of being removed from its natural home; such is the great attachment it feels towards its dwelling. In this way the fish can be thought of as the greatest lover of water. The fish exudes a love which is so strong that death is immediately caused upon separation from the loveable object. Thus it is not surprising to see divine lovers, those who give their hearts to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, make references to fish when comparing their loving feelings towards God. Though we can’t accurately trace out the origin of the phrase, “like a fish out of water”, we know that it was in existence many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. During this time the Supreme Absolute Truth, the original Godhead who is always full of form and bliss, kindly descended to earth in the guise of a handsome and pious prince named Rama. Not only did God come to earth in the form of an ordinary entity, but so did His closest associates from the spiritual world. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana was an incarnation of the all-powerful Lord Baladeva, and Sita Devi was the avatara of Shri Lakshmi, the wife, for all intents and purposes, of God in the spiritual world.
Man tends to form attachments with those he finds to be similar in nature. This makes sense because if we were to hang around someone who had a completely different worldview than us, clashes and conflict would surely arise. Friendship is about sharing experiences, thoughts, concerns, and joys. If one is constantly arguing with another over the ultimate conclusions in life and the philosophies derived from them, there will be little time for enjoyment. Shri Rama, as a qualified incarnation of the Lord, possessed every noteworthy attribute imaginable, including chivalry, piety, and kindness. So, not surprisingly, others who took virtue and piety very seriously were attracted to Rama and thus befriended Him. Shri Lakshmana not only possessed great attributes, but He also happened to be Rama’s younger brother. Similarly, Sita Devi, who is ridiculously kind, generous, and respectful, was married to Lord Rama. God is never alone; His closest associates are always with Him. You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. In Rama’s case, we can understand that He could be none other than the Supreme Lord simply based on the exalted nature of His closest associates.
As a pious prince, Rama had to undergo hardships which most of us wouldn’t want to endure. For example, the Lord had to roam the forests for fourteen years at the behest of His father, the King of Ayodhya. Rama never committed any sin, nor was He worthy of malevolence from anyone else. He easily could have invoked His good name and character to fend off the order of exile, but that was not in His nature. Since only He was ordered to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya, Rama was all set to go alone. Lakshmana and Sita, who could not live without Rama, insisted on accompanying Him. Lakshmana even invoked the analogy to fish, and said that he and Sita would not survive in Rama’s absence.
This behavior shown by Lakshmana and Sita is indicative of a high level of love and devotion. Refusing to separate is the best way to accurately convey loving sentiments towards another. Dying in the absence of someone else surely shows that the life breath is not important enough to remain inside the body once the vital force has been removed. Generally the vital force is taken as the soul or the heart, so when a person says they will die without another, it means that the object of affection has essentially taken over the role of the life force, or heart, of the person who is in love.
Yet there is another way to judge a person’s level of affection. Sometimes the life breath may not escape in the absence of the loveable object, but the level of affection felt still remains at its summit. In these instances, the stranded lover maintains a glimmer of hope, the faint expectation that their loveable object will return to them. This was the case with Rama, as His wife would be kidnapped right from under His nose one day while residing in the forest. It should be noted that Rama, as an incarnation of Godhead, is always beyond the effects of mundane lamentation, anger, and illusion. Yet to accurately play the part of a fallible living entity, the Lord engaged in lamentation and despair from time to time. The occasion of Sita’s kidnap brought about one of these displays.
Sita was taken to the island kingdom of Lanka by the demon Ravana. He wanted the beautiful lady for himself, and since he couldn’t defeat Rama in a fair one-on-one battle, Ravana had to resort to underhanded means to get what he wanted. Yet he would never succeed in his ultimate objective, as Sita is incapable of being with any other man except Rama. If Ravana had ever gotten close to her, Sita would have immediately quit her body, and Ravana’s head would have been smashed to pieces. The latter scenario would have taken place due to a curse previously imprecated on Ravana which stated that he would die immediately if he ever forced himself on another woman.
After Sita was taken away, Rama and Lakshmana began a frantic search for her whereabouts. Eventually they made their way to a majestic lake called Pampa. At the time, the spring season was setting in, so Rama decided to point out the beautiful scenery to Lakshmana. There was a purpose behind such words, as Lakshmana surely had seen the signs of spring before. Spring is the season of hope and opportunity, where the senses are stimulated by the fragrant aroma of flowers and the sweet humming of the insects. Rama remembered that Sita especially loved this season and that she would always point out various flowers to Him. From Rama’s descriptions, we can surmise that spring was the favorite season for the couple, as it served to enhance their loving exchanges.
Though Rama didn’t quit His body upon Sita’s abduction, He still revealed symptoms of deep love and affection for her. In the above referenced statement, we see that Rama is not deriving any pleasure from the signs of spring this time around. These objects were surely beautiful before, and they brought Him much pleasure. But this was due to the fact that Sita was previously with Him. Now, these same signs of spring, which had not changed in any respect, were not appealing to Rama at all. Rama’s sentiments are an indication of the highest attachment and affection. Shri Rama had remarked that bhavah, or loving attachment, was well situated in Sita, and that the same attachment to Sita was well situated in Him. Bhavah also means natural ecstasy, or an ingrained nature. So by invoking this term, Rama was relaying the truth that it is part of Sita’s makeup to be a lover of God and that this same makeup, directed towards the individual souls, exists in the Supreme Lord. God is everyone’s Lord after all, so it would make sense that He would be the strongest lover.
This incident with Rama also reveals the hidden secret to making one’s life successful. Objects of nature are what they are; their properties don’t change too drastically. In this example, the flowers of the forest were the same as they were the previous year. Yet this time around, the object of cohesion, the person that put all the pieces of the puzzle into place, wasn’t there. Hence the beautiful objects of spring lost their value. In the same way, this world is full of material objects, some of which seem pleasurable and others which don’t. The secret to success in life is to attach surrounding objects to service to Krishna. This practice is known as bhakti-yoga, and it is something we are all inclined to perform.
The individual soul is a part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, so there is an inherent quality and, more importantly, a relationship that can be derived from this disposition. This derived relationship is a loving one, wherein the individual remains in constant association with its superior. This connection is maintained through words, thoughts, and deeds. When the external objects of this world are used to maintain this link, when they are used to keep one’s mind focused on the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they take on their true value. Otherwise, everything just remains dull and useless in the grand scheme of things.
One may argue that many people who are not God conscious derive great enjoyment from objects of matter. Though they are not worshiping the Supreme Lord, how can we say that these objects are of no value? The answer is that an object’s value is determined by a person’s ultimate conclusion in life, or their dharma. Dharma is an occupational duty, and since the highest occupation in life is usually associated with religion, dharma is generally taken to mean religiosity or piety. Dharma can be anything depending on the field of activity. For example, there is a dharma for building a house, winning a race, losing weight, and practicing medicine. In any field of activity, there will be a right way to do something, a set of guidelines and procedures aimed at achieving success in the venture. This “right way” is the dharma of that particular activity. Thus any external object that can help keep a person adherent to their particular dharma will be taken as palatable.
Though there are different dharmas, not all of them are the same; there is a priority system. One’s inherent dharma is their relationship to the Supreme Lord. It is the essential characteristic of the individual soul to be a lover of God. When other dharmas that keep one in ignorance of this characteristic are adopted, the objects associated with such occupational duties must be deemed lifeless and dull in the grand scheme of things. For example, wood and stone are needed to erect statues and buildings, but if these buildings are used simply for sense gratification, the wood and stone must be considered dull and lifeless in the larger picture.
On the other hand, if the same wood and stone are used to construct temples and deity representations of the transcendental form of the Supreme Lord, the objects assume their true value. The key to success in life is to attach everything to God’s service. Otherwise, every external object is simply a product of maya, or illusion. Shri Rama, not having Sita by His side, did not find enjoyment in even the most beautiful of surroundings. This proves just how much the Lord loves His exalted devotees; those who don’t derive any enjoyment out of life save for devotional service. For this reason Shri Rama is never worshiped alone; His closest associates, Sita, Lakshmana, and Hanuman are always with Him. These divine figures not only give pleasure and protection to the devotees, but they also provide the greatest happiness to the Supreme Lord. The same fruits and flowers that don’t appeal to Rama in the absence of Sita can give the Lord tremendous pleasure when offered to Him with love and devotion in the presence of the mother of the universe, Shrimati Sita Devi.