“Supremely famous is that city of Janakpur, where Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune herself appeared, making it like an ocean full of every type of happiness.” (Janaki Mangala, Svayamvara Ki Taiyari, 5)
taham̐ basa nagara janakapura parama ujāgara|
sīya lacchi jaham̐ pragaṭī saba sukha sāgara ||
“Don’t think that I’m wasting your time”, is the undertone to this verse from Tulsidas’ Janaki Mangala. The poet is setting the scene for his song about the marriage of the most beautiful couple. Should one be unfamiliar with where these events took place, Goswami Tulsidas is ensuring that they know that the place is supremely famous nonetheless. Even if one has never followed any Vedic teaching and doesn’t know who Sita Devi and Lord Rama are, hearing of their marriage ceremony and how it took place on that fateful day many thousands of years ago can still prove to bring every type of happiness to the heart, which can accept an unlimited amount of nectar, provided that it is of the transcendental variety.
Why the qualification? Why is the soul limited in accepting happiness of the material variety? If we find something pleasurable, how can we say that there is a limit to enjoying it? For instance, does a dog tire of enjoying sex life, a drunkard his beer and wine, and an obese person their fatty foods? Actually, the overindulgence in these areas is considered detrimental. The alcoholic may love getting drunk all the time, but deep down they know that something is wrong, as do others. The obese person has the most visible negative consequences to their behavior, and the dog is not viewed to be very intelligent for its lack of discrimination in conjugal affairs.
These defects point to the fact that the living beings are limited in their ability to enjoy certain things. There is a constraint put on the individual by their body type. The skeptic at this point may raise the argument that the limit is there for everything, so what is the point to even mentioning it? Ah, but there is no limit when one is swimming in a pool of spiritual nectar. What is the difference? How can we tell if something is spiritual? Isn’t everything we see around us a collection of earth, water, fire, air and ether manifested in different ways and perceived of by the senses attached to the body? If everything is seen through the material medium, how can we claim anything to be spiritual?
The spiritual is detected by certain properties, the foremost of which is eternality. Every living being is limited in the duration of their outward manifestation, even the trees that live for thousands of years. Spirit is the energy behind such manifestations and their movements, and since there is always energy, we can understand that spirit is always in existence. From the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that the spiritual energy is localized within each individual, which means that there are many fragments of spirit. Those embodied fragments existed prior to their current births and they will remain in existence even after impending deaths. We can take the information from the authority of the Gita, and we can also perceive for ourselves the importance of spirit, how it ensures that the living being can eat, sleep, mate and defend only when there is the vital force within the body.
“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)
The spiritual is tied to the fountainhead of all energy. Generally, that origin is referred to as God, but since He is also knowledgeable, eternal and blissful but on a larger scale, He can be described as the Supreme Spirit. Unlike the material energy, the spiritual energy provides lasting happiness. We can tell that we’re in connection with the spiritual energy when there is a fervent desire to remain connected with God, and when all good qualities descend from there. Among the many detriments to overindulgence in the material energy is the loss of rationale, the rise of anger and frustration, and the misguided belief that more indulgence will lead to more happiness. The sober person is always more capable at treading the difficult waters of life than is the intoxicated person. Intoxication is marked by the effect it has on the behavior of the person. In this sense intoxication can also come from greed, lust, anger and other emotions that arise from the failure to satisfy the senses, despite repeated attempts at material interaction.
The spiritual interaction, however, has the opposite effect. Therefore we can realize the presence of the spiritual by the effect it has on behavior. Rather than just study examples involving others, one can take the plunge themselves, extending some faith to the words of the Vaishnavas, those who always remain connected with the divine consciousness, which is the all-pervasive aspect of the Supreme Spirit. Tulsidas says that the city of Janakpur is like an ocean full of every type of happiness because he has experienced it himself. Not that he necessarily lived there or went there regularly. Rather, just by situating the mind there, especially at the time of the svayamvara held by the famed King Janaka, one can find peace and felicity for extended periods of time. Moreover, no amount of repeated mental trips to this place will prove detrimental to the mind. On the contrary, with each successive visit, the pool of nectar becomes sweeter and sweeter, leaving the pilgrim wondering why they ever left in the first place.
Where do these delights come from? Why Janakpur and not another place? The goddess of fortune, Lakshmiji herself, appeared in that great land many thousands of years ago. In addition to being the Supreme Spirit, God is also described as the husband of the goddess of fortune by the Vedas. We may think that we are responsible for the results of our actions, but in actuality the material nature is a much stronger force, as is the influence of the countless other living entities populating the earth. Therefore any good fortune we do receive actually comes from Lakshmi. Money is considered a type of incarnation of Lakshmi, good fortune that can come and go on a whim.
Is Janakpur considered sacred because the kingdom was wealthy? Did Lakshmi appear in Janaka’s land to make him a rich king, full of every type of opulence? As the wife of Lord Narayana, the Supreme Lord who is the source of all men, Lakshmi always serves her husband and tries to make Him happy. She is never divorced from this role, which means that wherever she goes she has the same objectives in mind. When one is graced with Lakshmi’s presence, they are meant to use her association for Narayana’s benefit and no one else’s. As the Supreme Spirit is individually tied to the individual spirit, this proper use of fortune is beneficial to the individual as well.
In Janakpur, Lakshmi appeared as Sita, who was so named by Janaka, a famous king of the time. He found her one day while ploughing a field, and thus named her Sita because she came out of the ground. Her marriage ceremony marked the occasion where Janaka would reunite Lakshmi with Narayana, who had similarly appeared on earth in Ayodhya as Lord Rama, the famed prince of the Raghu dynasty. Janaka had not a hint of sin in him, so he was worthy of having Lakshmi as a daughter. Through her appearance would come Rama as a son-in-law, thus making Janaka supremely fortunate.
What about the happiness? How is Sita’s association full of every type of delight? Well, to find lasting happiness, wouldn’t it make sense to connect with the fountainhead of the spiritual energy, which is inexhaustible? Sita is herself part of the spiritual energy, and coupled with Rama she can give anything to anyone. But the fruit of one’s existence is to taste the happiness that comes from the beloved couple’s association. This means that just by having Sita live there, Janakpur became purified and the source of every type of happiness.
There was variety in activity in Janakpur during Sita’s time. Not everyone was a yogi given to meditation. Janaka, though a pious king, was famous for his mastery over mystic yoga, which results in many beneficial qualities, including renunciation. The ability to be dispassionate towards the temporary changes in life is considered an opulence, a praiseworthy trait. George Washington, the first President of the United States, is honored because he voluntarily stepped down from office after serving two terms. He did so to set an example, to show that a ruler shouldn’t remain in power in perpetuity. Janaka had full possession of renunciation, so much so that he was known as Videha, which means bodiless.
Was renunciation the fortune granted to him by Sita? Actually, when Janaka first found his soon-to-be daughter, he immediately became thrilled to the heart. This did not break his Videha status, for spiritual love has nothing to do with the swinging pendulum of enjoyment and renunciation that is concomitant with a material existence. Rather, in spiritual life there is only bliss. Separation and meeting both produce bliss, as do loss and gain, provided that one is connected with the divine consciousness.
The people in Janakpur had different occupations but they all loved Janaka and his eldest daughter very much. In this sense they were better than yogis, as they weren’t purposefully trying for self-realization, renunciation, or enlightenment. They were happy all the time simply because of their association with the goddess of fortune. Their eyes would serve their true purpose when they would see Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana approaching for the svayamvara.
The onlookers had different emotions running through their minds at this time. The svayamvara was set up to decide Sita’s nuptials because Janaka did not know anything about her family history or her qualities based on the time of her birth. He decided that whoever could lift Lord Shiva’s bow, which was very auspicious, would win his daughter’s hand in marriage. Seeing Rama approaching, the residents of the town gathered to observe the bow-lifting contest felt a variety of emotions. Some were happy to see such a beautiful youth accompanied by His younger brother, who appeared as almost a twin, except with a different complexion. Rama is of the shyama color, which is dark, and Lakshmana is gaura, or fair. While some were eager with anticipation from the sight of Rama and Lakshmana, others started to worry. They thought that the king had made a mistake with his promise to give away Sita through the contest, for what if Rama couldn’t lift the bow? Lakshmana was the younger brother, so he wouldn’t have tried to lift the bow in Rama’s presence. In ancient times when the strictest rules and regulations of the Vedas were followed, it was considered a sin for a younger brother to get married before the older brother was married. As Lakshmana’s only dharma in life was to please his older brother, he was never really a candidate for marrying Sita.
When the contest took place, nervousness borne of anticipation penetrated the atmosphere. Just like watching a big moment in a game where everything is on the line, many onlookers were so afraid of what might happen should someone else lift the bow or Rama be incapable of rising to the challenge. Some knew that He was going to do it, while others prayed to God to be allowed to have Sita wed Rama.
Thus we see that there was every type of enjoyment available in Janakpur, except that they were all of the spiritual variety. Moreover, that happiness extends to anyone who listens to the accounts of what happened that day. To provide even more emphasis on just how wonderful spiritual happiness is, even someone who is intimately familiar with the marriage of Sita and Rama can listen to the story over and over again and still find tremendous delight, as if the heart auto-expands to make more room for the renewed inflow of spiritual nectar. From the words of his song, Tulsidas revealed the purpose for his writing. Send the mind back to the time of Sita’s marriage, which was situated in the ancient kingdom of Janakpur. As that was the place where the goddess of fortune appeared, it became an abode of auspiciousness. Just compiling the words gave Tulsidas so much pleasure, and that happiness extends to this day to anyone who is fortunate enough to connect with his writings. Every type of spiritual happiness is available to those who love Sita Devi and understand her position as Rama’s beloved.
Janakpur is the most auspicious place,
For its earth did Sita Devi grace.
She is the goddess of fortune, giver of delight,
Divine is her vision, so sweet is her sight.
Residents felt all types of happiness,
Having her around, joyful was even sadness.
Day of ceremony Shri Rama they got to see,
With brother Lakshmana, devoted to Rama was he.
Seeing two princes arrive that day,
Felt boundless joy coming their way.
In bhakti life anything but dull,
Vision of Lord supremely delightful.
Of all good things in Janakpur Sita was the center,
Allowed for residents path of liberation to enter.
Categories: janaki mangala