Service with a Smile

Sita and Rama“Her body is of a golden color, and she always speaks with a smile. That lady who never deserved misfortune is now tolerating all kinds of suffering.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.21)

sā iyam kanaka varṇa angī nityam susmita bhāṣiṇī |
sahate yātanām etām anarthānām abhāginī ||

The retail outlet exists to turn a profit. There is no other purpose to the business. If they can’t earn a profit, they will go out of business, eliminating all the jobs and the accompanying benefits. To earn a profit, a business requires customers, and since a customer is someone who voluntarily parts with their money in exchange for a good or service, it is up to the provider to make sure that the customer is satisfied. Therefore one of the main rules of the establishment is that the customer is always right. The employees at the point of sale are also advised to give service with a smile, as kindness goes a long way. The hope, of course, is that the kind service will entice the customer to come back, as it shows that there is some concern on the part of the service provider. A famed princess a long time ago always served her beloved with a smile, which was part of her overall kind nature. And yet even she found misfortune; such are the ways of the world.

It is understandable if customers avoid your store because your employees are rude. Why would we want to go somewhere that has mean people? We work hard for our money after all, so we don’t want to give it over to someone we don’t like. Though in the end the personal makeup of the service providers shouldn’t matter, we still sometimes make financial decisions based on outward behavior.

By the same token, if we get good service somewhere, we will likely reward the establishment. If we go to a restaurant where we are treated very nicely, we might overlook the high prices and the mediocre food. This is human nature. If someone is providing service in exchange for money, they should be kind. There is no reason for animosity or rudeness in such exchanges. And the expectation is that the kindness, which is a virtue anyway, will be duly rewarded.

For the aforementioned princess, the commodity she sought was the very service of her husband. She didn’t want any personal gain. In fact, she had abandoned a life of royalty to continue to serve Him. It’s akin to the service provider making a house call. Or taking it one step further, it’s as if the service provider were to go wherever the customer wanted to meet. The retail outlet is made to be conducive to sales; it is the ideal place for transactions to occur. If the service provider were to extend their reach to other outlets, it is again done for their personal gain, i.e. to increase profits.

In this princess’ case, the extension of service was solely for the pleasure of her husband. In the above referenced verse it is said that she had a golden complexion, which is very pleasing to the eyes. She also always spoke with a smile. This made the husband, Shri Rama, very pleased with her. He loved her so much that He tried to dissuade her from going to the forest with Him. He didn’t want her to suffer in any way. He had been ordered to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya due to a fit of jealousy by His step-mother. Rama didn’t think that His wife Sita should have had to suffer for that.

Sita and RamaShe offered service with a smile because that is what pleased her husband. Why would she purposefully make life difficult for Him? And she wasn’t a dull personality either. He thoroughly enjoyed her company. She was an independent woman in the truest sense, and she chose to use her time in the wisest possible way. She served her husband, which was protocol for wives of the Vedic tradition, but it also corresponded directly with her innermost desires.

Think of the activity that gives you the most pleasure. It is that which allows you to be completely free; no inhibitions, no worries, no concerns. For every spirit soul, the maturation of consciousness brings a desire to be completely free in service to God. Every other activity with a minute amount of freedom is derived from that constitutional occupation. Sita got to practice that ideal occupation all the time, and when it looked like it would be taken away, she redoubled her efforts. She gave up the regal life in favor of the austere setting of the forest, and still she was never happier.

Hanuman remembered these qualities of Sita when he saw her from a distance in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Her attitude was not vastly different, though the situation was. Instead of getting to serve her husband directly, she was surrounded by female ogres who feasted on animal flesh. They were attendants to the vile king of Lanka, Ravana, who wanted Sita for himself. Though she was apart from Rama, Sita did not stop thinking of Him. She would never submit to Ravana.

Hanuman did not like that Sita was now tolerating all this suffering. She never deserved misfortune. How many of us can say that in all honesty? Even if the service provider always offers a smile, there is still the underlying motive to earn a profit. Even if we are nice to others, we still have personal desires that creep up every now and then. Sita was completely innocent. She only wanted to serve her husband. She would give up or accept anything to make that happen; she was not particular.

Though she never deserved misfortune, here it was for her. It seemed puzzling to even Hanuman, but such are the ways of the Supreme Lord and His energy. The material world is a place full of miseries, which are guaranteed for everyone, regardless of their position. Though the atheists deny the existence of God, they eventually submit to the higher force known as death. And during their lifetime they abide by the more powerful forces of nature. Even their concocted theory of evolution assigns superiority to nature [natural selection].

Sita Devi in the Ashoka groveThe devotees also suffer sometimes, but the effect is different. For the devotee misfortune can bring a stronger connection to God. “How can one be more strongly connected to God than Sita? She was already in His presence and offering Him service in a sweet and gentle way.” The worship in separation is considered superior. This is the preferred style for Lord Chaitanya and His associates. To fully understand this one has to go through it, and so we see from the Ramayana that some of the strongest worship of Rama took place in separation. In this situation Sita and Hanuman are both separated from Rama, and their attachment to Him grows stronger as a result. Hanuman is carrying out Rama’s orders in trying to find Sita, and Sita is always thinking of her beloved despite the precarious situation.

Our forgetfulness of God starting from the time of birth immediately provides a precarious situation. Thankfully we have sacred texts like the Ramayana and the teachings of those who follow devotional service like Hanuman and Sita. These authority figures all agree that the best method for worshiping God in separation in the present age is the constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Retailer your trust hopes to earn,

So to your establishment you’ll return.


Will give service with a smile bright,

Keeping in mind that customer is always right.


Sita offered service to husband in manner the same,

Except without motivation, no favor to gain.


Service itself was pleasure’s source,

Happy even while traversing forest’s course.


Didn’t deserve Ashoka grove destination,

But worship enhanced through separation.

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