“King Dasharatha left aside all work and began making all the wedding preparations. Making the barata procession, he first worshiped Lord Ganesha.” (Janaki Mangala, 119)
rāu chānḍi saba kāja sāja saba sājahiṃ |
caleu barāta banāi pūji ganarājahiṃ ||
The father tries his best to ensure that his son avoids the same mistakes that he made. The father has more experience than the younger dependent, so he can pass on knowledge that the child can use to steer clear of discomfort, pain, heartache, sadness, and risky situations. This type of transfer of knowledge is known as the descending process, and it is superior to the ascending process, especially with respect to spiritual life.
Can a father pass on spiritual wisdom to his son? Does not the fact that he has a son indicate that he is not fully enlightened in the spiritual sense?
What we generally know as love is referred to as kama in Sanskrit. Kama is actually desire, or, in the perverted sense, lust. Kama is what keeps the population of the earth intact. Without a desire for relations with the opposite sex, life would not continue. Actually, only the visible manifestation of life would cease. The spirit soul is the operating force within each living being, and it does not ever die or take birth. What we refer to as birth and death are merely visible appearances and disappearances, sort of like the sun rising and setting each day. The time interval between those periods for the sun is very small in comparison to the typical lifespan of the individual human being, but the duration has no bearing on the existence. Whether the human being lives for one day or one hundred years, the comparison to the rising and setting of the sun is still appropriate.
“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that He is the sex life that is not devoid of religious principles. This means that sexual relations for the purpose of raising children who follow dharma, or religiosity, is itself religious. It cannot be classified as kama in the normal sense. Therefore we see that there is most certainly a way to keep the population of creatures visible on the earth while simultaneously staying free of the influence of lust.
A father can thus also be truly enlightened and still have children. Famous Vaishnava saints of recent times included householders, people who were married and had children. While maintaining a family, they still were able to author wonderful books on bhakti-yoga, which is the highest dharma, bhagavata-dharma. They were able to distribute information about bhakti-yoga both locally and to the larger communities around them. They were never accepted to be normal human beings; they were enlightened souls sent to this earth by God Himself to help the people.
King Dasharatha was also a householder saint, though he wasn’t necessarily in the religious order. This means that one can be enlightened both as an ascetic and as a father living at home, and also as a priest and as a non-priest. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that the sublime wisdom He passed on to Arjuna was originally passed on in a chain of disciplic succession beginning with saintly kings. They followed the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, which is considered the essence of Vedic wisdom, and then passed on that tradition to their descendants. Though they were in the royal order, the proper guidelines were put into place by the brahmanas, or priests, who advised them. Thus the kings listened to, understood, and protected Vedic wisdom.
“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.2)
King Dasharatha was in the line of kings coming from Ikshvaku, who heard the Bhagavad-gita from his father Manu, who heard it from his father Vivasvan, who heard it from Krishna. Thus Dasharatha was no ordinary soul, and neither was he an ordinary father. He wanted the best for his eldest son Rama, who came to him in an unusual way. As a pious king, Dasharatha was not swayed by kama, so even if his sons did come to him through the conventional method, that wouldn’t disqualify him from being considered enlightened. Rama and His three younger brothers appeared in Dasharatha’s family as a result of a sacrifice. The three queens ate the remnants of a particular sacrifice, and from that food they got pregnant.
Rama is the same Krishna, but in an incarnation form. He is the Supreme Lord for all of mankind. He is not a sectarian figure reserved for the Hindus. Dasharatha, nevertheless, wasn’t aware of Rama’s real identity, which was fine because it allowed him to act with parental affection, which is a mood of devotional service. Dasharatha wanted the best for Rama, and so he always took good care of Him. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, he is preparing for a wedding. He has heard the news that Rama will marry Sita, the daughter of King Janaka. Upon hearing that news, Dasharatha dropped everything and focused only on his beloved eldest son’s upcoming marriage.
Here it is said that he set up the barata procession. This is the portion of the marriage ceremony where the groom’s family travels together to the bride’s home, which is where the wedding will take place. There is great pomp; sort of like a large procession with a marching band. The notable participants ride on elephants, and everyone is in a festive mood. Prior to arranging this, Dasharatha worshiped Lord Ganesha, who is a famous divine figure of the Vedic tradition. He removes obstacles from the path of his devotees. In this case Dasharatha prayed to have Rama’s marriage go smoothly. The king just wanted the best for his son.
The Ramayana and other derivative works give many such examples of worship of divine figures for the benefit of the Supreme Lord. We tend to ask God for things for ourselves or for other people. “O Lord, please take care of my children. My friend is really sick, please see him through this. I’m in danger right now, please save me.” This attitude is very nice, and certainly prayers to the original Personality of Godhead never fall on deaf ears. But as the material nature is temporary in its position, nothing will last forever. And neither is any condition universally auspicious. Therefore sometimes we don’t get what we want after praying. Karma, or fruitive activity, has its own results to provide. Also, the temporary wellbeing of me or my family doesn’t solve all the problems of life.
The ultimate aim is bhagavata-dharma, devotional service. When following that dharma, the mood is so pure that you actually pray for God’s welfare. You approach powerful personalities and ask them to be favorable to the Supreme Lord. While this seems illogical, the sentiment is so much appreciated by the Supreme Lord that He never allows such a sincere soul to fall out of His favor. Dasharatha is always with Rama in mind, and this is due to Rama’s grace, who is the king’s favorite son.
You passed your parents’ own test,
And so now I want for my son the best.
O Ganesha, to you I will now pray,
To remove obstacles from Rama’s way.
You know that He is my cherished possession,
Let there be auspiciousness on barata procession.
With Sita let Him happily live,
This blessing please to me give.
Categories: janaki mangala
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