For the Sake of Others

Indian saris“Then Janaka offered the king and his entourage beautiful and appropriate seats. Worshiping Vishvamitra and Vashishtha, he offered the king new clothes.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 17.2)

taba janaka sahita samāja rājahiṃ ucita rūcirāsana dae |
kausika basiṣṭhahi pūji rāu dai anbara nae ||

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One of the reasons you should follow etiquette when you are a public figure is that others will be harmed if you don’t. It is natural to make fun of this person or that, to find fault with others, when you are having a casual conversation with friends. In journalist speak, these are known as “off the record” conversations. The content is not fit to print. You say things that you otherwise wouldn’t, for people would be watching you and get the wrong idea. A public figure should know better; they should know not to mess up when the lights are on or when the cameras are rolling. In a famous marriage ceremony a long time ago, all the spotlight was on the host, King Janaka. The cameras represented by the eyes of the spectators were rolling and the journalists in the form of the poets had their tape recorders on. Since Janaka is of the purest character, he makes sure never to offend others.

What’s the big deal about offending? Isn’t that someone else’s problem? If I say or do something, shouldn’t the other person know that what I speak are just words? Why should I care so much about what they think?

Cameras rollingA great man is a leader. This is true whether he knows it or not. If he does know it, he wants to set an ideal example because he knows others will want to follow him. In this sense offending others will cause them to not follow him. And this is more tragic when the offense is made unnecessarily. Think of it this way: If you really respect someone and value their association, you will want to hear what they have to say. If they should constantly criticize your parents and best friends, will that not offend you? If that offense continues for long enough, eventually there will be a breaking point. You will have to choose. Since your parents and friends don’t offend you in this way, you will naturally side with them.

Both parties lose out when this choice is made. The respected person misses the opportunity to guide someone else along the proper course. The offended party loses the chance to gain valuable association. Indeed, critics of great leaders will look for any statement that might be deemed offensive to discredit their stature. If the critics can find anything that was said off-camera, during a casual conversation, or during a speech intended for a smaller audience, they will bring it to the limelight when the time is right. This way others will think: “Oh, I don’t like that person. Did you hear what he said about such and such? He’s no good.”

Bhagavad-gita, 18.54“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)

The easiest way to avoid such offenses is to be of pure character. One who sees the spirit soul within every living being is equally disposed. He neither hankers nor laments. In that state he takes up devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, because that service is meant to please the origin of all spiritual beings. Such information is presented to us in the Bhagavad-gita, a famous Vedic text. That text provides the theoretical information, and the practical implementation is found in the example of King Janaka of Mithila.

Janaka was on this earth a long time ago. There were many kings named Janaka in his family ancestry, and so he was particularly known as Shiradhvaja, for he found his beautiful daughter Sita while ploughing a field. Though he was known as a Brahman-realized soul [someone who sees the spiritual equality of all living beings], he is today more famous for being the father of Sita. Sita is a special lady; she is the eternal consort of Lord Rama, who is a divine incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead.

Sita and RamaIn the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we get further accounts of Sita’s wedding to Rama. It took place in Janaka’s kingdom. Here we are in the middle of the actual marriage ceremony, and we see that all protocol is being followed. Janaka is the host, so he brings King Dasharatha and his entourage to the ceremony and offers them appropriate seats. Dasharatha is Rama’s father. He had travelled from Ayodhya to attend the marriage ceremony of his beloved son Rama.

Janaka then worshiped Vishvamitra and Vashishtha, two great sages. Vashishtha was the family priest in Ayodhya. He was Dasharatha’s counselor as well as Rama’s. Rama’s three younger brothers also took instruction from Vashishtha. Vishvamitra was Rama’s teacher particularly in the advanced military arts. He gave special mantras to Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana and took protection from them in the forest. It was at Vishvamitra’s direction that Rama ended up in Janaka’s city, where a contest to determine Sita’s husband was taking place. Janaka also offered brand new clothing to Dasharatha.

If Janaka had failed to do any of these things, he would have committed offenses. The many spectators would have noticed those offenses. So would have the devoted poets who were set to immortalize the events in sacred texts like the Ramayana. Tulsidas is one of those poets, and he can travel back in time with his mind to relive the event. He does so not to find fault. Even if he did, he would not find any. Knowing full well the character of Janaka, the poet takes great delight in relaying Janaka’s behavior to all the world.

Such attention to etiquette was part of what made Janaka worthy of having Sita as his daughter. His devotion to God drove his actions, and so we see that one of the symptoms of devotion is careful attention towards avoiding offenses. If you love God’s wife, you will love God as well. You will love God’s father as well. Though the Lord has no father, in His descents to the material land He assigns various elevated living entities the roles of mother, father, friend, and so forth. More than anything, those associates with Rama are devotees, and so Janaka made sure never to offend them. He thus set the ideal example.

In Closing:

When joke made in manner offhand,

Others possibly to misunderstand.


Then leader’s reputation to take hit,

Others not to think he is legit.


Janaka to king and priests welcome did show,

With devotion proper etiquette always to know.


Love God and those devoted to Him all,

And thus never attention for offenses call.

Categories: janaki mangala

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