When It’s Polite To Stare

[Lord Rama]“The mother-in-law did the arati and offered gifts, following tradition. Looking at His dark face again and again, she felt happiness in the heart and great attachment.” (Janaki Mangala, 165)

sāsu utāri āratī karahiṃ nichāvari | 
nirakhi nirakhi hiyan haraṣahiṃ surati savari ||

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Sunayana’s eldest daughter had a beautiful, golden-like face. She was extremely fair, and so her countenance is often compared to the moon. The moon is kind to all, offering its soothing rays in the dead of night. For one stuck in the forest, this light is the only hope; without it wading through the wilderness at a time that is otherwise considered dangerous becomes impossible. The thieves prefer darkness to perpetrate their crimes, and the pious prefer light to carry out their prescribed duties. Being like the moon, Sita was a friend to the pious.

[Sita Devi]Her new husband, however, had a dark face. It is of the shyama color. This Sanskrit word typically translates to “dark-blue,” like the color of the raincloud about to pour down water. There is an atasi flower that also has the same color. In Vrindavana especially there are tamala trees, which has a color that so matches the face of Sita’s husband that it is often mistaken for His body.

“The shyama color is not exactly blackish. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura compares it to the color of the atasi flower. It is not that Lord Krishna Himself appears in a blackish color in all the Dvapara-yugas. In other Dvapara-yugas, previous to Lord Krishna’s appearance, the Supreme Lord appeared in a greenish body by His own personal expansion. This is mentioned in the Vishnu Purana, Hari-vamsha and Mahabharata.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.337 Purport)

Shyama can also refer to green. There is no contradiction, as in some cycles of the creation Sita’s husband appears on earth in a greenish color, and in others in a dark-blue. Regardless, His is not the same as Sita’s wonderful complexion. And yet from this verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that it was equally as pleasing to the mother, who felt so much happiness in the heart.

[Lord Rama]She looked at it again and again. It is impolite to stare. Our parents may have told us this when we were younger. We don’t need someone to explain it to us to realize why it is so. Would we like it if someone stared at us? If we were eating out at a restaurant and suddenly noticed a piercing eye pointed our way from a table across the room, would we be pleased? Perhaps if the person was attractive we may not think it so bad, but after a while even that would get annoying.

Hey, can I help you with something? Why are you staring at me constantly?

Well, I think you’re so beautiful that I can’t help it.

Thank you. That’s very flattering, but you need to quit it. Would you like it if I stared at you the whole time?

It was not impolite on the part of the mother in this instance since she had the excuse of offering an arati lamp. Rama was about to leave for home. He was going to take the mother’s daughter with Him. Sita was His new wife. The mother-in-law did not give Rama a hard time. She did not lecture Him about how to take care of her daughter. She instead worshiped Him, wishing Him only the best. She made offerings of coins and other gifts, similar to how rice is thrown in modern day wedding ceremonies. More important to her was the happiness she felt in her heart. Looking at Rama’s dark-blue face again and again filled her heart with happiness. She had tremendous attachment for Him.

[Sita and Rama]Attachment to Rama is the only one worth having. In some traditions and time periods He is known as Shri Krishna, who also has the same complexion. Sometimes He is known as Vishnu, who appears more opulently dressed but again has the same beautiful bodily hue. In some circles He is known only vaguely, as the “man upstairs” who is in charge of everything. In some areas He is barely known at all, and so people debate whether or not He even exists.

We see that the attachment in Sita’s mother came from looking at Rama again and again. This proves that the personal form is superior to the impersonal. It is practically impossible to be attached to something that we consider to be lacking distinguishable features. It’s like being attached to air or ether. It’s like being in love with the wind. These things don’t happen; attachment is to the corporeal.

With Rama, the corporeal is the same as the spiritual; hence the happiness it creates in the person who stares at it. Rama is so kind that He arranged for situations that sanctioned the otherwise rude behavior of staring. With great difficulty one finally accepts the personal form of God, and the reward is equal to the effort. In this age, where believing that God can be blue is very difficult, the personal kindly manifests through the sound of His name. When this name is chanted with faith, attention and resolve, the same attachment is sure to take form.

[maha-mantra]The name “Rama” references the dark-blue youth at whom Sita’s mother stared. The name “Krishna” addresses Rama’s original form of Krishna, and “Hare” humbly calls out to the beautiful Sita, who is always with Rama. As Shrimati Radharani, she is always with Krishna, and as Lakshmi she is always with Vishnu. One who always chants, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” sees Sita and Rama through the power of sound. With that enchanting vision, love fills the heart and the best attachment forms.

In Closing:

Though behavior usually impolite,

Mother stared at Rama in devotion’s height.


Arati lamp with pleasure waved,

And coins and other items gave.


Done as Rama with Sita set to depart,

Love and attachment in the queen’s heart.


Create vision of beautiful forms the same,

When with faith and attention say holy names.


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