Why To Thank God

[Sita Devi]“I am the daughter of the King Janaka, the great soul, of Videha. My name is Sita and I am the wife of the intelligent one named Rama.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.16)

duhitā janakasya aham vaidehasya mahātmanaḥ ||
sītā ca nāma nāmnā aham bhāryā rāmasya dhīmataḥ |

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“Why do people thank God all the time when something good happens? Why don’t they understand that they are responsible for their own outcomes? They are the ones who put in the effort. They endure the struggle. No one else should get the credit. Don’t they understand how silly they look? Do they thank God when something bad happens? When they fail do they race to the microphone to proclaim how the Lord showed favor upon them by punishing them?”

When operating under karma both good and bad are basically the same thing. One brings a temporarily favorable condition while another brings misery that too will eventually dissipate. Neither one has to be asked for or explicitly sought out; they come on their own. Action and reaction, which manipulate the material nature known as prakriti, account for all results. Why, then, do we see people thanking Ishvara, the supreme controller? Are they less intelligent?

[raining]Intelligence in this context refers to vision. The more you can see, the wiser you are. This sight doesn’t necessarily have to be related to that which is in front of me. As an example, when I woke up this morning, I noticed that it was cloudy. The ground was wet as well. By intelligence, I can see that which isn’t presently visible, namely the immediate past. By the results I can infer that it rained the night before. I can also see the future. I know that the clouds will at some point dissipate and give way to the sunshine. The sun’s rays will evaporate the water on the ground, making things dry once again.

We can use this simple example and apply it to all kinds of results. Before bringing Ishvara into the equation, the wise person at least knows that the outcomes to actions are not entirely in their hands. There are the parents to consider. They took care of us in our youth. If not our parents, then at least someone did. We don’t remember emerging from the womb. Though we saw what was going on, we can’t recall it anymore.

Through intelligence in sight, we can go to the past and realize that someone had to take care of us. They had to feed us. They had to hold our head upright when carrying us. They had to train us in discipline, in not giving in to the sense urges at every moment. Though we want to eat cookies all the time, the guardian will limit our intake. Though we want to play video games instead of doing school work, the person in charge will compel us to do the opposite.

[eating cookies]And so in adulthood the wise person gives many thanks to their parents. In the verse quoted above a wise lady identifies herself by first mentioning her relations. She does not give her name right away. What is in a name anyway? My name could be John, but then so many others could have the same name. What distinguishes this John from that John?

Sita is a wonderful name, a divine one at that, but any person can be given that name. That is why the princess here first references her two fathers. There is the father-in-law, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. There is the father by birth and upbringing, King Janaka of Videha. He is a great soul, or mahatma. He did not fight for independence for a nation. He did not lead a political movement. His quality of mahatma is earned from his knowledge of the self, the identifying force within all living beings.

mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha

daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ

bhajanty ananya-manaso

jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam

“O son of Pritha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.13)

Sita also mentions her husband, Shri Rama. Rama is described to be dhimata. This means a greatly sober personality. It is also synonymous with “intelligent.” A sober person can see the past, present and future much easier than an intoxicated person can. The sober person knows that the body constantly changes, and that at death the body makes a complete change. The living force within remains the same throughout.

dehino ‘smin yathā dehe

kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā

tathā dehāntara-prāptir

dhīras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.13)

To identify first with the parents and husband like this is a sign of intelligence. Sita does not attribute her greatness to herself, though in good qualities she is unmatched. She pays respect to her guardians and authority figures. She introduces herself in this way also to make sure that Hanuman knows who she is. Both she and Hanuman are foreigners in a territory populated by people who are not sober and who are not mahatmas. They identify with the body only, and they will do anything to find immediate sense gratification. There is no level too low for them to descend in terms of behavior.

[Sita and Hanuman]Sita’s husband is the highest authority figure. He is the Ishvara called out to by those in distress. He is the Supreme Lord thanked when something goes good and He is the person blamed for misfortune. He is responsible for how karma works. Those devoted to Him transcend that karma. They rise above the ignorance of selfishness, and instead they see the good that every person has to offer. They thank everyone else for any good fortune, even if they are due the credit themselves. Sita shows the attitude of the devoted soul, who is the most intelligent, seeing the divine influence everywhere.

In Closing:

Modes of nature over us to rule,

So person thanking God not a fool.


To parents and guardians debt we owe,

Man’s destiny not in own hands we know.


Sita of good qualities no god to produce,

Yet still to parents first to introduce.


Efforts of others devotees recognizing,

Divine hand’s influence in time visualizing.


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