From Bhoga To Tyaga

[Sita Devi]“I lived there at the place of residence of Raghava for twelve years, enjoying every enjoyable thing for mankind and having all my desires met in abundance.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.17)

samā dvādaśa tatra aham rāghavasya niveśane ||
bhunjānā mānuṣān bhogān sarva kāma samṛddhinī |

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Renunciation is hard. Without even bringing up the sannyasa-ashrama, where the individual leaves everything behind, just something as simple as limiting food intake is difficult. Who doesn’t want to lose weight? Who actually thinks that they don’t eat enough? Perhaps the athlete who is in training to vie against competitors of a larger stature, but otherwise in areas where food and drink are in abundance the problem is overeating. Wives of important leaders make it a cause to tackle childhood obesity, where lunch menus are altered for children attending school.

Despite the difficulty with renunciation, we know that it has many benefits. If you take the austerity of studying on your days off from school, you’ll reap the benefit of a better performance on examinations. When crunch time arrives, where assignments are due, you won’t be in as much of a bind. The pressure will be less. Everything started with a little discipline.

[pizza]The issue, of course, is enjoyment. In Sanskrit the two terms are bhoga and tyaga. Enjoyment is easy; no one has to be taught how to seek it. The child growing up wants only bhoga. They don’t know anything about renunciation. If they had it their way, they would eat pizza and ice cream for every meal. They would play video games all day, with television interspersed. They would never attend school, and they would go to sleep late at night and wake up late the next day.

Tyaga is forced upon the children by the good parents.

“You have to do some school work. You have to read a book. No more watching television. No more playing video games. You’ve done enough of that today. Tell your brother the same thing. When I come home from work tomorrow, I want to see both of you studying.”

Children are under the control of the guardians. This means that they will experience tyaga even if they don’t want it. But what if in adulthood you have no one to stop you? Would you enjoy all the time? Of course there is the issue of resources and procuring them. If you wanted to watch television all day, how are you going to pay for it? How are you going to eat if you don’t accept the austerity of working? If you’re living off of someone else’s work, what if those people stop paying? What if they cut you off? Therefore in adulthood it is rarer to see the balance tipped greatly in the favor of bhoga.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we hear of an instance where there was bhoga at a very high level. How high? Imagine getting everything that you desired. Imagine having everything enjoyable there is for mankind right at your fingertips. If you guessed that this would have to be royal life, you are correct.

Sita Devi is describing the situation of her first twelve years of marriage to her husband, Shri Rama. Rama is also known as Ramachandra, since He is moonlike. He is also known as Raghava, since He appeared in the dynasty of King Raghu. Rama is God Himself, so wherever He lives there is never any shortage. Though He may voluntarily accept renunciation, and though He may appear to be living in meager conditions, He is never bereft of anything. The goddess of fortune is always with Him. Sita is that goddess, and so Rama is always in favorable circumstances.

[Sita and Rama]Taking out the divine factor for a moment, we see that in Ayodhya, where Sita and Rama lived, there was everything enjoyable. Every desire was met in abundance. If Sita wanted something to drink, she could get it immediately. She could get a comfortable mattress to rest on and the best food to eat. For a person interested only in bhoga, there was no shortage.

What is interesting is that she provides this description while in the most renounced setting. Hanuman has found her in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, where she has become very thin due to fasting. She has nothing enjoyable around her, though she is in the kingdom governed by Ravana. That evil king has everything enjoyable by his side, but Sita will not accept anything from him. She lives on Rama’s prasadam, or His mercy. She will not accept the mercy of anyone inimical to Rama.

Prior to being taken to Lanka against her will, Sita and Rama lived in the ideal place for renunciation: the forest. She went from supreme bhoga to ultimate tyaga. And she didn’t skip a beat. She was not flustered by the sudden change in circumstances. Indeed, she volunteered to accept them. Rama had to leave home and not return for fourteen years. He asked Sita to stay at home, the place of endless enjoyment. Sita would not listen to Him.

[Sita Devi]This sudden transition from bhoga to tyaga can only take place seamlessly if there is devotion to Rama. Only with the higher taste of devotional service does a person not care whether they live in abundance or scarcity. Real enjoyment is devotion. Real living is offering everything that you do for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord. There is the saying of “surviving on love,” and in bhakti you find the real definition of love. Any person can survive on it since the beneficiary has the goddess of fortune with Him. She too lives on that love, which means that though she is a beautiful princess she can show more renunciation than even the ascetic living in a remote cave. The devotees have this ability, which they maintain and strengthen through their chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

In childhood focus only to enjoy,

Watch television and play with each toy.


In adulthood not so easy to replicate,

Work your enjoyment to regulate.


In Ayodhya Sita enjoying fine things all,

Food and drink available at her call.


Within a second by her renounced,

When news of Rama’s exile announced.

Categories: sita and hanuman

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