“Then I was quickly ready to depart for becoming a forest dweller even ahead of Him, as when lacking His association even residence in heaven is not to my liking.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.27)
sā aham tasya agrataḥ tūrṇam prasthitā vana cāriṇī ||
na hi me tena hīnāyā vāsaḥ svarge api rocate |
If asked to complete the sentence, “behind every great man is…”, what would your response be? Good parents? This is pretty easy to realize. We think that we do things on our own, that the results to our work are due to just that, our work. In fact, so many other pieces must cooperate for our desired outcomes to manifest. The different pieces, over which we have no control, must be favorable.
Another common response is “a great woman.” The idea is that there has to be support. No one can do everything on their own. Not that others are entitled to a greater share of the resulting fortune, but it should be acknowledged that life is difficult. A supportive woman is a great boon to a man thriving to be his best. In the case of the best man, the topmost purusha, the woman in the background is so eager to serve that she sometimes steps ahead of Him.
How does life continue on? Is it through eating? Is it through defense and protection? Is it through intelligence? The single word answer is “love.” The love of the parents allows the child to grow up to be healthy and well-adjusted. The love of mother nature nurtures man and the other species. Every seed is found in the earth, just as every star is found in the sky. Goswami Tulsidas uses this comparison as a way to explain how every kind of religion is satisfied in the holy name of Rama.
“Just as within the earth are found every kind of seed and within the sky live all the stars, Tulsidas knows that Shri Rama’s holy name is the reservoir of all dharma.” (Dohavali, 29)
The earth nurtures like a mother. The biological mother ideally provides so much love to her child that no one else can come close to matching her in that child’s life, including when there is maturation into adulthood. A person may be proud of having become successful in material life, getting an advanced degree and enjoying with family. But they should know that their ancestors played a significant role in creating the conditions necessary for that success. Even if the individual starts off in poverty, at that point there is some culture, which gets passed down through family traditions. Indeed, this culture is so important that the wise warrior Arjuna worried about its dissolution due to fighting on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
utsanna-kula-dharmāṇāṁmanuṣyāṇāṁ janārdananarake niyataṁ vāsobhavatīty anuśuśruma
“O Krishna, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.43)
The good wife supports her husband. Her sacrifice allows her husband to perform the way he should. The glory goes to the husband, but the wife in the background is the energy. She is the better half. While this situation is certainly prevalent in material life, it is found in spiritual life too.
Shri Rama is famous. Aside from being the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a personal incarnation form who roamed the earth during the Treta Yuga, He also performed many heroic deeds. He once killed 14,000 fighters all by Himself. His closest family members with Him at the time were His wife and His younger brother. Rama sent both of them to a nearby cave, with the brother in charge of protecting the wife.
Rama lifted a famously heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. This feat earned Him the hand of Sita Devi in marriage. She was the daughter of the illustrious King Janaka, who was a true mahatma, or great soul. Rama also had a bridge built to the island of Lanka. This bridge was made of stones that floated. Rama also defeated the powerful King Ravana, whom the world feared.
Though Rama did all of these things seemingly on His own, He had His energy supporting Him. To build the bridge, the Vanaras from the forest of Kishkindha did the work. The defeat of Ravana was to rescue Sita, who had been kidnapped by that fiend. It was for Sita’s sake also that Rama defeated the 14,000 attackers sent to Dandaka by Ravana.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that Sita does more than just sit in the background. She is ready to jump ahead of her husband when hard times come. Sort of like taking a bullet for your friend or standing up for a close one being attacked, Sita accepted the punishment of exile handed out only to Rama. He told her to stay at home, but she refused. As she explains above, she was prepared to depart the kingdom even ahead of Rama.
What did that departure mean? Sita went from being a princess to a forest dweller, vana-charini. Not just any princess, she was married to the heir-apparent to the throne of Ayodhya, ruled by Rama’s father Dasharatha. And she wasn’t going to be any old forest-dweller. She would live there for fourteen years, essentially accepting the life of an ascetic.
She did all of this without being asked. She did this to support her husband. From her example, we see that God is someone who gets support from the best people. The male aspect of the divine is the purusha, or the enjoyer. The female aspect is the prakriti, or the enjoyed. Rama is the supreme enjoyer and Sita the supreme enjoyed. Though purusha and prakriti respectively, they are both completely spiritual. They are one in interest, showing the true meaning to merging into the divine.
For every great man behind,
A support system you’ll find.
Like the mother care giving,
And wife for him sacrificing.
Sita though to Rama a wife,
For Him would give up her life.
Stepping sometimes even ahead,
Like when ready forest’s land to tread.
Categories: sita and hanuman