If No One Is Around

[Rama lila]“If you have arrived as Rama’s messenger, then may there be all good fortune to you. O best of the monkeys, I am asking you to please speak of Rama, for that is very pleasing to me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.18)

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yadi rāmasya dūtaḥ tvam āgato bhadram astu te ||
pṛcchāmi tvām hari śreṣṭha priyā rāma kathā hi me |

Bhakti-yoga is the pinnacle achievement in life. It is the one occupation that has no position above it; nothing beyond. Even the President of the United States, the recognized leader of the free world, still has room for improvement. This is because the post doesn’t last forever. The king of a great nation has other nations with which to contend. As Goswami Tulsidas remarks, the king, the ascetic, the yogi, the fruitive worker – they all have difficulty sleeping due to the attention they must maintain to their occupational duties. Only Tulsidas sleeps fine because he has full faith and trust in the Supreme Lord Rama.

The source of this trust is love and devotion. Bhakti-yoga is synonymous with sanatana-dharma, which means the eternal occupation. Basically, once you take up devotion to God in earnest, you never have to give it up. You don’t have to work your way up towards anything else, either. The means is the end. The devotion is identical with the object of devotion. These truths are revealed to the sincere practitioner in due time.

Yet taking up bhakti-yoga is difficult. One of the many obstacles is association. If everyone around me is going to the bar after work to consume adult beverages, it’s not easy to decline the invitation. If everyone around me eats animal flesh for dinner, why draw attention to myself by refusing? If everyone else is seeking enjoyment of the senses, why should I make a show of renunciation?

In Kali-yuga the bedrock of devotional life is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. When done in the association of like-minded people, the practice is known as sankirtana. The names are so powerful that even regular kirtana is effective. The idea is to associate with God the person through sound.

[record albums]If no one is around, it’s difficult to keep a routine. In the past, the recording artists complained about the record companies. But without deadlines and deliverables some of the most popular music in history wouldn’t have been created. Students learning the art of medicine are forced to study through the deadline of the exam. If not for the exam, they wouldn’t have the pressure to learn the material.

In the same way, congregational chanting helps in creating and maintaining a routine. It allows bhakti-yoga to flourish. But what to do if the vital association is lacking? What if you work at a job that forces you to travel for most of the year, away from your dear friends? The above referenced verse from the Ramayana gives the necessary motivation to continue anyway. Here, the “Hare” addressed in the maha-mantra describes how talking about her husband makes her very happy.

[Sita Devi in Lanka]She is speaking to Hanuman, the messenger of Rama. Sita is in Lanka against her will. Since everyone around her has the kama-rupa perfection of mysticism, the ability to change their shape at will, she is suspicious of everyone. Hanuman is in the form of a monkey, which is out of place for Lanka. Despite telling her that he has been sent by her husband, she still has trouble believing.

She says that if he is indeed Rama’s messenger, may there be all blessings upon him. Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune. She is the pleasure potency of God. Rama or Krishna is the male aspect of the Divine and Sita or Radha the feminine aspect. Her words to Hanuman confirm that she wishes well for anyone who represents Rama. Hanuman is the direct representative, and today those who follow the devotion of Hanuman are also representatives of the same Supreme Lord.

[Rama lila]Sita asks Hanuman for Rama-katha, or discourses about Rama. She says that it is very pleasing to her, priya. Rama-katha is talking about the glories of God the person. Someone who doesn’t know Rama so well can accomplish the same simply by chanting the holy names. This means that anyone who chants pleases the goddess of fortune. She hears Rama-katha wherever it takes place. Hanuman’s devotion is pure, and so his speaking is all the more pleasing to Sita. In the same way, through practice of bhakti-yoga, whether alone or in the company of others, purification increases, bringing more pleasure to the person who can bestow fortune upon anyone. May there be all blessings upon the one who speaks of the glories of Rama, the dear husband of Sita.

In Closing:

From sound a vision to be,

All glories to them may be.

For then with God association coming,

Even though in maya purified becoming.

My opinion alone don’t take,

A study of Sita’s words just make.

So pleased when of Rama to hear,

Hanuman to her forever dear.

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