“I trust that He is getting friends and also been approached for friendship. I trust that He has auspicious friends and that His friends are giving Him first priority.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.18)
kaccin mitrāṇi labhate mitraiḥ ca api abhigamyate |
kaccit kalyāṇa mitraḥ ca mitraiḥ ca api puraḥ kṛtaḥ ||
It’s that time of year again. The biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world is out with their latest models. You usually get a good chuckle out of this. Everyone gets excited over the news. It’s the same phone, but different. Some new features here and there. A better camera. Longer battery life. A faster processor.
This year is a little different since the phone you currently own is starting to die. You’ve had it for over three years. Proud of yourself for not following the flock and getting a new phone every few years, this time there is some interest about the new features. Therefore you are ready to make the purchase.
Of course there is one problem. On the day of the release, the phone quickly goes out of stock. The company is not really sure when it will be available again; maybe in a few weeks. You are quite upset. What is the point to hyping a new product if it is not even available?
From the teachers of the bhakti tradition of spirituality, we learn that God is ultimately a person. He is the best one, Purushottama. He is original, adi-purusha. He is without beginning, anadi. He is without end, ananta. He is a distinct individual possessing every fortune imaginable, Bhagavan.
Understanding God as a person is key because of behavior at the individual level. With a person comes the potential for relationships. In bhakti, which is love and devotion, the relationship established with Bhagavan can be of different kinds. It’s sort of like a relation. We interact with different people, and our relationship to them is not the same in every case.
Because of this variety, the same person may be addressed by different names. At work they are “your honor.” At the government office they are “Mr. Such and Such.” In the bedroom they are “darling.” At the dinner table they are “father.” On the football field they are “dude.”
Such relationships can be established with Bhagavan, as well. The different interactions are known as rasas. This Sanskrit word translates to “taste” or “mellow”. It’s bhakti all the same; just the taste varies. Someone can act as parental guardian, vatsalya-rasa. Someone can act as lover, madhurya-rasa. Another person can be an admirer from a distance, shanta-rasa.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the wife of Shri Rama references sakhya-rasa, which is friendship. Rama is Bhagavan in a special incarnation form appearing in the Treta Yuga of creation and playing the role of pious warrior prince. Sita is God’s eternal consort, the goddess of fortune. Due to the close nature of the relationship, she knows the Supreme Lord very well.
From Sita’s discussion with Rama we see that not only is there potential for relationships, but God Himself makes sure there is plenty of opportunity. What good is knowing the different rasas if there is no way to enjoy them? Here Sita trusts that Rama is making friendships. Hopefully those friends are auspicious, kalyana, and putting Rama as the top priority.
Essentially, she trusts that the friendships are in bhakti and not kama, which is material sense gratification. Rama doesn’t actually need friends. He doesn’t need help from anyone. Still, He is so kind that He creates situations that allow others to help Him. Here a friend is helping to find Sita, who has gone missing from Rama’s side.
Hanuman is one of those people helping Rama. Hanuman works for Sugriva, with whom Rama formed an alliance. Though Hanuman works for someone that Rama is friends with, technically the taste of interaction is in service, dasya-rasa.
Whatever the actual mellow desired, the key is to establish the relationship. That is the true boon of the human birth. Know that the opportunities will always be there, provided the individual is sincere in wanting a connection. The Divine mercy is never out of stock.
Not even material nature to block,
Divine mercy always in stock.
Just a desire initially there,
That of God as person aware.
Like with Rama help needing,
Then Vanaras for Sita proceeding.
To rescue souls purpose to come,
Playing prince, friend, or even son.