“That one in whom there was no pain, nor fear, nor distress when giving up the kingdom, which was an indication of His righteousness, and when leading me by foot in the forest – I trust He is keeping firm in heart.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.29)
dharma apadeśāt tyajataḥ ca rājyām |
mām ca api araṇyam nayataḥ padātim |
na āsīt vyathā yasya na bhīḥ na śokaḥ |
kaccit sa dhairyam hṛdaye karoti ||
Life is unpredictable, after all. After birth, the only guaranteed outcome subsequent is death. There are many teachings along these lines. From Benjamin Franklin, the only things assured are death and taxes. From the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna teaches Arjuna that a person should not avoid discharging their prescribed duties, dharma, because of the way birth and death occur in cycles.
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
Keep a steady mind. Cool as a cucumber. Don’t get too high or too low. You’re going to fail too many times to stay upset for long. The advice is easier spoken than adhered to. Since death is guaranteed, it means that eventually everything will be lost. The tricky part is that death doesn’t announce itself. It doesn’t give fair warning. It can strike at any time, and thus far it hasn’t lost.
The people who do remain steady under the pressure of disturbing times are thus noteworthy. One such person is Shri Rama. He is the same individual who spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. He is the object of dharma, which is prescribed duty, religion, or righteousness, depending on the context.
Ultimately, dharma is the essential characteristic of the individual. Every living thing is connected to the source of all living things. That source creates both the material and spiritual worlds. He creates in an effortless way. Though we are influenced by our work, He is not.
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
In His incarnation of Rama, the Supreme, the original source, sets the proper example on how to behave when things don’t go your way. Rama is free of emotions common when facing difficulties, as noted one time by His wife Sita Devi.
The Sanskrit word is vyatha. Rama had ample reason to feel pain. He was rejected by His own family. First came the yanking away of the kingdom. Though God has no father and mother, the only person who can accurately make that claim, He still appears in this world from time to time. He does so to protect the sadhus, who are the saintly people.
“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)
The appearance must have an external cause, lest everyone know about His Divine nature. Thus there are special people chosen to play important roles, like mother and father. Rama was the eldest son to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. As protocol, Rama was scheduled to one day accept the throne from the father.
But things suddenly went against tradition. Bharata, one of three younger brothers, was now set to be installed. Rama did not mind being passed over. It was the next order that really hurt. He was sent to the forest for fourteen years, to live like a wandering hermit. No connection to the kingdom. No wealth. No army. Just Him, by Himself.
Rama did not feel any pain at this time. He gave up the kingdom as if it were nothing. Sita says this was an indication of His dedication to dharma. In this case the right thing to do was follow the requests of the father. Dasharatha had made two promises to the queen Kaikeyi, and so if Rama acted otherwise the father would be known to be a liar. That would not be good for anyone.
If I suddenly became homeless, surely I will be afraid. I have trouble dealing with losing a job, even. Fear is caused by uncertainty. How was someone like Rama going to survive in the wilderness? Wouldn’t He get lonely? Wouldn’t there be wild animals with which to contend?
Sita says that Rama did not have any fear. The beautiful wife insisted on accompanying Rama, as did the younger brother Lakshmana. Rama was not afraid about how to protect them. He was not worried over how to keep them entertained. His very name means “total transcendental pleasure,” so anyone in His association, with the proper consciousness, is automatically the happiest.
From prince to pauper, overnight. From friends, family, and well-wishers surrounding you to predatory animals as neighbors. From the cool floors in palaces under your feet to the prickly brushes and grass at every step. It would be understandable to feel a little distress.
Since the Supreme Lord was now in their presence, the inhabitants of the wild were benefitted. They got to interact with the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, which are beautiful and soft. God can be both harder than the hardest and softer than the softest.
Sita hoped that just as Rama did not show distress, pain, or fear during those troubling times that He would remain strong in heart during separation from her. She was taken away from His side through a wicked plot hatched by the king of Lanka, Ravana. Indeed, the ever-steady Rama was on His way to rescue her, with the first indication the successful journey to her side by the preeminent minister Shri Hanuman.
In the same way, the Supreme Lord has been witness to our great distress since time immemorial, as we have travelled from body to body in the cycle of birth and death in the material world. When our attention shifts to Him, to serving Him with love, to no longer having material desires, He is equally as dedicated to rescuing us, to bringing us back into the eternal engagement that is devotional service, the real dharma of the individual.
Having to leave family near and dear,
In going to forest without fear.
Nor with any distress feeling,
Absent pain situation dealing.
Because God in every situation steady,
To defend dharma always ready.
To rescue wife Sita soon coming the day,
For us too holy names sending our way.