“Neither His mother, nor father, nor anyone else is equal to or greater than me in receiving His affection. O messenger, I wish to survive for only as long as I hear about my beloved.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.30)
na ca asya mātā na pitā na ca anyaḥ na |
snehāt viśiṣṭo asti mayā samo vā |
tāvadt hi aham dūta jijīviṣeyam |
yāvat pravṛttim śṛṇuyām priyasya ||
How else would you survive such a terrible situation? No friends in sight. It’s like moving to a brand new place, far away from where you previously called home for so long. You’re in this new place not by choice; against your will someone dragged you there.
Forget family, loved ones or well-wishers – everyone there is against you. The leader of the land, King Ravana, has ordered his attendants to harass you day and night. He wants you to be his chief queen, but that idea can never come to fruition. For starters, the leader is ten-headed, wicked, and terrible. He already has many beautiful queens, so why is he bothering you?
Moreover, your heart already belongs to someone else. That person is very dear to you, priya. The affection isn’t in the typical manner. Love in the material world isn’t really what we think of it. Most times it is lust, which is known as kama in Sanskrit.
Think about it. If your beloved totally rejected you, stole all your money, and never spoke to you again, would you continue to love them? Maybe an attachment would remain, but eventually the heart moves on. This ability to switch objects of affection, where people fall in and out of favor, is the prime indication of kama.
Sita’s love for Rama was bhakti. Not that she was practicing it as a way of self-purification. Not that she had tried other forms of yoga in the hopes of gaining release from the cycle of birth and death. Rather, bhakti is what defines her. It is her very existence. She is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord. He is compassion personified, and the person who unflinchingly serves Him in an amorous mood is bhakti personified.
From the above referenced verse from the Ramayana we get an idea of how to survive in a difficult situation. Sita, who is the eternal consort appearing on earth in an incarnation form, is under the constant threat of death, for Ravana’s kama has turned against him. Still, she is willing to stay alive. She wants only to hear about her husband.
She is hearing some things about him now through the duta, or messenger. Shri Hanuman has bravely journeyed to Lanka to find Sita and bring her news about Rama and what He is planning to do for rescue. As a pure devotee, Sita thinks that Rama has been the most favorable to her. She believes that no one is equal or superior to her in receiving the Divine mercy.
This is gratefulness, which is a trait that is both beneficial and indicative of intelligence. Those who are in bhakti automatically acquire all good attributes; a separate endeavor is not required. As God, Rama is equal to all. But one who renders service to Him becomes a friend.
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
Rama’s wife gives testimony to just how powerful Hari-katha is. These are discourses about the Supreme Lord, who is known by names such as Hari, Rama, Krishna, and Vishnu. Hearing itself is capable of delivering a person from the most dangerous situation. Physical movement is not necessary. Neither is gaining opulence or increasing renunciation. The indescribable feeling of surrender in devotion, sharanagati, has only one requirement: desire. If there is desire to serve God, to hear about Him, then living even in an otherwise miserable condition becomes blissful.
Into the worst situation to reach,
Hostile is surrounding person each.
Elusive peace far away in distance,
Living then why in this instance?
From Sita power of hearing shown,
From Hanuman about Rama known.
That Hari-katha to have effect on all,
Turning large task of liberation small.