“O best of the monkeys, for all living beings fate is indeed unavoidable. Just see Lakshmana, Rama and myself bewildered by distresses.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.4)
vidhiḥ nūnam asamhāryaḥ prāṇinām plavaga uttama |
saumitrim mām ca rāmam ca vyasanaiḥ paśya mohitān ||
“It’s time to move to a new city. This place is too much. Not to mention the bitter cold of winter, after that we get the discomforting allergy season. Then the summer is too hot. It feels like the sun is going to burn you, like you are living in an earthly version of hell. I will move to a better place and that will make me happy.”
“It’s time for a new job. The boss is too much. Duplicitous, dishonest, unsteady and always talking politics at the office – I’ve had enough. Better to move on to some other place, with a fresh start. I’m sick of the company always being on the verge of bankruptcy, as well. There are these lofty promises of greener pastures, but I’ve yet to see evidence.”
“It’s time to get married. I want to start a family. That is the one thing missing in my life. Everything else is settled. Education, career, home, car – what else do I need? It will be nice to have others to care for. I will have more reason to get up in the morning.”
It is interesting to learn from teachers of the spiritual science, the Vedas, that man should not take great effort to find happiness. The pursuit guiding every individual since time immemorial should be shelved, say the realized souls.
There is a reason. Apparently, happiness arrives on its own. That is to say even without trying, without giving conscious effort, happiness is sure to be experienced. A simple example is the rising of the sun in the morning. The previous day was tough. Distress due to outside factors. The dawn of a new day brings renewed hope and optimism.
“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
In fact, a person doesn’t have to intentionally seek distress to find it. Both happiness and distress arrive like the summer and winter seasons. This is the comparison used by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. The feelings are due to sense perception only, and a person should try to tolerate the changes.
Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama, makes a similar statement in the Ramayana while talking to Shri Hanuman one time. She says that vidhih, which is fate or destiny, is unavoidable. That is to say it cannot be avoided. We can try to outrun the train that is invincible time, but it will eventually catch up to us.
For proof of the claim, she uses the example of her husband, her husband’s younger brother, and herself. The three characters are significant, since they are known to be righteous. They follow dharma as strictly as it can be followed. They don’t wish harm on any person. They are not vengeful, spiteful or callous. They sacrifice their own comforts for the benefit of others.
Even with such behavior they become bewildered by distresses. Sita is in the foreign territory of Lanka, held there against her will. Rama and Lakshmana might be in a worse situation, as they are looking for her. They don’t know if she is alive or dead. Wherever she might be, they hope that she is not suffering.
With every precaution taken, with every piece of advice from authority figures followed, with careful attention paid to piety and sin, and without any desire to satisfy the senses a person can still meet trouble and distress. In Sita’s case man-eating ogres were threatening her with death. They promised to keep her away from her husband forever. She had done nothing wrong.
As destiny in the material world is unavoidable, a person should consider for which purpose they are living. As happiness and distress arrive on their own, better to seek ananda of the transcendental variety. Seek a kind of bliss that will last beyond the present lifetime.
That ananda can only be found in devotional service, the kind which Hanuman and others practice. He is devoted to Sita and Rama. That couple actually never becomes bewildered by the material nature, as they are controllers of it. It is God’s mercy that He descends to this earth and provides clarity to complex subjects through His pastimes. As Shri Rama, the Almighty endures difficulties to show that no person in material life is immune, that only through treading the righteous path will the proper end be achieved. His dedicated followers like Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman do the same.
Even when path of righteousness tread,
To distress sometimes led.
Like Sita in Lanka enduring,
Ravana her pain ensuring.
Nothing wrong from that goddess blameless,
Still victim of sinful Rakshasa shameless.
Lesson by Rama and family shown,
That true happiness in bhakti alone.