“O best of the monkeys, bring here soon my husband along with Lakshmana and the army troops. O chief of the monkeys, I have been suffering grief for a long time because of Rama, so in this way bring happiness to me.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.66)
स मे हरिश्रेष्ठ सलक्ष्मणं पतिं सयूथपं क्षिप्रमिहोपपादय।
चिराय रामं प्रति शोककर्शितां कुरुष्व मां वानरमुख्य हर्षिताम्।।
sa me hariśreṣṭha salakṣmaṇaṃ patiṃ sayūthapaṃ kṣipramihopapādaya।
cirāya rāmaṃ prati śokakarśitāṃ kuruṣva māṃ vānaramukhya harṣitām।।
As the Vaishnava presents the challenge of giving up sense gratification, vairagya, in favor of experiencing a higher taste, param drishtva, they are bound to meet opposition. The rational human being does not accept philosophies blindly. They have their own experience to use as a foundation. They know of the many cheaters encountered, how someone may have an ulterior motive.
The initial argument of the proponent is to not waste time in a futile search for permanent happiness in a temporary world. Avoid the regret sure to be felt later on in life. Make the best use of vitality at the present moment, for no one can guarantee the future.
Take to spiritual life instead. It is something different, for sure. There was ample opportunity for sense enjoyment in previous births. If there is skepticism about past existences, just look to the population visible at present. There are dogs, birds, bears, insects, and so forth. They enjoy in certain ways. Perhaps not the same as the human being, but a taste is there.
Human life is something different. There is the added gift of intelligence, which can be used to apply discrimination. Progress is already a vital force acting within society. Avoid the mistakes of past generations. Move forward in a way that benefits everyone.
In fact, the human birth is ideally the last stage in a progressive march for the individual, who is spirit soul. The Vaishnava says to complete the maturation by engaging in bhajana, which is worship of the Supreme Lord. More than blind faith in a single institution or book or leader, learn about the identity of the person being worshiped and how they transcend temporary designations. Really get to know Him and His creation.
This bhajana will bring more happiness than ever previously experienced. The destination is logical. The spirit soul is meant to be in connection with the Divine. Dharma instead of adharma. More than simply following righteous behavior, bring to life the intrinsic characteristics of the spirit soul.
One of the arguments against is that mankind will be neglected:
If I only worry about myself, working on attaining the best destination in the afterlife, paramartha, then what will happen to everyone else? If every person left home and went to live in a temple, would not society suffer?
The corresponding option is called “service to man.”
Help the poor. Give service to the elderly. Take care of those less fortunate. This will please God more than simple expressions of faith and allegiance. Give respect to His children; through them reach the proper destination.
While the sentiment is often rooted in genuine concern for others, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada often cites a story to illustrate the folly. The situation is of a sick patient. They are on the path to recovery, provided they follow the doctor’s instructions. In addition to rest, the sick person must refrain from certain foods.
Another person, seeing the helpless condition of the patient, decides to implement the “service to man” ideal, with their own interpretation. They bring tasty food to the sick person, but everything is from the restricted list. Though the intention is good, by accepting such service the patient will die.
In the same way, if someone doesn’t know how to properly help mankind, then what good will their service do? Keeping a person bound to the cycle of birth and death, when they otherwise have a great opportunity at escaping, is not very nice. Though presented as service, any effort made will end up being a disservice.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we get a similar dichotomy, except on a much higher level. Here Shri Hanuman offers service to Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama. Hanuman wants to carry Sita on his back and return her to the side of her husband, from whom she has been separated for too long.
This is the nicest sentiment, since Hanuman has nothing but love for Sita and Rama. Yet she declines the offer, explaining that the act in kindness would actually diminish the glory of her husband. This is not intended by either party in the situation.
As she is the goddess of fortune, and thus supremely magnanimous and charitable, Sita does not leave Hanuman without other options. She gives the way towards making her happy. She asks that Hanuman bring Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana to Lanka quickly. Come with the members of the army. Just the news of their arrival will bring so much happiness to her.
In the same way, Sita and Rama are most pleased when people engage in their service, always thinking of them and honoring them. Shri Hanuman is their eternal servant, and he recommends others for service. Thus those who honor him are supremely blessed. Their efforts in bhajana never go to waste, and they provide the best example for mankind to follow. Those on the side of Sita and Rama end up victorious in life, while those actively against them perish in the way of the evil Ravana.
When sick patient to see,
Desire for suffering to free.
Bringing something palatable to eat,
But if restricted only calamity to meet.
Same way for “service to man” action,
Better first from authority sanction.
Like Hanuman from Sita idea getting,
Goal accomplished without regretting.