“Then there appeared before them a transcendental sound vibration, emanating from a personality not visible to material eyes. The voice was as grave as the sound of a cloud, and it was very encouraging, driving away all fear.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.24)
तेषाम् आविरभूद् वाणी
teṣām āvirabhūd vāṇī
Not exclusive to fairytales or artistic productions describing mythology, the truthful history of this world and others included in the vast and continuously expanding Vedic literature features many instances of the appearance of a voice from the sky. Known as akasha-vani in Sanskrit, not surprisingly the celestial announcement always carries tremendous significance.
1. Janaka finding Sita
His dispassion was at such a high level that the title given had real meaning. The king of Videha was indeed without a body, in relation to the consciousness. Connected in yoga to the Divine, Janaka was free of the influence of the senses. This is not easily achieved, especially for someone who continued to perform his duties as king.
Janaka’s work involved resultant actions, phala, but there was no attachment. He followed everything as a matter of duty. This is actually equivalent with the spiritual platform. Running away to an ashrama, living in a cave, and shaving the head are mere formalities. True renunciation takes place on the inside, and in that spirit a person can actually continue to work without becoming entangled.
कर्मण्य् एवाधिकारस् ते
मा फलेषु कदाचन
मा कर्म-फल-हेतुर् भूर्
मा ते सङ्गो ऽस्त्व् अकर्मणि
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te saṅgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.47)
One day Janaka was preparing a field for a yajna. This is sacrifice to please the enjoyer of sacrifice, Yajneshvara. Others are benefitted simultaneously, especially through the gift of nature known as rain. An amazing thing occurred. Janaka found a baby girl within the ground. She was still alive.
The level of affection he felt cannot be put into words. It was a spontaneous outpouring. At this moment a voice from the sky arrived. It explained to Janaka that this girl was his daughter in all righteousness, dharma. The meaning is that he could act on his inclination and take her home and care for her as his own.
अन्तरिक्षे च वागुक्ताऽप्रतिमाऽमानुषी किल |
एवमेतन्नरपते धर्मेण तनया तव ||
antarikṣe ca vāguktā’pratimā’mānuṣī kila
evametannarapate dharmeṇa tanayā tava
“Then a voice, sounding like a human being, was heard from the sky which said, ‘O king, this child is rightfully your daughter.’” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand,118.31)
The emotion from Janaka actually didn’t disqualify his Videha status. This is because the relationship was to the goddess of fortune. He named the girl Sita, since she came from the ground. She would later be married to Shri Rama, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord.
2. Kamsa escorting Devaki
It was a happy occasion, otherwise. Devaki was wed to Vasudeva. An equal match in terms of qualities, Kamsa followed tradition by escorting his sister to her new home. This helps to ease the tension surrounding the transition. The wife in a traditional Vedic style marriage is leaving home for the first time. It is a vidai, or moment of saying goodbye. Not an easy change, but one that brings so many meritorious credits to the new family.
During that trip a voice from the sky appeared. This time the message was a warning. Devaki’s eighth child would be Kamsa’s end. That child would kill Kamsa, who was high up in the government of Mathura. Not ready to face the prospect of death, at the hands of a child no less, Kamsa immediately went to kill his sister. Vasudeva talked him out of it, and the incident is part of the story of the advent of Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Without that warning from above, the amazing appearance of the Lord inside of the jail cell would not have later taken place.
3. Protectors of the planets in fear of Hiranyakashipu
The infamous Hiranyakashipu rose to power through first achieving the favor of the original god, Lord Brahma. He is the creator, though he is first empowered by Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Lord. In the four verses often described as being the sum and substance of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Vishnu explains to Brahma that before Him there was no one and that He also has no beginning. Therefore Vishnu is both adi and anadi.
अहम् एवासम् एवाग्रे
नान्यद् यत् सद्-असत् परम्
पश्चाद् अहं यद् एतच् च
यो ऽवशिष्येत सो ऽस्म्य् अहम्
aham evāsam evāgre
nānyad yat sad-asat param
paścād ahaṁ yad etac ca
yo ‘vaśiṣyeta so ‘smy aham
“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.33)
Hiranyakashipu received boons that made him powerful enough to put the entire world under his control. The protectors of the planets, loka-pala, became so afraid that they finally went to get help from Vishnu. This should always be the first option, but man tends to be forgetful for a variety of reasons.
After pleasing Him through prayers, Vishnu appeared on the scene in the form of a voice. This message was also auspicious, explaining that everything would be taken care of in time. Vishnu was certainly aware of the situation. As explained in the Bhagavad-gita, everywhere are His eyes.
सर्वतः पाणि-पादं तत्
सर्वतः श्रुतिमल् लोके
सर्वम् आवृत्य तिष्ठति
sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādaṁ tat
sarvataḥ śrutimal loke
sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati
“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.14)
The question may be raised as to how sound can just magically appear in the sky. The historical incidents highlight the tremendous potency of sound, shabda. The physical form is not always required, and the instruction coming in the form of sound is powerful enough to deliver. For this reason the wise souls of this age constantly produce and hear the sounds of the holy name: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is the akasha-vani of the times for delivering the mind from fear and despair, directing it towards the transcendental light.
After for yajna field to plough,
New baby to his family how?
Voice from the sky confirming,
Dedication to dharma affirming.
To Kamsa warning another giving,
And Vishnu to gods in fear living.
Idea that physical not always required,
Towards liberation by sound inspired.