“O Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)
परवानस्मि काकुत्स्थ त्वयि वर्षशतं स्थिते |
स्वयं तु रुचिरे देशे क्रियतामिति मां वद ||
paravānasmi kākutstha tvayi varṣaśataṃ sthite |
svayaṃ tu rucire deśe kriyatāmiti māṃ vada ||
“In reading the Ramayana, I’m wondering how Sita, Rama and Lakshmana were able to tolerate living in the forest for that long. I like it when we go camping. It is fun for a few days. The outdoors is different from what we are used to. I guess you could call it survivalist or roughing it. Something unique, for sure.
“Even in that situation, there is still some resemblance to normal life. We have electricity, to a degree. My other friends bring their portable televisions. Music players. Smartphones, though cell coverage may not be available. We also know that there is a fixed amount of time, that we will eventually return to the comfort of home.
“How did that group last for fourteen years? Especially Sita Devi and Lakshmana, since they were not within the line of fire. They were not ordered to leave Ayodhya for fourteen years. They accepted the punishment voluntarily, in a show of solidarity.
“I know that we have trouble on long-haul flights. If travelling to a different part of the world, I worry over how to pass the time seated in one place. There is in-flight entertainment, but even that is insufficient when dealing with ten or more hours to occupy.”
Based on our attachment to the familiar surroundings, it may seem impossible to spend even a week in an area detached from civilization, but for Lakshmana and Sita there was no hesitation. The wife explained to Rama that living with Him would be superior to finding heaven, svarga-loka.
एवं वर्षसहस्राणां शतं वाऽहं त्वया सह।
व्यतिक्रमं न वेत्स्यामि स्वर्गोऽपि न हि मे मतः।।
evaṃ varṣasahasrāṇāṃ śataṃ vā’haṃ tvayā saha।
vyatikramaṃ na vetsyāmi svargo’pi na hi me mataḥ।।
“Even if I stay with You for hundreds of thousands of years, I shall not feel any loss. Even residence in the heavenly realm is not preferred by me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya-kand, 27.20)
She would know a thing or two about advanced living. Sita grew up in royalty, in the home of King Janaka of Mithila. She married into the solar dynasty, as Rama was the son of King Dasharatha, the current monarch in a family tracing its ancestry to Ikshvaku, the son of Manu.
If she could give up the regal life in favor of nothing, it must mean that there is something to Rama’s association. The same applies to Lakshmana. The younger brother would soon forego sleep. In order to maintain Rama’s interest, to apply a protective stance, Lakshmana renounced one of the primary forms of enjoyment for a human being.
Eating, sleeping, mating and defending were limited, but the life was blissful. This is the effect of deep association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Artificial kinds of enjoyment are no longer necessary. A person who grew up watching hours of television each day may eventually give up the practice entirely.
They instead take joy in singing the glories of the Almighty, who has features beyond comprehension. They recount His amazing activities and the dedication of His servants. They lament that each day only has twenty-four hours, that there is not more time to dedicate in that service. They follow the mood of Lakshmana, who promises to remain a dedicated servant for one hundred years consecutively, if given the chance.
For one hundred years to remain,
In occupation the same.
Where the elder orders giving,
And Lakshmana faithfully living.
Since supreme bliss found,
Even on forest’s ground.
The bhakti life displaying,
Fortune not his mind swaying.