“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 ||
Friend1: I think I remember reading where Goswami Tulsidas prefers to worship the Supreme Lord when situated in the forest.
Friend1: I don’t think the reference is to the period of youth, where Rama and Lakshmana are under the tutelage of Vishvamitra Muni. This is when Rama is with Sita Devi, His wife. Lakshmana is there, too. He is the dedicated younger brother.
Friend2: Why would Tulsidas prefer that setting?
Friend1: It is in comparison to the regal life in Ayodhya. In many pictures you will see Sita and Rama seated on the throne, worshiped by others.
Friend2: Since Rama eventually did become king. The fourteen years in the forest came to an end. They did not remain detached from civilization forever.
Friend1: Okay, so why would someone prefer that setting? I am not judging; just curious. Wouldn’t we want to view God in all His glory, when He has complete power?
Friend2: Some people certainly do prefer that impression. Tulsidas is putting forward his opinion so that others know his mood.
Friend1: And what is that?
Friend2: You are much closer to God when He is outside of the role as king of a civilized community.
Friend1: How so? It seems like that is a situation of torture. Your fourteen years is a form of punishment. It is a mark of Queen Kaikeyi’s greed. She shouldn’t have interfered. Rama was supposed to be the next king. The plans were already set. Kaikeyi got in the way and manipulated her husband, King Dasharatha.
Friend2: Sita and Lakshmana did not view it as torture. They were more than happy to accompany Rama.
Friend1: Okay, but that is a kind of sacrifice. You can’t tell me they really enjoyed that setting.
Friend2: That is exactly what I am saying. They were not lacking a single thing. Lakshmana told Rama that he would continue as servant, even if commanded for one hundred years consecutively. Do you understand the importance of that?
Friend2: It indicates that no one was keeping an eye on the clock. They weren’t trying to run out the time. They were so happy to be in Rama’s presence that they forgot about time.
Friend1: I get it that you are pleased to be with someone you love, but how can you be happy in a place with nothing to do?
Friend2: As opposed to a bustling city, with more opportunities for enjoyment.
Friend1: Exactly. It’s neat to go camping every once in a while. Travel is a good way to break the routine. But no one wants to do that for a living. I don’t want to be forced to live away from society for fourteen years. That is like a prison sentence.
Friend2: Normally it would be, but if you have the association of the Supreme Lord, you can turn any place into heaven and beyond. That is one of the secrets to that image. There is a reason that Tulsidas and others prefer to worship Rama in that setting. They know that nothing in this world matters as much as devotional service, which is the true dharma of the individual.
To forest period referring,
Tulsidas that scene preferring.
Because peace in that setting,
Closer connection getting.
Rama in that forest time,
With Sita and Lakshmana to find.
With nothing else to distract,
Essence of dharma to extract.