“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)
न च सीता त्वया हीना न चाहमपि राघव।
मुहूर्तमपि जीवावो जलान्मत्स्याविनोद्धृतौ।।
na ca sītā tvayā hīnā na cāhamapi rāghava।
muhūrtamapi jīvāvo jalānmatsyāvinoddhṛtau।।
1. Detaching from the insignificant
The number of words used to describe this category are few, but the scope is as large as the mind can imagine. To get an idea, take the vision of the universal form. Known as the virata-rupa in Sanskrit, this has been on display several times throughout history, most notably in front of the bow-warrior named Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
मन्यसे यदि तच् छक्यं
मया द्रष्टुम् इति प्रभो
योगेश्वर ततो मे त्वं
manyase yadi tac chakyaṁ
mayā draṣṭum iti prabho
yogeśvara tato me tvaṁ
“If You think that I am able to behold Your cosmic form, O my Lord, O master of all mystic power, then kindly show me that universal self.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.4)
The awe-inspiring image still does not do justice to the objects represented within. Who can actually grasp the entire cosmos and more? We marvel at the sights when looking out the window when seated on an airplane. Everything looks so small. At the same time, the depth and scope of the land and surrounding nature come to life.
“Who in their right mind would think they could control any of this? Just see how amazing nature is. I don’t understand how any person can be an atheist after looking at all of this. The clouds alone are awesome enough; at least to me.”
Within a small section of that universe we have our own little world. Friends, family, home, community, roads, bridges, tunnels, job, television, news, sports, etc. So much going on, but know that in the long-term interest there is nothing happening.
The daily changes are part of an illusory play which has tricked us since we first entered this world. There is even illusion in that event, as we have certainly lived before and will continue to exist moving forward.
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
It is proper to detach from the insignificant. Engage, but not really. You certainly have to do what is necessary to survive, such as eating, sleeping, mating and defending. The interaction should be limited, and the primary interest should be placed elsewhere.
2. Never letting go of that which is the most important
We cannot eliminate desire; it will always be there. As much as we can remove attachment to the temporary, there will remain a longing to serve. This is known as the essential characteristic of the living being. The Sanskrit word is dharma.
Dharma translates to religion, religiosity, righteousness, duty and so forth only because of the relation to the essential characteristic within. In other words, religion is dharma because it is the best way for me to satisfy my essential characteristic.
I want desperately to serve. This desire can never be eliminated. The recommended way of living is to detach from service to the temporary and instead remain attached to the eternal. The Sanskrit word is sat. Sat-sanga and asat-tyaga.
The Ramayana provides an ideal example of the way to live. We have the decision made by Lakshmana. The younger brother of Rama decides to follow the older brother into the forest. The term is fourteen years. Lakshmana is leaving behind a host of luxuries. What most people in the modern world aspire to, Lakshmana already had.
He chose to follow someone who is eternal; the chief eternal, in fact. Rama’s wife, Sita Devi, made the same decision. She would rather be poor and with Rama than wealthy and devoid of His association. Lakshmana makes the comparison to fish being removed from water. They cannot survive for long in that condition, and so Sita and Lakshmana would not let Rama leave for the forest by Himself.
They did not necessarily abandon the world. They did not remove responsibility entirely. The priorities were properly aligned; this is the secret taught by the acharyas. Make God the top priority and everything else will fall into place: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Temporary interests many,
But not lasting importance any.
So interest should renounce,
Rather than always to bounce.
Focus on the permanent so,
In service wherever to go.
Like Sita and Lakshmana leaving,
For joy of association receiving.
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