“Neither His mother, nor father, nor anyone else is equal to or greater than me in receiving His affection. O messenger, I wish to survive for only as long as I hear about my beloved.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.30)
न चास्य माता न पिता च नान्यः स्नेहाद्विशिष्टोऽस्ति मया समो वा।
तावत्त्वहं दूत जिजीविषेयं यावत्प्रवृत्तिं शृणुयां प्रियस्य।।
na cāsya mātā na pitā ca nānyaḥ snehādviśiṣṭo’sti mayā samo vā।
tāvattvahaṃ dūta jijīviṣeyaṃ yāvatpravṛttiṃ śṛṇuyāṃ priyasya।।
From reading Vedic texts like Ramayana, it may be asked how someone like Sita Devi could be so attached to Shri Rama, who is supposed to be an avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A befitting Sanskrit word is Bhagavan, which refers to someone who is the most fortunate.
Parashara Muni provides a helpful definition, that one way to know God is by enumerating a few desirable qualities. These can be described as opulences, or bhaga in Sanskrit. God is the one who possesses these opulences simultaneously and to the fullest extent.
Hence He is Bhagavan. Sita Devi shows unwavering allegiance, to the point of sacrificing every personal comfort. She will do anything for her husband, but this tendency to follow is not based merely on the dharma of the institution. It is good practice for the wife to follow such a vow, pativrata, but the devotion in general can be understood through different factors.
Sita Devi symbolizes pure devotion through her practical example, and we see similar allegiance from saintly people. The starting point is intelligence. Real knowledge, jnana, is at the foundation. The devotion is not through blind following. It is not based on a hope and a prayer for future upliftment, of winning a place in the heavenly region, or enjoying without obstruction.
Rather, the devotee understands Bhagavan’s place. They know that He is the greatest based on a measurable factor. At the same time, the properties can never be appropriately quantified through blunt instruments. This is why Bhagavan is also known as Adhokshaja.
God is the most powerful person. He can turn any potential into reality. He can nullify any strict law of nature. For instance, the bow in Janaka’s kingdom was too heavy for any human being to lift, even if they be the strongest prince in the world.
Rama counteracted that law by lifting the bow, linked to Lord Shiva, without issue. This proved that only He was the worthy husband of Janaka’s daughter. Sita follows Rama, Lakshmana follows Sita and Rama, and the devoted souls follow all three, birth after birth.
2. Intense gratefulness
As Lakshmana once revealed to Hanuman, one of the reasons to follow Rama is gratefulness. In ordinary affairs, it is easy to forget good deeds done in our favor. If for some reason our father one day causes trouble, we might never speak to them again. We feel incredibly insulted by their offensive behavior.
We immediately forget the past assistance. The unending love, the sacrifices made, the guidance shown – everything gets tossed aside in the moment. The phrase, “What have you done for me lately,” applies.
Shri Rama remembers every kind deed done in His favor. The devotees, in turn, are grateful for this mercy. They cannot believe that someone so kind has been so favorable upon them.
3. Feeling a debt that can never be repaid
Within that gratefulness, there is a feeling of obligation. There is some debt that needs to be returned, although Rama is not like the predatory lender, harassing through constant phone calls to collect money they knew the debtor would have a difficult time repaying.
Sita Devi once remarked as so to Hanuman. She explained that she felt most loved by Rama, that His affection was greatest towards her. Devotees, in turn, feel as if Sita and Rama favor them the most, that no one is as fortunate.
Therefore, a debt obligation exists. It can never be properly repaid, which is a good fortune in that there is always impetus for at least chanting the holy names, offering food preparations in a mood of love, rereading the historical accounts of their glorious activities in this world, and passing forward the Divine tradition to future generations, so that they may feel the same love and affection in their difficult journey through this land of birth and death.
Difficult journey through,
Suffering rebirth who.
But easier the path made,
By devotion to one paid.
Like Sita to Rama connected,
Sacrifices for Him directed.
Because as the kindest knowing,
Grateful indebtedness growing.
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