“Giving up His very valuable upper garments, that very celebrated one put aside any thoughts of the kingdom and told me to stay with His mother.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.26)
स विहायोत्तरीयाणि महार्हाणि महायशाः।।
विसृज्य मनसा राज्यं जनन्यै मां समादिशत्।
sa vihāyottarīyāṇi mahārhāṇi mahāyaśāḥ।।
visṛjya manasā rājyaṃ jananyai māṃ samādiśat।
There is the classic comedy dialogue involving the person who is addicted to something. It could be cigarettes, beer, wine, coffee, tea, or soda. While indulging in their addiction, they meet one of their friends, who asks questions along the following lines:
“When are you going to quit? You know you are addicted, right? That stuff is not good for you.”
The person addicted responds with:
“I know that it looks bad. I’m just having a few right now. I could quit at any time, you know. I’m not addicted.”
Parashara Muni explains the detail behind the name Bhagavan used to address the Almighty. Bhagavan can be defined as the individual who possesses six different opulences simultaneously and to the highest degree.
One of those opulences is vairagya. In the literal sense this Sanskrit word means the absence of attachment. That is well and good in theory, but just like the addict who says they can quit at any time, we can’t really measure vairagya until there is something significant to give up.
In Rama-lila, there is the unfortunate incident of Kaikeyi’s betrayal of her husband, King Dasharatha. She insists that Dasharatha’s beloved son leave the kingdom for fourteen years. With that punishment, the eldest son, Shri Rama, who is Bhagavan, was ready to show vairagya in several important categories.
1. A royal palace
Every resident in the town knows where you live. It’s that big building over there, they will say. It is a dwelling befitting the prince regent. It is fit for a prince. No one could dream of a more comfortable home. It is within this place that Rama and His wife Sita had prepared for the upcoming coronation by sleeping on the floor the night before, meditating on Vishnu. Due to Kaikeyi, that coronation would be postponed for fourteen years.
2. A royal army
Ours is a world governed by the aggressive use of force. The aggressor sets the rules in any conflict. This means that in a kingdom like Ayodhya, not only is it important to oversee the daily affairs, but there has to be plenty of manpower available to defend against foreign attack.
Shri Rama had the army available to Him while living in Ayodhya. As witnessed by the demon named Maricha, Rama was the best fighter among them. Rama could string a bow at a moment’s notice, without hesitation or fear, and apply a perfect strike to the heart of the beast.
बली दत्तवरोदर्पादाजगाम तदाश्रमम्।।
तेन दृष्टः प्रविष्टोऽहं सहसैवोद्यतायुधः।
मां तु दृष्ट्वा धनुस्सज्यमसम्भ्रान्तश्चकार सः।।
balī dattavarodarpādājagāma tadāśramam।।
tena dṛṣṭaḥ praviṣṭo’haṃ sahasaivodyatāyudhaḥ।
māṃ tu dṛṣṭvā dhanussajyamasambhrāntaścakāra saḥ।।
“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra’s ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)
3. Nice clothes
The stipulation from Kaikeyi was that Rama had to wander the wilderness in the garb of an ascetic. It was as if Rama was taking the vow of vanaprastha, but where it is forced upon Him. It was to be taken at a young age instead of the traditional way, which follows many years of marriage.
Rama gave away His wealth to the brahmanas. Through Sita Devi’s visible generosity, the brahmana community was blessed with many riches. Rama would not be able to bring such wealth with Him to the forest.
5. A beautiful wife
As told to Hanuman at a later time, not only did Rama give up His nice upper garments, but He also told Sita to stay at home. Better to be under the care of Rama’s mother, Kausalya, while Rama was away. The forest was no place for a princess. Sita had known only the royal life since birth, when she was found as a baby in the ground by King Janaka of Mithila.
In the end, Rama did not leave her alone. Sita came with Him, as did Lakshmana, the younger brother. The power of devotion was too strong for Bhagavan to turn away. As dedicated to the rules as Rama is, in upholding righteousness and giving the example of the ideal man for others to follow, He is always helpless to the wishes of those who are most devoted to Him.
As most renounced ever known,
Through Rama’s departure shown.
That no longer a prince to be,
Royal palace not to see.
And access of army denied,
To keep Sita at home tried.
Greatness thus one way measured,
Of that prince of Ayodhya treasured.
Categories: the five