“Then I was quickly ready to depart for becoming a forest dweller even ahead of Him, as when lacking His association even residence in heaven is not to my liking.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.27)
साहं तस्याग्रतस्तूर्णं प्रस्थिता वनचारिणी।।
न हि मे तेन हीनाया वासस्स्वर्गेऽपि रोचते।
sāhaṃ tasyāgratastūrṇaṃ prasthitā vanacāriṇī।।
na hi me tena hīnāyā vāsassvarge’pi rocate।
Friend1: What is the most common justification you find for people following religion?
Friend2: Which religion, in particular?
Friend1: It could be any of them.
Friend2: Is there one justification that tends to stand out? Is it the same across regions?
Friend1: I think it is the same across the span of history, but there are no right or wrong answers here. Just interested in your observation.
Friend2: Hmm. I guess it probably accompanies the idea of believing in God. If you believe in a higher power, there is a tendency to follow some system that formally acknowledges that belief.
Friend1: Okay, that might be true, but what I was looking for is this desire to enjoy life in heaven.
Friend2: Oh, you mean dying and going to heaven, as opposed to being condemned to hell?
Friend1: Yes. You could say that is more of a regional thing, but I think it applies everywhere. Those people who kill in the name of religion. They expect to be rewarded with sense pleasure in heaven.
Friend2: Enjoying with young girls, and the like.
Friend1: There is the juxtaposition of durations. You should focus on this religion or that because you will be able to enjoy eternal life as opposed to the relatively short stay at the moment.
Friend2: I see what you are saying. There is a corresponding Sanskrit term for this: paramartha.
Friend1: Which is the long-term interest. I only bring this up today because I find it remarkable how devotees of the personal God, Vishnu, tend to view things.
Friend2: How so? Is there a contrast?
Friend1: Take a single verse from the Ramayana, for instance. Sita Devi tells Shri Hanuman that she has no interest in living in the heavenly realm, svarga-loka. If her husband, Shri Rama, is not by her side, then there is nothing heavenly about that place.
Friend2: If you think about it, that is one of the nicest things one person could say about another.
Friend1: This is more than following your husband out of a sense of duty. Sita is not saying this to win any points or gain any favor. What I love is the contrast. It is not merely that she will disregard the supposed reward of residence in svarga-loka. She is ready to become a vana-charini.
Friend2: What is that?
Friend1: A resident of the forest. If you had something like heaven and hell on earth, the side of rewards would be a royal palace.
Friend2: Like a kingdom.
Friend1: And the side of distress, discomfort, and punishment would be the forest. She was ready to change living conditions, without prior notice, in a volunteer manner.
Friend2: What was the justification?
Friend1: To be with her husband. She was one step ahead of Him. She did not need to be convinced. If Rama had to leave the kingdom, she would do the same. If Rama had to show vairagya, she would be just as detached.
Friend2: Yeah, that is indeed remarkable. I see now why you brought up the justification for religion thing.
Friend1: From that one sentiment you get a definition of sanatana-dharma. That is real religion. It is following God, being by His side, serving Him, no matter the conditions.
Friend2: Which would apply to every duality we can think of.
Friend1: Heaven and hell. Day and night. Hot and cold. Summer and winter. Youth and old age. Wealth and poverty.
Friend2: And don’t forget birth and death. Whether we are living or dying, we can feel most alive in that service, in staying connected. Yoga is eternal life.
Not for heavenly ascension to wait,
Right now can taste.
Service Bhagavan to.
Like Sita svarga denying,
Only on Rama relying.
Even if to forest exile sent,
Immediately before Him went.