“I have heard, O Sita, that your hand in marriage was won by the renowned Raghava on the occasion of the self-choice ceremony [svayamvara]. O Maithili, I wish to hear that story in detail. Therefore please narrate to me the entire sequence of events as you experienced them.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.24-25)
स्वयं वरे किल प्राप्ता त्वमनेन यशस्विना।
राघवेणेति मे सिते कथा श्रुतिमुपागता।।
तां कथां श्रोतुमिच्छामि विस्तरेण च मैथिलि।
यथाऽनुभूतं कार्त्स्न्येन तन्मे त्वं वक्तुमर्हसि।।
svayaṃ vare kila prāptā tvamanena yaśasvinā।
rāghaveṇeti me site kathā śrutimupāgatā।।
tāṃ kathāṃ śrotumicchāmi vistareṇa ca maithili।
yathā’nubhūtaṃ kārtsnyena tanme tvaṃ vaktumarhasi।।
1. My smartphone
“I was freaking out, bigtime. First I thought I lost my phone. Then I later found it, but it wasn’t working. I think water got inside of it. You have no idea how big of a problem this caused. All of my two-factor authentications. My food delivery. My email. I had no way to communicate with people. Fortunately, everything was resolved in a day.”
2. My credit card
“I was travelling overseas and somehow lost my credit card. How was I going to pay for stuff? The company could not mail me a new one fast enough. I had no local currency with me. Fortunately, I made it home soon thereafter, but I will never forget the experience.”
3. My keys
“I must have lost them the night before. While walking in the parking lot, which was covered in snow. I found them the next morning, but the time in between was not fun. I could not stop thinking about all that I had lost.”
4. The cable
“All caused by a little rain. Can you believe that? What are we supposed to do while inside the house? Okay, we don’t necessarily need the television channels, but the cable is the source of the internet, as well. We had to sit there and talk to each other. That is never a good thing.”
5. The electricity
“Thankfully, someone had a flashlight inside the house. This was the worst time for the power to go out. Right in the middle of a heat wave. No air conditioning. No fans. No television. How did people previously survive life like this? I cannot even imagine.”
From the above review, we see the preponderance of attachments. The person in each case cannot really be blamed for their concern. They have grown accustomed to what they have around them. In one sense it is really no different than counting on the sun to rise in the morning and for the proper amount of rain to shower the crops in the summer.
When juxtaposed with previous generations, we see many of the same attachments were not possible. The standard of living was different. The people of the time had no concept of these advancements, and so they would not get nervous if things they never heard of were taken away from them.
If we delve even further into the matter, we see that in the genuine spiritual life passed down within the Vedic tradition, there is the core principle of tapasya. This is austerity and penance, voluntarily accepted. The male who takes tapasya seriously, to a high level, is known as tapasvi. The female equivalent is tapasvini.
A person taking spiritual life seriously today might feel intimidated when reading about saintly people from the past. It could be only one or two generations removed, but they offer the following lament:
“Why do I have it so easy? People used to go weeks and weeks with eating barely anything. I have the most difficult time observing any sort of vow. I am asked to try to follow the four regulative principles, but real tapasvis could go well beyond that.
“At the same time, I apparently have an equal opportunity at liberation. I simply have to be conscious of the Almighty, who is a person. Why am I given that facility? People of the past did not have it so easy. I feel overwhelmed just thinking what they went through. I am not worthy of any benefit, if you ask me.”
We are justified in feeling this way, but at the same time the comparison can lead to immense appreciation. More importantly, we can study what was important to those who followed tapasya at an extended length.
We have the example of the tapasvini named Anasuya. The wife of Atri Rishi, she could ask for anything that she wanted. She could also grant boons, and we see that in one of her famous interactions she asks to simply hear a story.
She was already familiar with the tale of the svayamvara of the daughter of King Janaka. Since the bride in that case happened to be a visiting guest, Anasuya asked to hear the story, as Sita Devi directly experienced it.
This means that the Ramayana itself is reading material for elevated souls. After following tapasya, there is a certain taste developed. A person relishes more and more the stories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His associates. Sita would marry Rama, after that avatara of Vishnu would prove to be the only prince in the world capable of lifting the mighty bow of Lord Shiva.
A liberated soul like Shukadeva Gosvami takes great delight in transferring Bhagavata Purana to Maharaja Parikshit. Sanjaya feels a thrill when recalling the conversation between Arjuna and Shri Krishna. We may not be able to replicate tapasya to the same level, but we can appreciate and take advantage of the benefits saintly people have passed down to us, making our path towards transcendence easier.
All obeisances paid,
Since path easier made.
By their tapasya strength,
Extending to unimaginable length.
Such that not possible to replicate,
Their supreme standing to demonstrate.
From their desires importance clear,
That of Shri Hari to hear.
Categories: the five