Sita, the Sacred Mother
South Africa joins the comity of nations in celebrating the International Mother’s Day on the ensuing 11th May. A Happy Mother’s day to everyone! Last Tuesday at our Glen Anil Main centre we handed over gift packets to a group of mothers from Greenbury Project.
Today is Sita Jayanti. The Hindu culture has iconic mothers in plenty, but there was never “another” like mother Sita, in the words of Swami Vivekananda. She was found when King-sage Janaka furrowed the land for cultivation. She is the Divine Mother Mahalakshmi incarnate on the earth. Four quotes from Swami Vivekananda’s Complete Works:
The Miracle Medicine
It is not without any reason that our sages in the past had described this ‘samsaara‘ – the cycle of birth and death – as immensely vast as (bhava saagaram) the ocean. They have even detailed in the most frightful terms how difficult it is to cross over this ocean. When you are almost on the verge of losing hope some other saint compares this samsaara with a mere river. But not an ordinary river, forsooth. He calls it ‘rana-nadi‘ – a ‘battle-river’ – whose waters are infested with terrible crocodiles and alligators all living in its forceful current that produces strong whirlpools! And lo! just imagine how dangerous it would be to attempt to cross such a river not to speak of the ocean! How many of us have in real life have even thought of attempting to cross such river or ocean?
Tulsidas, of course in his saintly way makes samsaara a little less fearful. He calls it a disease. If that can be wisely diagnosed, it can be well treated too. This brings us some kind of relief in knowing that my disease is curable and the condition is that I should take proper medicine. Does taking medicines indeed bring about the cure of the disease? Not necessarily! We have experienced in our lives that many a time the medicines not only fail to have any curative effect but to our chagrin add some disturbing side-effects.
is a disease, then is there any medicine? Yes, there is, declares Tulsidas. While expressing the greatness of the life of Mother Sita he considers her life story as nothing but a ‘medicine’ for the ‘worldly disease’. No one likes to take medicines as the chemical compositions generally make them bitter in taste. But this medicine, he adds, is exceedingly sweet. Normally after taking medicine one requires plain water to clear the throat. Here of course the very nectar is itself given! So Tulsidas opines that those that drink nectar of Sri Rama’s name, are indeed ever blessed! Yes, the story of Sita is a miracle medicine.
Sita in Sundarakandam
The holy book Ramayana is divided into seven kaandams. The fifth division called Sundarakaandam has gained much popularity among the devout Ramabhaktas. I do remember once when I was young, my mother was advised to recite Sundarakaandam verses with love for 41 days to ward off certain evil effects in the family. She gained such an unshakeable conviction about the marvel of this scripture that all problems got resolved within that period of paaraayanam.
What does Sundarakaandam teach? It speaks about in large measure the valour of Sri Hanumanji who undertook the work of Sri Rama in searching for and finding Mother Sita. Scholars of Ramayana say confidently that Sundarakaandam is all about Sri Hanumanji. Though I am not a scholar in Ramayana, purely from the point of view of a devotional angle I offer my two cents: I prefer to look at this way viz., that Sundarakaandam is all about Mother Sita.
Whenever I had the opportunity to read this scripture (of course I didn’t read it for 41 days like my mother!) my mind was thrilled no doubt at Sri Hanumanji’s heroic sports. A great veneration swelled up in my heart that made me to remember him as an ideal for my monastic life. But more than that what was fascinating to me in this magnum epic – especially in Sundarakaandam
– was the character depiction of Mother Sita. Swami Vivekananda
was in awe of Mother Sita and exclaimed, “What to speak of Sita? You may exhaust the literature of the world that is past, and I may assure that you will have to exhaust the literature of the world of the future, before finding another.” I find her simply unique. In another place Swamiji says, “… the character was depicted once and for all. There may have been several Ramas, perhaps, but never more than
– Her dealing with King Ravana was indeed so majestic; in spite of his great offering of material temptations, she nonchalantly turned down his advances.
– Her interaction with her demoness guards especially with Trijata has no comparison; the care and concern for Trijata‘s welfare even though she had been appointed to spy over her, singularly exhibiting her divine compassion.
– Her polite refusal to Sri Hanumanji’s proposal to carry her away stealthily from Lanka and proudly speaking about her husband Sri Rama’s necessity to win the battle with Ravana and then only she would be ready to return with him in all glory.
Sri Rama walking in the forest followed by Mother Sita and Lakshmana
In this Sundarakaandam Sita is not a mere loyal wife only to toe the line of her husband; she comes out in her own right (and in the absence of the physical presence of Sri Rama) that amazes me as I see her personality looming large into a bright towering one that demands not only an adorable worship with love but also absolute surrender at her feet.
Sita and Sarada
Thus, devotion to one form of Mother, if cultivated from a young age does not preclude love for other forms of Mother. Rather it definitely helps in transposing one’s devotion easily on another form of Mother, if needed! The variety of names and forms of Mother in Hinduism may bewilder anyone who is not acquainted with the philosophy of Vedanta. But a devotee in this tradition accepts the Divine Mother as ‘ananta roopini, ananta gunavati, ananta naamni girije maa’ – O Girije Ma! thou art infinite forms, infinite qualities and infinite names, says a poet-devotee.
Hence the transition from Sita to Sarada was smooth enough in my life. Ma Sarada’s experience in the Rameshwaram temple vouchsafes that she is no different from Ma Sita.
When Holy Mother visited Rameshwaram temple, Tamil Nadu in 1910, she was directly taken to the sanctum sanctorum and was allowed to worship Lord Shiva in the form of uncovered Shivalingam. The Mother offered 108 golden leaves shaped like the real leaves of the bel (vilva) tree. She stayed in that small town for three days and every morning and evening she would visit the temple and perform worship with flowers, chandan (sandal) and vilva leaves. The Holy Mother observed all customary traditions of the temple.
It is said that Brahmachari Krishnalal who was an attendant to Holy Mother heard Mother uttering in a mood unaware of the external world: ‘It is just as I had left.’ After a few weeks in Kolkata when once Kedar babu enquired of Mother about her visit to Rameshwaram, she uttered once again, ‘He is just as I had left Him, my son!’
O Mind! Drink the honey that flows from the lotus feet of the Mother…best remedy for worldly disease!
Swami Gambhiranandaji in his authoritative biography – ‘Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi‘ – explains thus. “The devotees believe that the same personage who incarnated in the Treta yuga as Sita, the ever faithful consort of Ramachandra, descended again as the all-enduring and ever gracious Holy Mother, so that the sudden sight of the uncovered image carried her mind unconsciously across the vast span of thousands of years and the past appeared as a vivid present; and forgetful of her immediate environment she made that spontaneous remark.” Swami Abhedananda, one of the Direct Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, in resemblance to the ‘worldly-disease’ mentioned in the beginning of this post, follows the footsteps of Saint Tulsidas. What is the remedy? Abhedanandaji goes on to say that the remedy for this ‘bhava-roga‘ – worldly disease – is to sip the honey flowing from the lotus of the Mother’s feet.
On this Mother’s Day, let us take a vow to surrender at Her holy feet!
May Mother Sarada who is no other than Mother Sita fill our hearts with her sterling qualities!
|| Aum Shri Raamakrishnaarpanamastu ||