Sita: The Crest Jewel of Virtues
Sita is an ideal woman possessing all the qualities that an Indian woman should possess, such as chastity, purity and so on. Because the Ramayana describes all these qualities perfectly, it is called ‘The Story Of Sita’. Sita is the embodiment of all the Dharmas that are found in the world. She is called Bhoojata, daughter of the Goddess of Earth and she has the qualities of her mother. The main characteristics of Sita are chastity, patience and virtue. When necessity arises, she is also able to teach Rama the path of Dharma. As an illustration of this, we may consider the situation when Rama said to Sita, “You are very delicate and cannot face the conditions in the forest. I shall return soon and I request you to stay in Ayodhya and take care of your mother-in-law and father-in-law”. Prior to that, Rama went to His mother and told her that He was going into the forest for fourteen years to vindicate the promises of His father and asked her to give Him her blessings. The mother then said that she could not leave Him for a moment and she too would follow Him into the forest. Rama taught some principles of Dharma even to His mother saying, “Mother, father is old. Stay and serve him. I am going into the forest for his sake and will be back after fourteen years. Serve My father who is like a God to us. To you, your husband is greater than everyone else and must be looked after. While I am away, look after his health”. Recalling this, Sita said, “You have taught some principles of Dharma to Your mother and You have asked her to stay and look after her husband. Does not the same apply to me, Your wife? Should I not follow You and serve my husband? Looking after one’s husband is as important to Kaushalya as it is to me. Husband is God to a wife. I consider You as God and I must follow You to the forest”. Rama tried then to pacify her in another way. He said, “You may be able to bear all the conditions in the forest but if you come with us, you will be a great responsibility on our shoulders because the forest is full of wild animals and we will have to protect you as well as ourselves. Stay at home and do not cause us trouble”. Sita replied, “You say that there are many cruel animals in the forest and the cruelest animal amongst them is the lion, the king of beasts. When the lion of My husband is with me, how can other animals harm me?” He said, “Even if there are no animals that may harm you, I will have to leave you at times to go and get something to eat. If at that time, some harm comes to you, it will be very difficult for Me or My brother to protect you”. At once, Sita replied, “Rama, You are a great warrior, a great hero and a very capable person. This fact was proved when You broke the bow of God Shiva. I know Your abilities fully. The words You spoke to me just now are not befitting Your dignity. If Rama is not able to protect one person, how will He protect the whole world? Even to protect You from such infamy, I should follow You into the forest”. Rama could not say much more. He quietly said to her, “My mother will be stricken with grief at My going away. It would be better if you stay behind and console her”. Sita then said, “You are Rama and I am Sita. You are the moon and I am the moonlight. If the moon is in the forest how can moonlight be in Ayodhya? Where there is moon, moonlight will always be there”. Rama could not reply. Rama tried to tell her to stay in Ayodhya but Sita did not listen to those words. She said pitiably, “Rama, I am very young. You will be away for fourteen years while Your brothers enjoy the company of their wives, and the maids of the palace enjoy the company of their husbands. Seeing this, I will get jealous and bad ideas will form in my mind. To rid me of such thoughts, take me with You”. There is no possibility of such bad thoughts ever entering Sita’s mind. Rama said, “Your heart is pure, your character is perfect and I know that such bad ideas will never enter your heart”. She then fell at His feet and said: “You are going into the forest where there will be many thorns on the way. Because my mother is the Goddess of the earth, she will be very kind to me. I can request her to let You go happily on Your way. At least for this take me with You”. I have narrated this sequence of incidents leading to Sita falling at the feet of Rama because Rama’s heart melted only when she fell at His feet.
- “Customs and Character”, Summer Showers in Brindavan 1972, Brindavan
Rama is Dharmaswarupa (Embodiment of Virtue). Rama was ever aware of the obligations of Dharma. When Dasharatha, running after His chariot in mortal anguish, cried out, “Stop, stop” and called on Sumantra to stop, Rama told him not to. He said, “If he chides you, tell him you did not hear him”. Sumantra was in a fix. How could He say something not true? But, Rama explained, “This order to stop the chariot comes from a grief-stricken father, whereas the order to take Me to the forest came from the king, whose minister you are. You should not hear the ravings of a man who has lost his reason through sorrow; you must listen only to the commands of the king”.
- “True Nature of Rama”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 03,
April 01, 1963, Rajahmundry
After reaching the forest, Rama sent word through Sumantra (who had driven the chariot) as follows: “My brother Bharata would have returned to Ayodhya by now. Tell Bharata that there should be complete unity in the family. He should love Kaushalya and Sumitra in the same manner in which he would love his mother, Kaikeyi. He should not make any distinction between them”. However unable to bear the pangs of separation from Rama; Bharata used harsh words against his mother. He did not spare even the family preceptor Vashishtha. Vashishtha approached Bharata and told him: “Rama has left for the forest. You must get ready for the coronation. As soon as you are ready I shall fix the auspicious moment for the ceremony”. Bharata lost for a moment the sense of respect he should have for the word of the preceptor. Rama was the very life-breath of Bharata. He spoke to Vashishtha in great anguish: “Am I to rule over a kingdom which banished Rama and plunged the whole of Ayodhya in grief? Do not mention the name of the kingdom that sent my Rama to the forest. I have no use for such a kingdom tarnished by a grievous wrong”. This was the kind of love that existed between the brothers.
- “Let Rama live in Your Hearts”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 29, March 28, 1996, Brindavan
The Rama-Bharata Relationship
Rama considered Dharma as all-important. When His brother Bharata overpowered by grief at his father’s death, his mother’s greed, and his brother’s exile, sought Him in the forest and, meeting Him, rolled at His feet in terrible anguish. Rama lifted him gently and asked – what do you think He asked? – He asked him, “Are you maintaining Dharma in the kingdom of Ayodhya, respecting the subjects, the poor, the elders, the scholars, the saints and the sages?” Even when the direst calamity overtakes man, he should not stray away from the path of morality and justice. Rama was wakening Bharata from the sleep of ignorance; the poor fellow was overcome by his own grief, as if the father, mother, brothers, kingdom, power and position – these mattered, as if they were real, eternal. Rama reminded him that they are all but instruments one must utilise for the exercise of Dharma.
- “Pappu and Uppu”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 05,
April 19, 1965, Prasanthi Nilayam
Rama did not yield to Bharata’s entreaties and, offered His sandals to Bharata and asked Bharata to perform the coronation for the Padukas (Divine sandals). You must recognise the inner significance of this episode. People generally regard the sandals as objects to be despised. But Rama taught a different lesson about them. Rama treated the kingdom and the sandals on par. “I don’t want a crown. Enthrone My sandals”. Acting on Rama’s injunctions, Bharata performed the coronation of Rama’s sandals and spent his time peacefully, contemplating on Rama.
Rama taught Bharata how government should be carried on. “Have as your ministers only persons of character and virtue, who are tranquil in mind and devoted to truth. Don’t have as ministers anyone lacking in these four qualities. Moreover, they should possess self-confidence, practise righteous conduct, and be capable of giving proper advice. These are essential prerequisites for wise administrators. Give no place for selfish persons. There should be no room in the government for persons animated by self-interest. Nor is that all. Don’t allow anyone given to vices like gambling and drink to wield authority. Entertain only those who command the esteem of the people and who are respected and loved by the people. You must have daily conferences with three or four such ministers. Your talks should be in private and no outsider should know anything about them. It is only when such secrecy is observed that the nation will prosper. You will then be able to ensure peace and prosperity to the nation. Moreover, you must send out as envoys to other countries ambassadors who are totally loyal to the king and not timeservers who practise duplicity. Only such men can convey to the king truthful information”. Rama did not stop with that. I request the women devotees not to take it amiss. Rama told Bharata that he should not permit women to take part in affairs of state. Women have their estimable role in household affairs, but they should be kept out of state politics. “Don’t employ women as ministers. The reason is: a nation’s honour is based upon its women. It is only when women maintain their respect and honour that the nation will be respected. It is not proper for women to cheapen themselves by roaming in public places”.
Remember that the lessons taught to Bharata by Rama are ideal lessons. After instructing Bharata regarding the principles of good government, Rama told Bharata: “You must revere the parents, the preceptors and all elders. If any person misbehaves within your kingdom, do not punish him. Banish him. That will be punishment enough”.
- “Install Rama Rajya in Your Hearts”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 28, April 09, 1995, Brindavan
The human birth has been given to man for practising Dharma. This was the truth demonstrated by Rama. He practised His Dharma. He told Bharata that the latter should rule over the kingdom given to him and leave Rama to do His duty in the forest. When Bharata argued that the kingdom should be ruled by the eldest son, Rama replied that he also had been given a kingdom to rule over. “Dandakaranya is My kingdom. I shall rule here. You reign over Ayodhya,” said Rama. This means, that there is an Ayodhya in the Dandakaranya and a forest in Ayodhya. “Realise the oneness of the two,” said Rama. Such was the equal mindedness of Rama.
- “Let Rama live in Your Hearts”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 29, March 28, 1996, Brindavan