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Re: Raamaayana question

From: Krishna Susarla (krishna_at_ticnet.com)
Date: Sat May 09 1998 - 12:13:41 PDT

Hare Krishna!

From: Mani Varadarajan <mani@be.com>

>[regarding the mAyA-sIta story]
>
>This story does not appear in Srimad Valmiki rAmAyaNam,


That's true, but I don't think it's significant here. Many stories that
ought to be in the Mahaabhaarata are actually found in the Bhaagavatam, and
similarly there are many Raamaayana and Mahaabhaarata stories which took
place in the context of those great epics but nevertheless are chronicled in
other puraaNa-s. This is nothing new.

>neither does it appear in the anubhavam of Alvars or Acharyas,
>nor of the great Tamil poet Kamban. It is generally not
>accepted in orthodox Sri Vaishnava circles (and among South
>Indian vaidikas in general), the kUrma purANa notwithstanding.
>
>On a purely stylistic note, if there actually had been a
>mAyA-sIta who was abducted instead of the real Sita piraaTTi,
>would it not rob the story of a great deal of interest?


Not really, but that depends on how you look at it. More on that below...

>In fact, the Sri Vaishnava acharyas rely heavily on the "real"
>Sita's imprisonment in the Asoka Vana in their anubhavam of
>the story of the Lord.  The pain and anguish Rama felt at
>discovering her loss, the tragedy of the great eagle Jatayu,
>the consequent struggle Rama underwent at retrieving his beloved,
>the visit of Hanuman, etc., are all dependent on the real Sita
>having been abducted by Ravana.

Well then I won't find fault with these acharyas for their understanding.
Why should I when I can take the dust from their feet instead?

But I will try to explain why other devotees might feel differently, if
anyone is interested in hearing something other than the "interpolation"
hypothesis. I personally do not have a problem with accepting that different
groups of Vaishnavas, each with genuine devotional sentiments, can
understand this pastime in very different ways.

>Methinks the mAyA-sItA makes the glorious story of Rama
>as colorless as the mAyA of advaita makes Vedanta.
>
>Mani


According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava understanding, Lakshmii (or Siita, or
Raadha, or Rukminii, they're all one and the same personality) is considered
to be the personified hlaadini-shakti (pleasure potency) of Lord Krishna.
Thus, while many devotees of the Lord may be great and eternally liberated,
Lakshmii is still in a distinct class because she can never be separated
from Her Lord in as much as you cannot separate sunshine from the sun.
Wherever the Lord is, His pleasure potency is there also. Thus the idea of
Raavana kidnapping the Lord's pleasure potency is highly dubious at best.
This is also the case because a liberated person, whose body is spiritual,
cannot be apprehended by material means. As the shruti says:

na sa.mdR^ishe tiShThati ruupam asya na chakShuShaa pashyati kashchanainam |
hR^idaa maniiShaa manasaabhikL^ipto ya etad vidur amR^itaas te bhavanti ||
KU 2.3.9 ||

Spirit is not within the jurisdiction of material eyes, words, or mind
(kaTha upaniShad 2.3.9).

Something similar is also stated in the Bhaagavatam, though in this case in
reference to Lord Krishna:

sa eSha bhagavaalli.ngaistribhiretairadhokShajaH |
svalakShitagatirbrahman sarveShaa.m mama cheshvaraH || Bhaa P 2.5.20 ||

saH - He; eShaH - this; bhagavaan - the Personality of Godhead; li.ngaiH -
by the symptoms; tribhiH - by the three; etaiH - by all these; adhokShajaH -
the Superseer Transcendence; su-alakShita - veritably unseen; gatiH -
movement; brahman - O Naarada; sarveShaam - of everyone; mama - mine; cha -
as also; iishvaraH - the controller.

O BraahmaNa Naarada, the Superseer, the transcendent Lord, is beyond the
perception of the material senses of the living entities because of the
above-mentioned three modes of nature. But He is the controller of everyone,
including me.

As Siita and Raama are thus to be considered of the same nature (in other
words, both are transcendental, they do not posess material bodies), it is
not possible for Raavana or any materially-conditioned being to harm either
of them. The idea of Raavana even touching Mother Siita is simply rejected
by Gaudiiya Vaishnavas for the very reason that she is the Pleasure Potency
of the Lord, and simply cannot be removed from Him by any means.

Actually the whole story of how this point was settled is very interesting.
Shrii Chaitanya met with a very austere brahmin named Raamadaasa Vipraa who
was also a Raama-bhakta. This great devotee of Lord Raama wanted to fast
until death out of grief because he was troubled by the idea of Mother
Siitaa being touched by the demon Raavana. Shrii Chaitanya then took great
compassion on him, and tried to convince him that this was not the case,
citing the Katha Upanishad verse above as an explanation as to why a demonic
being could never touch the Goddess of Fortune. After consoling him thus,
Mahaaprabhu traveled to Rameshvara where He heard the brahmins there
discussing the Kuurma PuraaNa, especially the excerpt in which Siita-devi's
story was mentioned. In this puraaNa it is stated:

siitayaaraadhito vahnish chaayaasiitaam ajiijanat |
taa.m jahaara dashagriivaH siitaa vahnipura.m gataa ||
pariikShaasamaye vahni.m chaayaasiitaa vivesha saa |
vahniH siitaa.m samaaniiya tatpurastaad aniinayat ||

siitayaa - by mother Siitaa; araadhitaH - being called for; vahniH - the
fire-god; chaayaa-siitaam - the illusory form of mother Siitaa; ajiijanat -
created; taam - her; jahaara - kidnaped; dasha-griivaH - the ten-faced
RaavaNa; siitaa - mother Siitaa; vahni-puram - the the abode of the
fire-god; gataa - departed; pariikShaa-samaye - at the time of testing;
vahnim - the fire; chaayaa-siitaa - the illusory form of Siitaa; vivesha -
entered; saa - she; vahniH - the fire-god; siitaam - the original mother
Siitaa; samaaniiya - bringing back; tat-purustaat - in His presence;
aniinayat - brought back.

When he was petitioned by mother Siitaa, the fire-god, Agni, brought forth
an illusory form of Siitaa, and RaavaNa, who had ten heads, kidnapped the
false Siitaa. The original Siitaa then went to the abode of the fire-god.
When Lord Raamachandra tested the body of Siitaa, it was the false illusory
Siitaa that entered the fire. At that time the fire-god brought the original
Siitaa from his abode and delivered her to Lord Raamachandra (kuurma
puraaNa).

Shrii Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu then took posession of these scrolls and
delivered them to Raamadaasa Vipra, who was very pleased and shed tears of
joy in receiving them.

Of course, Shrii Chaitanya Himself praised the love of Lord Krishna in
(physical) separation as being topmost, specifically in reference to the
Gopika-s who continued to meditate on Lord Krishna in spite of His apparent
absence from Vrindaavan. So I can also see how the same principle might be
used by other Vaishnavas to explain the emotional grief and anxiety Lord
Raama and Mother Siita displayed in Raamaayana due to their apparent
separation. Again, I'm not trying to cast doubts on the explanations you
mentioned as being the ones offered by Shrii Vaishnava aachaaryas, so please
don't take it that way.

BTW, in reference to the Sthala Puraana which Sri Mohan Sagar brought up, am
I to understand that Shrii Vaishnavas do not consider these to be
authoritative references and hence reject the story mentioned about the
Maya-Sita and how she later became Padmaavathi?

yours,

-- HKS