Vanity thought #441. Maya Sita

Now that Ramacandra Vijayotsava is behind us it is a bit safer to raise a few questions regarding the captivity of Sita Devi.

It might not sound like much to Westerners but Indians somehow can’t accept the fact that Sita Devi spent some time in Ravana’s hands, some of it, perhaps, literally. To the modern man her chastity was never in question and she wasn’t violated in any way, apart from the kidnapping, of course, so why is it so important to prove that it wasn’t real Sita who was captured?

Regardless of the legitimacy of the concerns, it is unquestionably accepted that real Sita was hidden by Agni and Ravana never got anywhere near her, he got Maya Sita instead. When that Maya Sita was finally liberated she stepped into the fire again and out came the real one, to dispel anyone’s doubts. As the story goes it wasn’t enough and eventually Sita had to be banned into the forest but let’s leave that for now.

Maya Sita “trick” pacified some agitated minds, most notably one brahmana from Chaitanya Charitamrita for whom Mahaprabhu brought a copy of Kurma Purana describing the whole episode, but it raises a whole host of other questions.

First of all – what is this “Maya” business? Neither the Lord nor His eternal associates can be ever touched of covered by maya. If we say that this particular form of the Lord is not the real thing but some sort of transformation that is a straight up mayavada.

We cannot possibly accept this as a principle, Lord Ramachandra and Krishna appeared in their original, spiritual forms, there’s no question of there being “Maya” Krishna. Sita Devi is Lord Ramachandra’s eternal consort, her appearance in this world is governed by the same laws as that of Lord Rama or Krishna, her form is fully spiritual and unchangeable, fully beyond the influence of the material nature.

Another question – if the real Sita was hidden by Agni, who was that soul inside “Maya” Sita body? Normally “maya” body means that there’s a soul inside that is a different from the external form. It also implies having polluted consciousness and knowledge. Was “Maya” Sita in ignorance about her real spiritual position? How does that all work?

Yet another question – why was it in Agni’s power to hide or to reveal the purely spiritual body of Lord’s consort? Agni is much more powerful than any of us but he is still a product of material nature, a soul playing the part of the god of fire.

And what about Ravana? It is said that he was cheated by the appearance of Maya Sita. Cheated of what? If he expected to kidnap Lord Ramachandra’s wife he didn’t get that, true, but if he wanted to enjoy her company than it doesn’t matter if it was Maya Sita or real Sita. These days people substitute their sex idols with posters and desktop wallpapers, getting a “Maya” version of their sex symbols would be an unrivaled success. Maybe Ravana was cheated but he actually had it infinitely better than any modern man or a woman.

The more I think about Maya Sita solution the more puzzling it becomes. So far I haven’t seen these questions even raised let alone answered according to our siddhanta. I don’t think our acharyas contemplated them so I am out of luck. If it really bothers me I should deal with it on my own, just like we can’t site shastra when dealing with contemporary things like stem cell research, we can only speculate what our acharyas would have said about it.

There’s a more serious implication here – what if Maya Sita’s appearance was triggered by Ravana’s lack of devotion? Everybody else saw the real Sita but not Ravana, because he was a demon and the Lord does not reveal Himself to demons and neither do His associates. The implication here being is that unless one is a devotee Lord’s personal appearance in this world is almost useless as all he gets is a vision of the “maya” form.

This is already true, to a degree – we know that only devotees saw Krishna as their worshipable Lord, everyone else thought He was just another ordinary man. We already know that non-believers see Deities as metal and stone, not as transcendental spiritual forms. That’s how I see the Deities, too – like a bona fide pashandi.

While this might be disconcerting in one sense, there’s an easy way out of this dilemma – one word – Lord Chaitanya. Actually it’s two words but the point is that by His mercy even a pashandi can be turned into a devotee. His mercy is exceptional, He distributed love and devotion to anyone He met regardless of their status and qualifications.

If Lord Ramachandra or Krishna were to descend in this world right now we would all go “meh, not interesting”. It would be a trending topic on Twitter for a few hours but then people would forget all about it.

The mercy of Lord Chaitanya, however, is still working, five hundred years on. That is some really useful magic.

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