Thursday, January 10, 2008

What the Body Knows -- Part 3

According to the spiritual laws of the East, heavenly virtue was reflected in royal birth. Aod was expected to incarnate as a prince. That is because in the East, great people don't come out of nowhere. They are reborn numberless times. They learn over millions of years. Thus royal birth is earned. It is not as one Microsoft executive called it, "winning the sperm lottery."

I can imagine then the rejoicing in the East when a star proclaimed that an avatar had come to birth in the West, among the Jews, a people known then, as now, for their wisdom. The West had been too long in the shadow of barbarism. The sages rose from their towers and their temples and they crossed the hazards of desert and range to welcome what had come at last to that benighted land. Naturally, they went to where divine children manifest: the palace at Jerusalem. There, they presented themselves to the king.

We do not know from what lands the wise ones hailed, for the East is very wide. But I would not be surprised if one had come from India. India was the farthest reach of the madness that we call Alexander the Great. India knew the West. India had known her share of wise and holy princes, too. Siddhartha was Indian, and so, as well, was Rama, the incarnation of the god Vishnu, hero of one of the most beloved story cycles told the length and breadth of the subcontinent. Like Siddhartha, whom the Hindus also consider to be an incarnation of Vishnu, the holy Rama was born a prince. Rama’s father was the wisest and most virtuous of all rulers, but he had been granted no heirs. He prayed to the gods and from heaven, they sent miraculous bread for him to feed to his three wives. He fed half of it to his first and favorite wife and gave the smaller portions to the other two. All three became pregnant immediately. All four of the children born (for one of the wives birthed twins) were divine, but Rama the eldest outshone them all. He radiated kindness and everyone loved him.

When he grew to young manhood, Rama married the beautiful Sita. Sita, too, was of miraculous origin. Some said that earth herself had given birth to her. Others knew her as an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu, and goddess of gold and wealth. When it came time for the old king to name his heir, a demon tempted one of the queens to plot against Rama and instead of being crowned, Rama and Sita found themselves banished to the forest for fourteen years. Another brother, Lakshmana, joined them. The old king died in sadness and the new king, not wanting the crown his mother the third wife had plotted for him, sent word, imploring Rama to return. But Rama would not return until the term of his banishment was done, for to do so would upset the balance of the world. And so they lived in the forest and the demon Ravana swooped down and kidnapped Sita, taking her to his dark fortress in Lanka. After many adventures Rama killed Ravana and rescued her with the help of the monkey king Hanuman.

Of course there could be no happily ever after, for there was that delicate question of Sita’s chastity, and like Joseph of Nazareth, faced with the humiliation of a pregnant fiancĂ©e, Rama made arrangements to put his now damaged love away. But Sita would not have it. To prove her innocence, she entered the flames and emerged in radiant glory.

There was no one like Sita at the court of Herod the Great. Indeed, Herod’s women are legendary for the lack of virtue. And despite Herod’s title “King of the Jews,” there was little of the godly about him, either. The wise men might have wondered, in a place such as this, if the incarnation had been banished to the forest even before he could be born.

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