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Lord Rama – The Redeemer of Mankind

Lord Rama manifested during the Tretayuga, 20,000 years ago. Rama’s deeds are difficult to comprehend, for every action was suffused with divinity even though it was performed in the mortal realm. He always behaved like a common man and yet performed miraculous feats. Chanting Rama’s name, Hanuman could leap across an ocean. The name has that much power; imagine, then, the power of The Lord.

The name. The name Rama has an esoteric significance. It consists of three syllables: Ra + Aa + Ma. “Ra” signifies Agni [The Fire God], “Aa” symbolizes Suryaa [The Sun God], and “Ma” personifies Chandra [The Moon God]. “Ra,” representing The Fire God, burns away all sins; “Aa,” representing The Sun God, dispels the darkness of ignorance; “Ma,” representing The Moon God, cools one’s temper and produces tranquility. The name Rama, thus, has the triple power of washing away one’s sins, removing one’s ignorance, and tranquilizing one’s mind. Rama’s name signifies the harmony of thought, word, and deed.1

Ramayana in brief. Describing Ramayana in a few paragraphs—or even a million books—is like attempting to capture the entire universe through a camera’s lens—an impossible feat. Yet, for the purpose of this article a brief synopsis of Ramayana is provided.

Dashratha, the King of Ayodhya, did not have a son. With a desire for progeny, Dashratha, along with his three queens, performed a yagna [divine rite]. At the end of the yagna, a heavenly being granted him four sons, verily the four Vedas. These divine children were named Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughna. Rama, the eldest, is considered an incarnation of the Supreme Being. Lord Rama, during his childhood, and during his entire lifetime, performed countless miracles and served the cause of re-establishing dharma [righteousness].

Guru Vishwamitra once approached Dashratha with a request. The sages were being constantly troubled by terrifying demons and they desired the protection of Rama and Lakshmana. Though reluctant, Dashratha consented and allowed the two princes, all of fourteen, to fight terrifying evil forces. The princes valiantly fought the forces of oppression and after overcoming them, were preparing to return home. Just then, a messenger arrived from the Kingdom of Mithila, announcing the swayamvara [ceremony where the bride-to-be chooses her suitor] of King Janaka’s daughter, Sita. To honor the invitation, Vishwamitra, along with his disciples, Rama and Lakshmana, proceeded to the Kingdom of Mithila.

King Janaka had placed a condition that anyone desirous of seeking Sita’s hand must be able to break a divine bow. The bow originally belonged to Lord Shiva and was such that even millions of elephants would not be able to move it. While valiant Kings failed in their attempt to lift the bow, the young prince, Rama, lifted and broke the bow as if it were a mere toy. In fulfillment of the condition, and to the jubilation of all, Mother Sita was wedded to Rama.

As years passed by, Dashratha was growing old and decided to crown Rama as the king. Providence, however, had a different plan. In Ayodhya, there lived a wicked maid named Manthara. She was the servant of Kaikeyi, Dashratha’s younger wife. Manthara poisoned Kaikeyi’s mind and asked her to request the king to crown her son Bharata as prince and send Rama to the forest. Dashratha had once promised Kaikeyi with two boons and she chose to use those boons now. Dashratha had to keep his word. Though heartbroken, he was forced to send his beloved Rama to the forests for fourteen years. Rama, the ocean of virtues, calmly accepted His father’s wish and accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana resigned to the forests.

The divine trio was happily passing their days, when Surpanakha, the sister of Ravana, with a desire for courtship, approached Rama. Rama did not accede to her requests and punished her instead. Infuriated, she fled to Lanka and prompted Ravana to seek revenge. He immediately proceeded and in Rama’s absence abducted Mother Sita. Although these incidences appear unplanned, they were in reality a part of the divine play, the very purpose for which Rama had incarnated.

On discovering Mother Sita’s absence, Rama and Lakshmana set out in her search. In their travails, they met the Monkey King, Sugriva and his minister, the gem among devotees, Lord Hanuman. Lord Rama instantly recognized Hanuman as His chosen messenger. Hanuman too recognized in Rama, his chosen deity. Sugriva and Hanuman agreed to serve Rama in His mission of recovering Sita and destroying the terrifying demonic forces. To ascertain Mother Sita’s welfare, Lord Rama dispatched Hanuman to Lanka. Hanuman leapt across the Indian Ocean and reached Lanka. In Lanka, he wreaked havoc on the demons and returned. An army of monkeys was collected to fight the mighty army of Ravana. Divine grace is such that a band of monkeys was sufficient to annihilate an entire army. To reach Lanka, it would be necessary to cross the Indian Ocean. As there was no bridge, the monkeys started throwing stones in the water after writing Rama’s name on every stone. The power of the Lord’s name made the stones float on water and a bridge was built. The monkeys marched to Lanka and destroyed Ravana’s army. Ravana too met his end at the hands of Rama.

The destruction of Ravana. Ravana was a gatekeeper of Vishnu in his previous life. While to human eyes, Rama killed Ravana; in the divine realm, Rama freed Ravana from a great curse. The Lord’s ways are mysterious and always full of benediction. No matter how hard the circumstance may be, in reality the Lord is helping us in some unseen way. He won’t do any wrong.

Symbolic significance. The epic Ramayana is not an ordinary one. Every word and every character in this great poem has a very deep significance. Lord Rama, for example, symbolizes a person on the Nivrithi Marga [inward path]; while the character of the demon, Ravana, symbolizes a person on the Pravritthi Marga [the outward path]. Mother Sita symbolizes Brahma Jnyan [knowledge of the absolute]. Lord Rama’s securing Sita demonstrates how a person on the inward path secures the knowledge of the Lord, while a person on the outward path, Ravana for instance faces death in the end. Ayodhya, the capital of Rama’s kingdom, symbolizes the human heart. Ayodhya is a place free of strife and controversy; in a similar manner, we must attempt to make our heart free of all faults so the Lord can make our heart as His capital.

Rama led a very divine life even though it appeared ordinary. Ramayana gives us all an example of how one must behave in the ordinary world. The relations between the characters teach us a worthy example. Rama’s behavior toward His parents is what children, today, must learn to emulate. Rama’s behavior toward His brothers teaches us how every person should treat kith and kin. Rama’s love toward Sita, and Sita’s love toward Rama, sets the ideal for a husband-wife relationship. Likewise, Rama’s ruling over His kingdom is a worthy example of how we must run our administrative functions. Hanuman, while chanting Rama’s name, leapt across the ocean. What does this teach us? Devotees, suffering from the pangs of samsara, symbolized by the ocean, can easily cross it if merely the name of the Lord is constantly chanted. On crossing the ocean, one comes face to face with Brahma Jnyan (personified by Mother Sita). Hanuman also teaches how a devotee must be ready to fulfill the master’s command.

It may be asked: Did Rama go to the forest under any compulsion or out of his own resolve, or with a sense of dissatisfaction, or merely to comply with his father's pledge? No. Rama set out for the forest with the same sense of serenity and joy with which he looked forward to his coronation. Rama demonstrated the spirit of equanimity. He showed that pain or pleasure, profit or loss, victory or defeat, were the same to him. In human life pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow alternate all the time. It is not good to welcome pleasure and turn away pain. We must welcome sorrow in the same joyous spirit in which we greet happiness. Happiness has no value unless there is also sorrow. That is why it is said: “Pleasure is not secured by pleasant measure.” Pain is needed to secure pleasure. Rama demonstrated the truth of this concept. Compare Rama’s behavior with our lives. The least fortune sends us “sky high” and the smallest trouble makes us “depressed.” Maintaining equanimity in the face of joy and suffering will unfailingly lead us to bliss and also save us from dangerous diseases.

Contrary to our imagination, it is not difficult to emulate the Lord’s life. We are all attempting to become some chosen idol. Some have a movie actor as an idol, whereas others may have chosen a business tycoon. If we can emulate these mortals, why can’t we emulate the life of one who incarnated to teach us the way of an ideal life?

The ideal devotee. Ramayana has great examples of ideal devotees. Hanuman, the pearl amongst devotees, would at the utterance of one word from his master, be ready to undertake the most difficult of tasks. Bharata, Rama’s brother, was willing to sacrifice his relationship with his own mother and an entire kingdom for the sake of The Lord. Vibhishina abandoned his golden kingdom and his own brother to be with the Lord. Mother Sita abandoned the comforts of her kingdom and set-out to the dangerous forest, only to accompany her Lord. Such are the high ideals found in Ramayana.

On Rama Navami [Lord Rama’s birth day], we are undertaking spiritual discipline, participating in pujas, and partaking of feasts. This is not the purpose of celebrating this great day. The purpose is to learn from Rama’s life and sanctify our lives by following His greatness and manifest the divine principle of Rama within us. 

  1. Discourse, 5 Apr 1998, Ram Navami, Brindavan
  2. Summer Course, Brindavan, May 21, 2002
  3. Discourse, March 11, 1994.

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