– The Redeemer of Mankind
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
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
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.
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].
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Discourse, 5 Apr 1998, Ram Navami, Brindavan
Course, Brindavan, May 21, 2002
Discourse, March 11, 1994.
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