11. The perennial message of the Raama story
Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 30 (1997)
The perennial message of the Raama story
In this phenomenal world, all forms manifest peace. All names are auspicious. Sath-Chith-Anandha express the One Absolute. Its attributes are: Truth, Beauty, Goodness. The Supreme, that is to be Comprehended through the Vedas, Took birth as the son of Dhasharatha, Became the soul of Ramayana of Valmeeki (Sanskrith verses).
VAALMEEKI proclaimed in the Ramayana that the supreme Lord took His birth as the son of Dhasharatha and shone as the embodiment of the Vedas. Nevertheless Valmeeki described the saga of Rama as that of an ordinary human being. Valmeeki saw the Divine in Rama as an ordinary human being. Ravana saw Rama entirely as a mere man. The entire Ramayana is like a game of chess. The scene in the Ramayana is a kind of battlefield. It is a battlefield where the forces of right and wrong are waging war. Rama represents righteousness and Ravana represents unrighteousness. The battle between the two is the war fought on the battlefield.
Selfish desire is the root cause of Ravana's ruin
Ravana taught a great lesson to the world. He exclaimed: "Oh men! Do not live as I have lived and ruin your lives." What is the root cause of Ravana's ruin? Unable to conquer his desires, unwilling to get rid of his impulses, he ruined his entire clan. His sons were killed. His brother and other kinsmen were killed and ultimately his country itself was reduced to ashes. Ravana confessed- "In the end I ruined myself." This was the message Ravana gave to his countrymen in his last moments.
Only by suppressing desires does a man manifest his humanness. A man who is unable to put an end to his desires, puts an end to himself. A good man by his good conduct achieves greatness. Ravana sought to achieve greatness but did not strive to lead a good life. Rama's career is different. He aspired only to be a good man and did not seek greatness. The world today is in dire need of the message of the Rama story. For one thing, sons today do not follow the injunctions of their fathers. Fathers do not set the right example to the children. Disciples do not respect the preceptors properly Preceptors do not treat the disciples with affection. There is no love lost even between friends. Relations are estranged among themselves. In all fields of life - in the administration, in agriculture or in business or politics - - discord is rampant. Divisions and conflict prevail in social, political and even spiritual fields. If you enquire into the causes for this situation you find that selfishness is at the root of it all. The basic elements are common to all mankind. The world itself is one family. All men are brothers. Rama preached to the world this basic truth. He taught the world the duties of everyday life, the social duties and family obligations. This triple stream of duties is the message of the Ramayana. Whoever bathes in this triple stream is absolved of his sins and is redeemed. Such a great work as the Ramayana has to be read, reread and lived upto by everyone.
The great qualities of Rama are countless
It is impossible to describe the greatness of the life of Rama. The great qualities of Rama are countless.
Valmeeki wrote his Ramayana while Rama was still reigning over the kingdom. Rama was ruling over Ayodhya at that time. What does Ayodhya signify? It symbolises the place which cannot be penetrated by evil forces and which is invincible. That place is the heart. That is the place where Rama resides.
What is needed today is to make every human heart an Ayodhya. It should be free from any kind of pollution. It should be pure and firm. Then there will be room in it for the story of Rama to enter.
After completing his great epic, Valmeeki was considering how to make it known to the world and how to sanctify the lives of people by spreading its message. The Ramayana evokes joy in the listeners by the very sweetness of its poetry Its shlokas (verses) relieve people of their sorrow. Kusha and Lava (the sons of Seetha) who were dressed like ascetics and who could sing melodiously and. move the hearts of the listeners by their charming music, came to Valmeeki and offered their salutations to the sage. The two children were like twin birds. They were extraordinary children. They were utterly fearless. They would not shrink from anyone out of fear.
When the two appeared before Valmeeki, the sage told them-"Children! I have composed the Ramayana with a pure and unsullied heart through arduous effort. You should proclaim to the world this sacred story." Lava and Kusha reverentially accepted the sage’s command. They offered their pranams (salutations) to Valmeeki and said: "Guruji! Give us your benediction. We shall go forth into the world and make the Ramayana known to every nook and corner of the land." At one place, many sages had come together in a big assembly. Lava and Kusha went to them and sang the Ramayana in their sweet voice. The sages listened to their recitation in rapture, oblivious to everything. They felt that such moving story should be propagated to the whole world.
The Ramayana in blissful song
The two boys went along singing and entered Ayodhya. Standing in the heart of the city they went on singing the Ramayana. All the people strolling on the road stopped to listen to the song. They were rooted to their places and were lost in the music of the great epic. This is known as Bhava-samadhi (the state of blissful feeling). The hearts of the listeners were filled with the bliss of the soulful music. At that moment Rama was coming in his chariot to the spot. He heard the singing. Returning to the palace, he sent word to the two boys to come to his palace for singing their songs. In this manner Lava and Kusha sang the story of Rama in a manner that moved the hearts of one and all - from commoners to King Rama himself.
Rama story: great ordeals met with fortitude
Thus Rama himself enjoyed the narration of his story in song. He posed as if he did not know his own story. In this context, the human aspect of Rama should be noted. He lived like a common man, but ordinary men did not live like Rama. That is the secret of this phenomenon. Though Rama was divine, he moved about like an ordinary-man. Common men should live like Rama to manifest their divinity. It is not enough to recognise the human aspects of Rama. People should also realise the divinity in everyone. Rama dwells in the heart of everyone. "Ramayathi ithi Ramah" (Rama is the one who pleases). The word Rama has another meaning. It refers to a three (woman). Ramayana means that it is the story of Seetha. 'Hence Ramayana is esteemed as the story of both Rama and Seetha.
In the sacred epic of Ramayana many profound secrets and truths are embedded. But Rama did not impart these secrets to anyone at anytime. What is the reason? A ripe fruit is bound to fall. Rama felt that people will realise the truth spontaneously when their hearts ripen in due course. Because Rama faced all the ordeals, troubles and difficulties of life with great fortitude, he was hailed as Ramachandhramurthi. Rama taught the world how to remain unruffled in the presence of difficulties or joys, in pain or pleasure. He responded with a smile to any criticism. He did not exult over praise. Thus he displayed total equanimity in weal or woe, success or defeat, gain or loss. This is the attitude which everyone should cultivate. Today devotees tend to get elated when they experience pleasure and get depressed when they face adversity. This is the result of attachment to the body. In Rama's days, there was not this body consciousness. People were indifferent to the body. They were immersed in Atmanandam (the bliss of the Spirit). Atmabhirama and Abhinaya-rama (Rama the Divine Spirit and Rama the actor). Rama acted his role without attachment to the body. People today perform many spiritual exercises. They study many scriptures and engage themselves in meditation and bhajans. They sing the glories of God and offer prayers. All these are external exercises. No one asks himself what for all these are being done and for whose sake. They are being done with selfish interests in view.
Revere the Guru truly and not out of self interest
There used to be a preceptor and a disciple. The disciple used to carry out the preceptor's commands. He did not know what for he was doing all that the guru asked him to shut himself in a room and perform sadhana. The disciple was doing as he was told. Meditation had to be done three times a day - morning, noon and evening - according to the guru's directives. One day he was offering worship to the guru at noon. At that moment the guru came to his house. It was very warm outside. The heat was scorching the feet. The preceptor could not bear the heat and cried out- "Shishya! Shishya!" and knocked at the door. The disciple asked from inside, "Who are you? You. are disturbing my puuja." The preceptor answered. "I am your guru." The disciple said: "You should not interfere with my sadhana. Please wait for a while." The guru asked- "Whom are you worshipping?" The disciple replied, "I am worshipping you." The disciple was worshipping the guru, but kept him standing in the scorching heat. This is the way spiritual sadhana is being done these days. What is the purpose of worshipping the guru ? Why all this sadhana? They are being done out of self-interest and not to revere the guru truly. Likewise, what is the use of claiming to worship Rama without realising Rama as the indweller in the heart? It is only a physical exercise related to the body. The first requisite for all spiritual aspirants is Atma-abhimanam (spiritual yearning). Attachment to the body should be given up.
True devotion calls for control over senses
It was because of his attachment to the body that Ravana was a prey, to all kinds of troubles. This was the message given by Ravana: "Oh people! Because I could not kill my bodily impulses I killed myself. I destroyed my entire breed. Hence, be warned from my fate." Rama's message was: “Citizens! Live like me and achieve a worthy end." Ravana met with a Dhurgathi (bad end). Rama achieved a Sadhgathi (glorious destiny). Ravana had Dhurmathi (a wicked mind). Rama's was a Sumathi (pure mind). Rama's word's were righteous. Ravana's words were evil. Hence, people should strive to have pure minds. People take any number of births but there is no transformation of their minds. Without such transformation all spiritual practices are utterly useless. The Rama principle offers to the people a sacred path to God-realization. After the completion of his Yaga (sacrifice), Vishvamithra took Rama and Lakshmana to Mithila. Both of them saw the beautiful places in Mithila. They knew that they would have to witness the lifting of Shiva's bow the next day and then return to Ayodhya. They wanted to go round, the great city of Janaka. Rama told Lakshmana that they were under the care of Vishvamithra and should not do anything with out the permission of the guru (sage). They approached the sage with their request. He told them, "You have incarnated on earth to protect all the world and put down the evil forces. Do go round the city of Mithila and sanctify all the people of the city" Rama and Lakshmana set out to go round the city. As they were going, it seemed as if they were illuminating every place where they went. Everywhere the people looked at them without a wink. Children playing on the streets rushed towards them on seeing them and lovingly clasped their hands. "Uncles! Where from have you come? Please visit our homes," cried all the children. Everyone was attracted by the brothers. Ladies going on the toads were keen to see the beautiful eyes of the two brothers. They scattered flowers in front of them hoping that Rama would look at them. But Rama never looked at women. He went on with his head bowed. This was one of the lessons taught by Rama. True devotion calls for control over the senses (the eyes, the cars, speech, etc.) Because Rama had control over senses, he could win the hand of Seetha (daughter of the Earth). If we wish to control the external world, we have to control our vision. One who has no control over his vision becomes a slave to the world. Such profound lessons can be gathered from the illustrious story of Rama.
Dhasharatha's readiness to hand over rulership to Rama
Here is another episode- Dhasharatha was sleeping in his palace. He had a dream. In that dream he saw that the whole ocean had dried up, the moon was falling in a myriad pieces, an elephant in rut was tumbling down and collapsing, with the howdah on its back falling apart. He woke up with a start. "What is all this? It is said that a dream in the early hours of the morning portends what is to happen. It is now the fourth quarter of the night. What does this dream portend?" thought Dhasharatha. He got up from his bed. He stood before a mirror. He noticed a bizarre change in his face. He saw grey hairs stretching out between his two ears. He realised that old age was creeping on him. He tried to drink a glass of water. He noticed that his hand was trembling. He could see that his organs were beginning to fail. He felt that he could carry on his reign as long as his senses were perfect. But now they were declining. He went out and summoned all his ministers and the preceptor. He told them: "I have reigned for as long as I could. I sought always to please my subjects in every way. I looked after their welfare as that of my own children. This kind of feeling is possessed only by Rama. The time is appropriate to install Rama as the heir to the throne." The subjects and ministers present suggested that the king was fit to continue to rule for some more time. Dhasharatha felt that perhaps they were not in favour of Rama's coronation as king. They submitted to the Icing: "Maharaja! We are well aware of Rama's sterling qualities. But he is still inexperienced in the arts of administration. You may install him as Yuvaraja (Crown Prince) and give him guidance." But Dhasharatha told them that when his senses had begun to weaken, it was not proper for him to continue as king.
Sing the glories of the Lord like Lava and Kusha
Today, people who have lost their sight, are hard of hearing and are not able to move about, still want to stick to their offices. The reign, of Dhasharatha was different. He was a Dharmik ruler. It was a government based on justice and morality. When Lava and Kusha went about singing the glories of Rama they had no nervousness or apprehension. Today, young persons hesitate to put on any auspicious marks on the forehead when they visit temples and do not venture to fold their palms in reverence when they meet ciders. On the contrary, Lava and Kusha forgot all bodily considerations and sang from their hearts the glory of Rama. They thus taught what is relevant to youths today - the path to a God-oriented life. There is nothing greater than chanting the name of the Lord.
People are eager to listen to gossip. But the ears are deaf to the sweet names of God. You do not hesitate to go to the films endlessly; But your eyes find it hard to look at God in the sanctum. What for are the eyes given? What for do you have cars? You should remember God's name and go to the abode of God.
In this manner Lava and Kusha went about glorifying the greatness of Rama joyously and telling the people how they should adore God.
Namasmarana should emanate from the heart
Today's youth should take a resolve to spread the love of God among the people without any hesitations or fear. They should make every man realise the sweetness of the Lord's name, the divinity enshrined in it and the purity associated with it. These feelings should emanate from the heart. That is true namasmarana (reciting the Lord's name). The Ramayana propagated the great ideals of Rama in song and story. Rama was ever auspicious, ever the heroic wielder of the bow (Kodhanda-Rama), ever the anointed ruler (Pattabhi-Rama), and the Divine indweller in the heart. People have to enthrone Him in their hearts and adore Him. Thyagaraja grew ecstatic when he sang about Rama and His various attributes and glories. (Svami sang melliflously Thyagaraja's song beginning with the words: "Rama! Kodhanda Rama! Rama! Pattabhirama!" - - "Rama! You stand by the word you have given. For me, you are the only wealth. Your song is the only song. Your path is the only path. Rama! You are Seethapathi (the consort of seetha). You are the Gathi (the goal). I bow to you. I surrender to you, Oh Rama. Rama! Your name is supreme. Rama! Thoughts of you are enough. Rama! I am yours. Please speak to me.") · The great devotees of Kama revelled in singing the glories of Rama in this manner. Such a moving and inspiring story as the epic of Rama cannot be found in any other country or language. Even after thousands of years, the story of Rama continues to be related in innumerable villages and cities.
Experience Rama in your heart
In Bharath today there is no place where Rama's name is not chanted or dhanam (charity) is not practised. Even in the tiniest hamlet there will be a small Rama temple. But these temples are not so very important. The temple in which Rama should be worshipped is your heart. God is the Hridhayavasi (dweller in the heart). You need not seek Rama anywhere else. Without going out anywhere, without incurring any expense, you can experience Rama in your heart and achieve liberation.
Today, on Shri Ramanavami Day, in spite of the good fortune of being born in the Rama Janmabhuumi (sacred birth place of Rama) you are not recognising the Rama Principle. There is nothing great about celebrating the birthdays of great persons. You must put into practice the teachings of those great figures. What is the use in celebrating birthdays and ignoring the teachings? Practice is the touchstone of devotion. Knowing the ephemeral nature of the body, people should follow the conscience and lead a godly life. That is true devotion to Rama. You should dedicate your body, mind and everything, to God.
God is the embodiment of love. You should promote love in your hearts. Turn your mind to God before the end comes. It may come at any time.
Outgrow body consciousness in divine feelings
Valmeeki prostrated before Rama and confessed- "I have done no penance or spiritual experiences of any kind. By the constant chanting of your name I have been blessed with this beautiful experience. In my youth I had committed many atrocities and incurred many sins out of selfish motives. But, ultimately, chanting your name, I forgot my body altogether. An anthill grew over me. But the name Rama came out of it." That is what everyone should aim at. Outgrow the body consciousness and merge in the Rama principle. You must eschew all worldly attachments and fix your mind on God. Make good use of the Sai who has come to you. Adore the feet of this Lord at Parthi. Offer your devotion and achieve liberation. Do-not go after all and sundry. Awake! Abandon your delusion. (Thelugu poem)
Develop such divine feelings. Do not go after power and pelf. The people of Ayodhya concentrated on their dudes. They considered duty as worship. When Rama was leaving for the forest the people of Ayodhya were in deep distress. They did not want to stay in Ayodhya without Rama there. Every man, woman and child was in agony at that time. That was the intensity of their devotion to Rama. The same devotion should fill your hearts today.
Dhasharatha had eight dedicated and truthful ministers. He had great sages like Vasishta and Vamadheva as preceptors. If we had such. ministers and preceptors today we can have Rama Rajya.
Develop faith in Rama and cultivate love for Rama. Love and faith are most important.
You have to busy yourselves with activity in order to use time and skill to the best advantage. That is your duty, and duty is God. The dull and the inert will hesitate to be active, for fear of exhaustion or failure or loss. The emotional, passionate individuals mill plunge headlong and crave for quick results anal will be disappointed if they do not come in. The balanced persons will be active, because it is their duty; they will not be agitated by anything failure or success. The godly will take up activity as a means of worshipping God and they leave the results to God. They know that they are but instruments in the hands of God.
– Sri Sathya Sai Baba