Scriptures and Baba
Q224) Swami! Kaikeyi had sent Rama to the wilderness on the eve of his installation as the crown prince. What was Rama's attitude to her? Generally, it would be one of hostility, wouldn't it?
Bhagawan: Rama is the embodiment of Dharma, the embodiment of Tranquility. Under no circumstance did he hate Kaikeyi. It was only after bowing down at her feet that he left for the forest accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana. Longing for the dars'an of Rama, Bharata too proceeded to the forest, accompanied by feudatory kings, the army, citizens of Ayodhya, and the sages. Falling at Rama's feet, he sought to be pardoned, and prayed to Rama to return to Ayodhya and rule the Kingdom. Kaikeyi stood pitiably to one side. Rama surveyed the gathering. Right away Rama addressed Bharata with these words: "Bharata! Has mother Kaikeyi arrived? Where is she?" Turning to her, Rama bowed at her feet. Her words, like the prelude to a great drama, had inaugurated the mission of the incarnation. Had she not expressed her desire as she did, the events of the Ramayana would not have taken place. She auspiciously initiated the work of the Divine Master Plan. Rama, indeed, knew this. Then, what scope is there for hostility and hatred?
Moreover, in this context, Rama had to uphold another dharma as well. At the time of Kaikeyi's wedding with Dasaratha, her father, the king of Kekaya had made known his desire: "O King Dasaratha! You have contemplated marriage with my daughter, Kaikeyi, in order to have progeny. Then, it is her son, who should become king, your successor, shouldn't he? Is this acceptable to you? If your queens Kausalya or Sumitra give birth to sons, Kaikeyi's son would lose the right to kingship, wouldn't he?" King Dasaratha listened to this wish, consulted Kausalya and Sumitra in the matter, apprised them of the implications, and won their approval. Then, Kausalya remarked: "Swami! After you had promised that Kaikeyi's son alone would become king of Ayodhya, even if we were to conceive and give birth to sons, they would never act contrary to their father's word of honour. None assuredly would be born in our dynasty but those who accept respectfully the fulfilment of their father's wishes." Accordingly, for Sri Ramachandra the practice of dharma and the fulfilment of his father's wishes were supreme. Therefore, Kaikeyi's wish is lawful and righteous. This was not unknown to Rama.
Q225) Swami! Is it right on the part of Rama to kill Tataka, a woman?
Bhagawan: Rama embodies Dharma. Along with Lakshmana, He went to the forest led by Visvamitra only to destroy the demons. Defiling yajnas and yagas and killing great sages, these demons turned hermitages into cremation grounds. In fact, the very purpose of Visvamitra's request to Dasaratha, viz., sending Rama and Lakshmana to the forest, was the destruction of the demons. The sage, if he so desired, could have himself put an end to the demons. But, as he was under the vow of yajna, he was prohibited from resorting to violence. Moreover, the mission of the incarnation of Rama awaited fulfilment. Everything has to proceed according to the Master Plan. The actions of the demons were extremely cruel. In order to wipe out this pitch of cruelty and to protect dharma, the demons had to be destroyed. Tataka may be a woman. But, her actions were demonic, weren't they? Therefore, killing Tataka was just, and fully in consonance with righteousness.
In this matter, whether the agents of wickedness are men or women is immaterial. What is crucial is the usefulness of their deeds. Because of his unrighteous conduct, Vali the king of the monkeys, though a male was not spared, was he! Tara did advise Vali: "Lord! Sugriva was only a few days ago mortally wounded and fled. How come he is now brave enough to challenge you? He has the support of Rama, don't you know? Rama is, indeed, no ordinary man. Though you are very valiant, Rama is bent on assisting Sugriva and killing you, because of your unrighteous deeds. Seek refuge at Rama's feet!" Vali paid no heed to her words, and fell a prey to Rama's arrow. Thus, the primary criterion is restoration of Dharma. Gender is irrelevant.
Q226) Swami! Pardon me and treat this question as arising from the influence of modernity. Our society regards Sita and Rama as the ideal couple. Now, kindly do not get angry, Swami! Please! What happiness was there for this couple? Only troubles, for sure! How can this be ideal matrimony?
Bhagawan: That ideal can be put in a nutshell. Not once did Sita transgress Rama's command; likewise, not once did Rama oppose Sita's wish. This is ideal matrimony. You may have in mind the abandonment of Sita on the report of a washerman's words. Is it not possible that, in the kingdom there may be others besides the washerman who entertained doubts about the chastity of the virtuous Sita? Those were the words uttered by the washerman. Many others may have felt the same way. The episode of Sita's ordeal by fire serves only to proclaim her chastity to the world. Rama knows all things. He is omniscient.
Q227) Swami! Millions revere the illustrious characters in the itihasas of Bharat, for these have stirred their hearts, inspired their devotion, and offered them refuge. When, taking pity on us, you explain these figures, they appear so novel, and awesome. They come alive, swaying our hearts with their nobility and majesty. I have a question. At the end of the Great War, Lakshmana proposes to Rama that they should settle down in the golden Lanka Kingdom saying, "Bharata is ruling Ayodhya, elder brother! Let us make this charming Lanka our permanent abode!" Is Lakshmana infatuated by riches and pomp?
Bhagawan: Not at all. Kaikeyi desired that Rama should be sent to the forest. There was no need for Lakshmana to accompany him. Voluntarily Lakshmana gave up royal pleasures and luxuries, and left behind his noble wife, considering serving Rama day and night his chief duty. Therefore, Lakshmana stands as a symbol of total surrender. This proposal of Lakshmana to rule Lanka is significant for it had occasioned Rama's response, a clear message to humanity. Rama countered Lakshmana's suggestion with these words: " janani janmabhumis'ca svargadapi gariyas , mother and motherland are greater than even Heaven". Even if your mother is ugly, does she cease to be your mother? Just because she is beautiful, does a stranger become your mother?
Lakshmana's suggestion bore fruit as Rama's vitally patriotic message to the world. Is it not Lakshmana's proposal, "Ramachandra! Now you can rule golden Lanka, can't you?" that prompted Rama to hold up an ideal for the world to emulate? It happened just this way, and not as though Lakshmana was ever infatuated by riches and luxury.
Lakshmana's devotion to Rama is unbounded. Once, Lakshmana saw at some distance from their hermitage a column of dust rising to the sky. Lakshmana climbed a tree close by, and noticed far away Bharata at the head of an army with its four units ‑ infantry, cavalry, elephants, and war chariots . He said to Rama, "O elder brother! Not content with sending us to the forest, Bharata is coming even to this place contemplating harm to us and bringing along all four arms of military might." Rama gently remonstrated Lakshmana for his remarks and explained that Bharata was coming in a procession with a prayer to Rama to take back the kingdom. In this situation, you may get the impression that Lakshmana is quickly incensed. Such a conclusion is not fair. To pray to Rama to take back the kingdom, could not Bharata come alone? Why should he be accompanied by a huge army with its four arms? This is what roused Lakshmana's suspicion, and not his hasty judgement, as you may suppose. But that was not Bharata's fault either. When he set out to pray to Rama to rule Ayodhya, the rishis, the armed forces, and several leaders followed him for the dars'an of Rama. Thus, Bharata is not to blame. Today, it is very necessary to appreciate rightly the characters drawn in our epics and puranas, their motives, the wellsprings of their action, as well as their grandeur, solemnity and generosity. You should not ascribe your attitudes to those characters.
Q228) Swami! I do not know anything about Satrughna, except listing him in the names of the brothers: Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna. Kindly narrate to us at least one episode concerning his character.
Bhagawan: Satrughna was distinguished as much for his valour as for his righteousness. His devotion to the master was of an extraordinary order. His fraternal love was exemplary. You know well that Lakshmana's name stands next to Rama's. That is why their names are treated as a compound word, "Rama‑Lakshmana". Similarly, Satrughna was always by the side of Bharata such that the expression "Bharata‑Satrughna" gained currency. Just as Lakshmana served Rama with unswerving devotion, even so did Satrughna serve Bharata.
Satrughna bore immense love for Rama. Here is an instance. Along with Bharata, Satrughna returned to Ayodhya. This incident took place when they left the kingdom of Kekaya, their maternal uncle. Learning that Kaikeyi was responsible for sending Rama to the forest and for planning Bharata's coronation, he was heart‑broken. He also came to know that it was the evil counsel of Manthara that made Kaikeyi ask Dasaratha to fulfil the two boons. Enraged, he cast a look of unbridled wrath at Manthara who happened to be passing that way. At that hour Manthara was very happy. News of the crowning of Bharata, her Queen's son, had sent her into rapturous joy. Satrughna saw her walking all smiles, dressed in very rich finery, and sporting a variety of ornaments. Striding towards her, he gave vent to his anger by kicking Manthara in the waist. She fell down and her necklace of diamonds and pearls scattered on the floor shone like stars in the sky. Meanwhile, Bharata arrived on the scene. He said, "Dear brother! Treating women cruelly like this, Rama does not approve. Actions like yours do not, in the least, please Rama. Calm down." Such was Satrughna's love.
Q229) Swami! In the Ramayana, the role of Hanuman is very prominent. He is the best example of dasyabhakti, devotion of loyal servant, one of the nine paths of devotion. We are so fortunate to hear from you about the devotion of Hanuman. Would you kindly tell us how modern youngsters can emulate his example?
Bhagawan: Hanuman is known for physical strength, intelligence, perfect character and scholarship. Yet, do you know what he said when he entered the court of Ravana. While introducing himself, he said, 'dasoham Kosalendrasya, I am a servant of Rama'. The position of a servant of Rama was a matter of pride and prestige for Hanuman.
Rama asked the vanaras as to who among them could cross the ocean and go in search of Sita. One of them said that he would be able to cross 10 kilometers, another said 40 kilometers and so on but none could say he could jump s'atayojana, 100 kilometers across the ocean. Then Rama asked Hanuman, "Can you do it and successfully return after finding out where Sita is?" Then Hanuman replied, "Yes, I will." Then Rama asked, "Hanuman, you have had no experience of jumping across a vast sea. You have never seen Sita earlier to identify her now. Then how do you say so confidently that you can cross the mighty ocean in search of Sita in Lanka, find her and then return?" Hanuman replied, "Swami! Would you not give me the needed strength, capacities and abilities to fulfill the mission you have assigned to me and then command me to fulfill it? With your blessings and invincible will; wouldn't I accomplish what I am supposed to?" Such was the intensity of his devotion.
Youngsters should follow God's command unhesitatingly. They should never doubt, question, disobey, or criticise it. Strict obedience to the divine command is called surrender. When you develop this kind of surrender to God, you are bound to succeed.
While crossing the ocean, Hanuman displayed courage and valour par excellence due to his deep devotion to Rama. Mount Mainaka prayed to him to rest on his peak for some time on the way to Lanka. Mainaka wanted to take this opportunity in order to express his gratitude to Vayu, the wind God, father of Hanuman, who had saved him earlier. But Hanuman, politely rejected the offer, telling him that he wouldn't rest until he had completed the work assigned to him by Rama and that he would oblige Mainaka on his return from Lanka. He, thus, gave top priority to Rama's mission.
It was the confidence born out of his devotion to Lord Rama that made him cross a vast ocean. Following His command he won the grace of Rama. Normally, a monkey is noted for its unsteady and wavering mind, but by surrendering to Rama, Hanuman's mind became absolutely steadfast, fixed firmly in devotion to his duty and that is exactly why he is worshipped today as Hanuman.
At the time of his coronation towards the end of the epic, Rama was distributing gifts to all His subjects. But he did not give any present to Hanuman. Then Sita softly asked, "Lord! Have you forgotten Hanuman? How is it that you have not given him any gift?" Then Rama smiling said, "Sita! It is true. I want you to present him any gift of your choice". Then Sita gave Hanuman her own diamond necklace. But Hanuman started biting every diamond in the necklace, breaking it off, bringing it close to his ear and then dropping it on the ground. Watching this, Sita said "What! Hanuman! You have not given up the habit of a monkey. What are you doing with the diamond necklace I presented to you?" Then Hanuman said, "Mother! No doubt; you have given me a most precious diamond necklace, but I want every individual diamond of the necklace to resonate with the sound of my Lord Rama's name. So, I am testing every one of the diamonds by breaking it first keeping it close to my ear to find if the sound of the Lord's name is heard. I am throwing them out one after another as I don't hear His name in any of these." Nothing in this universe is more precious than the sacred name of God, Rama.
The whole assembly was adjourned for the day. Rama was retiring to his bedroom and Sita was following him. Lo and behold! Hanuman too was making his way towards the bedroom. Rama then said, "Hey Hanuman! What are you doing here?" Hanuman said, "Lord! Sita is following you. So I am also coming to you." Rama said, "Anjaneya! Look! Sita has vermilion, on her forehead that qualifies her to get into my bedroom". At this, Anjaneya left the place and returned after some time. He went round all the shops, collected kumkum, applied it all over his body and returned and stood in front of Rama. He said, "Oh Lord! Just for the simple reason that Mother Sita has a dot of kumkum on her forehead, you qualified her to enter your bedroom. Now; here Look! I have this sindura all over the body. What do you have to say now?" That was the standard of his devotion and the determination to be with God always.
On another occasion, the three brothers of Rama met, discussed for some time and distributed among themselves all the duties they had to do personally in attending on Lord Rama. Hanuman noticed all this and finding that he was left out with any duties to his lord, he softly asked them, "Sir! When the lord yawns, there is a need for someone to click fingers and make a snapping sound befitting His royal status, we do not know when he would yawn, so I should be with him throughout". So, Hanuman had to be in the company of Rama while his brothers could attend on him according to duties they had taken upon themselves at different times. Thus, Hanuman was the very personification of humility, devotion, discipline and surrender.
He had all the purity to be with God. He did what he thought and said. In him there was perfect harmony of thought, word and deed. He decided to go in search of Sita, he said so, and started at once. His decision, declaration, and implementation were in total agreement and unison. This is what is meant by "The proper study of mankind is man."
Manasyekam vacasyekam karmanyekam mahatmanam is the unmistakable feature of a man of character: unity in thought, words, and deed. But manassanyat vacassanyat karmanyanyat duratmanam, in a wicked person there is disharmony. What he thinks, says, and does are never in agreement with one another.
Hanuman said to. Rama on another occasion, "Oh Lord! If I view you as my `King', I am your `servant'. If I consider myself a ‘jiva;' an individual entity, you are my ‘deva,’ God. If I am atma, conscience, you are `consciousness.' As both of us are only one, aham brahmasmi” So by embracing dasyabhakti, the path of a loyal servant's devotion with intense steadfastness, Hanuman passed through these three stages and ultimately experienced unity with God. When he felt that he was a servant of Rama the King, he was passing through the state of dualism. When he found himself as an individual, with Rama as his God, it expressed qualified nondualism, and finally when he found unity with God, he experienced non‑dualism.
In Lanka having entered the palace of Ravana, Hanuman had to see many a woman fast asleep, as he had to identify only Mother Sita. Such was his reverence for every woman as if she were his own mother. This was the crest or crown of his character. Hanuman was the embodiment of devotion, the personification of humility and the very symbol of sincerity and obedience. All youngsters today should take him as their ideal.
Q230) Swami! Ravana was the grandson of Pulastyabrahma. He was an ardent devotee of Siva. He was a great scholar in all the Sastras and the Vedas. Above all, he was a valorous warrior and an expert in archery. Such a person was reduced to total ruin. What could be the secret behind his fall?
Bhagawan: Viewed spiritually, Ravana's destruction at Rama's hands teaches you that in spite of your physical strength, the strength of your intelligence, the strength of a large army, the strength of your wealth, the strength of your deep penance, if you become a victim of desire of a low order or lust, you will ruin yourself totally.
There is another inner significance to this event. At the gate of Vaikuntha, heaven, were two guards by name Jaya and Vijaya. They were discourteous to two sages, Sanaka and Sananda who came to visit Lord Vishnu. They cursed the two gatemen and consequently they had to leave Vaikuntha. Then, they prayed to be pardoned and begged them to suggest a way out. As atonement, the sages counselled them to opt for three births as rakshasas, living in utter hatred of Lord Vishnu and dying at His hands, paving thereby the way for their early return to heaven. Thus, Jaya and Vijaya were reborn as the rakshasa brothers, Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipu, Sisupala and Dantavaktra, Ravana and Kumbhakarna, spent their lives in bitter enmity with Vishnu, and died at His hands: This enabled them to reach their original place in Vaikuntha.
Ravana's acts should be viewed in this context. If he entertained any bad motives in abducting Sita, how is it that he did not touch her all through the period of her stay in Lanka? . Unless he abducted Sita, Rama wouldn't fight with him. So, to fight Rama in open battle was the only way for Ravana to die at his hands. The climax of the Ramayana, the victory of Rama and the death of Ravana, indicates how Ravana's heart pined for his lord, Rama.
Q231) Swami! Vibhishana was a rakshasa, yet he was a devotee of Rama. Kindly tell us about Vibhishana?
Bhagawan: Vibhishana's case is one of unique devotion to Rama. God is unconcerned with your position, property, scholarship, caste and creed. What God expects and receives from you is only pure love. With devotion, you can achieve anything in this world. Only this kind of devotion transformed
A monkey known for unsteadiness
intoHanuman, worthy of worship,
A bird known for flipping looks into a Garuda, vehicle of Vishnu,
A bull into Nandi, the vehicle of Siva,
A peacock into the vehicle of LordSubrahmanya, and
A lion into the vehicle of Goddess, Durga.
What is special here is that these animals and birds, by their sheer devotion and love of God, could give up their innate qualities and transform themselves into vehicles of Gods, and are now worshipped along with Gods and Goddesses.
Similarly, Vibhishana, though a Rakshasa himself, was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, and hence, he deserved His grace. He repeatedly advised his elder brother, king Ravana, not to abduct Mother Sita, and later on, not to wage war against Rama. He also warned Ravana and predicted dire consequences he would have to face if he persisted. Yet, Ravana didn't pay heed to his words of devotion and wisdom and the rest is the story you all know. Ultimately, Vibhishana forsook his brother, Ravana, and sought refuge in Rama. This is an instance when a devotee leaves his own brother if he stands in the way of the onward journey to God. In my opinion, Vibhishana is greater than Bhishma. Being a man possessed of wisdom, penance, devotion, determination and expertise in warfare, Bhishma even after knowing full well that the Kauravas were doing unlawful, unrighteous and mean acts, still remained with them as chief of their army, during the Kurukshetra War. He couldn't help the pious, righteous and noble souls, the Pandavas.
Hanuman, in his search for Mother Sita entered Lanka, stepped into the bedroom of Vibhishana, and saw him immersed in chanting the holy name of Rama. He made Vibhishana aware of his presence by making loud sounds. Vibhishana opened his eyes and saw Hanuman over there. After they had acquainted themselves with each other as devotees of Rama, Hanuman asked Vibhishana, "Oh King! You say you are a devotee of Rama. You do japa, repeat His holy name. But it is not enough. Besides, chanting His name, you should also participate in His karya, His Divine mission. Have you ever visited Sita? Have you made any attempt to set her free? In what way have you helped Rama in His mission? Don't you know that chanting His name and contributing to His mission are complementary to each other and should go together? You have not informed Rama of the whereabouts of Sita! Have you made any attempt to set her free? In what way have you helped Rama in his mission? How do you call yourself a devotee of Rama then?" Since that day, Vibhishana became a part of Rama's divine mission.
Q232) Swami! The part played by women in the great epic, the Ramayana is very prominent. They have been all ideals for womankind even to this day. Swami! You are matchless in explaining subtle things like this. Would you kindly tell us about the role of women in the Ramayana?
Bhagawan: The welfare and the progress of mankind is the main objective of the Ramayana. Every female role in the epic contributes to that objective, though in varied ways.
King Dasaratha had three wives, Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. They moved very intimately with one another like sisters. They married Dasaratha only to beget children and fulfil his wish. He performed putrakamesti yaga as advised by his preceptor, Vasishtha and received yajñapayasa, sacrificial `rice‑pudding' from the presiding deity, and handed over the prasadam to his three wives. He wanted them to partake of the prasadam after their `head bath'. The second wife, Sumitra, kept the gold cup with the prasadam by her side, and started thinking like this to herself: "The son to be born to Kausalya would be the future king as she is the eldest queen. The son to be born to Kaikeyi also has a chance of becoming the king. According to Dasaratha's promise, that was the condition of their union. In either case, my son has no chance, but to serve one of the two brothers whosoever becomes the king". In the meantime, a kite dived from above and snatched away the gold cup with the prasadam inside. Sumitra was terrified. She knew the consequences of King Dasaratha's coming to know of this incident. She also knew that the family preceptor Vasishtha would be totally upset over this. She felt very sad over losing her share of the yajnapayasam. Then the other two queens, Kausalya and Kaikeyi, consoled her and gave her half of their own shares of the prasadam. While Kausalya begot Rama, and Kaikeyi, Bharata, Sumitra gave birth to the twins, Lakshmana and Satrughna. Lakshmana followed Rama like his shadow, while Satrughna was always in the company of Bharata. The three queens lived like sisters without any differences among them. Sisterly love and affection is the lesson for the world.
Besides these, we come across in the Ramayana, three more women who also played their roles very well. They were Tataka, Ahalya and Sita. They symbolise three attributes of beings. Tataka stands for tamoguna, Ahalya represents rajoguna, while Sita is the very embodiment of sattvaguna. Here, Rama's killing of Tataka means his total uprooting of tamoguna, bestial temperament. Wickedness and demonic qualities are tamasika in nature. Ahalya was the wife of sage Gautama. Disobedience is rajoguna . Emotion, passion, etc are rajasika in their expression. Ahalya disobeyed Gautama and so she was cursed. Rama cleansed her of her rajoguna by making her free from the curse. She lay stupefied as a boulder for years together, but a mere touch of Rama's feet rejuvenated her. Rama accepted Sita who was the very embodiment of sattvaguna (piety, softness, goodness, and calmness). He married her. It means he accepted sattvika qualities.
The very word ‘stri,’ woman has three elements: `sa', `ta', 'ra'. 'Sa' indicates sattvaguna, `ta' reflects tamoguna and 'ra' denotes rajoguna. Every woman has all these three qualities. The sattvika qualities in a woman are peace, forbearance, compassion, charity, kindness, composure, and so on. The rajasika qualities in women are her sentiments and passions, readiness to sacrifice life for the family, etc, while the tamasika qualities are her shyness, reserve, humility, etc. The Ramayana, thus, conveys a message through the role of every character.
Q233) Swami! Would you kindly tell us how Mother Sita could become the noblest of women, and remain an ideal to the entire womanhood for centuries by undergoing many difficulties, trials and what not, being the divine consort of Lord Rama.
Bhagawan: It is said that the Ramayana is Sitayas'caritam. The Ramayana is the history of Mother Sita as well. Sita was the daughter of Bhumata, Mother Earth, and was also Kalyanacaritra, a character reputed for bestowing welfare.
During Sita's svayamvara (trial of suitors to win Sita's hand), it was Lord Rama who alone could lift and break the Sivadhanus, the bow of Siva. The king of Kosala, though mighty and strong, couldn't lift the bow. Ravana, matchless valour and strength, couldn't even move it. Three thousand servants and ninety‑ elephants brought the Sivadhanus to the court from King Janaka's shrine. How could Rama lift the bow, draw the string, and then break it?
Rama was one hundred per cent pure magnet. That was why He could handle the mighty bow. Sita was also a pure magnet. During her childhood, while she was playing with a ball one day, it so happened that the ball rolled underneath the Sivadhanus. Then Sita went there, easily lifted the bow, put it aside, and got her ball back in tact. This magnetic principle is in every one of us. When an ant starts crawling on your leg, your head will come to know of it, and even while you are talking with someone, your hand will pick it up and remove it instantaneously and involuntarily.
A magnet, if it is rusted and dusty, will not draw a piece of iron. An iron piece or bar due to its long association with a magnet also becomes a magnet. This is the meaning of the Vedic verse, brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati. The knower of the Brahman becomes finally Brahman Himself. You should see that the iron of life should not be rusted by worldly desires: Otherwise, life ends up in ruins.
Sita was highly intelligent. On the eve of leaving Ayodhya, following His father's command, Rama said to Sita, "Sita! Since I am going away to the forest, my parents will be left with none to serve and console them. Why don't you stay back in Ayodhya and serve them until I return?" Sita responded slowly but surely like this: "Swami! When your Mother Kausalya wanted to follow you, you told her to stay on at Ayodhya and serve your father, Dasaratha. You also told her about scriptural injunctions that command a wife to serve her husband. Now, contrary to what you have told your mother, you want me not to follow you and stay behind. Evidently, you have one dharma for your mother and another for me. Swami! Is this justified?"
Then Rama said, "Sita! You will have to eat only green leaves in the forest. You won't have delicious food for a long time. You can't wear costly saris and jewels in the forest. Sita! Won't you find it difficult to live under these conditions?" Sita answered; "Oh! Dear one! Why should I need all those comforts, which you don't get there? When you don't want any of these things, I too don't want them. I only want to be with you and serve you till the end." Rama asked another question "Sita! You know a forest is full of wild and cruel animals. Are you not afraid of them? Can you stay there?"
All these dissuading words of Rama were employed to persuade Sita not to follow him but to stay back. This she understood, and finally said: "Swami! So long, I was under the wrong impression that my father got me married to a brave and chivalrous man and not to one who behaves like this!" This silenced Rama, and He couldn't speak any more. Ultimately, Rama permitted Sita to follow him to the forest. This was the intelligence and skill of Sita in the art of conversation.
Sage Vasishtha, the preceptor of the royal family, wanted to crown Sita in the place of Rama who was to go to the forest according to his father's command. Sita said, "O Learned Sage! What is it that you are talking about? Do you ever find moonlight existing separately from the moon? Can the two, the moon and the moonlight be separated from each other? Is not Ramachandra a moon and am I not the light to follow Him wherever He goes? Can I exist without Him?"
This was the character of a pativrata, a chaste woman dedicated to her husband. It has already been noticed that Sita was highly intelligent. At the time of her wedding, she had to garland Lord Rama. As you know Rama was ajanubahu, a very tall person. Being shorter, how could she garland Him then? On this auspicious occasion, Lakshmana bent down at this very moment to touch the feet of Rama. Rama too had to bend and lift Lakshmana, touching his shoulders. Sita took full advantage of the situation and immediately garlanded Rama. Lakshmana is Adisesha, the seven‑hooded serpent supporting the earth and on him Vishnu reclines. He also lifted that little portion of the earth where Sita was standing in order to raise her height.
In India, at the time of the wedding ceremony, there is the custom of the bride and the bridegroom pouring talambralu, sacrificial yellow rice grains on the head of each other alternately. Rama was the son of the emperor, Dasaratha and Sita was the daughter of another emperor by name Janaka. So, instead of sacrificial rice, they used pearls for this ritual. Sita held in her palm some pearls to be poured on the head of Rama. Since her palm looked like the petals of a rose, the pearls too looked red in colour. When she poured these pearls on the head of Rama, they started shining like diamonds as Rama was wearing a white turban. In the process, a few pearls fell on the ground. These were neither red nor white in colour and were not at all beautiful and attractive.
There is an inner significance behind all these details. The pearls, which fell on the ground and were not attractive, represent tamoguna or the trait of passivity, dullness and gluttony while the white and bright pearls shining like diamonds on the head of Rama symbolise sattvaguna (piety, calmness, equanimity). The pearls that looked red in colour in the palm of Sita represent rajogu a (emotion, passion). In other words, one who is with God Rama (purusa) is sattvika symbolised by the white colour; one who is with prakrti, nature, is rajasika symbolised by the red colour, and one who is neither with God nor with nature is tamasika.
Take another instance from the Ramayana. In the Asokavana in Lanka, Anjaneya felt very sad on seeing the plight of Sita, who was grieving over her separation from Rama. He revealed his identity to her by showing Rama's ring and then told her that he would carry her on his shoulders to Rama and thus rescue her. Then Sita said, "Anjaneya! I am pleased with your devotion to Rama. But you have forgotten one fundamental dharma. If you carry me on your shoulders, and take me away from Lanka without the notice and permission of Ravana, will it not amount to abduction? If I allow you to do so, what is the difference between you and Ravana? Ravana too did the same thing in bringing me over here without the knowledge of Rama and he came in disguise. What self‑respect will I have if I allow myself to be carried by you? Shall I get a good name? Lord Rama Himself should come here, punish Ravana for the mistake he committed. Rama has, of necessity, to defeat and destroy him first. Then He should take me away from here in His vehicle most gracefully. This is what I wish."
Q 234) Swami! Ravana's abduction of Sita is a very heartbreaking episode in the Ramayana. How is it that Sita wanted a golden deer, which is quite an unbelievable phenomenon? How strange is it that Lakshmana who was directed to guard her couldn't ultimately prevent the abduction. Would you please explain the significance of this episode to all of us who are otherwise thoroughly confused about its inner meaning?
Bhagawan: The abduction episode conveys many secrets. An incarnation of God or an avatar always sets examples for others to emulate. Every action of His is very subtle and has lots of things to teach. These subtleties are not easily understood just by going through the book.
Having left her father, Janaka, who was an emperor, having sacrificed all the riches, comforts, and conveniences due to a Queen, having left her fatherin‑law Dasaratha who was also an emperor, Sita decided to lead an austere life and followed Rama to the forest. She had overcome kama, desire and so she could be near Rama. But her fascination for the `Golden deer' means that she had given in to kama which was the cause of her separation from Rama.
So, where there is kama there wouldn't be Rama. Where there is Rama, kama can't exist.
There is another lesson in this episode. Rama commanded Lakshmana to take care of Sita during his absence. Lakshmana was supposed to be there near Sita in obedience to His command. But Lakshmana could not bear the accusations of Sita and the evil motives she attributed to him. So, he left the place in search of Rama whom Sita feared to have been in danger, when she heard what she took to be the shouts of Rama, "Oh Sita! Oh Lakshmana!"
On learning about Subahu's death, Ravana commanded Maricha to assist him in his vengeance against Rama. Preferring to die at Rama's hands rather than at Ravana's, Maricha disguised himself as a golden deer, thereby giving temporary success to Ravana, and to Rama's master plan, himself being killed by Rama in the process. It was only then that Ravana came and kidnapped her finding her alone.
Therefore, the point is, in one sense Lakshmana was responsible for sitaviyoga or separation of Sita from Rama. Lakshmana repented till the end of his life his neglect of the duty Rama assigned to him. Here we can also see the master plan of Lord Rama. Maricha and Subahu were the Rakshasas who fought Rama, and in the process; Subahu got killed at Rama's hands, while Maricha escaped and conveyed this message to Ravana. It was Rama's plan to spare one of the two Rakshasas, at least for the time being, so that the news would reach Ravana and enrage him further against Him, so that a battle between the two, Rama and Ravana is assured.
In fact, you will also notice that earlier sage Bharadvaja who could foresee coming events extended hospitality to Rama and his retinue, Sita and Lakshmana for some time, and directed them to advance farther into the forest. Had they continued to stay for a longer period of time in his hermitage, Ravana could not have abducted Sita. There wouldn't have been a war and the consequent death of Ravana. Bharadvaja knew full well that Rama was God incarnate, yet he directed him to proceed further paving the way for the execution of the divine master plan, viz., the killing of Ravana. This was the Divine master plan. Thus, all the episodes in this great epic convey many human values besides revealing the secrets of the Rama avatar.
Q235) Swami! Lord Rama was the very personification of satya, truth, and the very embodiment of dharma, righteous conduct. He was verily the incarnation of the omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent God Vishnu himself. Rama was very compassionate and he was the refuge of the forlorn. Then how is it he sent Mother Sita into exile paying heed to the words of a washerman? Does it not go against dharma and satya, the basic qualities Ramachandra is said to embody?
Bhagawan: It is your ignorance that makes you find fault with God. No one has any authority to doubt or question the ways of God. He is selfless and whatever He does and says has a meaning, and conveys a message. He is an ideal to the entire humanity. God is perfect. All His Divine deeds are meant for the welfare of mankind. Our epics cherish these ideals as human values.
You should recognise the basic truth that Rama was a king. He was prepared to sacrifice everything to uphold dharma in His kingdom. He was even prepared to sacrifice His consort Sita in protecting Dharma. This incident of Sita being sent away because of suspicion has fulfilled two objectives: first, to this day Rama is being revered as an ideal ruler; secondly, the world has come to realise the chastity of Sita.
You should also remember another point here: at the time of taking the wedding pledge, Rama solemnly declared to do everything together with Sita as expected of a householder. But in respect of matters concerning rajyapalana, ruling the kingdom, He would act only as a king, independent of all other relationships and considerations. So, Rama never said that He would follow Sita in matters pertaining to His reign. So, it was not a mistake or a lack of compassion on the part of Rama in this regard. You have misunderstood the whole episode. You don't know the reality. Whatever Rama did, it couldn't but be dharma.
Q236) Swami! Kaikeyi, so it goes, loved Rama more intensely than even Kausalya, his own mother How is it then that she could ask such a boon to be granted to her by King Dasaratha that resulted in Rama's exile for fourteen years? Was it not her mistake?
Bhagawan: Pleased with Kaikeyi's services to him, Dasaratha had already granted two boons to Kaikeyi of which you are aware. Dasaratha had told her that she could ask for the fulfilment of the boons according to her own wish at any point of time she would like to choose. He did not himself specify the time. It only meant that she could ask for anything at any time. So, it is the mistake of Dasaratha to have given her a blank cheque like that, authorising her to ask for anything at any time. On the other hand, had he asked her to let him know at the time of his conferring the boons what exactly she would do with them, we would have every reason to find fault with Kaikeyi for demanding such a treacherous thing. Now, it must have been very clear to you that you have to blame Dasaratha and not Kaikeyi for sending Rama to the forest.
Q237) Swami! Although Manthara and Surpanakha are the two minor woman characters in the epic, the Ramayana, both of them appear crucial in leading to major developments. What lessons should we learn from these two characters?
Bhagawan: In the Ramayana, Manthara symbolises anger and Surpanakha represents desire. Rama and Lakshmana were playing with a ball during their childhood. As ill luck would have it, the ball hit the hunchback Manthara. All the children playing with Rama and Lakshmana saw this and laughed so loudly that she felt terribly upset and humiliated. She thought that it was Rama who had thrown the ball intentionally and had hit her. Since that day, she grew revengeful towards Rama and was looking for an opportunity to retaliate. This made her speak all kinds of falsehood to Kaikeyi, on the day of the coronation of Rama ultimately leading to Kaikeyi's demand for Rama's exile and Bharata's coronation.
Surpanakha, sister of Ravana, saw Rama in the forest and was very much attracted by his personality. She prayed to him to marry her. Rama gently and softly sent her away telling her that he was already married and that his wife, Sita, was also with him, and if she was still desirous of a marriage she could as well approach Lakshmana and marry him. Accordingly, Surpanakha approached Lakshmana with a similar plea. Lakshmana then cut her nose and ears and turned her away. Returning to Lanka, she said to her brother Ravana, "Oh! Brother! I have no words to describe the beauty of Sita. What a charming woman she is! I feel a king of your stature and splendour alone should have Sita as his spouse. After all, Rama, a mere human being, doesn't deserve her. Brother! You should win her hand somehow or other".
Then Ravana put her a question, "Sister! When your nose and ears were being cut off, what were you doing? Did you simply keep quiet, without resisting?" Then Surpanakha replied, "Brother! What else could I say other than keep silent at that moment? Brother! Believe me or not, I was lost totally watching the majestic beauty and divine personality of Rama all the time. I did not know what was happening."
Therefore, it should have been very clear to you by now that Manthara's anger was responsible for Rama's exile. The death of King Dasaratha was a consequence. This was the sequence of events that followed the anger of Manthara. Then, how about Surpanakha? Her desire to marry Rama, which was not fulfilled, the humiliation she was put to at the hands of Lakshmana, and her report to Ravana extolling the beauty of Sita ultimately led to the abduction of Sita separating her from Rama. Was it not her desire that proved to be the main cause of all these events? So both the characters speak about the tragedy that would befall anyone who falls victim to anger and desire.
Q238) Swami! Kausalya is celebrated as the mother of Rama, and Kaikeyi has become notorious for being instrumental in sending Rama to the forest. However, we do not know much about Sumitra. Kindly describe her nature to us.
Bhagawan: Sumitra is a distinguished woman, eminently virtuous. When Rama left for the forest, Kausalya was wailing inconsolably. Then Sumitra went to her side saying, "O Elder Sister! Why do you lament? Is it because your son Rama had left for the forest? Is not my son, Lakshmana, by his side, under no compulsion at all? Why do you still lament? Were Rama to remain here, he would be King only of Ayodhya. But living in the forest, he has become the King of the entire Bharat. I am pleased with my son Lakshmana, dedicated to the service his brother. I have two sons ‑ Lakshmana and Satrughna. While Lakshmana is serving Rama, Satrughna is serving Bharata! How blessed am I! Wherever Rama is, that place is verily Ayodhya!" So did Sumitra rejoice at her great good fortune. Such is her nobility, such her purity.
Q239) Swami! You have shown to the world that the Ramayana presents the ideal of true brotherhood. Would you kindly tell us about this aspect of the Ramayana that indicates what brothers should be like?
Bhagawan: There is a secret behind the advent of every incarnation of God. God descends on earth as a human being to demonstrate how everyone should behave and conduct himself in this world in the ideal way. One such is Rama's way of dealing with his brothers. It is supreme love that existed among the four brothers, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna. But, today we don't find such supreme love among brothers, but the kind of love that takes them to the Supreme Court over property disputes. We can't describe in words how furious Bharata was on coming to know that his mother Kaikeyi had been responsible for Rama's exile. He couldn't control his anger, and was even prepared to behead her. That was the intensity and magnitude of his love for his brother. Satrughna followed Bharata like a shadow. That was the unbreakable tie of love between them.
You know pretty well how Rama and Lakshmana were inseparable since their early childhood. They had always been together. You know what happened when they were infants. Rama was made to rest and sleep in a cradle, and so Lakshmana was put in another cradle. The two babies started crying nonstop. The three queens Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi could not make them sleep or stop crying. When Sage Vasishtha came there, the queens reported the matter to him. Then Vasishtha advised them to place both the babies in the same cradle. The moment they did so, they stopped crying and fell asleep. That was the inseparable, intimate association between the two brothers right from their early infancy.
You will also notice the anguish of Rama when Lakshmana fainted on the battlefield. He said, "In this world, you can get anything back if it is lost position, property, friends or even a wife. But one can't get back a brother once he is lost." Referring to his brothers, Rama said, "Bharata is the greatest of them all. He is reigning the entire kingdom from Nandigrama, keeping my padukas on the throne, repeating my name, only supporting himself on tubers and leaves like an ascetic and most anxiously waiting for my return." We can understand here two kinds of devotion; one is Lakshmana's devotion to the form of God, sakarabhakti, and the other is Bharata's devotion to the formless aspect of God nirakarabhakti.
When they reached Panchavati, Rama wanted Lakshmana to build a small hut for them on a spot of his choice. Lakshmana fell at the feet of Rama and started shedding tears. Then Rama asked him, "Brother! Why are you crying? What has happened? Have I said anything that has made you cry?" Then Lakshmana said, "Rama! You want to have a hut at any place I decide. Do I have a preference, or a choice or a will of my own? Your wish is mine too. I know only how to follow you and act according to your command.” Such should be the loyalty, sincerity, intimacy and affection among brothers. This is the ideal that Rama set before you.
Q240) Swami! Do you feel that during the time of the Ramayana, there were no feuds? Sending Rama to the forest and crowning Bharata ‑ are not these plain and simple politics? Is there justice in the way Rama killed Vali? Is not abducting Sita heinous? How then can the Tretayuga be called flawless? Kindly forgive me for putting this question out of my ignorance and for crossing my limits out of my presumption. Favour us with your views on these matters.
Bhagawan: Upholding dharma and satya, and demonstrating to the world a new ideal was the purpose of the incarnation of Rama. All the events in the Ramayana illustrate this truth. Consider the very first episode of Rama's arrival in the forest accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana. Remember that Bharata's objective in visiting Rama in the hermitage, along with the citizens of Ayodhya, eminent sages and the four arms of the militia is to welcome him back to Ayodhya. In this concourse was Jabali. In the conversation with Rama, he said, "O Rama! Unable to bear the prospect of separation from you, Dasaratha passed away. Now you are no longer bound by the words of your father who had sent you to the forest as Kaikeyi desired. Lord! You yourself should rule Ayodhya." Ignoring these words, Rama turned to Bharata and remarked, "Bharata! By admitting Jabali and such others into the court, our father's reputation was tarnished. You should not allow him access. For me nothing is greater than honouring the word of one's father. King Dasaratha, Dasaratha the husband of Kaikeyi, and my father Dasaratha are not different from one another. You may think that our father's death was brought about by separation from me. That is not correct. The aged parents of Sravanakumar died lamenting the death of their son felled by an arrow let loose by our father. The curse of that aged couple led to his demise. My duty is my foremost concern." Jabali intervened with the words, "O Ramachandra! Your dedication to Truth and Righteousness are well known all over the world. I spoke these words only in an attempt to bring you back to Ayodhya". Thus, in the matter of Truth and Righteousness, Rama's resolve is adamantine. Rama put these ideals into practice as a stern discipline, and proclaimed them to mankind.
You referred to Rama's killing Vali. As he lay dying, Vali questioned Rama, "O Rama! You shot an arrow at me from behind a tree? Is this fair?" Rama replied, "You are a monkey and I am a King. The chase is part of the nature of kings. They may hunt animals in the forest and kill them. Therefore, how can I be faulted for directing an arrow from behind a tree?" Vali questioned again, "Rama! You sought the assistance of Sugriva, my younger brother. So, you decided on killing me. Is this just? Had you approached me, I myself would have rendered you all assistance, would not I? Compared with my strength, Ravana's is no equal. Then, Sugriva's strength does not count." Rama replied, "O Vali! I understand Sugriva's distress. Like me who am separated from Sita, Sugriva too is anguished by separation from his wife.
The root cause of my friendship with Sugriva is the similarity of our condition. It is said, fighting, matchmaking and friendship should be between equals." Then Vali observed, "O Rama! You may well be king of Ayodhya, but this is a forest. Are we who roam freely to be punished right here?" Rama gave a fitting reply, "My younger brother, Bharata, the ruler of Ayodhya, resides in Nandigrama, and holds sway in my name. All this area is our territory, and mine is the responsibility for opposing and punishing unrighteousness and protecting righteousness. Therefore, you deserve to be punished."
Noticing that all his questions were fully answered, Vali finally objected, "Sri Rama! We live here according to the moral code of the monkeys. Your human moral code does not apply to us. Is killing me a righteous act?" Silencing Vali forever, Rama gave an apt and straightforward reply, "O Vali! Even while claiming to be a vanara (monkey), you spoke of righteousness. So long as you are ignorant of righteousness, your behaviour need not be questioned. But you have chosen to speak of righteousness, haven't you? Don't you know that the wife of a younger brother is equal to one's own daughter? Is not your action unrighteous? When you know what righteousness is, how can you fail to know what unrighteousness is? Therefore, you deserve to be punished." In this manner, it is Rama who had made known to the world both the practice of righteousness and the importance of teaching it.
What remains then is your question about the abduction of Sita. Even this is proof of God's compassion. Cursed to be born a demon, Ravana abducted Sita in the mode of a devotee turned enemy, vairabhakti, thereby begging Rama to kill him with His own hands and ensuring Ravana's return to Vaikuntha into the presence of Vishnu. That he should die at the hands of Rama was his sole yearning. Such a noble love of God also is righteous. You should have an understanding capable of properly grasping the subtleties of dharma and appreciating their inner meaning.
Q241) Swami! We hear that the Ramayana shows us ideal figures even among enemies. Rivals never gave up certain values. Would you please tell us how enemies reacted towards each other in an ideal way?
Bhagawan: The Ramayana is another name for idealism. It shows the ideal way in which you are expected to live and to realise the divinity within you. The Ramayana clearly explains the proper relationship that should exist between one individual and another individual, between an individual and his native land, and finally, between one country and the entire world. Enmity might crop up at any time for any reason. But, even as rivals you should maintain certain values.
On one occasion, some of the Rakshasas advised Ravana in this fashion: "Oh King! We are Rakshasas, kamarupa , capable of assuming any form of our choice. Why don't you go to Sita in the form of Rama and be accepted by her?" Ravana replied, "What hopeless creatures you are! You are utter fools. In the form of Rama, how can you be as lustful as to run after a woman who is someone else's wife? Can kama exist where Rama is? Rama has one wife, uses only one arrow to kill the enemy and keeps to the word given (one wife, one arrow, one word, truth). Don't you know these sacred and noble qualities of Rama?" He praised the great, matchless and noble character of Rama who was his rival. Now, you also notice the generous and noble gesture of Rama too. When Ravana was on his deathbed, Rama sent his own brother, Lakshmana, to Ravana to learn from him rajadharma or righteous laws governing the administration and the people. Ravana was a great devotee of Siva with rich administrative experience.
Vibhishana, the only surviving younger brother of Ravana, was not prepared to perform the funeral rites after the latter's death. Then, Rama ordered him to perform the last rites and even went a step further. He said that He Himself was ready to undertake the last rites for Ravana if Vibhishana persisted in refusing to do so.
You will also notice in the Ramayana how Vali died, shot by an arrow of Rama. Before dying, Vali placed all his doubts before Rama, got them clarified and finally died at the hands of Rama saying that it was his great fortune and merit to have been killed by Rama. Vali, though an enemy, praised the noble qualities of Rama. These are some of the ideals upheld by opponents in the great epic, the Ramayana.
Q242) Swami! Speaking of the Ramayana, is there a mention of things resolved by God's grace and God's grace alone? How did the characters manifest this in the course of the narrative?
Bhagawan: Roughly, the Ramayana speaks of three things: papa, s'apa, and tapa, sin, curse, and suffering. Of these, two can be set right only though God's grace. What are those two? Sin and curse. In no other way can these be expiated. Mandodari, the wife of Ravana, knew that Sita was kept a prisoner in the Asoka garden and also that Ravana made her quake with fear. But, she could not set her free. In spite of realising Rama's divinity, Mandodari could offer no solace or happiness to Sita. This was only because she regarded Sita as an ordinary woman. This is sinful. Ahalya presents an instance of the second kind. Transgressing discipline, she became a victim of Gautama's curse: Release from both sin and curse can be had only through the grace of God. The third is misery or agony. Sabari tried to meet Rama. She spent long years thinking of Rama. Her desire to see Rama directly with her own eyes subjected her to extreme anguish. Such anguish is, indeed, penance. In this way, the Ramayana speaks of sin, curse, and suffering. One should grasp subtle secrets like these.
The demon Subahu attempted to harm Rama and Lakshmana with the help of fourteen. Which are these fourteen? These include the five organs of action, the five organs of perception, the mind, the intellect, the inner consciousness, and egoism. In that hour, Rama ordered Sita and Lakshmana to remain inside the cave. What is meant by the cave? The impregnable human heart. Thus are to be appreciated the subtleties of dharma.
Q243) Swami! Were the Ramayana and the Adhyatmaramayana written with different purposes? Many are the versions of the Ramayana. How are devotees to receive them? They are given to the repeated recital of the part called "Sundarakanda.” Bhagawan, why is this so? By your grace, their authenticity is not in doubt. I wish to learn from your lips.
Bhagawan: The Ramayana came into existence to enable man to follow the dharmas set forth as ideals, and to lead pure lives. The Adhyatmaramayana is intended to open up to mankind the experience of the divine Atma within man. In other words, Ramayana is for man, Adhyatmaramayana for the mind. Since then, a series of Ramayanas have been composed by devotees and named after them. These include Tulasiramayana, Mollaramayana, and Kambaramayana. The theme of all these is Rama Himself! `Purana' is but the story of the Lord, the perfect Man, and traces his career.
As for "Sundarakanda,” it is full of `Sundara,' beautiful, descriptions. Very charming are the sketches of the splendour of Lanka. Hanuman's leaping across the ocean, the Asoka pleasure garden, and the grief of Mother Sita. As the soka, grief, of Sita came to an end in the Asoka, `no grief,' garden, devotees consider the recital of Sundarakanda helpful in alleviating suffering and dispelling misery.