How Our Own Choices ENtrap us…!

Lessons From Ra:ma:yana !

Everyone hankers for happiness. However, in this world, the happiness that one obtains is almost always characterized by temporariness, and is interspersed with misery of some kind. The state of happiness that is unending, and without a trace of misery is called mo:ksham. This is the state where one is fully cognizant of one’s original nature, and one is in complete union with the Supreme Being. What, then, makes us enter this world of restricted happiness interspersed with miseries? What is the way out?….Let’s see how Ra:ma:yana shows us the way !

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Ve:das, Ithiha:sas, and the Pura:nas all exist to teach us about five things: (1) Our, ji:va:thma’s original nature (2) The goal, Parama:thma (3) The result of aiming for that goal (eternal bliss characterized by union with and loving service to God), (4) The means to reach the goal, and (5) The obstacle in obtaining the goal. Ithiha:sas, and the Pura:nas largely cover about the various births and activities of the Lord in this world. However, behind every external pastime presented as part of this literature, there is a deeper, internal lesson covering one of the above topics. In the verse 4.9 of the Bhagavad Gi:tha, Lord Krushna says that by understanding the lessons behind His pastimes, one can proceed toward liberation.

“janma karma cha me: divyam
e:vam yo: ve:ththi thaththvathaha |
thyakthva: de:ham punar janma
naithi ma:me:thi so::rjuna ||” (4.9)

“Those who understand the purport of His birth and activities to be divine do not get another birth in this material world upon leaving the body, but attain eternal union with Him”.

In this article, we will try to understand from Ra:ma:yana (1) what the original nature of the ji:va:thma is, (2) how the ji:va:thma gets the bondage into samsa:ra, (3) how the ji:va:thma may become liberated, (4) the nature of Parama:thma, and (5) the nature of a:cha:rya and his role in the process.

In Ra:ma:yana, the Supreme Lord appears as Ra:ma to illustrate His own nature and to illustrate how to perform one’s duties in this world. Lakshmana, Bharatha, Sathrughna, and Si:tha all appear to illustrate the various aspects of the nature of ji:va:thma.

The original nature of the ji:va:thma

The ji:va:thma belongs to the Lord. He has an inseparable relationship with the Supreme, and exists to increase His glory. The ji:va:thma inherently carries respect toward other ji:va:thmas and has a tendency to serve them as part of service to the Lord. Lakshmana illustrates through his example what it means to belong to the Supreme and exist for the sake of increasing the glory of the Supreme. Bharatha illustrates through his example what it means to be subordinate to the Supreme, and simply carry out His will being His instrument without any reservations. Shathrughna illustrates through his example how the devotees are to be respected and served on par with the Supreme. He teaches how a sishya should exist for the sake of the a:cha:rya, carrying out the interest of the a:cha:rya alone. Si:tha De:vi illustrates how the ji:va, captured by desire, becomes separated from the Parama:thma, and gets bound in a body full of sufferings. She also teaches how to get released from the samsa:ra and attain reunion with the Supreme.

Thus, contrary to the popular opinion that Ra:ma:yana is the story of Ra:ma, its compiler Va:lmiki declares that the entire Ra:ma:yana is just the great story of Si:tha, and the killing of Ra:vana.

“ka:vyam ra:ma:yanam kruthsnam
si:tha:ya:s charitham mahath |
paulathsya vadham ithye:vam
chaka:ra charithavrathaha || (1.4.7)”

Much of the Ra:ma:yana is, indeed, about how the ji:va represented by Si:tha who belongs to the Lord alone, whose sole happiness lies in union with the Lord alone, most unceremoniously desires to enjoy prakruthi in the form of Mari:cha, becomes separated from the Lord, and becomes bound in a body represented by Lanka under the influence of ra:jasic mind represented by Ra:vana and goes through immense suffering. Only upon conquering this ra:jasic mind, the ji:va becomes reunited with Parama:thma. This conquering is the killing of Ra:vana.

Thus, Ra:ma:yana is the great tale of the ji:va:thma, and the tale of conquering the mind.

The ji:va:thma has no birth. Si:tha De:vi also manifests herself without a birth to signify the same. The body is called a field because whatever seeds are sown in the form of impressions, the body helps reap them in due course of time in the form of karma. The a:thma is manifest only to an expert yo:gi in the field called his body. Si:tha De:vi manifest herself to Janaka Maha:ra:ja, who is renowned for his expertise in the practice of karma yo:ga indicating the same. Janaka Maha:ra:ja demonstrates that the ji:va belongs to the Parama:thma alone by giving Si:tha in marriage to Ra:ma.

The nature of ji:va:thma is to constantly think of, and devote himself completely to the Parama:thma without reservations. The relationship is like that between a husband and a wife. Si:tha De:vi displays the same in the Ra:ma:yana right from the time she is accepted by Ra:ma as his wife. Despite hearing the news about her beloved husband’s loss of kingdom and exile to the forest, and about all the discomforts of forest life, she chooses to accompany her husband instead of remaining in the comforts of palacial life. She says happiness (heavenly life) for her is to be with Him alone, and that, life is hellish without His presence even if it has all the comforts of palacial life.

“yas thvaya: saha sassvargo:
nirayo: yas thvaya: vina: |” (2.30.18)

Thus, the story of Si:tha De:vi is the story of
the ji:va:thma.

Si:tha is Nithya:napa:yini, meaning, someone who never exists in separation from the Lord. However, to teach the ji:vas caught up in samsa:ra about the true nature of ji:va:thma, the relationship between the ji:va and the parama:thma, the reason for separation from parama:thma and becoming bound in samsa:ra, and the way they can get liberated from samsa:ra and reunite with the Lord she appears along with the Lord in this world from the paramapadam. The word “Ayo:dhya” means unconquerable”. Because the parama padam Sri: Vaikuntham is something no one can conquer, and can only be entered into by the mercy of the Lord, it is also called Ayo:dhya. Leaving this Ayo:dhya, we find that Ra:ma, Si:tha, and Lakshmana enter the forest called Dandaka. This signifies the entrance of the Lord along with His consort, and the a:cha:rya into the samsa:ra.

Because the story of Ra:mayana teaches extremely important lessons, Ra:ma himself expresses great interest in the story and commands everyone in his court to listen to it when recited by Lava and Kusa:

“sru:yatha:m idam a:khya:nam
anayo:r de:va varchaso:ho |
vichithra:rtha padam samyag
ga:yakau tha:vacho:dayath ||” (1.4.27)

“This narration is composed of versatile meanings for words. Fully listen to it being sung by the two of them (Lava and Kusa), who carry the lustre of the de:vathas” – commanding thus, he motivated them to sing”

In this verse, Ra:ma indirectly appears to mention that the words of this poem contain deeper meanings.

“mama:pi thadbhu:thi karam pravakshyathe:
maha:nubha:vam charitham nibo:dhatha ||”

“They are narrating something that brings about fortune for me as well. Listen to this account which provides a great experience.” If it were his own story, then it would not be befitting a person like Ra:ma to say something like this. Because it is the story of Si:tha, he says it provides a great experience to the listener. It provides fortune for him because he was in separation from Si:tha at this time and this would bring back memories of Si:tha to him. The inner meaning is that the return of ji:va present in samsa:ra to the Parama:thma benefits Him as well, for, the ji:va is, indeed, His lost property.