|| मत्स्यावतारस्तु इह मर्त्य शिक्षणं, रक्षोवधायैव न केवलं विभो: ||
“Divinity descended on earth to demonstrate the lesson called life to the human race; not just to decimate the demons.”
- Srimad Bhagawata (about Ramavatara).
How would it be if God descended on earth and lived amidst us as a human?
How would it be if human lived in this world as God?
Answer to both these questions is a word with two syllables – “Rama”
Yes, ‘Rama’ is the form which the divinity, who blessed us with this life, donned to demonstrate the way to live our lives! God who teaches to lead our life on earth becomes more intimate and more relevant than the God who grants us heaven. Avatars which performed miracles and supernatural deeds definitely draw reverence, but their followers can’t dream to adhere to their path. This makes the avatar of Rama standout from the rest; this is the avatar where Narayana came near us, and lived like us!
Since he came near us and lived a life filled with happiness and sorrows, fed on the food we eat, we feel ‘it is possible to follow’; as he never deviated from his ideals even against the onslaught of difficulties, we feel ‘it is worth to follow’. People bow from a distance to avatars which descended on earth and performed many miracles magnifying their divinity; but people don’t get motivated to do what they did!
Look at this idea propagated by Sri D V Gundappa (DVG) in one of his beautiful creations:
What use are the multitude of stars shining in the sky in the dark of a night?
Eyes of a pedestrian are eager for a dimly lit house
Leaving the distant deities aside, his poor soul searches
For the warmth of a human companionship!
Rama descended as a lamp to light up the homes of humans!
No doubt, each step Rama treaded is an invaluable lesson to humanity. However, just the way we can assess the quality of cooked food by tasting a pinch of it, let us try to understand the depths and significance of Rama’s path with few examples.
No compromise to commitments for the sake of crown; he sacrificed crown to abide by his words!
Life dangled as a weighing scale before Rama; “Uphold the value of words? Compromise them for the sake of crown?’ Rama had to choose any one; he had to compromise on words if he had to choose crown; choosing to honor his words meant he had to abandon the crown!
Rama knew for sure what he wanted: he could not sacrifice the value of words for the sake of crown; ‘crown can be sacrificed for the sake of keeping the truth in his words!’ Getting the kingdom through dubious means would mean that King himself is teaching the wrong path to the righteous citizens of Kosala!
“It is alright if I don’t have a place or palace; let not the throne of Ayodhya become the place or palace for untruth!’ Rama chose to walk away to the jungles.
Three great sacrifices of Rama:
Rama, who is known as Maryada Purushottama (Supreme One who marked the boundaries of virtuous living) has demonstrated impeccable character and utmost detachment in three great sacrifices he made:
- Sacrificing The State
Getting power by hook or crook is touted as a great achievement by many; but path of Rama was different; with complete detachment he sacrificed a great kingdom which had come to him effortlessly; that is the mark of real greatness!
Acquiring is not an achievement; abdication is! Earning by compromise to values is not an achievement; spurning through commitment to values is!
People don’t spare any sin for the sake of power! People go after power – abandoning rules and laws, sacrificing values and virtues! How many are the instances in history where people came to power killing their own kin? How may are the stories of people climbing the throne stepping on the dead bodies of elders or near and dear? Today we are in a society where resorting to wrong ways is considered to be an unavoidable pre-requisite to gain power!
Now, when a rightful claimant to power voluntarily abandons the throne which had naturally come to his doorstep, doesn’t it appear to be a noble ideal to humanity?
King Dasharatha who says, ‘You put me behind bars and assume power’; Guru Vasishtha, ministers and lieutenants who say in unison, “Only you and no one else can succeed the throne”; people who plead and proclaim with folded hands, “the capital without you is but a jungle, the jungle where you stay is the capital!’ and follow his footsteps to the forest; and finally Bharata, the beneficiary who was bestowed with the Kingdom which rightfully belonged to Rama, was prepared for the ultimate sacrifice to make Rama the ruler!
Imagine his situation! Without showing any sign of dejection, abandoning power and keeping faith in his conviction, life in forest – Rama was clear about his direction; even in the middle of multiple pressures from King to common man! It is a great lesson Rama taught to generations of his time and all the time to come!
- Abandoning Sita
Valmiki Ramayana describes the immortal love between Rama and Sita through thousands of verses. There is no one who loved his wife as Rama did; there is no one who cried for his wife like Rama did; if there is one person who built a bridge across the ocean for the sake of wife, it is only Rama! He fought the world war of Tretayuga for the sake of Sita!
In spite of all these, he abandoned Sita, his soul, for honouring the wishes of the people.
This is the background:
People in Ayodhya were discussing in groups about the chastity of Sita, who had spent a year in the custody of Ravana. (‘Only one laundryman spoke about Sita’ is a subsequent improvement; Valmiki Ramayana, the authentic source, does not validate to this view). Rama got unnerved with opinions like ‘if this is the condition of the queen, if King accepts such a situation, our women too might abandon their virtues and we might be forced to accept it’. Rama-Sita dawned on this earth to establish virtues. So, Rama sacrificed Sita to avoid being an example of abandonment of virtues to society.
- Abandoning Lakshmana:
Sacrifice of Rama peaks in the case of Lakshmana! While Rama was in confidential discussions with Kalapurusha (God who decides the time allocated to each soul on earth), there was a rule that anyone who disturbs during the meeting would receive capital punishment; Lakshmana had no option but to enter the room; Rama too had no other option but to award capital punishment or equivalent punishment of “abandonment” to Lakshmana! Weighing scale of duty dangled again before SriRaama; Lakshmana on one side and rule of law on the other. Rama chose to abandon Lakshmana but not the rule!
Listen on Rama’s own words about his “sacrifices for the sake of truth”; “I will abandon my life! I will abandon Sita, who is dearer to me than my own life! I will abandon Lakshmana, who is dearer to me than Sita! But I will never abandon truth!’ Those words tested Rama in cruellest of ways in his life; but he emerged unscathed!
Lesser stress on self is certain step to Sainthood!
He abandoned the kingdom to preserve truth in his people, he abandoned Sita to preserve character in his people, he abandoned Lakshmana to preserve the commitment to rules in his people – how less is Rama to any saint? Or, which saint can equal Rama in his sacrifice?
Servant First; Leader later
‘Eat what is left after servants are fed; don’t feed the servants with leftovers!’
Observe Rama’s steps:
- Before his marriage Rama sets right the broken marriage of Ahalya~Gowthama
- He allows his younger brother Bharata to rule first and later himself becomes the king; PadukaRajya preceded RamaRajya!
- Before he assumes the throne of Ayodhya, he ensures and oversees the enthronement of Sugriva in Kishkindha and Vibhishana in Lanka!
Have you heard of god who relishes on the prasada of devotees? That is Rama! Only Rama!
Kindness towards women
“अवध्या: सर्वभूतानां प्रमदा:”
‘No one has a right to kill women!”
Was it your kindness towards women
Even when the female in front of your eyes is a demon!
Or, was it a hint of mother’s love in your mind’s horizon!
She is raining stones and charging to slay
Why you stood unmoved not lifting your weapon!
O Raghava, were you worried because she is a woman…
– this is a quick translation of a beautiful Kannada poem by Gajanana Sharma
Even demon Tataka, who rained stones on him, was the object of the rain of Rama’s kindness because she happened to be a woman. In spite of constant prodding by Guru Kaushika, Rama was reluctant to kill her; reason, she was a woman! At a time when women’s welfare is a subject limited to speeches and placards, kindness displayed by Rama towards female demon is certain to motivate!
Kindness of Rama towards women is not a spur of the moment reaction as a lightning, it is static like a Sun God. Examples are many:
Shurpanakha had charged towards Sita for no reason; she was about to kill Sita; scriptures prescribe killing of those who intend to kill us; even today’s laws permit this! But Rama does not kill her! She reciprocates this generosity by twice getting army of demons and attacking Rama; while killing all those demons, Rama spares Shurpanakha! Because she was woman!
Agreed, reason behind supreme efforts by Rama to protect Sita are ‘she is my beloved wife, dependent on me’. But the first and foremost reason was, ‘she is woman, life and dignity of a woman is in danger’! (Valmiki Ramayana – Sundara Kanda – Sarga 15, Verse – 50)
Dasharatha completely cuts off his relationship with Kaikeyi because she spoiled the enthronement (Pattabhisheka) of Rama; later on in Ramayana when Dasharatha appears before Rama and offers to grant the boons Rama wished, Rama did not ask anything for himself; “take back your words – I have abandoned Kaikeyi – accept her back as your wife” this is the boon Rama wished to be granted.
When Rama commands Bharata “don’t cause pain to your mother; if you violate this command let myself and Sita be damned!”, we see not only Rama’s compassion towards women, we see the attitude of a greatness – “help even those who harm you”!
There are umpteen incidents from Ramayana which stand witness to Rama’s stand – ‘Treat the tender tenderly, they are not fit to be terrorised’.
Rama –sworn to complete commitment to his only wife!
Only one word (means and stands by what he says); only one goal (does not keep altering his goals), accepted the hand of only one as his wife; that is Rama! Two has its place only in the number of syllables in his name; nowhere in his life there is duality!
That was the time when polygamy was very much in practice. The saying “राजानो बहुवल्लभा:” (king can have many wives) was firmly established in society; Dasharatha had three hundred and fifty wives including three who were his queens! Ravana had seven thousand women! Krishna of the succeeding yuga had sixteen thousand wives! But Rama was sworn and committed to one wife!
There was no compulsion on Rama to observe “Ekapatni Vrata” (Being sworn and committed to only one wife); he was not commanded by anyone for this; but Rama never gave his heart, which he once gave to Sita, to anyone else till the end!
“Rama will never cast his eyes on other women!” these words have come from the mouth of Kaikeyi! Sita too has addressed Rama as “स्थिरानुराग” meaning ‘one who is unwavering in his affection’; she tells to herself with pride and conviction, “Rama’s attention was never drawn to any woman except myself”!
Advancing the argument that ‘there should be a successor to the throne’ Rama could have married another woman after abandoning Sita; it is mandatory to have a wife to perform Ashvamdeha Yajna; he could have proceeded to marry at that point; instead Rama keeps a golden idol of Sita next to him and performs the yajna without even considering any other options!
Through these acts Rama has given two immortal messages to his citizens and the citizens of this world: first one was ‘Sita is pure gold without any impurities!’ Second one was ‘Sita is my wife even today, I have never abandoned her in the real sense of the word!’ Had he abandoned Sita in real sense of the word, he could not have performed Ashvamedha; certainly not with a golden idol of Sita next to him!
‘Yours is yours; mine too is yours!’ – Rama.
‘Mine is mine; yours is yours’ – humans.
‘Mine is mine, yours too is mine’ – demons.
‘Yours is yours; mine too is yours!’ – divine beings. Rama always belonged to this category
The attitude that ‘yours too is mine” is the root cause of all the mayhem and confusion in this world;
Attitude of ‘mine is mine’ too can cause conflicts occasionally;
But when someone says ‘mine too us yours!’ there is no room for any conflict! These are the people who raise to divinity from the sea of humanity! They make heaven descend on earth!
‘आत्मानम् मानुषं मन्ये रामम् दशरथात्मजम्’ – when Rama says ‘I am son of Dasharatha, a human indeed like you!’, he approaches us as a human friend in our vicinity, instead of appearing as a revered God at a distant place! He lived among humans as a human and led the life of divine, thereby leaving a golden lesson to entire humanity!
When there is no dearth of ordinary mortals who call themselves as gods, God Rama, who approaches humans calling himself as human, appears greater than God!
Translated blog of Sri Samsthana SriSri RaghaveshwaraBharati MahaSwamiji