Category : Ramacharitmanas
Rama is beyond comprehension. Rama is God, the ground of reality, Rama is the Brahman of the Upanishads, yet at the same time was a prince who lived in the city of Ayodhya. How is this even possible? God is immeasurable, is there anything he cannot do? Whether we meditate upon the vast, inconceivable Brahman, or whether we pray with tears in our eyes to the beautiful blue God, the mind is unable to fathom the greatness of Rama. In fact only your soul can answer the question of who Rama is.
You will be well aware that it is stories which leave the biggest mark upon us. Rather than telling somebody that they should behave in a virtuous manner, a story teller with a tale illustrating the powerful effect of dharma through a story is far more convincing and will be remembered within the psyche of the individual very easily. The Ramayana is a very powerful religious teaching which has taken the form of such a story. It can be considered literal history, a symbolic analogy, or a spiritual practice, however you decide to look upon this powerful story, its waters will nourish you beyond what you can conceive with your mind alone. It will speak to your heart. Each aspect has a meaning, each character a message. Each verse slowly takes us along the river from our ego to our heart.
Non-attachment, knowledge and devotion, these are the three rivers to God. It is said in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana that Devotion is like a mother and her two children are like knowledge and non-attachment. If you want knowledge and non-attachment, you can study, you can meditate, but by following the mother, by following the path of love, both of the children will be found. Love naturally brings the states of dispassion and wisdom.
God is seen differently by each and everyone of us. There is no way that my perception is exactly the same as yours, but there are general approaches to Religion which devotees have. This was topic is described perfectly by Bhaktivinoba Thakur who describes the three spiritual seekers as Kamala shraddhas, madhyamadhikaris, and uttamadhikaris.*
When I visited the beautiful Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Kainchi, I sat everyday and meditated by Maharaji’s tucket. The powerful vibrations of this area of the ashram were immense and I was deeply attracted to this spot where Maharaji used to sit. As the rest of our members walked towards the exit to leave the Ashram on our final day, I sat for a few moments in a deep, peaceful, silence. I was leaving Kainchi and this was my way of saying goodbye, this wooden tucket with Maharaji’s blanket placed upon it was like the most important place in the world. I bowed down, with my head on the floor, then without thinking I kissed the bottom of the leg of the tucket. As soon as I did this I burst into tears, my heart was beating at a hundred miles an hour, and I was experiencing the most intense feeling of love. I could sense that people were walking behind me, carrying on with their daily activities, but it didn’t matter at all. I was not there, I was aware, but I transcended my mind, ego, anything that cared was gone. I was in love. I had just experienced the most profound bliss, this was drinking the beautiful water of the manas lake. As I walked towards the others who were standing outside the Ashram gates I was still trying to fathom what had just happened, my heart was still beating fast as I listened to them talk.
51. Your mind is like a gardener, the thrill of joy you will receive from reading the Ramayana is like the most beautiful of gardens, full of birds, and flowers, orchards and groves. The unconditional love which permeates the Ramayana is water which permeates the entire garden but is also poured by the gardener.
Like the warm up acts in a big event, up till now, the first fifty Ramacharitmans posts have only been describing the glory of the Rama, Ramanama, and the Ramayana. The Ramacharitmanas is the Ramayana of Love, as received by the poet saint Tulsidas. It is perhaps the greatest work of devotion ever produced and washes away the dust on our hearts. It is perfect that in this verse Tulsidas explains what you can actually learn from the Ramayana.
One of my favourite verses from Hinduism is from the Chandogya Upanishad which states, ‘As great as infinite space is the space within the lotus of the heart’.
You do not need to explore the universe by space travel, according to Hindu philosophy, the ultimate truth exists within your heart as unconditional love. This is the same message iterated here in the Ramacharitmanas.
If you can get out of the way of your own mind, your heart will give you the greatest joy.
48. The mind is like a wild elephant, angrily rampaging in all directions. The impulsive mind is quickly lead away by lust, arrogance, hypocrisy, and many other negative attributes. But like meditation and other spiritual practises, the Ramacharitmanas is like a calm lake for this wild elephant. You will find great solace from this beautiful lake of Rama’s acts. The fire of sensual enjoyments provide little comparison to the bliss achieved by the relief of this calming lake. Conceived by Lord Shiva himself, the Ramacharitmanas is the delight of holy beings, and uproots all kinds of suffering. Regardless of how much wealth a man has, he is eternally rich after taking a dip in this glorious lake. Even by saying it’s name; Ramacharitmanas, I feel a peace pervade the entire universe.
Maharaji used to say that the best form to worship God is every form. He would say it is much better to see God in everyone and everything than try to figure it all out. The divine is in each and everyone of us. If you quieten down your ego, and let the shining light of the divine pour fourth from your heart, you will realize this truth. Rama is a form of God, Rama nama is a form of God, The Ramayana is a form of God, the reader of the Ramayana is a form of God.
46. Rama’s virtues are like a blazing fire consuming the easily flammable dry wood of evil acts. Deceitful reasoning, mischief and cheating, hypocritical actions, selfishness, these types of behaviors are abundant in this age of Kali. The sweet acts of Rama are for all beings to find nourishment, like the cooling effect of a full moon in the night sky. These acts of Rama described in this narration will be particularly agreeable to ripe minds who are like clean mirrors reflecting the greatest of lights.
How should we live in the world? Yes, Non-violence is declared as the highest virtue, but what if a rabid dog is attacking your defenseless child? In this case would not violence be justified? Lord Krishna declares that we should have noble intentions and use our intellect to decide the proper course of action. Indeed, scriptures are there to guide us, but we must have pure hearts and act in the spirit of goodness. This is the main topic of our book, The Power of Dharma. Maharaja Yudhisthira most beautifully explains that Dharma is hidden within the cave of the heart.
43. I shall now proceed to explain the virtues of Rama. Rama is the repository of all virtues, his grace extends towards all beings. He is the richest of all kings, and yet has taken in me, the poorest of servants. He is the root of compassion and love, and he embodied all of the highest virtues. Rich or poor, black or white, villager or city folk, a good artist or a bad poet, Rama knows the language of love. He is sincere, compassionate, forgiving, reasonable, kind, every word is full of sweetness, his devotees feel his love, as they feel the warmth of the suns rays. He is pleased when he sees unconditional love, for he is unconditional love, I know this for I feel this love pervade all things and I am the dullest person of all.
Recite the name at any time, whether when angry, hungry, tired, happy, it is a centering device, it is a sacred mantra to bring you to your inner silence. repeat not from the ego, but from the heart space, rama, rama, rama, then everything will subside into peace and joy.
Prahalada is considered a saintly devotee of the Lord throughout the scriptures. The Shrimad Bhagavata in particular gives special importance to his story but it is also found in many books including the Guru Granth Sahib. He is a being who is constantly immersed in the Love of God. His demonic family tried everything to sway his devotion but they could not destroy the unwavering love and devotion he displayed.
In Hindu cosmology time is cyclical. Existence arises from the ultimate reality and dissolves back into it, going through four ages. The first age is the Satya Yuga, the age of truth, where peace pervades with no evil in the world. Lasting 4320,000, 000 years, there is oneness between all beings, there is one veda, one civilization, no separateness, this age is symbolised by a cow on four legs. This is what is truly meant by Rama Raj, true freedom from suffering for all living beings. The next age is the Treta Yuga lasting 1,296,000 years, the world slips from its purity into a world with more seperateness, then the Dvapara age, lasting 864,000 years followed by our current age, the Kali Yuga which began after Lord Krishna’s incarnation left the world. The Kali age is the age of deceit where people are more inclined to be selfish, commit evil acts, to cheat one another, in this age the symbolic cow stands on one leg. In this age families which in Satya embraced every living being, now only car for a few people and even that being full of quarrel. It is said in the puranas that the world will descent further into chaos, with even until selfishness causes children to not trust even their own mothers. Although darkness pervades, the beautiful stars are seen most brightly in our age, hence it is possible and vital we still life worthy of Rama Raj, this is our true purpose.
38. Lord Shiva loves and glorifies the name. The sage Narada acknowledged the glory of the name. Shaunaka and Sukadeva enjoyed heavenly bliss through the chanting of the name. Prahlada became the King of all through the grace ofd the name. Dhruva was saved from distress by the recitation of the name. The list of beings who have been enlightened by this name is endless. The Son of the Wind, Hanumanji himself through medtitation upon the name even brought Rama subject to him.
I think the Ramacharitmanas is representative of Hinduism both ancient and modern, it has in it the ancient messages of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, yet still expresses the loving devotion seen in countless homes of the world today. What follows is a poem explaining the supremacy of meditating on the mantra, the name of Rama. We should note that main reason for the supremacy of the name is its capacity and potential to reduce the suffering of people. The ideal dharmic life is not defined simply by the practise of rituals but by the jivanmuktas efforts to reduce suffering. When we invest love and devotion into this meditational practise, we do not associate with the suffering of the world, and instead live from the place of love where the name exists.
What is the nature of God? God or Brahman is Satchitananda. Truth, awareness, and absolute bliss. This compound word is used in the earliest texts of Hinduism to describe the attributes of the Lord. Sat – truth, chit – complete awareness, and finally ananda – absolute bliss. Our true nature is blissfulness, happiness, loving awareness. Therefore, all of the suffering and depression and miserableness people experience in the world is nothing but a wave in an ocean of bliss. The name brings us to that place we can live as enlightened beings in the world, living as satchitananda.
People often say to me that Hinduism is too complex, difficult to decipher, only for the Yogis and sages of the Himalayas. This is simply not the case. Meditation upon two syllables alone is sufficient to transform a persons life, mine is a living example. The emotional ups and downs which life presents us with can be countered, by making this meditation a spiritual center for ones life. It can be as Gandhi called it a staff for ones life. Whenever we face difficulties, rather than judging ourselves in a negative manner we can witness, and make a mental note of the anger, or negative emotion, and slowly return to the place of peace where the mantra resides. Slowly come back to the name, Rama, Rama, Rama, slowly release the negative emotion and come back to the place where peace pervades.
Here once more we are taught to go beyond the mental acrobatics and realise God. Leave theological arguments of whether God has form or not to the scholars and achieve God realisation through his name. All over the world, saintly beings, regardless of which name they choose, have meditated upon the name of the Lord and achieved their goal. Let this verse be a reminder that better than arguing about whether God is formless or with attributes, we should taste the nectar which manifests through the holy name, a sadhu once explained in his lecture that rather than trying to test Krishna, we should taste the Krishna! Tulasidas here shares the same sentiment.
In discussion with Ram Dass, I asked him; Maharaji is a realised being, why does he chant Rama Nama if he has achieved spiritual perfection? He said; Maharaji chants Rama nama out of love and compassion for all living beings, he is one with Rama nama.
The Bhagavad Gita 7.16-18 speaks of four kinds of devotees, one that seeks wealth or material benefit, one that seeks knowledge, one that is in distress, and the enlightened being. We may expect the materially focused devotee to be shunned, but this is not the case. Of course it is the enlightened being who works for the welfare of the world who is most loved, but in both the Bhagavad Gita and here in the Ramacharitmanas, all of the devotees of the Lord are praised, for they carry the crest-jewel of the holy name.
Like two divine eyes are the sounds Ra and Ma. They as dear to Tulasidas as Rama and Laxmana. On their own they lose their beauty, but together they give meaning to life. They are one, just like the atman and Brahman. They are one just like the sagacious brothers Nara and Narayana. They are one just like God and his devotee. They are beautiful, like the Sun and the Moon when viewed from Earth. They are the like beautiful ear rings adorning a Goddess who is non other than Bhakti. This nectar for all beings, is like Krishna and Balarama for Yashoda.
30. These two precious letter-sounds (ra and ma) are pure divinity hidden in the alphabet. They are sweetness, and attraction personified, to they are the life source to the devoted. So simple, and easy to remember, these two letter-sounds will bring happiness to the entire world, they are the doorway to a life free of suffering.
Indian villages have to endure many dry months before the rains come to supply the land and people with much needed sustenance. In the days before the agricultural advancements, these rains literally meant the difference between survival or starvation. The Shravan month (End of July to August) dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the month of Bhadra (End of August to September) celebrating Lord Ganesh, are considered very holy. They are life giving rains for the people, they are dharma, for dharma is that which is good for all people. Tulasi Das very poetically explains that the name of Rama is just like these life giving seasons providing sustenance to all.
Post 28. Ramacharitmanas
I was in Rishikesh with KD where we discussed many spiritual topics, but particularly the power of mantras. He said Maharaji said every word of the Hanuman Chalisa was like the Hare Krishna mahamantra. There are many levels to think about a statement like this, but I like to think that a mantra that has been chanted with so much energy as the by so many saints and holy beings carries their love too.
It is not that any particular mantra is better than any other, it is the energy and love the practitioners brings to the chanting. This mantra was chanted and worshipped by Guru Nanak, Tulasidas, Kabir, Jnaneshwar, Tukaram , Jalaram, Ramananda, Vinoba Bhave, the list is endless. Mahatma Gandhi said it was the staff of his life. Maharaji constantly chanted the Rama nama. Many years ago, when Ram Dass named me Hanuman Dass, he instructed me in the chanting of this holy name of Rama, for me, it is so much more than a word, it is an incarnation of the divine and the highest form of meditation.
In his early days, Valmiki, then called Ratnakara, was a criminal who attacked and robbed a group of sages. The sages spoke to him about dharma, and enlightened him to the path of right action. Knowing that a crook so immersed in wrong-doing, would never take the name of Shri Rama, they convinced him to recite, ‘mara, mara, mara,’. Which when chanted together repeats the name of Rama.
Laying my head on the ground, I fall at the sacred feet of the Janaka’s daughter. She is the mother of the Universe and the heart of the merciful Shri Rama. My thoughts, words, and actions are all offered at the feet of Shri Rama who without nothing can exist. With eyes like a lotus flower, and wielding a bow and arrow to protect the innocent, he is the most worthy ruler.
Finally we hear of our beloved Lord Hanuman, It is almost as if Tulasidas has been building up all his prayers to glorify the great embodiment of dharma and devotion, Hanuman. There is a saying in the Upanishads which says ‘polish the mirror of your heart, and you will see God.’ It is Hanuman, who shows us what a polished mirror is. As a servant of this mighty lord my heart is filled with Love as we glorify God’s greatest servant.
King Janaka is revered throughout the scriptures of Hinduism. He is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (3.20) as an enlightened leader who worked for the benefit of the world. In this way we see an example not of a monastic being living in the caves, but of a great King, living in the world, working for the benefit of all living beings. The father of our beloved Sita is an example to us all.
I bow with reverence with to the sacred land of Ayodhya. It is the birthplace of our beloved Lord Shri Rama. I bow to those fortunate souls lucky enough to reside there. I greet Kausalaya, the Queen of Dasaratha, whose glory should be known throughout the world. I revere the great King of Dasaratha as an embodiment of virtue. May you shower your blessings upon me as a devotee of your beloved Son. I adore Ayodhya and their great King for he and the people are filled with compassion, devoted to serving the poor, and constantly in remembrance of Shri Rama’s lotus feet.
Western academics in the field of religious studies are often amazed that there have been no wars between the followers of Shaivism and Vaishnavism, they are apparently different. But when you look under the veil, Sanatana Dharma teaches that it is all one. In the Mahabharata, Krishna teaches Arjuna that there is no difference between Lord Shiva and himself. Tulasidas shows the most beautiful reverence for Lord Shiva, and so should we all. In truth God is one, the rivers to him are different, that’s all. The Shiva Purana describes Hanuman as an avatar of Lord Shiva too. This is the intermingling is how Hinduism survives and teaches pluralism and acceptance of the faith of others, whether Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Sub Ek.
I bow to you all. I bow to my Guru and the great saints who came before us, Vyasa, Valmiki and others, who have hearts filled with devotion recounted the playful narratives of Shri Hari. I bow to all of the poets out there who sing the virtues of my sweet Lord, regardless of which language you speak or culture you come from, I bow to you all, regardless of your appearance.
Post 19. Ramacharitmanas. You can find all of the previous posts at www.godharmic.com/ramacharitmanas
We often trick ourselves into thinking that our identity is only individual, but we are much more than that. We have a family identity, where would we be without our parents and forefathers who laid the path for our safety and success in life. We also have spiritual identities, the high saints and sages have painstakingly left us these precious scriptures and our souls have been drawn to Sanatana Dharma. It is our duty to share what the greatest treasures for the benefit of all.
SUB EK, SUB EK.
I find these verses very important, we find in them unification of the extremes of monotheism and monism at once. It is the unification of the Upanishads and the Puranas. It is In the same spirit, the great Chaitanya Mahaprabhu described the Lord as “achintya beda abheda” which means inconceivably one and different. The Upanishads, using the term Brahman, describe the supreme divine reality which is formless and beyond all conception, many will say this conflicts with worshiping God. Here we are taught that Rama is Brahman, Brahman is Rama. Tulasidas here quotes directly from the Upanishads in describing Shri Rama, as Neem Karoli Baba so often used to say, ‘Sub Ek, Sub Ek.’ It’s all one, it’s all one.
In the last verse, Tulasidas proclaims that his attempt to describe Shri Rama is comparable a small piece of cotton in a hurricane, this is entirely in the spirit of the Upanishads. The Kena Upanishad particularly comes to mind, which says, ‘if you think you know, you do not know.’ In the verse below, Tulasidas quotes the famous vedic negation, ‘neti neti’, which translates as not this, not this. Shri Rama, who is none other than Brahman, is beyond our analytically orientated minds, the supreme reality can only be ‘known’ by the soul, the intellect is not not capable of describing it. Therefore, the vedic method of not this, not this, reminds us to go beyond our simple thoughts and live in awe of God’s magnificence.
Unfortunately we are born in the age of Kali, where vultures can appear like swans, some choose to live an immoral life abandoning the teachings of the Vedas, instead choosing to follow a life based on desire , untruthfulness and deceit. Be wary, for even apparently spiritual beings are in fact impostors. Slaves to their senses and lust, they are hypocritical and lack any sense of virtue.
What is true beauty? What good is a precious jewel if left at the top of a mountain? The splendor of a jewel is surely appreciated when adorned by a beautiful lady or a great King. Similarly, the wise say that although the poet pours out beautiful poetry from his mind, the appreciation of the charm is in the mind of the listener. There is no charm in the songs of worldly men; the wise alone know it is the by the power of Shri Rama’s story which purifies us in the Kali age. The heart of a poet is like the sea, his mind is like shells which contain the goddess of poetry (Saraswati). As the poet pours fourth his beautiful verses, pearls of wisdom shine brightly throughout the ever dark ocean of the Kali age. And if those pearls are strung together by the glorious thread of Shri Rama’s story, then the hearts and souls will find eternal delight.
14. My composition is found to be delightful by many people only because it is about Shri Rama, just like a like a lump of wood is transformed into a beautiful sculpture and is adored by all, regardless of the quality of the wood. Regardless of colour all cows produce beautiful white milk, similarly, people of of all race, creed, sex, and colour can benefit from the recitation of the glory of Sita and Rama whether in Sanskrit or the language of the common people.
There are many kinds of different sadanha (spiritual practise); each has the goal of purifying the practitioner towards self-realisation and liberation from suffering. Just like Yoga asanas, mantra meditation, single pointed mindful living, listening or reading the story of Rama is a spiritual practise. As we near the beginning of the story in the Balakanda, I pray that the sacred story of Rama brings the greatest happiness to all and polishes the dust covering our hearts.
The great saint Vinoba Bhava was successor to Mahatma Gandhi as the leader of the Satyagraha movement in India. He said of the Ramacharitmanas that it is like the Bible and Shakespeare combined. Such is the incredible poetic talent of Tulasidas. Tulasidas has through the grace of God the ability to articulate the Ramayana in a way that melts hearts, his contribution to the world is unfathomable, considering all of this, I still feel it is Tulasidas’s humility and unconditional love that awakens our souls. Tulasi is humble beyond comparison, he speaks of himself as lowly, and dull witted, but his work is that of a masterful great, to him, all of the goodness is nothing but Rama flowing through him. It is with this humility of Tulasidas in mind that I offer these posts to you. Jai Shri Rama.
Here we see the beauty of the Lords true devotee, who sees with equal vision the good and the bad. He knows that there are malevolent beings in the world, but through the power of his example even they can be transformed. Vinoba Bhave comes to my mind, when in prison, even his jailors who detained and hurt the prisoners, sat by his feet as he taught the Bhagavad Gita.
4. Bowing to the Saints
I Bow to the saints. The see all beings equally, regardless of friend or enemy, they are like flowers that do not discriminate between the hand the plucks it or the hand that holds it. Seeing their high minded nature and loving disposition, they personify innocence and the eternal spirit. This is my humble offering to the great saints. May they hear my insignificant call and be compassionate to me. Great saints! Grant me devotion to the holy feet of Shri Rama!
After praising God and Guru Tulasidas explains the greatest of pilgrimages, which is none other than surrounding ourselves around saintly beings. For me this not only means the Guru, but the satsang and community of beings who live in love and devotion to Shri Rama and work for the upliftment of the needy.
You can follow all of my Ramayana posts here on the Ramacaritmanas page and also subscribe to www.godharmic.com where I will be working my way through the great Ramacaritmanas as I see it.
The second prayer of the Ramcaritmanas is dedicated to the Guru. The world is like salt water, it is through the grace of Neem Karoli Baba that we drink with ease.
Happy Ram Navami, the scriptures indicate that today was the day that Shri Rama took birth here on Earth. May thoughts of him bring love and compassion into your hearts.
Below I have presented according to my own feelings the first prayer from the Ramacharitmanas.
I have no other craving in my heart O Beloved Lord Shri Rama than to know you, this is the truth. You live eternally within the heart of every living being and surely you know that I care for nothing other than intense devotion to your lotus feet. O Raghunatha! Give me the grace of eternal devotion to you which can free me from all evils.
Here is an incredibly powerful Sunderkhand chanting video by Shri Ashwin Pathak. You can feel the tremendous energy which emanates from him. It is almost as if Hanumanji is burning Lanka as he chants. There is no day in the year more auspicious than Hanuman Jayanti to recite this wonderful section from the Ramacaritamanas.