Episode 11 – The sixteen “Kalyaana Gunas” of Lord Rama – Important lessons on Leadership

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In the previous episode, we witnessed the significance of Sage Naarada and in course, we also saw the essential qualities of an “Aacharya” (Spiritual Master). Further, we saw that Valmiki Maharishi poses sixteen questions to Sage Naarada as to who is that one person living on this earth currently as an embodiment of all the sixteen qualities. What are those sixteen qualities? Let’s discuss in detail from today.

I shall quote the slokas pertaining to the context and subsequently narrate and expand the qualities, for better understanding:

 

“Konvasmin saampradam loke gunavaan kasya veeryavaan!

Dharmagnyascha kritagnyascha sathyavaakyo dridavrathaha!! (1)

Chaarithrenacha koyuktaha sarvabhooteshu kohitaha!

Aatmavaankaha jithakrodaha dyuthimaan konasuyakaha!! (2)

Vidvaankaha kaschamarthascha tasyayika priyadarshanaha!

Kasyabibyrathi devaascha jaatharoshascha sanyuge!!”   (3)

 

Let’s look at each of the sixteen qualities one by one in detail:

  1. Gunavaan – (Sousheelyam)This is the crux of the very purpose of Lord Rama’s incarnation. Here, I shall quote the deeper explanation about this quality as described in Sanskrit for a better understanding:

“Mahathaha mandaissaha neerandrena samskleshaha svabhaavam” – Sousheelyam

Now, what is “Sousheelyam”?  A person is said to possess the quality of “Sousheelyam” when he/she comes down to the lowest level of his people and accepts everyone unconditionally. For instance, we can see this quality in Rama wherein when he goes to the forest, he accepts Guha, the leader of the hunters as his younger brother. He accepts Sugriva, the king of the Vaanaras (Monkeys) as his brother. He accepts Hanuman as one of his best devotees, who by nature is born in the clan of monkeys. He then proclaims Vibishana, a person who’s born in the Rakshasa (Demon) clan as his brother too. So, in all these cases we can observe that Lord Rama treats everyone equally without any variations, whoever they are and wherever they originate from, and hence this noble quality is called Sousheelyam.

In the modern day leadership perspective, this characteristic assumes extreme significance for a leader to remain relevant amongst his/her followers. Especially for people in politics and allied areas, wherein huge masses of people should accept a person as their leaders, it’s very important for this person to gain the trust and win the confidence of them. How will that happen? This is possible only if the leader establishes a “connect” with his/her people. How will this connect happen? It would happen only with the help of this characteristic called “Sousheelyam” – wherein the leader goes down to the level of each and every individual, interacts with him or her and make them realize that he/she also has a special place in the leader’s heart. It is only because of this special significance of this characteristic in a leader, Valmiki Maharishi has placed “Gunavaan” or “Sousheelyam” as the very first characteristic of an ideal leader. Hence we can also infer from this that, “Sousheelyam” is the primary and the foremost important characteristic of a good leader.

  1. Veeryavaan – This can be interpreted as “Strength”. It’s well known that Lord Rama was a great and a fierce warrior bestowed with extraordinary powers and strength. Hence, along with “Sousheelyam”, if “Veeram” (Strength) joins in, this combination might prove deadly to any enemy in this world.

It’s quite rare in this world (even today) to find a person who has this combination. For instance, many people might be very compassionate enough to move with all people equally, but they might lack in strength and intensity, whereas some people might be extremely fierce in strength, but they would be too proud about themselves and in turn loose their popularity amongst their people due to some of their misdeeds. We can relate numerous examples of kings, presidents, prime ministers of various countries of today to prove this. But ultimately who is a good leader? A good leader is a person who has a combination of “Sousheelyam” and “Veeram” and this is evident from Lord Rama’s life in many ways. We shall see in successive episodes, how relevant was Rama’s life with respect to these qualities.

What are the other important qualities (Kalyana Gunas) described by Valmiki as part of the sixteen questions? Let’s continue discussing in the next episode!!

Episode 10 – Event 1 – “Naarada – Valmiki Samvaadham” – The significance of Sage Narada

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In the previous episode, we saw in brief the three main events that aided Vaalmiki Maharishi to commence writing the Ramayana – The first one being the conversation between Sage Naarada and Valmiki Maharishi, the second one being the curse given by Vaalmiki Maharishi to a hunter and the third one being the interaction between Lord Brahma and Vaalmiki Maharishi. Starting today, we shall see in elaborate detail as to what was the conversation between Vaalmiki Maharishi and Sage Naarada (The first event).

As described above, one day while Valmiki Maharishi and his “Sishya” (Student) Sage Bharadwaja were living together, the great Sage Naarada comes to visit both of them. This is the first “Sarga” (Chapter) of the “Baala Kaanda”. The following sloka (verse) depicts the significance of Sage Naarada.

“Tapaswaadhyaaya niratham tapasvee vaagvidaam varam!

Naaradam paripappracha vaalmeeker munipungavam!!”

The above sloka conveys the message that Vaalmiki Maharishi who’s described as “Muni pungavam” (The greatest of all sages) starts a conversation with Sage Naarada. The phrase “Tapaswaadhyaaya niratham” enumerates the unique significance of Sage Naarada. It conveys that Sage Naarada is an embodiment of “Tapas” (Ardent devotion) towards Lord Vishnu. “Swaadhyaayam” means chanting the Vedas over and over again, which in turn implies that Sage Naarada is a scholar of all the sects of the Vedas. The next phrase “Tapasvee vaagvidaam varam” means that, Sage Naaradha also has that unique art of effective communication, along with the knowledge of all the Vedas.

From the above explanations, we can infer one important dharma: What are the three effective characteristics of an “Aachaarya” (Guru or a Spiritual Master)? The first characteristic is that, he/she should be a master of all the “Shaastras”. Once the mastery over the Shaastraas is accomplished, the person should be excellent at implementing the principles as described by the “Shaastras”. Only then he/she can be an example to follow for his/her sishyas (students). If these two characteristics were present in the Aacharya, then he/she would easily attain “Moksha” (Salvation). But as their students, how will we be able to attain the salvation? Here is where the art of effective communication (Vaagvidaam Varam or “Vaak Chaathuryam”) is very important. Only then, the Aacharya would be able to teach and guide us effectively to the path of the ultimate salvation. Hence, it is said in the above sloka that Sage Naarada was an embodiment of all these three characteristics and thus, he’s referred to as the “Spiritual Master” of the highest level!

The conversation begins with Vaalmiki Maharishi asking Sage Naarada a set of sixteen questions, which indicate sixteen different “Kalyaana Gunas” (Noble qualities). Vaalmiki Maharishi intends to ask Sage Naarada if there is one person currently living in this world, who’s an embodiment of all these sixteen “Kalyaana Gunas”. Normally, the number “Sixteen” is very special and auspicious. Here’s a popular saying:

“Shodasa kalaa paripurna chandra mandalam”

 This saying conveys the message that the Moon (Chandra) is an embodiment of sixteen “Kalais” (“Kalai” here means “Intense and brilliant Radiance of white light” from the moon). This radiance of the moon’s light would decrease gradually during the “Krishna-paksha” (The time period between the “Full-Moon day” and the “No-Moon day) and increase gradually during the “Shukla-paksha” (The time period between the “No-Moon day and the “Full-Moon day”). It’s well known to everyone that this process of increase and decrease of the moon’s radiation is the work of the Sun. If the moon is full with all the sixteen “Kalais”, then it’s called “Poorna Chandra”, meaning “Full Moon”. Now whom are we talking about? We’re talking about “Rama Chandra”. So for “Rama Chandra”, these sixteen noble qualities make him as beautiful as a “Poorna Chandra” (Full moon). Of course, Lord Rama is not only an embodiment of just sixteen noble qualities – It’s much more. In fact, the amount of “Kalyaana Gunas” that Lord Rama possessed is countless.

So, what are those sixteen qualities that Valmiki Maharishi mentions in his questions to Sage Naarada? Let’s see in detail in the next episode!!

Episode 9: The commencement of Valmiki Ramayana – Three main events!!

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In the previous episode we saw the significance of Lord Rama’s incarnation and with that, we thus commence the sequence of activities that lead Valmiki Maharishi to start writing the Ramayana story. There are three important events that took place. Today I shall quickly explain all the three events in brief and in further episodes we shall start seeing each of the three in detail.

The first event is the meeting between Valmiki Maharishi and Saint Narada. As I’ve mentioned before, Valmiki Maharishi’s ashram is at a place called Bittur near Kanpur in the present day Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Sage Bharadwaja was Valmiki Maharishi’s “Sishya” (student). Both of them were residing in the ashram when one day the great sage Naarada Maharishi comes to visit Valmiki and his student Bharadwaaja. Both of them fall on the feet of the great Naarada Maharishi and seek his blessings. After the initial offerings and respects given by Valmiki Maharishi to sage Narada, Vaalmiki stands up and asks Naarada a set of sixteen questions and Naarada answers them. It is from this point the Valmiki Ramayana starts. Sage Naarada replies to Valmiki’s sixteen questions and further narrates the entire Ramayana story within just thirty-two slokas (verses). Naarada Maharishi says to Valmiki to just keep all these things in mind, and when the apt time comes, it can be taken forward.

After Sage Naarada leaves the ashram, Valmiki Maharishi and Bharadwaja go together to the river “Tamasaa” (A tributary of river Ganges) to take a bath. During this time, the second event takes place, wherein Valmiki and Bharadwaja go into a beautiful lawn and see two “Krauncha birds” sitting at a branch of a tree. Suddenly a hunter comes and shoots one of the birds with his sharp arrow and the poor bird falls on the ground dead. Seeing this, Valmiki Maharishi gets terribly angry and curses the hunter in the form of a “Sloka” and in a hurry, returns back to his ashram along with Sage Bharadwaaja.

On returning back, Valmiki Maharishi sits down and analyses the “Sloka” that he uttered in the form of a curse to the hunter. It is to be noted that he had never composed a sloka in his life till this time, and he was surprised that all the grammatical rules and regulations pertaining to the sloka were perfectly applied to it! At this point of time, Lord Brahma (The Universal Creator), comes to Valmiki’s ashram. Here’s the third event. Lord Brahma looks at Valmiki Maharishi for a moment and asks him why does he seem terribly furious. Valmiki Maharishi narrates what had happened in the lawn, and says that he had cursed a hunter for his misdeed. Hearing to this, Lord Brahma says that it’s only because of his grace and Lord Vishnu’s Will, that the “Sloka” was born. Thus, Lord Brahma changes a few words in that Sloka and initiates Valmiki Maharishi into writing the Ramayana story in detail. With the short version of the Ramayana (also called as “Samkshepa Ramayana”) narrated by Sage Naarada and also with the divine grace of Lord Brahma, Valmiki Maharishi sits down and begins to write the Ramayana story in an elaborated form, and this is how the Ramayana that we have today was born!

Now with this brief knowledge of all the three events, we shall now start witnessing all of them in detail. We shall begin with the conversation between Valmiki Maharishi and the great Sage Naarada. What did Valmiki Maharishi ask Naarada and what did he reply? Let’s find out in the next episode!

Episode 8: The purpose of Lord Rama’s Incarnation

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In the previous episode we witnessed the major purposes of Bhagawan’s incarnations on this world – To protect righteous people, to destroy the evil and to restore Dharma (Righteousness) in this world. Today we shall see the importance of Lord Rama’s incarnation. Why was He born? What was the main agenda of his incarnation? Let’s see one by one.

Lord Rama’s main purpose of life was to establish the Dharma that a son should listen to and obey his father’s words. In general, we can say that a person should at any cost, obey his/her elders. It maybe a mother and a son/daughter, a father and a son/daughter, a guru (teacher) and a sishya (student), an elder brother and a younger brother, etc. In this context, I remember the “Aathichudi” in Tamil, composed by the very famous poet “Avvayyaar”. She says the following:

“Thandai sol mikka mandiram illai!! Thaaiyin sirandha kovilum illai!!”

She says that there’s no other “Manthra” that is more powerful than the words of a father and there’s no other temple (place of worship) that’s equivalent to that of a mother. Here we can see the importance that is given in our ancient scriptures with respect to our parents. Hence, this is a big message for all of us – Come what may, we should obey and respect the words of our parents and it’s our bound duty to make them happy!

This is exactly what we see in the Ramayana too – Lord Rama’s life is an example to all of us as to how to respect our parents’ words. We’re now talking about the “Threta Youga” wherein Bhagawan had a fear that this Dharma wasn’t practiced properly in the world and he wanted to incarnate and restore this!! If this was the state during the “Threta Yuga”, we cannot even imagine the state of affairs in our present-day “Kali Yuga” – Are we following this Dharma that we should obey the words of our elders? It’s time for us now to introspect within us!! Because, in this Kali yoga, in the modern day we’re exposed so much to an “Individualistic” style of living, wherein we are made to think that we ourselves are the masters of everything and we needn’t pay heed to anybody else!! Hence, by listening and reading through these precious scriptures we should inculcate in us the “Dharma” of obeying elders as much as we can.

Only if we listen to elders at home, this same habit would reflect at the workplace too – Wherein we need to pay heed to feedbacks and suggestions given by our superiors at work. At this juncture, I remember one big advice given to me by my Carnatic Music Guru. She says, “While you perform a concert on a stage, think within yourself that you’re the boss of everything and the audience do not know anything about what you’re singing. Whereas, when you come down the stage, think within yourself that you do not know anything and the audience know everything – This would open up our minds to receive feedback from experts who listened to the concert!!” What an amazing message from an 85-year old woman!! Hence, let’s try to follow this “Dharma” meticulously from now!!

To add further to this discussion, a question may arise in today’s world – Why at all should we listen to the words of our great Maharishis’ (Sages), Alwars, Aacharyaas, etc.? The answer is very simple – They were people who never lived for themselves, but only to spread their high knowledge and experiences to all of us. Had they not done that, how would we get to know about all these scriptures today? Hence, it’s only due to their selfless nature of spreading the Dharma to the future generations of people like us. Moreover, they do not expect anything in return from all of us. That’s the most important characteristic. All what they expect from us is to go through the Shastras again and again and follow them without cross-questioning. This is the greatest form of respect that we can offer to them from our side!

And, it wasn’t easy for all of them to physically write everything with their hands. Those were the times wherein there was not even the concept of a paper and pen! They had to write on palm leaves (Also called “Olaichuvadi”) with a nail. If while writing with the nail, the leaf tears apart, then they had to throw away that torn leaf, take a fresh one and write from the beginning!!

Do we have all this kind of difficulty today? Nowadays we are in the computer age wherein we have spell-checks and grammatical error-checks enabled, so that even if we make a mistake, it gets auto-corrected! All these weren’t there during those days – Of course they didn’t require all these because of their extremely high levels of intelligence. In today’s world we require all these kinds of facilities only because our intelligence levels have shrunken so much!

Hence, it’s with this much of difficulty and challenges that the ancient Maharishis (Sages) have written all these scriptures for us. Now, how did Valmiki Maharishi start to write the Ramayana? What were the series of events that took place? Let’s see in the next episode!

Episode 7: Purposes behind “Bhagawad Avataars” – An in-depth analysis

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In the previous episode we saw the significance of Valmiki Maharishi, who composed the Ramayana text with a great expertise. We also came to know yesterday about the location of Valmiki’s ashram, which is hailed and worshipped as the birthplace of Shrimad Ramayana.

Starting from today, we shall go into the excerpts of the Valmiki Ramayana little by little everyday. I shall explain the “Charitra-Bhaaga” (Outline of the main story) a little lesser, and focus more on the in-depth meanings and the underlying significance of every instance of the story. I take this approach because, the outline story is very prominent and it’s known to most of us. Today we shall start on a general note and see the significance of various “Avataars”  (Incarnations) of Bhagawan, and subsequently in the following episodes, move specifically into the Rama Avataar.

Why does Bhagawan take birth repeatedly? What does he do in every incarnation? To answer the first question, the main purpose of any incarnation of the Lord is to restore and re-establish “Dharma” (Righteousness) in this world. This is exactly what Bhagawan Shri Krishna says in the Bhagawat Gita:

“Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir bhavati bhaarata!

Abhyuktaanam adharmasya tadaatmaanam shrujaamyaham!!

Paritraanaaya saadhunaam vinaasaayacha dushkruthaam!

Dharma samsthaabhanaarthaaya sambhavaami yuge yuge!!”

 The above two slokas (verses) intend to convey the clear message to us that, whenever there’s a downfall of “Dharma” in this world, then and there Bhagawan incarnates himself to restore it. But how does He restore the Dharma? It is, by destroying the evil elements that spurt out in the world and thus by protecting the people who follow the path of righteousness throughout their life. The above statement not only holds true for Shri Krishna’s Avataar (incarnation), but also holds true for every other incarnation. Hence we can clearly see that “Restoring the Dharma on earth” is Bhagawan’s most important priority during any incarnation.

Bhagawan’s incarnations are numerous in number. However, the important incarnations are as follows:

During the “Sathya Yuga”, the “Avatars” of “Matsya” (The Lord taking the form of a fish), “Koorma” (The lord taking the form of a tortoise), “Varaaha” (The Lord taking the form of a boar) and “Narasimha” (The Lord taking the form of a half-human and a half-lion) took place. The next yuga, the “Tretha Yuga” saw the incarnations of “Vaamana” (The Lord taking the form of a dwarf – A short Brahmin child), “Parashuraama(The Lord taking the ferocious form of a man with a deadly axe) and “Raama” (The Lord incarnating as the prince and later on becoming the king of Ayodhya). Subsequently, the “Dwaapara Yuga” witnessed the incarnations of Lord Krishna (the child with the flute) and Lord Balaraama (The brother of Lord Krishna, often considered as the incarnation of “Aadisesha” – The serpent bed of Lord Vishnu).

We’re now in the “Kali yuga”, and Bhagawan is yet to incarnate in this world. The average number of years in Kali Yuga is 4,32,000. However, we’ve just seen 5,110 years of it. What does Lord Krishna say in the above-mentioned slokas? When does he say that He would incarnate again? He says, “Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir bhavathi bhaarata” – Meaning, whenever there’s a downfall of Dharma, I’ll incarnate. Since He hasn’t incarnated still in this Kali Yuga, we can presume that Dharma hasn’t seen any downfall yet till now – Whatever we’re experiencing and witnessing today, is just a miniscule portion of “Adharma” (unrigteousness). If that’s the case, it may even be very hard for us to imagine the state of the world when there’s a real downfall of Dharma!

However, it’s said in the “Bhaagavata Puraana” that the Lord will incarnate at the end of the Kali Yuga in the form of a ferocious man atop a white horse with his sword dazzling like that of a star or a comet. It’s also said that He’ll incarnate at the banks of river “Thaamiraparni” in the Tirunelveli district of the present-day Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He’ll go around in his horse and destroy all the unrighteousness in a ferocious manner with His dazzling and lethal sword.

Now having seen the general purposes of the Lord’s incarnations in this world, we’ve to see next, the specific purposes of Lord Rama’s incarnation. What are they? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!!

Episode 6: Who was this Valmiki Maharishi?

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In the previous episode we saw the uniqueness of Hanuman in the entire Ramayana story and why is he affectionately worshipped as the “Rama Bhakta” and “Rama Dasa”. Further we also saw in brief about the structure of the Ramayana as an epic, written by Valmiki Maharishi in the Sanskrit language.

Who was Valmiki Maharishi? What is his background story? How did he compose this great Ramayana? Let’s see today.

Did Valmiki have a “Guru Parampara” (Lineage of Saints by birth)? Did he have a formal education? The answer is NO!! Normally in literature texts like the Ramayana, etc., the past backgrounds of the authors are not described in much detail. However, it is believed that Valmiki, prior to being a Maharishi (Saint), was a very ordinary human being who was involved in a lot of wrong practices in his life.

It’s always important not to grind about one’s past behavior. All what is important is that, how is that person’s behavior today. If he/she is trying hard to meticulously follow the rules and regulations laid down by the “Shaastraas” (Spiritual texts), all we’ve to do is to respect them, instead of pondering over their past misbehavior (if any). Let’s think about ourselves for a moment – How were we before coming into spirituality? We were also doing numerous bad deeds for so many days, months and years, and even for numerous births, but somewhere and somehow, through somebody we were pulled into the righteous way of living by the grace of Bhagawan. Only a very few people are born with the noble quality of Bhakti (devotion to the Lord). Hence, it’s important for all of us not to make fun or derogatory comments about any person for his/her misdeeds in their past, just because we feel that we’re in the righteous path.

In that way, Valmiki was also one among us, who was into doing some misdeeds in life, but was brought back to the righteous way of living with the grace of Bhagawan. As mentioned before, he was not into the formal education system like the other great sages. Then how did he develop this kind of an expertise to compose such a renowned “Shaastra” called the Ramayana?

“Valmeekam” in Sanskrit means “Holes” in the earth’s surface. In daily life we see anthills, snake hills, etc. wherein, these creatures drill small holes on the earth’s surface and make their homes. We walk, run, stamp our foot, ride bicycles, cars, keep constructing tall buildings, lay roads, railroads, etc. in our everyday life – It’s believed that Goddess Bhoomaadevi (Mother Earth) uses these holes to know what all is happening above the earth surface. (It is to be noted here that Goddess Bhoomaadevi is also one of the wives of Lord Vishnu, along with Goddess Shreedevi). It is because this person was born from the “Valmeekam” on the earth’s surface; he’s referred to as “Vaalmiki”. It is also believed that Goddess Bhoomaadevi herself incarnated in the form of Valmiki Maharishi in order to sing the praise of her beloved husband – Lord Vishnu. It’s only because of this uniqueness that Valmiki possessed he was able to sing the Ramayana with such an expertise.

Valmiki Maharishi’s ashram can be worshipped even today. The ashram where he sat and wrote the entire Ramayana text is on the banks of the holy river Ganges at a place called “Bittur”, near Kanpur in the present-day state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is only at this place that Goddess Sita Devi was staying when she was a pregnant woman, and later on gave birth to two sons – Lava and Kusa. Just as the Ramayana is so sacred for all of us, so is its birthplace as well.

How was Valmiki initiated into writing the Ramayana story? Who were instrumental in making him write it? What is the story behind all this? Let’s see in the next episode!!

Episode 5: Hanuman – The “Center-Stage” of the Ramayana

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In the previous episode we saw that between the two “Ithihaasaas” (Epics), the Ramayana occupies a special place in the Hindu Literature, due to various reasons. Of course, the Mahabhaarata has it’s own significance, however, the Ramayana is considered as an extremely sacred text in Hinduism. We shall be able to appreciate it as we move through the further episodes. While concluding yesterday, I had also mentioned about an “extremely important” character in the Ramayana who is an epitome of “Bhakti” (Devotion), “Sharanam” (Surrender to the Lord) and a Sevaka to his Lord (Servant). He’s none other than Hanuman – The person who is widely described and respected as “Raama Daasa”/”Raama Bhakta”. In today’s episode, we shall see the significance of Hanuman in the entire Ramayana story.

It’s very interesting to note that even today wherever there is a recital of Ramayana anywhere in the world, it’s a common practice to place a chair or any kind of an “Aasanam” (Seat) for Hanuman to sit. Why do we do that? Here’s a sloka to justify:

 

Yatra yatra raghunaatha keerthanam tathra tathra kridamasta kaanjaleem!

Baashpavaari paripoorna lochanam maaruthim namada raaksha saanthakam!!

 

The sloka says that whoever (even a small child) recites the Ramayana, in whichever part of the world, Hanuman comes to all those places and sits at a corner with his head bowing down, with folded hands and with his eyes filled with tears of love and devotion for his Lord Rama.

It is to be noted here that Hanuman has directly heard the entire Ramayana story from the author Valmiki Maharishi himself. He has also listened to it from the two sons of Lord Rama – Lava and Kusha, when they came to meet Lord Rama. For a person of that stature, who has directly listened to the original version of the text, whatever we are chanting and singing today would never sound significant enough to listen. This is one characteristic that is widely applicable for all of us in today’s world. But in the case of Hanuman,  if He has to come and listen to whatever we’re blabbering today, it is not important for him as to who is chanting the Ramayana. All he is interested in is whether whatever is being chanted is the story of Lord Rama or not.

This sloka conveys an important message to all of us today that the art of listening is of supreme significance, if we’ve to be successful both in our professional and personal lives. Especially for leaders and managers in modern-day organisations, it’s not important as to who is conveying a brilliant idea. All we should be interested in is the content and applicability of the idea in our day-to-day business. Hence, as leaders and managers we should encourage our employees to come up with new ideas and we should have the patience to listen to them.

It’s also to be noted that this Ramayana unites the entire Bhaaratha Desha (India) into one – Right from the Himalayas in the north of India, till Kanyakumari in the extreme south. Although the original text of the Ramayana is that of Valmiki Maharishi’s in the Sanskrit language, it has been translated and made available in almost all our Indian languages. For instance, the “Ramcharitamanas” authored by Tulasidas is extremely prominent in the entire north of India. If we come down south, the Ramayana authored by Kambanaataalwaar in Tamil is very prominent. Similarly, there are versions of Ramayana available in Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marati, and numerous other Indian regional languages. In any state, in any city of India, the moment we hear the name “Rama”, all of us tend to worship him as our own beloved king. Such is the significance of the Ramayana in India.

It is this Ramayana that Valmiki Maharishi has composed as a text containing around 24,000 slokas (verses) in about 500 Sargas (Chapters) within 6 Kaandaas (Parts). We can also call this text as “Seethaayanam” (because of the vast presence of Goddess Sita Devi in the text), or as “Bharathaayanam” (In the name of Bharata, the righteous brother of Lord Rama). Valmiki Maharishi conveys this message in the following phrases: “Kaavyam raamaayanam krisnam seethaayaascharitham mahath”. Valmiki goes on to say that this text can also be referred to as “Paulastya vadam” meaning, the story that talks about the killing of Raavana (Pulastya Maharishi’s son).

Now, how did Valmiki Maharishi sing this text? What is his background? How was he “blessed” to compose and sing the Ramayana text? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!!

Episode 4: Ramayana more significant than the Mahabhaarata?

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In the previous episode we saw how and why are the “Ithihaasaas” more significant than the “Puraanaas” in the Hindu Literature. In today’s episode we shall look into yet another very important fact as to why is the Ramayana considered more significant than the Mahabhaarata.We shall see a few justifications for the above statement.

The first justification goes like this: It’s known to all of us that the Mahabhaarata describes the life incidences of Bhagawan Krishna and the Ramayana describes the life incidences of Lord Rama. If we take the Ramayana, we see the presence of Lord Rama in all the seven Kaandaas (Parts) – Right from the beginning till the end of the story. However, does the Mahabhaarata completely talk about Lord Krishna in all the eighteen “Paruvaas” (Parts) from the starting till the end? The answer would be “NO”! The Mahabhaarata talks about numerous people like Ganga, Gaangeyaa, Amba, Ambaalika, Paandavaas, Kauravaas, Dhirduraashtra, etc and Lord Krishna is just a miniscule part of the entire epic called Mahabhaarata. In fact, the author of the Mahabhaarata – the Great Sage Veda Vyaasa himself was confused if he had conveyed properly what he had to convey, and that’s the main reason he modified and re-wrote the entire thing as the “Bhaagavatha Puraana”. This kind of a shortcoming cannot be seen in the Ramayana. Valmiki Maharishi was “to the point” in whatever he wanted to convey – right from the beginning till the end. He started the Ramayana with Lord Rama and completed it with the same Lord Rama. This is one of the main reasons why the Ramayana is considered extremely sacred in our “Bhaarata Desha” (India).

The second important point here is that, even though both Rama and Krishna are incarnations of the same Lord Vishnu Himself, both these incarnations have more differences than similarities between them. For instance, Lord Rama was born in the clan of Lord Surya (The Sun God) whereas Lord Krishna was born in the clan of Lord Chandra (The Moon God). Rama was born in a palace, whereas Lord Krishna was born in a jail. Rama was born during the daytime, whereas Krishna was born during the nighttime. Lord Rama incarnated on a “Navami” (Ninth) day of a month, whereas Lord Krishna incarnated on an “Ashtami” (Eighth) day of a month. For Lord Rama, his birthplace, the place where he lived his entire life and the place from which he returned back to “Vaikunta” (The Aborde of Lord Vishnu) were all the same – Ayodhya, whereas, for Lord Krishna everything was different – His birth place being Mathura, grew up at Gokula, lived in Dwaraka and departed to Vaikunta from “Prabaasu Theertha”. All in all, Lord Krishna doesn’t stay at one place and he keeps roaming here and there!! If all his dwelling places were different, even His words were different!! Whereas, Lord Rama knows only one word, one sentence, one arrow and one promise. But Lord Krishna… As per Aandaal’s paasuram (Paasuram in Tamil means verse),

Maalaai pirandha nambiyai maalai seiyum manaalanai!

Yelaappoigal uraippaanai inge podhakkandeere!!

Here, the phrase Yelaappoigal uraippaanai” means, “the boy who always speaks lies”!! Aandaal, through this verse asks if someone had seen Krishna – the playful boy who just only speaks lies, anywhere. It’s only she who knows the truth, because she is His beloved wife!!

You might all be wondering why am I talking all bad things about Lord Krishna. The simple reason is that, this blog is dedicated to talk about Lord Rama and not about Krishna!! Maybe in future when I get the opportunity to write about Bhaagavata Puraanaa, we shall certainly see how Lord Krishna is better than Lord Rama!! However, there’s no competition here. Every incarnation of Bhagawan is divine and it’s a unique experience.

The third justification as to why Ramayana is much more significant than the Mahabhaarata: Although the Mahabhaarata talks at length about Lord Krishna, is there any significant section in the entire text that describes about his beloved wife Rukmini (The incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi)? Again, the answer is a “NO”! Whereas in the Ramayana, more than even Lord Rama, Goddess Sita Devi (again, the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi) plays an important role in the entire story, starting from the Baala Kaanda till the Utthara Kaanda! It’s only because the Ramayana is a description of both Lord Rama and Goddess Sita Devi together, it is referred as “Shrimad Ramayana”. Whereas, we just say “Mahabhaaratha” and not “Shrimad Mahabhaaratha”, just because there’s no significant description about Goddess Rukmini Devi.

Moreover, there is one significant person in the entire Ramayana story, who is still present at every place where the Ramayana is sung. He was present at the place when Lord Rama’s sons Lava and Kusha sang the Ramayana for the first time, and he is here with all of us even today when we talk about the Ramayana with tears of joy and bhakti (devotion) towards Lord Rama. Who is that person? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!!

Episode 3: Ithihaasas more significant than Puraanaas?

rama-sita

In the previous episode we saw how significant are the “Veda-Upabrahmanas” and the reason why Bhagawan created them. In the process we also saw that the Veda-Upabrahmanas consists of two parts – The “Ithihaasaas and the “Puraanaas”. It’s known that the Ithihaasaas are two in number – The Ramayana and the Mahabhaaratha, and the Puraanaas are sixteen in number. Within these two, it is said that the “Ithihaasaas” are much more significant and prominent than the “Puraanaas”. Why do we say so? Let’s see in today’s episode!!

We shall start with the following sloka (verse):

 

Ithihaasa puraanaabhyaam vedam soupabrahmayeth!

Vibheh kalpashrutaa vedaha maamayam pratarshathi!!

 

This sloka (verse) intends to convey the message that, if a person tries and explores the Vedic texts directly without exploring the Ithihaasaas and the Puraanaas, the “Mother of Vedas” (Veda-Maathaa) gets upset. In other words, Veda-Maathaa gets anxious and worried because, this person might misinterpret and misunderstand the Vedic text, if he/she doesn’t read through the “Ithihaasas” and the “Puraanaas”. Here, we can again understand that the “Ithihaasaas” and the “Puraanaas” are given much more prominence even than the Vedic texts, in our Hindu Literature.

Before we go into exploring further into the above sloka, there’s something important that we need to understand. It might be known that the Sanskrit language comprises of numerous “Vyaakarna Suthras” (Grammatical rules) and it might also be known that Paanini Bhagawan has authored them. In any language, both its grammar and philosophy are equally important. Only if a person gains an expertise in the grammar of that particular language, he/she can “use” that language in a way that would make sense for others to understand.

Now, let’s explore the inner significance of the above sloka. With this basic knowledge about the “Suthras” as mentioned above, it can be inferred from this sloka that there is a “grammatical significance” in it. I shall explain this in detail below:

The sloka starts by saying “Ithihaasa puraanaabhyaam”. In Paanini “Suthram”, there’s a grammatical rule called “Alpaachitharam poorvam”. Here comes a question: If we have to use two “Shabdaas” (Phrases) together in a sloka, which phrase should come first and which should come next? For instance we say “Maathaa Pithaa(Mother and Father). Should we say “Maathaa Pithaa” or “Pithaa Maathaa”? For this, the “Alpaachitharam Poorvam” rule says that, the shabdha (Phrase) that has the lesser number of alphabets should come first and the shabdha with more number of alphabets should come next.

In this case, the Shabdha“Puraana” has three alphabets – Pu, Raa and Na, whereas the Shabdha“Ithihaasa” has four alphabets – I, Thi, Haa and Sa. Hence, according to the above-mentioned rule, this sloka should ideally begin as “Puraana Ithihaasaabhyaam…”. But the actual sloka starts as “Ithihaasa puraanaabhyaam…” It might make us think for a moment that there’s a grammatical error in the above phrase.

But there is an exception here and this exception is very significant. Paanini Bhagawan continues to mention in this “Suthra”, “Alpaachitharam poorvam… Abhyarhitham”. This means that, the “Shabda” which is more predominant and significant in terms of it’s meaning, maybe used in the beginning and the one with a bit lesser significance maybe used at the end.

Let’s now recall the sloka again. It says, “Ithihaasa Puraanaabhyaam..”. With this above-mentioned “exception” in the grammatical rule, we can infer that the “Ithihaasaas” has a greater significance than the “Puraanaas” in terms of meaning. This is why in the Hindu literature the Ithihaasaas has more prominence than any other text.

However, even within the two Ithihaasaas, the Ramayana is considered to be more significant than the Mahabhaarata. Why do we say that? Let’s find out in the next episode!!

Episode 2: A deeper significance of the Veda-Upabrahmanaas

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In the previous episode, we saw the main reason as to why “Bhagawan” (The Lord) incarnates in this earth, along with a small introduction about the Vedas and the Veda-Upabrahmanas. We also saw a short description about the “Shaastraas” and why are the Vedas described as the Shaastraas. We had concluded the last episode with a couple of questions – Why at all should one read the Vedas and the Veda-Upabrahmanas and which one to read first? Let’s see the answers in today’s episode.

Yesterday we had seen that Bhagawan incarnates on this “Mother Earth” to demonstrate the ways and means of living an honest and a sincere life. The significance of Veda-Upabrahmanas can be understood better by the following Sanskrit sentence (Vaakyam):

Vedopabrahmanaarthaaya thaavagraayatah prabhuhu!!

This sentence implies that Lord Vishnu had a desire to create the “Veda-Upabrahmanas” for the Vedas. Since the Vedas are a complex text to understand and comprehend by normal people like us, it might be easily ignored off, or could be misunderstood. To avoid these kinds of situations, it is said that Lord Vishnu wished to incarnate on the earth and enact all those principles that are mentioned in the Vedas so that, it would be a “Simplified Version” for people like us to follow. Also, when anything is in the form of a story, it’s easier for all of us to understand, comprehend and follow. It is for this reason the Veda-Upabrahmanas were created by Bhagawan, and it is also for the same reason that, one is advised to read through the Veda-Upabrahmanas prior to exploring into the Vedic texts.

Now let’s see how were these “Veda-Upabrahmanas” created. Of course, Bhagawan incarnated in different times as different “Avataars” and demonstrated various things for all of us, through his lives on earth. However, there was a need at one point of time that all the various activities, incidents of every incarnation of Bhagawan had to be documented, so that it would be made available for the future generations of people. It was for this purpose, the great “Maharishis” (Saints) were born. Many of them (like Valmiki Maharishi, Veda Vyaasa, etc.) took up the responsibility on themselves to document all the various activities performed by Bhagawan during His various incarnations in the form of “Slokas” (Verses) in Sanskrit. All these documented texts compiled by various “Maharishis” (Saints) are collectively termed as “Upa-Brahmanas” to the Vedas, meaning “The simplified version of the complex Vedic texts, in a readily understandable and an implementable form”.

This “Upa-Brahmanas” are classified further into the “Ithihaasas” and the “Puraanaas”. It’s quite a known fact that there are two Ithihaasas in the Hindu Literature – The Ramayana (Life incidences of Lord Rama) and the Mahabharata (Life incidences of Lord Krishna), and the Puraanaas are eighteen in number – Six “Saathvika Puraanaas”, six “Raajasa Puraanaas and six “Thaamasa Puraanaas”.

How do we differentiate between the “Ithihaasaas” and the “Puraanaas”? If the text is written during the time of the Lord’s incarnation itself, it’s called “Ithihaasaas”, and if the text is written after the Lord’s incarnation is over, it’s called “Puraanaas”. This differentiation is extremely important to be understood by the readers. For example, Valmiki Maharishi composed the Ramayana even when Rama was alive and was ruling the Ayodhya kingdom. The great sage Veda Vyaasa composed the Mahabharata even when Lord Krishna was alive. However, the Puraanaas were done at a much later stage after all the incarnations were over.

Even within these two “Veda-Upabrahmanas”, the “Ithihaasas” are considered to be more prominent and significant than the “Puraanaas”. Why? The answer lies in the next episode!!