Episode 15 – Leadership lessons from Lord Rama’s “Kalyaana Gunas” – Significance of the “Aatman” (Inner Soul)

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In the last episode, we saw three very important noble qualities that are to be inherited within an ideal leader, and how significant are they in modern-day life. Today we shall continue this discussion forward by talking about a couple of very important noble qualities and how significant are they in the context of modern-day leadership.

  1. Aatmavaankaha – A person who knows the significance of the “Aatman” (Inner soul) and is a master of all living beings. This is one of the most important qualities that differentiates normal leaders from a well-established “Spiritual Leader” or a “Spiritual Master’. Knowing the inner significance of the “Aatman” is of paramount importance for all of us. Let’s view the philosophy of the “Aatman” (The Inner soul) in this way – If someone comes and asks us, what is the “Aatman” and who is it, what would be our reply?

Let me explain this question in a simpler way for better understanding: We see numerous things around us in this world everyday, like plants, animals, human beings and other various objects. For instance, if someone points out to a chair and asks us, “What’s this object?” Our reply would be that, “It’s a chair”. If someone points out to a cloth and asks us, “What’s this item?” We would give an emphatic reply that “It’s a piece of cloth!” Similarly if someone asks us “What’s Aatman?” What answer would we give? It’s important for all of us to find out a proper and a definitive answer for this! Let’s now try to see an answer for this question. In Sanskrit, Aatman is something, which is beautifully described as “Nyaathruthvam” which means “The embodiment of the knowledge of the supreme “(Parabrahma). The explanation doesn’t stop there. The Aatman is also described as “Aanandamayathvam” which means “The embodiment of permanent happiness”. There’s a third explanation to it – The Aatman is also described as “Seshabhootha” which means that every Aatman living in this world is a “Servant” of Bhagawan and is expected to perform “Seva” or “Kainkariya” to it’s Lord. That’s why all the Spiritual Masters (Gurus) emphasise the fact that all of us should do service to mankind. “Service to mankind is service to Bhagawan” is a well-known proverb for many!

Now let’s think deeper for a moment – Do we have this feeling within us today? In the modern day of hi-fi technology and work pressure day on day, do we really have this thinking in us? In the present day, all of us face loads of problems, difficulties and challenges in our day-to-day lives. Some people complain that someone has cheated them; they’ve lost all their money and wealth due to whatsoever reasons, and loads of many other complaints. We also constantly hear people saying every day that they’re suffering from mental depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. and they’re under medication. Why do we hear all this?

Firstly, it’s because of the way of life today and in fact that we’re all running towards something that we ourselves do not know! Secondly, in our life, we should give importance to two things equally – Our Aatman and our body (Deham). Normally, as we progress in our age we should give more importance towards the Aatman and lesser importance to our physical body. If I start talking all this now, then none of you would be interested in reading my blog further  🙂 – This comment is just on a lighter note, but however we need to start from somewhere. For this, we should atleast start treating the Aatman and our body equally. But if we completely focus our attention only on our physical body, if we never think even a bit about our Aatman, then even if there’s a small jolt with respect to our external physical body, we feel that the entire world is jolting around us and we’re unprepared to face the challenges that present before us. Whereas, if we develop an equal thinking about the “Aatman” and our body together, it would make us mentally stronger to face and overcome any kind of challenge in life. If we have the feeling that the “Paramaathma” (Bhagawan) is with us as a guiding light, we would never feel left alone in this world and we shall accomplish any task with ease!

Hence we can understand from the above philosophy that the main reason why people go into mental depression, blood pressure, etc. is because, they are completely unaware of the significance of the “Aatman” and the “Paramaatman”. It’s thus important for all of us to dedicate a portion of our time everyday to introspect within ourselves and think about Bhagawan (Aatma-chintanam) and if we start doing this, we can lead a life without any tension, mental pressure, etc. Let’s try doing this meticulously from today!

  1. Jithakrodaha – A person who is always calm and never gets angry for anything, that is, a person who has conquered his/her anger completely. This is an extremely important character of a successful leader. From the life of Lord Rama, we would be able to see in numerous instances how He had a complete control over his emotions – particularly anger. In modern day too, this is of paramount importance.

It can be observed that the calmer a person is, he/she becomes more and more invincible. This holds well in any domain – be it politics, sports, corporate, etc. Especially in sports nowadays we see many people/teams trying to play “mind games” with their opponents before the commencement of the game. Mind games are nothing but ways to provoke and kindle the emotions of the opponent. Why does this happen? It’s only because of the fact that if the calmness of the opponent is disturbed, it becomes easier for this person/team to win over. Hence, it’s thus important for all of us, in whichever domain we are, not to get carried away by the “mind games” of others and in turn, disturb our emotional stability. It’s thus important to stay calm and composed in whatever situation we are in and this is a very important pre-requisite to be successful!

What are the last three noble qualities of an ideal leader and how important are they in today’s life? Let’s wait and find out in the next episode!!

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 14 – Leadership lessons from Lord Rama’s “Kalyaana Gunas” (Contd.)

rama-sita

In the past three episodes we’ve so far seen eight of the sixteen “Kalyaana Gunas” (Noble Qualities) of Lord Rama, as described by Valmiki Maharishi, as part of the “Narada-Valmiki Samvaadham”. All these qualities that we’re seeing as part of this, are extremely important in terms of modern day leadership. In today’s episode we shall see some more noble qualities and their applicability to the modern day.

  1. Vidwaan – A person who has a mastery over all subjects. It is believed and also a well-known fact that Lord Rama was an expert in the usage of the bow and arrow, as a “Kshatriya Veera”. Along with the bow and arrow, he was also an expert in the usage of “Asthras” (Can be equated somewhat to the modern day missiles) and other weapons and hence was considered invincible during a war. Apart from this, Lord Rama is also considered an expert in all the “Dharma Shaastras”, the Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana Vedas. He was also considered to be the best student of Sage Vasishta and Sage Vishwamithra. Such is the mastery of various subjects that Lord Rama has attained, and hence He’s rightly described as the “Vidwaan”.

How is this relevant to modern day leadership? In today’s studies on this subject, there’s a type of Leadership called “Expert Leadership” wherein the leader gains an “Expert Power” amongst his/her people because of the expertise he/she possesses in his/her domain. This is very crucial in today’s world. If the leader is an expert in whatever domain of work he/she is into, people would automatically come to them for gaining knowledge and for obtaining expert guidance. This is one way through which leaders emerge, rather than proclaiming themselves to be leaders. We can see through numerous examples wherein the leader sustains in his/her position more when he/she emerges as a leader, rather than someone appointing them as a leader. Hence, this quality “Vidwaan” finds lot of significance in the process wherein a leader emerges!

  1. Samartaha – A person who is capable of doing and accomplishing anything in this world. This is a unique quality possessed by Lord Rama. This can be considered as a continuation of the previous quality of “Vidwaan”, wherein, once a leader gains a mastery over his/her domain knowledge, with due experience he/she also gains the capability and confidence of accomplishing anything that comes their way, be it whatever challenge. Lord Rama is considered an epitome of this quality wherein, we can see the way in which he exhibits his mastery over fighting a war. Even as a child, He defeats the raakshasi (Demoness) Thaataka, her sons Maaricha and Subaahu who are also raakshasaas (Demons) single-handedly. He further proceeds to Mithila (Present day country of Nepal), lifts the “Shiva Dhanush” (The bow that is of Lord Shiva) with a single hand, as part of the “Syamvara”  (Marriage) of Goddess Sita Devi and in numerous other instances in his life and thus shows his expertise to accomplish any complicated task in the world with ease!

This quality can be viewed in the modern day context as a combination of “Expertise” and “Experience”. A leader with this combination is considered to be invincible and gains the capability to foresee and handle any complex and challenging situations in his/her career. We can see numerous examples of leaders who have struggled their way up and have been successful at the end. It’s because of this combination of expertise and experience, that they know exactly how to handle tough situations. Hence, this quality of “Samartha” gains extreme importance for a leader to be successful.

  1. Priyadarshanaha – A person who has a captivating, handsome and pleasant look. This might be quite familiar to all of us. So far we’ve been talking about the qualities that are to be exhibited by a leader, but is that enough? Physical appearance also matters in lot of things in life! Only if a person has that captivating physical appearance, people would be able to admire him/her along with what they do! Hence we can see here that the quality pertaining to the physical appearance is very predominant in terms of leadership. It’s a well-known fact that Lord Rama is a handsome, well-built person (96 “Ankulam” – A type of measurement, as per the Valmiki Ramayana that can be equated to almost nine to ten feet in height. Perhaps people in the “Tretha Yuga” were that tall!) Lord Rama is also described as “Aajaanu Baahum” and “Aravinda Lochana”, which means tall, well built and handsome in look. The moment we look at his face; it’s very difficult for us to take our eyes off Him!! Such is his handsomeness!!

This is why, in modern day corporate, we give so much of stress to physical appearance of a person. We have a formal clothing (blazer, tie, etc.) to enhance our physical appeal. The moment we have a good physical outlook, lot of other things automatically fall in place. This can be seen especially among those people who are into Sales and marketing, because, sales people have the direct interface with the clients of their organization. With a neat and a clean physical appearance, the sales person enhances not only his/her personal reputation, but also enhances the brand of his/her company, in front of the customer! It is only because of this significance, the quality “Priyadarshana” finds ample relevance in today’s corporate world.

What are the other important qualities mentioned by Valmiki Maharishi? Let’s find out in the next episode!

Episode 13 – Leadership lessons from Lord Rama’s “Kalyaana Gunas” (Contd.)

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So far we’ve seen five of the sixteen “Kalyaana Gunas” (Noble qualities) of Lord Rama, from which we’re in the process of learning some important lessons for modern day leadership. Let’s look into some more from the sixteen in today’s episode:

 

  1. Drudavrathaha – It means, A person who is self-determined, steadfast in his/her attitude towards truth, righteousness and resolute. It is said that anything in this world can be achieved with a positive attitude or intent. We can see this quite significantly in Lord Rama’s life – When he was instructed to go on an exile to the forest for fourteen years by his mother Kaikeyi, he took it in an extremely positive sense and without talking another word, proceeded forward. And when Rama’s brother, Bharata came to him later on and requested Rama to return back to the kingdom, he refused to come back. Here we can see how Rama was self-determined and steadfast towards Dharma so as to accomplish His mission in the forest for the next fourteen years.

This can be easily correlated with the modern-day talk and debate about self-determination, positive attitude and self-confidence. We might have seen in day-to-day life, numerous success stories of people with respect to their self-determination – Be it the case of our great ex President of India, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, our cricketing legend, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, etc. If we read through the stories of these great leaders, we might be able to see ample relevance to these two aspects – Positive attitude towards their goal and in turn, the self-determination to achieve. It is believed in the context of leadership that, if the leader exhibits a positive body language towards his/her team, the entire team gets that motivation to move forward. Hence, positivity finds extreme importance in successful leadership.

  1. Chaarithrenacha koyuktaha – A person with an impeccable character and without any blemish. All of us might be aware of a proverb – “If wealth is lost, nothing is lost; if health is lost, something is lost; But, when character is lost, everything is lost!” Here we can see the importance given to “Character” of a human being and this is why Valmiki Maharishi lays so much stress on the character for a leader. It simply implies that, if a leader has to be a role model for his/her followers, he/she has to exhibit an impeccable character.
  1. Sarvabhuteshu hitaha – A person who is a benign well-wisher and takes care of all beings in the world equally. This again correlates to an extent with “Sousheelyam” which we discussed before. However, the important point to be stressed here is that, everybody should be equal under the eyes of a leader. This is an extremely important quality that was exhibited by Lord Rama throughout his life – He treats Guha – the hunter as his own brother, Sugriva – the monkey as his own brother and all the “Vaanaraas” (Monkeys) as his own brothers. There was no differentiation or discrimination against anyone in the eyes of Lord Rama, and also when He later became the King of Ayodhya after his fourteen years of exile, he made sure that he treated all people in his kingdom with equality. To add more to this point, Lord Rama is also known to have given equal status to women, in the erstwhile male-dominated society.

Modern-day world has given us both good and bad examples of this quality – Be it politics or corporate. Today we talk about “Dynasty politics”, “Family rule”, etc. which is proving to be detrimental to a country’s progress. We also speak about a concept in modern day Human Resources Management called “Nepotism” or “Favoritism”, wherein one person might be “favored” more than the other just on the pretext of closeness to a leader. Such things have the huge risk of demoralizing the entire organization and those people who put in their heart and soul to their work may develop a feeling of being left out from the organization, if they’re not given the appropriate recognition for their extraordinary contribution. All these finally lead to “job dissatisfaction” amongst employees and finally the organization might face the grave risk of losing its potential employees to the competitor. Hence, this quality of Sarvabhuteshu hitaha” assumes lot of significance in today’s leadership arena!

What are the other important qualities that make a leader successful? Let’s discuss in the next episode!!

Episode 12 – Leadership lessons from Lord Rama’s “Kalyaana Gunas” (Contd.)

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In the previous episode we saw the context pertaining to Narada-Valmiki Samvaadham and as part of that, Valmiki initiates the conversation with Sage Naarada with a set of sixteen questions, indicating the sixteen important “Kalyaana Gunas” (Noble Qualities) of an ideal leader. We discussed the first two out of the sixteen qualities yesterday. Today let’s talk about the subsequent three important qualities.

  1. Dharmagnya – A person who stands by his “Dharma” (Righteous path) at all times. This is a very important characteristic of a leader – Whatever maybe the situation, a true leader is the one who stands by his righteous path in terms of ethics, morality and character. Lord Rama’s life was an epitome of this quality. It’s only because Lord Rama was an embodiment of Dharma (Righteousness) himself, he never spoke even a word or went against even one wish of his father (Lord Rama walked away from the kingdom to the forest, just because his father wanted him to do that), he stood by his Dharma when He killed Vaali in the forest, He stood by his Dharma even when He lost his beloved wife to the wickedness of Ravana and He stood by his Dharma even while the war was going on between Himself and Ravana. Thus, when we’re starting to discuss the various instances, hurdles, etc. of Lord Rama’s life from here on, we can notice that each and every instance Lord Rama followed the Dharma meticulously and lived as an example for all of us to ponder and follow.

If we see in today’s world, in any field – Be it at home, politics, corporate, etc. how many of us really follow this? Today we’re exposed to situations wherein we see many people forced to do some unethical activities just on the pretext of “survival” and “quick growth”. It is only because of this reason, in today’s world we’re exposed to numerous scams, unethical practices like manhandling human labor, misinterpreting financial reports, etc. that cause irreparable damages and huge losses to organizations and their employees. From whatever path of Dharma we see in the entire Ramayana we should realize a very important point in life – There’s no short cut to success in any field and that, the real success can be achieved only by following the righteous principles pertaining to the respective fields.

  1. Kritagnya – A quality where one is always thankful or grateful or indebted for even the smallest of the “upakaara” (help) that he received from others. This is one of the best ways to establish a deeper connection between the leader and his/her followers. The respect and popularity of a leader grows manifold when he/she appreciates his followers for even a small help rendered by them. If we closely examine the life incidents of Lord Rama, we can see this quality in abundance – Especially when it comes to appreciating and thanking the Vanaras (Monkeys) for their extra-ordinary help in fighting the war with Ravana successfully, Lord Rama is extremely generous and respectful in his words of gratitude. A special mention to be made in this context is that of the relationship between Lord Rama and his ardent devotee – Hanuman. Towards the end of Lord Rama’s incarnation, He proclaims with tears in his eyes that He along with Goddess Sita Devi are indebted so much to Hanuman for all his selfless service he has done to both of them. Such is the quality of a great leader in terms of making his followers happy.

Most of us would have come across this proverb in our daily lives – “Small drops make a mighty ocean”. It’s only when a person does the small things right, he/she can achieve bigger things in life. Recognising the help done by someone at a later point in time might be a small activity, but this might go a long way in establishing a stronger relationship with that person in the future. Hence, as a good leader, let’s try and follow this meticulously.

  1. Sathyavaakyaha – A person who always, at any given situation talks only the truth. Here’s yet another important quality for a successful leader in terms of building the trust amongst his/her followers. When would a leader be able to build the trust and confidence amongst his/her people? It can be done only when the leader is true to himself/herself and also to his/her people. If the “Truth” factor goes missing at any point in time, then people would immediately lose the faith that they posed on their leader.

We could relate numerous instances of this quality in today’s world – Employees tend to work with credibility and take pride in working for their company only when they feel that their company is true and loyal to them and to the society. This directly correlates to the modern day concept of “Employee Satisfaction” or “Job Satisfaction”. If employees come to know that their CEO or leader is trying to achieve short-term growth by compromising professional ethics, employees’ welfare and concern, they tend to leave the organisation in a jiffy!! This might also prove to be one of the greatest reasons why successful companies have failed overnight – Because, even if there’s one misdeed and the CEO tries to “cover up” his/her misdeed with lies, employees lose faith exponentially quicker and quit! It is for this reason we always keep saying that it’s very difficult to build a brand for oneself and/or a company, but it just takes a minute to bring that brand down to dust!!

What are the other important qualities that make a leader successful? Let’s discuss in the next episode!!

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!!