Episode 51 – Sage Vishwaamithra tries to convince king Dasharata further!

rama-sita

In the previous episode we witnessed that Sage Vishwamithra asks king Dasharata to send his eldest son, Rama along with him to the forest so as to protect the “Yaaga” that he is supposed to perform. When he sees king Dasharata in a state of shock after his request, he tries to convince him by saying that he knows Rama better than anybody else in this world. Sage Vishwaamithra adds to his explanation that Rama is a “Mahathma” and is a person who is an epitome of valor and invincibility and that, nobody in this world can even dream of winning over him! However, even upon hearing all this from Sage Vishwaamithra, king Dasharata is not convinced enough to send Rama along with him. What happened next? What did Sage Vishwaamithra do now? Let’s see today!

Sage Vishwaamithra gauges the situation and tries to convince king Dasharata one more time. Now he invokes Sage Vashishtaachaarya and all the other great “Rishis” (Saints) who adorn the courtroom of king Dasharata. Sage Vishwaamithra continues to say the following:

“Vasishtopi mahaa thejaaha yeche me tapa sishtithaaha!!”

He says to king Dasharata, “Oh Dasharata, just think for one moment! You have so many great saints adorning your courtroom! In that there is one person by name “Vasishta”! Both of us share a peculiar relationship with each other! Both of us negate and fight with each other so well! 🙂 Normally if he says that there is something existing in this world, I would say “No”! If at all I would say that there is something existing in this world, he would say “No”! This is how our relationship is till today – We fight for each and every small thing in this world! But today I shall give him an open challenge – I say that your son Rama is an epitome of valor and invincibility. Let Vasishta negate me on this if he has the guts!”

Here it is interesting to note the beauty of the Sanskrit language. Sage Vishwaamithra says “Vasishtopi mahaathejaaha” – There is this usage of the “Api” Shabdha (Shabdha is nothing but a set of grammatical rules in Sanskrit for a word. It denotes the different kinds of possible usages of that particular word). This word “Api” is one among the unique words in Sanskrit like “Cha”, “Ha”, “Vai”, Vaa”, etc. that are of “Single-letter” (Just as how we have “A”, “An”, etc. in English). For these kinds of “Single-letter” words we can infer thousands of meanings in Sanskrit. However in this context, if we say “Vasishtaha api” (Vasishtopi) it means “Even Vasishta too!” but the deeper contextual meaning can be inferred as “Even this Vasishta, who disagrees with me on everything in this world!” Thus, the sentence “Vasishtopi mahaa thejaahayeche me tapa sishtithaaha!!” means, “Even this Vasishta who always disagrees with me on everything in this world would not disagree on this very fact that Rama is an invincible and a divine force!” Not only that – All the other great saints who are sitting in the courtroom would also agree to this fact without asking a question! All of them have performed great amounts of penance (Tapas) in their lives so far (“Yeche me tapa sishtithaaha”). Thus, everybody sitting here would accept the fact that king Dasharata has been blessed with no ordinary son but an incarnation of the Divine! Hence by saying all this, Sage Vishwaamithra advises king Dasharata to relent and obey his words and also keep up the promise that he has made earlier!

Even upon hearing to all this, king Dasharata is in no mood to relent. He is still in the state of shock and disbelief. He still thinks to himself as to how would he send a 12-year old boy to fight the Raakshasaas”. Now it is the turn of king Dasharata to reply back to Sage Vishwaamithra. What did king Dasharata talk? How did he manage this situation? Let us wait to find out till the next episode!

Episode 50 – Sage Vishwaamithra tries to convince King Dasharata

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In the previous two episodes we have been witnessing that Sage Vishwaamithra enters Ayodhya at a time when king Dasharata was pondering over with his ministers about the marriage plans of his four sons. Upon the arrival of the great Sage, king Dasharata is extremely happy and welcomes him inside the palace. Sage Vishwaamithra explains the purpose of his visit to the city and king Dasharata is very happy to help him out for whatever he needs! However suddenly Sage Vishwaamithra’s eyes fall upon the handsome looking Rama and his three brothers and all of a sudden asks for Rama, Dasharata’s eldest son to accompany him to his ashram (hamlet). What happened next? Did Dasharata send Rama straightaway as promised? Let’s see today!

Let’s relook the sloka that we saw yesterday and move forward with that.

“Kaaka paksha dharam veeram jeshtam me dhaathum arhasi!”

As I had explained in the previous episode, “Kaaka paksha dharam veeram” means, the child with the beautiful hair tied behind his head. Thus here, Sage Vishwaamithra asks Dasharata to send the child with the beautiful hair, which is tied behind his head! For a moment, king Dasharata did not understand what was going on! He casts a look at his four sons – All four have their hair tied behind their heads and for a moment, king Dasharata did not understand which of the four sons is Sage Vishwaamithra asking for! Now Sage Vishwaamithra continues, “Jeshtam me dhaathum arhasi!” – He now asks for the eldest son (Jeshtaha) amongst the four who has the beautiful hair.

In Tamil, Kambanaadar explains this scene even more beautifully! All the four sons are standing in the courtroom. Sage Vishwaamithra has to now ask for the eldest son. What did he ask? Kambar says,

“Nin makkalul kariya semmal oruthanai tharughi…”

Here, Kambar says “Kariya semmal oruthanai”, which implies that just with these three words, Vishwaamithra straightaway rejects Lakshmana and Shathrughna. “Kariya Semmal” means the child who is blackish in color. Whereas, Lakshmana and Shathrughna were reddish in color, it is Rama and Bharata who were blackish in appearance. Hence, he asks “Kariya semmal oruthanai tharughi”, meaning, the eldest child who is blackish in color, is to be sent along with him to the forest!

Upon hearing this, king Dasharata was all the more shocked! How can Sage Vishwaamithra ask for a small child to accompany him to fight the “Raakshasaas” (Demons) in the forest? Isn’t it a danger for the child’s life? Moreover, it is to be remembered here that king Dasharata is overtaken completely by “Puthra-Vaatsalyam” (Meaning, excessive attachment towards his son. I shall detail about this a bit later when the apt context arrives!) King Dasharata replies,

“Ahamthe prathijaanaami hathouthou viddhi raakshasau!

Aham vedmi mahaathmaanam raamam sathya paraakaramam!!

Now, Sage Vishwaamithra looks at the sad face of king Dasharata and tries to convince him to send Rama along. He says, “Aham vedmi mahaathmaanam raamam sathya paraakaramam”. Let’s look into it word by word. “Aham vedmi” means “I know”, “Raamam mahaathmaanam” means, “Your son Rama is a ‘Mahaathma’ (a highly spiritually realized soul)”, “Raamam sathya paraakaramam” means, “Your son Rama is such an invincible person that nobody can win over him”. Lets’ now combine all the three phrases together. Sage Vishwaamithra says to king Dasharata, “Oh Dasharata! I know that your son Rama is a “Mahathma” and is such an invincible person that it is impossible for anyone to win over him! Hence do not worry about him and please send him along with me for a few days!” Dasharata looks on to Sage Vishwaamithra with astonishment – He thinks to himself, “I’m the father of Rama and I know about my son more than anybody else. Whereas this Sage Vishwaamithra is coming from somewhere else and he is teaching me about my own son! How ridiculous is this!”

To understand this context much deeper, let’s look into some commentary works that were done by “Aachaaryas” who came later on. There was an “Aachaarya” by name “Periyavaachaan Pillai”. He was the person who wrote extensive commentaries for the “Naalayira Dhivyaprabhandhams” sung by the twelve Aalwaars. Apart form this, he has written a book by name “Raamayana Thani Slokam” wherein he has taken important events in the Ramayana story and written his comments on all of those! When this context arrives he has given a very interesting description as follows:

Sage Vishwaamithra comes to king Dasharata and talks with him, “Oh Dasharata! Please do not think that you know about your son Rama – It is me who knows him better!” King Dasharata asks back “Oh Sage Vishwaamithra! I’m the father of Rama and hence I would know more than anybody else in this world about him! How do you know more?” For this, Vishwaamithra replies, “I’ll tell you why and how I know Rama better than you! Firstly, you are a Kshathriya warrior and a king! You have seen Rama only in that perspective. Whereas, I’m a “Brahmana Rishi” (Saint) and I can understand Rama better! You are sitting at the top in your throne! Whereas I sit on the floor in close proximity to Bhagawan’s throne! You are in a state of “Maya” (Illusion), whereas I’m apart from the “Maya” and I’m en-route the “Moksha Saamraajya” (Path of reaching Bhagawan’s feet) and thus I know that Rama is none other than Bhagawan himself! I’ll tell you one more thing Dasharata – You are under the impression that Rama is your child! But, what I understand is that, the entire world is the child of Rama!

Thus by saying all this, Sage Vishwaamithra tries to convince king Dasharata to send Rama along with him to the forest. Did king Dasharata budge by now? Was he convinced with this explanation? Let’s find out in the next episode!

Epsiode 49 –Sage Vishwaamithra’s request beautifully portrayed by Valmiki Maharishi!

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In the previous episode we witnessed the arrival of Sage Vishwaamithra at Ayodhya and meeting king Dasharata, and king Dasharata was extremely happy in receiving the great sage. Upon giving Sage Vishwaamithra all the due respects, king Dasharata promises that he would offer anything according to the Sage’s wish! What did Sage Vishwaamithra ask for? Let’s find out today!

Sage Vishwaamithra was about to do a grand “Yaaga” (Offering) at his ashram located at a place called “Siddhaashrama” along the banks of the river Ganges. (Even today we can worship this “Siddhaashrama” at a place called Buxar, in the present-day state of Bihar in north India). It was at this place where Sage Vishwaamithra did the “Yaaga” for six continuous days. But the unfortunate thing was that, whenever he sat down to perform the Yaaga, there were a few “Raakshasaas” (Demons) who were regularly visiting the place and doing something so as to stop the proceeding of the Yaaga in a smooth way. Sage Vishwaamithra also tries his best to perform the Yaaga but however he couldn’t complete it successfully. Hence, he wanted the help of someone to protect this Yaaga and destroy the demons that were disturbing it. It was for this purpose he visits Ayodhya and to seek the help of Dasharata. In fact, Sage Vishwaamithra could have himself self-protected the Yaaga with his extremely high “Tapas” power. Of course, if he had cursed the demons, the very next moment they would have died. However he continues to say that if he sits to perform the “Yaaga” he should not give place for “Krodha” (Anger) and there is a chance that the “Yaaga” might become ineffective. And this is the reason why he needs someone’s help to protect the Yaaga while he is performing it.

“Tasya vignyakarau dvouthu raakshasau kaamaroopinau!

Vrathethu bahusashcheerne samaapyaam raakshasaabimou!

Maareechascha shubhaahuscha veeryavanthau sutheekshithau!!”

The above sloka lines signify the fact that the “Raakshasas” (Demons) were able to assume different forms (Raakshasau kaamaroopinau) and it is very difficult to judge which form will they take and when! Moreover, there are two main “Raakshasas” by the names “Maareecha” and “Shubaahu” who were captaining the entire team in destroying the Yaaga. Hence they should be destroyed for the Yaaga to continue smoothly. Sage Vishwaamithra says, “Oh King Dasharata! I do not know how to destroy these two demons and that’s why I came to you seeking help!”

Upon hearing this, king Dasharata was very happy and he was about to say that he was ready to accompany Sage Vishwaamithra to his Siddhashrama for the Yaaga. However, before Dasharata uttered a word, Sage Vishwaamithra’s eyes fell upon the 12-year-old Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shathrugna who were standing near their father in the courtroom. It is at this point when Sage Vishwaamithra thinks that it would be wise enough to take Rama with him and not anybody else and thus he requests king Dasharata to send Rama along with him.

“Kaaka paksha dharam veeram jeshtam me dhaathum arhasi!

Chakshohyesha maya guptaha divyena svenatejasaa!!”

Here Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes the way in which Sage Vishwaamithra asks for Lord Rama. “Kaaka Paksha Dharam Veeram”“Kaaka Paksham” means the long black hair of the child is tied together onto his head (in Tamil we say “Kudumi”). The kids are just 12 years old and thus their hair is not very long still, but yet, their hair was pulled tight and tied to their head! King Dasharata upon hearing this, also turns towards his four sons and at this point Sage Vishwaamithra says “Jeshtam me dhaathumarhasi”, which means, “Send your eldest son along with me!”

Upon hearing this, Dasharata was shell-shocked! How can he send a 12-year old child for fighting the evil demons? He didn’t know how to react! What did Sage Vishwaamithra say at this point? How did he convince king Dasharatha? Let’s look into it in the next episode!

Episode 48 – Sage Vishwaamithra asks Dasharata for Rama – Significance of “Donation”

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In the previous episode we witnessed the beautiful explanation given by Valmiki Maharishi on the occasion of the arrival of the great Sage Vishwaamithra at Ayodhya. The moment king Dasharata comes to know that Sage Vishwaamithra as arrived, he immediately runs to the entrance of his palace with utter joy and happiness and welcomes the great sage. King Dasharata gives all the necessary welcome formalities such as “Argyam”, “Paadhyam”, “Aachamaneeyam”, etc. to Sage Vishwaamithra and takes him inside his palace.

Here it is important for us to note that however great and significant a king might be, if a great sage arrives at his palace, it is the duty of the king to receive and welcome the sage with all the respects. Of course, the great sages were also of such high orders of “Tapas” that they deserved the due respects given to them by the king. Thus, king Dasharata was extremely happy with the arrival of Sage Vishwaamithra. Valmiki Maharishi describes how happy king Dasharata was, in the following beautiful sloka:

“Yathaa amruthasya sampraapthihi yathaa varshamanoodhathe!

Yathaa shathrusha dhaareshu puthra janma aprajasyacha!!”

In the above sloka, Valmiki Maharishi begins by saying that king Dasharata felt happy as if he got a pot full of “Amrutha” (the divine nectar). However, this didn’t sound very good for Valmiki Maharishi himself – because, Dasharata has never tasted the “Amrutha” in his life at all, since he is just a normal human being and not a “Deva” (Celestial being). Next he said, Dasharata felt so happy as if there was a heavy rain in his kingdom after years of drought-like conditions. Even this comparison didn’t go well with Valmiki Maharishi – because King Dasharata’s rule was so perfect that even the rain Gods were happy to periodically pour down and ensure that there is no drought at Ayodhya. Finally he says, Dasharata felt extremely happy as if he has been blessed with a child after so many years of being childless – This was an apt comparison – Because, all of us know and seen in the previous episodes as to how much of distress king Dasharata went through while being childless for so many years. Hence, we can infer from the above sloka that upon the arrival of Sage Vishwaamithra, king Dasharata was extremely happy beyond words!

“Pranarthasya yathaa laabaha yathaa harsho mahodayaha!

Kanchathe paramam kaamam karomiki mukarshithaha!!”

Accordingly, king Dasharata gives a seat for Sage Vishwaamithra to sit and says, “Oh great Sage Vishwaamithra!! I’m prepared to offer you whatever you wish!!” – The first sentence that king Dasharata uttered!! He did not even ask Sage Vishwaamithra, the purpose of his visit to Ayodhya, but still he uttered that he would give anything that the Sage wanted! Normally, if we commit something like this to someone without even enquiring anything about their wants and needs, and if that person asks us something that we cannot give, we would start thinking, “Oh my God! We shouldn’t have given this person all this and he/she is not worth of getting this from us!” Thus we can infer here that, we can take a decision of donating something without a hurry. However, if there is something good that is happening around us, our contribution to it is very important! We should make sure that we donate something for a good cause every time! In the “Manu-Dharma Shaastra”, Manu Bhagawan says that if a person earns 100 rupees, atleast 16 rupees out of it should be spent as a donation to “Dharma” (for a good cause). Only then he and his family would be blessed! Hence, it is very important for us to take the lesson from here that we should be ready to donate (maybe money or clothes or anything for that matter) if there is a good cause. This is exactly what king Dasharata also intended to do – He wanted to offer whatever Sage Vishwaamithra wanted him to offer!

We might think that king Dasharata shouldn’t have committed blindly in the way he did, however, there is a reason behind his blind commitment. King Dasharata knew exactly what Sage Vishwaamithra would not ask him for! Now, what is a Sage going to ask for? Whatever a Sage asks for is going to be for the protection of “Dharma” (Righteousness) and it is anyway for a noble cause. Hence, king Dasharata was very confident within himself that he could offer anything pertaining to the noble cause that Sage Vishwaamithra was looking for. But however, king Dasharata didn’t expect just one thing – He didn’t expect that Sage Vishwaamithra would ask for his son to come along with himAnd that is exactly what the Sage asked for!! Sage Vishwaamithra requests king Dasharata to send Lord Rama along with him to his ashram (hamlet) for a few days!

Why did Sage Vishwaamithra request king Dasharata to send Rama along with him? How did Dasharata react to it? Did he offer his beloved son Rama to Sage Vishwaamithra? What happened next? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 47 – Sage Vishwaamithra enters Ayodhya!!

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Till the previous episode we have seen the purposes of birth of the four brothers. Rama was born in this world so as to restore the “Dharma” (Righteousness), Lakshmana was born to teach a form of Bhakthi (Devotion) called “Seshathvam”, Bharata was born to teach another form of Bhakthi called “Paarathanthriyam” and Shathrugna was born to teach the highest form of Bhakthi amongst all – “Bhaagawatha Seshathvam/Bhaagawatha Paarathanthriyam”! Thus, the four brothers incarnated in this world and the naming ceremony took place in a grand manner at Ayodhya. We’ve seen until this point so far.

“Atha raajaa dasharathaha teshaam dhaarakriyaam prathi!”

Moving on further, the above sloka explains that King Dasharata starts to ponder with his ministers and Sage Vasishtaachaarya as to how can these four children get married.

Now let’s look at the sequence of the events as described by Valmiki Maharishi – The event of “Naming Ceremony” for these four babies were explained in the 20’th and 21’st sloka in the “Baala-Kaanda”. However, in the 37’th sloka (The same “Sargam”) Valmiki Maharishi says that king Dasharata ponders over the marriage of his four sons! How many slokas are there in the middle now? Hardly sixteen slokas! We can see here that within just 16 slokas, Valmiki Maharishi has explained 12 years of Lord Rama’s life! Whereas, just for the sake of comparison, if we look into Lord Krishna’s life, His first ten years as a child has been explained in at least 10,000 slokas! If we happen to look into the “Vishnu Puraana” or the “Bhaagawatha Puraana” we would be easily able to calculate the number of slokas explaining Lord Krishna’s childhood days!

We might immediately ask within ourselves as to why this partiality? 🙂 Why didn’t Valmiki Maharishi explain much about Rama’s childhood days? The simple reason is because we never find anything called “Rama-Leela”, whereas we find innumerable instances of “Krishna-Leela”! We all witness lot of people who have their names as “Baala-Krishnan”, but we cannot find anyone with the name “Baala-Raaman”! 🙂 It is because of the simple reason that nobody knows what Lord Rama did in his early childhood! What can be assumed is that the Rama-Avataar is an avatar of “Anushtaana-Pradhaana” (meaning, the focus of the incarnation of Lord Rama is to remind the people of the world about their duties and responsibilities of being a human being), whereas Krishna-Avataar is an “Anubhava-Pradhaana” (meaning, the focus of the incarnation of Lord Krishna is to experience the beauty of the Lord, have fun with Him and get involved and immersed into Him – This itself is another form of Bhakthi). This is the reason why Valmiki Maharishi did not give much importance to the childhood days of Lord Rama – Because, “Anushtaana” comes only with progress in age. Whereas, “Anubhava” comes only with children! Thus, Valmiki Maharishi quickly gives a summary within just 16 slokas saying that Rama and his brothers went to the “Gurukula” (School) of Sage Vasishtaacharya and became an expert in various forms of artillery, bow and arrow, etc. and also learnt the different Vedas and the Shaastras.

Now the stage comes wherein Dasharatha thinks within himself that he has already ruled the kingdom of Ayodhya for over 60,000 years, and it’s time for him to announce Rama as his successor and hence retire from this worldly life. Hence as the first step, Dasharatha starts thinking as to how to get his four sons married – Numerous questions arise in his mind as to how to organize the marriage ceremony? Whom to invite? It is at this point in time Sage Vishwaamithra enters into the palace of Ayodhya!

“Chinthayaamaasa dharmaathmaa sobhaaghyaayacha bhaandhavaaha!

Tasya chinthayamaanasya manthri madhye mahaathmanaha!!

Abhyaagacchan mahaa thejaaha vishwaamithro mahaa munihi!”

Here, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully explains the arrival of Sage Vishwaamithra. He says, while king Dasharatha kept on pondering over the marriage of his four sons amongst his ministers in the courtroom (“Tasya chinthayamaanasya manthri madhye”), Sage Vishwaamithra enters into the palace! Valmiki Maharishi describes Sage Vishwaamithra as “Abhyaagacchan mahaa thejaaha”, which means, “The sage who possesses a great level of Tejas (Charisma)”. Upon the arrival of the great Sage, king Dasharata was extremely filled with joy and happiness and ran to welcome him inside the palace!

What did Sage Vishwaamithra ask king Dasharata? What happened subsequently? Let’s wait to find out in the next episode!

Episode 46 – “Paarathanthriyam” – A more refined form of Bhakthi?

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In the last couple of episodes we discussed in detail, the two major forms of “Bhakthi” (Devotion) that are stressed upon in the Valmiki Ramayana. The first form of “Bhakthi” is being a blind follower of Bhagawan and being totally engrossed into the service (Seva) to the Lord and this is called “Seshathvam”. The second form of Bhakthi is being a follower of Bhagawan, but according to His wish and will. This is called “Paarathanthriyam”. We also saw in due course of the discussion that Lakshmana was an epitome and an embodiment of “Seshathvam” and Bharata was an epitome and an embodiment of “Paaarathanthriyam”. In today’s episode we would be witnessing two important aspects – Firstly we shall discuss the significance of Shathrughna’s birth, and subsequently discuss which form of Bhakthi is better than the other.

So far, we’ve spoken about the purposes of birth of three out of the four brothers – Rama, Lakshmana and Bharata. Now when we talk about the purpose of birth for Shathrughna, it would be interesting that Shathrughna also stood as an epitome of both “Seshathvam” and “Paarathanthriyam”, but not towards Bhagawan. It was towards the “Bhaagawatha” (Devotee of the Lord) – Here in this context, Bharata. Hence we can see here that whatever forms of Bhakthi Lakshmana and Bharata exhibited towards Bhagawan, Shathrughna exhibited the same towards Bharatha – The Bhaagawatha. Thus Shathrugna stands for “Bhaagawatha Seshathvam” and “Bhaagawatha Paarathanthriyam”.

Now we have three forms of Bhakthi in our minds – “Bhagwad Seshathvam”, “Bhagawad Paarathanthriyam”, “Bhaagawadha Seshathvam/Paarathanthriyam”. Which one of the three is the best? Which one of these three is the best one for us to follow? We had already started this discussion a little bit in the last episode – Bharata was in a state of Bhakthi wherein he was ready to do whatever Bhagawan (Lord Rama) wanted him to do! He was prepared to stay away from Rama for fourteen years and was also prepared to be the caretaker of the kingdom till Rama came back to Ayodhya, whereas, Lakshmana was not ready to go to this extent. Lakshmana was steadfast in following Rama to the forest, although Rama tried to stop him from coming along. Hence we can see here that Lakshamana’s primary aim was to exhibit Bhakthi according to his own wish, whereas Bharata’s primary aim was to exhibit Bhakthi according to Bhagawan’s wish. Thus we can infer from the above explanation that, Bharata was one step higher than Lakshmana in terms of devotion! Of course, Lakshmana was deeply involved in the seva to the Lord every minute. I do not deny that fact! However, when it comes to the comparison between the different forms of Bhakthi, it is always said that “Paarathanthriyam” is always one step higher than “Seshathvam”. In other words, “Paarathanthriyam” is a more refined form of Bhakthi as compared to “Seshathvam”.

Now coming to the third form – “Bhaagawatha Seshathvam/Paarathanthriyam”, I’ve already discussed during one of the previous episodes that Bhagawan has a special liking for people who are the devotees of His ardent devotee (Bhaagawatha Bhakthas). If the reader can recollect, I also mentioned one important point during the “Naming Ceremony” – What is the significance of the name “Shathrughna”? He was the only person who defeated the “Shathru” (Enemy) of “Rama-Bhakthi” and stood as an epitome to protect “Bharatha-Bhakthi”. From the above two explanations, it might be inferred that the third form of Bhakthi – “Bhaagwatha Seshathvam/Paarathanthriyam” is the highest form of Bhakthi amongst the three! This is why we say that Lakshmana is one step higher than Rama himself. Bharata is one step higher than Lakshmana and Shathrughna is at the highest order, as compared to the rest of the three brothers! Also, this is one reason why, in most of the “Vaishnava” Literature, we would find the mention of Shathrughna and Bharata as “Shathrughna Aalwaan” and “Bharatha Aalwaan” respectively (The term “Aalwaan” is a kind of respect, just like a “Dr.” for a Medical practitioner in the modern day), whereas we wouldn’t be able to come across this usage as “Lakshmana Aalwaan”. It is because, when compared with “Seshathvam”, “Paarathanthriyam” is a higher order of Bhakthi and hence, “Bharatha – Aalwaan”. Since, “Bhaagawatha Seshathvam/Paarathanthriyam” is of an even higher order, we mention “Shathrughna – Aalwaan”.

Thus, we have now seen the separate purposes of birth of all the four brothers and also the three main forms of Bhakthi. Now it’s time to move on with the story. What happened next? What are the series of events that unfolded after this point? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 45 – The second form of Bhakthi as per Valmiki Ramayana – “Paarathanthriyam”

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In the previous episode, we discussed the deeper meaning of “Seshathvam”, a very important form of Bhakthi, and it’s applicability to modern day life. In the course of the discussion we also saw one of the main reasons why people today suffer from mental depression. We discussed the significance of giving equal priority to both the “Deham” (Physical body & materialistic activities) as well as our “Aathman” (The Inner soul & corresponding spiritual practices). We concluded the last episode by saying that to overcome mental depression, we need to be steadfast in our daily spiritual practices, which would rather lead us to strengthen our focus on our “Aathman” and therefore we would not get doomed very easily by materialistic losses that we might face all through our lives! Thus, this is the main purpose of Lakshmana’s incarnation in this world – To devote one’s life completely in the “Kainkariya” (Seva/Service) to the Lord.

Let’s extend this discussion even further today, before we go into the next form of Bhakthi. Here, a question may arise as to how much time do we devote for Bhagawan everyday? Let’s look at our modern day life schedule for a moment – Every passing day we wake up in the morning, prepare ourselves to go to our school/college/workplace, spend the whole day there and return home by late evening or night. This schedule continues throughout from Monday till Friday. During the weekends, we sleep longer, wake up late on the pretext of being “tired” after a long week of work, do some laundry, household chores, go out for shopping, recreation activities, etc. But what about a little time for Bhagawan, who has created us? Isn’t He entitled for atleast a little bit of our time? Here is someone who has given us everything in this world – A good family, a good job, good parents, etc. Some of you might ask immediately – How can you say that He has given me a good job? The answer here is very simple: There are countless number of people in this world who suffer because of unemployment, and at this stage, we all have good jobs that are good sources of legitimate income! This one answer is enough to put an end to this debate! However, some people might argue that, it is only because I had qualified myself enough and I’m having this job today – Let’s think for a moment here. How many youngsters who are well qualified and are still in the lookout for a decent job to make a living? There are aplenty! Thus, only if we explore in this way, we would realize that many a time in our life, we would never be able to justify that it is only because of our efforts that we have a luxurious life today! Indeed, we have to realize that we are blessed by Bhagawan to lead such wonderful lives, without many hassles! Hence it is very important for all of us to realize this point and allocate some time in our daily routine schedule for Bhagawan and perform our spiritual practices regularly! It is also important that we all need to bold and courageous to undertake the path of “Aatma-Chinthanam”. Our worldly life and spiritual life should find an amicable balance between each other, and if all these fall in place, I’m sure that none of us would suffer from any form of mental depression ever in our lives and we shall maintain our divine happiness always and forever!

Now let’s move on further. So far we’ve seen the significance of Lord Rama and Lakshmana’s birth. Now let’s see the significance of Bharata’s birth. Why did Bharata incarnate? What did he preach to the world? Bharata stood as an epitome of another form of Bhakthi called “Paarathanthriyam”! What is “Paarathanthriyam”? It means that we as devotees should be always associated with Bhagawan in all ways. Bharata lived in a way that he was ready to do whatever Bhagawan wanted him to do – He was ready to remain in Ayodhya even when Lord Rama undertook the fourteen years of exile. When Rama said to Bharata that he had to rule the kingdom of Ayodhya till Rama comes back, Bharata never spoke a word against it. Hence, we can see here that Bharata was devoted to the Lord in a way that he was ready to act only as per Bhagawan’s wish. He was ready to execute whatever Lord Rama wanted him to do! This form of Bhakthi is called “Paarathanthriya”. Lakshmana might not accept to this extent – Because, the moment Rama advised Lakshmana that he should remain at Ayodhya during the fourteen year period, Lakshmana was adamant and followed Rama to the forest. Thus here we can see the difference between the two forms of Bhakthi. When we talk about “Seshathvam”, Lakshmana was keen to be of service to the Lord blindly, whereas when we talk about “Paarathanthriyam”, we see that Bharata was keen to be of service to the Lord, “according to the Lord’s wish”! The difference needs to be noted very carefully here!

After knowing these two forms of Bhakthi, you may ask me as to which path of Bhakti to we follow in our everyday life? Which is better – Seshathvam or Paarathanthriyam? Which form of Bhakti does Bhagawan like the most? Let’s find out the answers in the next episode!

Episode 44 – An extended discussion on “Seshathvam” – Why do many people suffer from mental depression today?

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In the previous episode, we started to look into the main purposes of the birth of the four brothers – Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna, and in the course of yesterday’s discussion we saw the significance of Lord Rama and Lakshmana’s birth. In a nutshell, Lord Rama’s purpose behind taking birth at Ayodhya was to re-establish the Dharma that the youngsters must obey the words of elders. Lakshmana’s birth was to highlight a very important form of Bhakthi (Devotion) termed as “Seshathvam”. We witnessed the meaning of “Seshathvam” in the previous episode, that is, to be of selfless service to Bhagawan at every moment in one’s life. Lakshmana stood as an epitome of this form of Bhakthi, wherein he spent the fourteen-year period of exile by offering himself completely at the disposal of Lord Rama at every moment!

Today, let’s extend this discussion on “Seshathvam” to the modern day. To begin with, let’s ask within ourselves – Are we incorporating this “Seshathvam” in our daily life? Are we allocating some time for Bhagawan in our everyday schedule? In most of our cases, the answer to the above questions is a big “NO”! Each one of us face numerous problems in our daily life – Some of us suffer for the want of money, some suffer because of family problems, some suffer because they feel cheated by friends, business partners, some of us may not even know if we would be having a good job tomorrow or not, and such likes. Ultimately, we see that all of us has some issue or the other going on in our lives everyday and because of this, we tend to feel low, dull and are off mood many a time – This ultimately leads us over a period of time to some acute problems like mental depression. Many of us do suffer this problem today and people do take medications for all this.

But the basic question here is, why does all this happen to us? Why do we hear numerous complaints from people saying that they suffer from depression? Here are my answers to the above questions: We undergo numerous sufferings because of two main reasons – Firstly, the modern way of life: We keep running and running right from morning till evening. But if someone stops us and asks the reason why we run, most of the time, the answer would be “I don’t know”!! Many a times, we don’t even realize the reason why we run with so much of tension, but we still keep running! Secondly, in most of our cases, we do not plan our way of life properly. We do not know how to prioritize our life according to our needs. For instance, we need to give equal priority to our “Aathman” (Inner soul) and our “Deham” (Physical Body). (We should realize the fact that, whatever we run for in this materialistic world is all pertaining to satisfy our “Deham”, which is nothing but our physical body). In fact, as we progress in life, we should give more priority to the “Aathman” and lesser priority to our “Deham” – If I start talking about this philosophy now, all of you may not evince interest to read my blog posts further from tomorrow! 🙂 🙂 However, we need to start from somewhere, isn’t it? We should at least start giving equal priority to our “Deham” as well as “Aathman”. With respect to the “Aathman” we should perform a certain set of duties, as we do with respect to our “Deham”. But if we focus our entire time only in satisfying the needs of our “Deham” and if we never allocate and dedicate even a miniscule amount of time for our “Aathman”, when there is some problem in meeting the needs of the “Deham”, the entire world around us seems to shake up and we start feeling depressed! It is because, we do not think of anything else other than satisfying the needs and pleasures of our physical body, and at any point of time, if we are not able to satisfy our worldly and materialistic needs due to whatsoever reasons, we completely cut off from everything and start to feel lonely and depressed! Whereas, if we have the “Aathma-Chinthana” (Thought about the Inner soul) and the “Deha-Chinthana” (Thought about the materialistic needs) together, even if we face some problems in this materialistic world, our “Aathma-Chinthana” can protect us from getting upset and depressed! This is how we start realizing that Bhagawan is always with us and He never lets us down at any moment!

Now having explained this, I’m sure every one of us will definitely agree to the fact that “Aathma-Chinthana” is important in our daily lives. But the problem is that, we do not know how to prioritize our time for “Aathma-Chinthana”. We desire to achieve numerous things in this world, and along with that, we should also desire to achieve “Aathma-Chinthana”, and this desire should be inculcated within us individually. There might arise another question here: Why are we not getting this desire of “Aathma-Chinthana” so easily? My interpretation here is very simple: We explore a lot that pertains to “Deha-Chinthana” and thus we focus our interest only into that. Whereas, we never tend to explore anything about the “Aathman” and this is where the problem lies! Only if we realize the significance of our “Aathman” and only when we realize that our “Aathman” is full of bliss and unending divine happiness, we would develop that interest and desire towards focusing on our “Aathma-Chinthana”. Is there a way to realize the significance of the “Aathman”? Here is why our ancestors stressed on the importance of our regular spiritual practices. If we follow this regularly in our every day life, I’m sure we can develop the “Aathma-Chinthana” in a big way, and thus we would be able to connect ourselves to Bhagawan easily! And if we meticulously try to incorporate this in our life, it would be the greatest solution for all our modern day problems pertaining to mental depression! Hence, starting today, let’s make a conscious effort in following this in our every day life!

Now having discussed the form of “Seshathvam” in detail, we should move into the next form of Bhakthi. What is that? What was the main purpose of Bharata’s incarnation in this world? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out the answers!

Episode 43 – Two main forms of “Bhakthi” as described in Valmiki Ramayana – The form of “Seshathvam”

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In the previous episode we witnessed that Lord Rama along with his three brothers took birth at Ayodhya as the sons of King Dasharata. In that course we discussed a very important significance of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of Rama. Also, towards the end of the last episode we witnessed quickly that these four children spent their next twelve years in the “Gurukula” (The ancient concept of a school) under the able mentorship of Sage Vashishtaachaarya.

As the four children started growing up, their bonding with each other increased manifold and were extremely unique compared to other students in the ashram of Sage Vashishtaachaarya. In what way were these brothers unique? The answer is very simple – It is the “Bhakthi” (Devotion) that set these four brothers apart! You might all ask me, how can “Bhakthi” set them apart? Whom they were all devoted to? In what way they were devoted? To answer all these coherent questions, at this point, I remember two important philosophical ideas pertaining to different forms of Bhakthi. Let’s discuss one of them in today’s episode and the next one tomorrow.

Let’s now get back to the Valmiki Ramayana text. In this context, once the four children were born Valmiki Maharishi explains the purpose behind the birth of each of the four children – Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shathrugna. Valmiki Maharishi says the following:

“Raamasya lokha raamasya praahurjeshtasya nithyashaha!

Sarvappriyakarastasya raamasyaapi shareerathaha!!”

As we all know, Rama was the “Jeshta-Braatha” (Meaning, the eldest of all). The main purpose of Rama’s incarnation is to re-establish in this world, the “Dharma” that the youngsters should pay heed and obey the words of their elders. For instance, a son should obey the words of his father, a student should obey the words of his teacher, a younger brother should obey the words of his elder brother and in this way, the words of an elderly person should be obeyed by the people who are younger. In order to establish and re-establish this “Dharma”, Lord Rama incarnated in this world.

The next was Lakshmana – What is the main purpose behind Lakshmana’s incarnation? The answer to this question is that, Lakshmana was born in this world to be an epitome of an important idea of “Bhakthi” called “Seshathvam”. What is this “Seshathvam”? It simply means being a “Sevaka” to Bhagawan. In other words it means that, being of service to the Lord is the only purpose of this human life.

To describe this idea further, let me start this way: For instance, if someone asks us who is the “Aatman” (Inner soul)? I had spoken about this in previous episodes; however, let’s remind ourselves with this important concept. If someone points to a table and asks us what is this? We would immediately reply that it is a table! If someone points to an apple and asks us what is this? We would again immediately reply that it is a fruit by name “apple”. However, if someone asks a question, “What is ‘Aatman’? What will our answer be? The answer should be, the “Aatman” (inner soul) is “Nyaathruthvam” – means, the “Aathman” is an embodiment of the supreme knowledge of the Divine. It doesn’t stop here. Secondly, the “Aathman” is “Aanandamayathvam” – Means, the “Aatman” is an embodiment of unending divine happiness and bliss. There is also a third important explanation here – The “Aatman” is nothing but the one that is bounded to Bhagawan completely. If there is one way to generalize all the “Aatmans” in this world, we can say that all of them are Bhagawan’s “Sesha-Bhoothaas” (Soldiers of Bhagawan, waiting to obey his commands).

Thus, we can infer the meaning of the term “Seshathvam” from the above explanation. What is “Seshathvam”? It is nothing but the “Aatman” being in complete service (Seva) to the Lord. This is why we see that, Lakshmana was with Lord Rama every minute and especially during the fourteen years of exile in the forest, he obeyed each and every word of Lord Rama and offered his selfless service day and night! Thus we can see here that Lakshmana was an epitome of the idea that the purpose of birth of a “Jeevaathma” was to be of service to the “Paramaathma” (Bhagawan). This is called “Seshathvam”.

For today, let’s limit our understanding to this point. Do we really follow this concept of “Seshathvam” today in our daily lives? How can we incorporate this form of Bhakthi into our everyday routine? Let us wait to find out the answers for these important questions in the next episode!

Episode 42 – Rama at the “Gurukula” of Sage Vasishtaacharya!

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In the previous episode we had seen that King Dasharata was blessed with four sons and the naming ceremony for the newborns were held in grand fashion at Ayodhya. The babies were named “Rama”, “Lakshmana”, “Bharata” and “Shathrughna” by Sage Vasishtacharya, the “Kula Guru” of the entire Ikshvaaku Dynasty. Hence, with the request of the Devas (the celestial beings) and Lord Brahma, we finally see here that the Lord has incarnated. Many of us might know this famous sloka from the “Bhagawad Gita” where Lord Krishna himself says:

“Parithraanaaya saadhuunaam vinaashaayacha dushkruthaam!

Dharma samsthaabhanaarthaaya sambhavaami yuge yuge!!”

Here, Lord Krishna says that in each “Yuga” (Can be somewhat equated to “Age”), he would incarnate on this world for the following purposes: To protect the “Saadhus” (Good people), to destroy the evil (Bad elements). Bhagawan from his abode of Vaikunta itself can easily perform these above-mentioned two purposes. However there is a third important function of Bhagawan’s incarnation – To establish/re-establish the “Dharma” (Righteousness) in the world. It is for this main purpose that Bhagawan incarnates in this world every time! In that way, with respect to Lord Vishnu we see ten major “Avataars” (Incarnations) that He has taken in this world. Of course, there are many more, but for our understanding, our great sages have widely spoken about the main ten. Here is a beautiful “paasuram” of Thirumangai Aalwaar in Tamil, explaining the significance of the Rama-Avatar.

“Meenoodu aamai kezhal ari kuralaai!

Munnumi raamanaai thaanaai pinnumi raamanaai thaamotharanaai kalkiyum aanaar!!”

Here, Thirumangai Aalwaar brings our all the ten avataars of Lord Vishnu from just one paasuram. He says, “Meenoodu” (Matsya Avataar – in the form of a fish) “Aamai” (Koorma Avataar – in the form of a tortoise) “Kezhal” (Varaaha Avataar in the form of a boar) “Ari” (Narasimha Avataar – in the form of a “Half-lion, Half-Human) “Kuralaai” (Vaamana Avatar – in the form of a short brahmin boy)”. In the second line he uses a very interesting analogy to describe the rest of the incarnations: “Munnumi raaman” means, “Parasuraama”, which is the incarnation before the “Raama-Avataar”, “Pinnumi raaman” means, “Balaraama”, which is the incarnation after the “Raama-Avataar”. Of course all of us would be familiar with the last two incarnations – “Thaamotharan” means Lord Krishna and the final “Kalki” avatar is yet to take place in this Kali Yuga.

It is very interesting to note in the above “paasuram” that, for every “avatar” he had mentioned the corresponding names of all of them, but when he mentions the “Rama-Avatar” he uses a word called “Thaanaai”. One might pose a question here: Is “Thaanaai” a right word here? If a Tamil poetry should be correct, it should have been “Munnumi raamanaai Naduvinil raamanaai Pinnumi raamanaai…” But in the actual paasuram it is mentioned as Munnumi raamanaai Thaanaai pinnumi raamanaai…” Why has he used the word “Thaanaai” here? Here’s a beautiful explanation for it. In Tamil, the word “Thaanaai” means “Self” or “Volunteering”, etc. Thus with this meaning, we can infer that, Bhagawan Vishnu “voluntarily” and “lovingly” incarnated as Lord Rama in this world. In other words, whatever paths of Dharma he wanted to show and preach to this world, He did everything clearly and set himself as the role model for all of us to follow! This is the reason why the “Rama-Avatar” is extremely significant!

It was during the “Tretha Yuga” that Lord Rama incarnated. Till now, we have seen His birth as the darling son to Kaushalya Devi and king Dasharata. This is why Lord Rama is fondly called as “Dasharataatmaja”. Now when we move forward, it is quite interesting to note from the Valmiki Ramayana text that Valmiki Maharishi has directly and very quickly moved twelve years of Lord Rama’s life in a jiffy! In the eighteenth “Sarga” (Chapter) of the “Baala-Kaanda” he talks about Lord Rama’s birth and in the same chapter towards the end he says that Sage Vishwaamithra enters Ayodhya. If Sage Vishwaamithra has entered into the context it means that the auspicious wedding between Lord Rama and Sita Devi is not very far off! According to the Baala-Kaanda, Lord Rama’s wedding has taken place on the fifteenth day after Sage Vishwaamithra takes Rama along with him. It is only in the meanwhile, within around eighteen slokas, Valmiki Maahrishi says that Rama and his brothers were sent by King Dasharata to the ashram of Sage Vasishtaachaarya and all the four brothers did their “Gurukula-Vaasa” wherein, they were inculcated with all the required education – They were trained for artillery, bow and arrow and different kinds of fighting as a “Kshathrya” prince and also on the scriptures like Vedas and Upanishads. Thus, at the age of twelve, Rama and his brothers became proficient with all the required skills and competencies to rule the kingdom of Ayodhya after their father.

It is at this stage when Sage Vishwaamithra comes to Ayodhya seeking King Dasharatha’s help. What help did Sage Vishwaamithra want? What happened after that? Here is where we pick up the story from now! Let’s also wait till the next episode to commence!