sri mahadeva uvaca tato jaganmangalamangalatmana vidhaya ramayanakirtimuttamam cacara purvacaritam raghuttamo myatha.
Sri Mahadeva Said :
Thereafter, the great hero of the Ramayana, the best among the Raghus – the glory of the universe ever blessing the world of creatures – organized his life into a program of intense tapa, as lived earlier by the royal saints in his own dynasty.
Kailasa. Springtime. A dim crescent moon imperceptibly floats against the snowy peaks of the sacred Himalayas. Lord Siva has just emerged out of deep meditation and smiles at his devoted consort, Parvati.
When Lord Mahadeva is in the higher states of meditation, his consort. Sri Gauri, though ever wedded to him feels out of contact with him. Rare are the moments when the Lord comes down to play in his lower state to contact his greatest devotee and sevika, Sri Parmesvari. Seeing him at a level where she can easily hug his personality and desiring to hold him at that level before he next soars into the Higher. Parvati asks a question regarding a theme that is ever fascinating to Lord Siva – the life of Sri Rama. It is well known that in the heart of Siva dwells Rama, and in the heart of Rama Siva is ever present.
Perhaps Lord Siva has many a time told the story of Sri Rama to his consort, and she knows very well how dear that theme is to the heart of Mahadeva. So she asks : “After making the inhuman sacrifice at the altar of his royal duty as a king and after deserting his pregnant and innocent queen Sita near the ashram of Valmiki, how did Rama continue his life ?” As king, Rama had to attend to his administrative duties and live in is luxurious palace, surrounded by his ministers and courtiers. Physically, he had to live as if nothing had happened. The foolish demand of the people had been fulfilled, and the spirit of democracy had been maintained. The inquisitive Mother of the Universe wants to know from Lord Siva the life-style that Rama adopted after this terrible personal tragedy.
It is under these circumstancs that the facile pen of Vyasa set to work. The fifth chapter of his Adhyatma Ramayana contains the exquisite Vedantic poem called Sri Ram Gita, which holds Lord Siva’s answer to his consort’s question :
Prompted by Parvati’s inquiry, Siva with an irresistible enthusiasm, eloquently explains that in the midst of the luxurious life at his palace in Ayodhya, Rama lived in total penance (tapas), just as his ancestors had lived, and earned the worthy title of “royal saint” (raja rsi).
Rama, popularly known as Ramacandra, was the son of dasaratha. Rama’s name derives from the Sanskrit rama, which means “that which revels in every form.” (ramate sarva bhutesu, sthavaresu caresu ca) “that” being the Self, the higher Reality in us.
saumitrina prsta udarabuddhina ramah kathah praha puratanih subhah ramah kathah praha puratanih subhah rajnah pramattasya nrgasya sapato dvijasya tiryaktvamathaha raghavah.
At the request of the large-hearted Laksmana, son of Samitra, Rama told him many gracious and ancient stories, such as the story of the in advertent King Nrga, who, when cursed by a brahmin, became a chameleon.
Continuing, Lord Mahadeva, as though seeing in his mental vision the scene in the palace, describes how Rama told his beloved brother many ancient stories, emphasizing the right values of life and the tremendous pit-falls and unavoidable injustices one is compelled to suffer in the world of plurality. In the present state of consciousness, life around him can never be without its contradictions, confusions, and compelling compromises. Truth in all its glory and purity can be lived only in the higher planes of consciousness.
Rama seems to have emphasized the story of King Nrga. It was ridiculously unjust. The sufferer was totally innocent. Yet, he had to live and suffer:
King Nrga, on all auspicious occasions, would invite many learned pundits and poor brahmins and distribute cattle to them. (In those days, before the existence of money, cattle was wealth.) One old brahmin also received some cattle as a gift.
Somehow, one of the cows in his share strayed away from the herd and instinctively mingled with the thousands of cattle in the king’s herd. On the next auspicious occasion, the king again away cattle to the poor, and it so happened that the cow that was given to the brahmin and had strayed away and later returned to the king’s herd was again part of the king’s gift, this time to a new recipient. This was a totally unintentional mistake, but the old brahmin was not forgiving, and the king was cursed to become a chameleon.
The story has an intimate reference to the immediate personal suffering of Sri Rama, although it is not clear whether Laksmana received the message. Through stories such as this, elementary students of Vedanta are trained to recognize, appreciate, and come to live the nobler values of life. Everywhere, value-oriented educational systems best follow this technique; there is no other way in which we can impart healthy moral values to the growing generation. Values and principles of living are too subtle for a young mind that does not have thorough schooling in the experiences of life. But when these subtle values of life are concretized in the form of stories, they are readily taken in, easily digested, fully assimilated, and comfortably absorbed by the student.
kadacidekanta upasthitam prabhum ramam ramalalitapadapankajam saumitrirasaditasuddhabhsvanah pranamya bhaktya vinayanvito ‘bravit
Upon seeing Lord Ramacandra, (who is none other than Lord Visnu), whose feet are everadored and served by, Laksmi, sitting all alone, Laksmana, the son of Sumitra, whose heart was extremely purified (through selfless service), after prostrating to the Lord in deep devotion, humbly asked :
One day, free from administrative duties and programs of his severe spiritual sadhana, Rama was sitting relaxed under a tree in the garden, all alone, listening to the noisy orchestra of birds gathering to roost upon the trees for the night, when his brother Laksmana approached him.
After fourteen years of a perfect life of self-control, every moment of which was spent in selfless service to Rama and his life’s work, the spiritual seeker Laksmana has already gained a steady mind, undisturbed by the pressure of vasanas in him. A mind that has been thus steadied is an instrument fit for seeking the spiritual dimension of life through contemplation.
The brother did not dash into the presence of Rama shouting a cheery “Hi!” as a loving brother would, but he approached Sri Rama as a devoted disciple should. With great reverence and humility., surrendering himself to the Lord’s gracious will, humble and dedicated, the devotee in him asked Sri Rama.
tvam suddhabodho ‘si hi sarvadehina –matmasyadhiso’so nirakrtih svayam pratiyase jnanadrsam mahamate padabjbhrngahitasangasanginam.
O wise one ! You are, indeed, pure Knowledge, the Self of all beings, the Lord of all, but in Yourself Yo are formless, You are seen by those men who are endowed with the eye of wisdom and are attached to the company of Your devotees who court Your lotus feet, like the bees.
Laksmana was not considering Rama as a physical entity, who has relationships qualities. Sri Rama, the great warrior, the benevolent king on the throne of Ayodhya, was Laksmana’s own blood brother, now living in dignified sorrow at his tragic bereavement. But Laksmana had penetrated deeper than this superficial person, the delusory name and form, and in his devoted heart recognized the inner spiritual significance of Sri Rama, the paramatman, the supreme Self. He not only recognized it, but he openly acknowledged it and declared : “You are nothing but the pure light of Consciousness in which Knowledge – not knowledge of something, but pure Knowledge in the light of which all other knowledges are rendered possible.”
This seat of Consciousness is the flame of life, the enlivening Presence in the heart of all living beings, the one Self in all. So long as Consciousness is present in us, our sense organs, mind, and intellect function. This Self enlivens everything. Where Consciousness is not, all physical, mental, intellectual, and even our spiritual activities cease to be, and hence Consciousness is the sole proprietor, owner, master, and boss of the universe. It is the supreme Lord of the world vividly throbbing in the fields of time and space.
Laksmana was saying to Rama: “In your essential nature, as the supreme Consciousness, you are formless.” Form is possible only to the limited. When something is conditioned by something else, it possesses a form. Space, being all-pervading, has no form. Pure Consciousness, being beyond the body, mind, and intellect equipments, is deconditioned from everything, and therefore this unconditioned Self can only be formless.
The Laksmana continued: “ Yet, as those who are ever devoted to you (Rama) gather mental purity, they come to apprehend your true spiritual nature, arriving at the state of Knowledge (jnana). The dreamer in the dream state apprehends the dream; the sleeper in the sleep state apprehends sleep; the spiritual seeker in the spiritual state apprehends the pure spirit (jnana darsana).”
As a result of steady contemplation upon the deep significance of the great statements such as “That thou art.” the mind leaves all its preoccupations with its familiar world of objects, emotions, and thoughts and starts exclusively contemplating upon Brahman. This state of mind unfolds a unique faculty of perception – the eye of wisdom – with which the seeker “perceives” the state of the pure Self, which is Sri Rama’s real nature.
aham prapanno’smi padambujam prabho bhavapavargam tava yogibhavitam yathanjasajnanamaparavaridhim sukham tarisyami tathanusadhi mam
O Lord ! I am surrendering at Your lotus feet, upon which yogis contemplate and which can liberate one from the bondage of time. Please teach me the quickest means by which I can cross the shoreless ocean of ignorance, comfortably.
The previous verse declared the student’s acceptance of the teacher as more than a mere person or individual: he recognized in him the very presence of the infinite Self. This kind of a glorification of the teacher is beneficial to the student because the physical presence of the teacher becomes to him a symbol to remind him of the final goal and destination,, the Self. Secondly, it also turns the teacher’s beam of special attention upon the student. Thus, a mutual tuning-in can be brought about between the teacher and the taught for ready and easy communication.
In the Indian tradition, extreme importance is given to showing respect and reverence at the feet of the Lord, and again at the feet of those we love and respect – “touching the feet” of the elders. The teacher stands rooted in Truth. Since the student cannot directly reach this subtle and transcendental Reality, the best he can do is worship the Truth upon a symbol nearest to it, the teacher’s feet, upon which he stands, just as he stands rooted in Truth. Sri Rama’s feet are the object of contemplation of every devoted seeker, every developed spiritual seeker in his seat of meditation.
Time is the medium in which the world of plurality comes to play. The equipments of experience, the body-mind-intellect; our fields of experience, objects-emotions-thoughts; and even the very experience, the perceiver-feeler-thinker, all exist and function in time, Time is ever changing, and therefore everything in time must also constantly change. Caught up in the present state of consciousness as we are, we can exist and function only in the realm of time in the world of change. Nothing is permanent; every experience is ephemeral. Thus, our individual selves are tossed about mercilessly in this endless tide of time. To establish ourselves in the contemplation upon the Lord’s feet is to enter into a harbor safely away from the tyranny of time.
Laksmana, the student and disciple, after surrendering thus to Rama, his teacher, demanded knowledge and help. He wanted to know what is the quickest means for going beyond the ocean of ignorance.
It is a trick of the human mind – perceptible everywhere and to everyone – that when we don’t know the real nature of something, in our nonapprehension our minds project a newly created reality, and we experience misapprehensions. On a dark, moonless night, when we come across a misshapen post at the roadside, we may not apprehend it properly in the dim light and therefore convince ourselves that we are seeing a ghost: the nonapprehension of the post gives rise to the misapprehension of a grinning, frightening ghost. The noapprehension of Reality given us the misapprehension that we are the limited, tired, sorrowful individual (ego). This nonapprehension of Reality and the consequent misapprehensions of the same are together termed ignorance (ajnana) in the subjective science of Vedanta.
Laksmana has pointedly asked what is the quickest means by which one can cross over this shoreless ocean of ignorance, comfortably and effortlessly (sukham). “Teach me that path, instruct me upon this secret means, guide me. O Teacher, to the yonder shores of this boundless state of ignorance.”