Ram-Gita: Introduction

Head bent low in deep thoughts, he was walking up and down the length of the carpeted hall. There was an un- usual silence in the palace that morning. The birds sat brooding, totally forgetting to chirrup their gleeful welcome to the clear dawn. King Ramacandraji was lost in his thoughts. The conflict within him was becoming un- bearable: his love and his duty, his personal just opinion and the unjust criticism of the public were tearing him asunder. He knew that his consort, dear Sita, was the most chaste, honest, and loving wife, but his subjects had questioned Sita's moral purity. He had to remember that Sita was not only his consort but also the queen of his subjects in Ayodhya.

As king he had to fulfill the wishes of his subjects. As husband he wanted Srta to be with him, after all the many years of their exile and Sita's extreme sufferings in the Ashoka Forest of Lanka.

But he was the king. As king he was the servant of his subjects and was duty-bound to submit to the wishes of the people of his land.

Time stood still. In the restless sorrows of indecision, the man in him did not clearly know the duty of the king in him.

He paused at the open window, watching the sunrise. Then suddenly he bristled into a decision. His heart was throbbing with sorrow, but his head was cool and deter- mined. A king had to make sacrifices in order to rule effectively and administer law and justice.

"Who's there?" he thundered. The soldier outside the door respectfully entered the royal hall, saluted, and stood at attention. Sri Ramacandraji took a long breath, cleared his throat, and said, "Go and inform Laksmana that I want him here immediately." The soldier bowed and, walking backwards, left the room quietly.

Sri Rama started walking up and down in determined steps.

Slightly panting in his hurry, Laksmana walked into the presence of his devoted brother and bowed down in utter reverence. Anxiety and curiosity played on his face; traces of fear were in his eyes.

Very lovingly, almost in an apologetic tone, Rama said, "Now they all must have had their breakfast. Sita was expressing a wish to go back to the Rishi Ashram that we had traveled through during our days of exile. Get the chariot ready and take Sita out into the forest. There drive to some place near the Saint Valmiki Ashram. And .. . near Valmiki Ashram . . . take STta . . . and leave her there . .. drive the empty chariot to reach here as quickly as pos- sible."

"But, Brother! Why? She is pregnant! Why? How can I...?"

"Stop it!" roared Rama. He came near Laksmana, embraced him, lifted his tearful face, and with a rare seriousness looked deep into his eyes and said in a soft, penetrating voice, "If you say anything more, you will be murdering me here and now. It was not easy for me to come to this decision, but it has to be done. You go and do what I want you to do and come back soon."

Weeping silently, wondering at the cruelty in his brother's harsh command, Laksmana left.

Later, after performing his painful duty, a confused Laksmana returned to the palace. Shattered within, con- fused in his thinking, desperate in the contradictory emo- tions surging within him, he felt totally broken down and was drowning in his own dejection and despair. Days passed.

One day, hesitantly, Laksmana approached Rama while he was sitting alone. He asked Rama about the morality - the beauty and ugliness - that is inherent in all actions that man can and does undertake. The exhaustive discourse given out by Sri Rama, the perfect mystic, in response to his dear brother's question is called Rama-Gita.

These sixty-two verses of Sri Rama-Gita are found in Veda Vyasa's Adhyatma Ramayana, in the Uttarakanda, as its fifth chapter. It is conceived in the literary style called Pauranic. The text, popularly known as Sri Rama-Gita, is also often described as sruti-sara-sangraha, a brief summary of the very essence of all the Vedas.

Sri Rama GJta is a truly authentic exposition of Vedanta. Implicitly following his usual technique, so familiar in the Bhagavad-Gita, Vyasa puts this poem into the mouth of Sri Ramachandra himself; Laksmana, who had purified his personality through years of selfless service to his divinely righteous brother, is the disciple listening to Sri Rama's words.

Since the pure-hearted Laksmana is the listener and Sri Rama himself the teacher, the discussion soars to vivid heights of subtlety. In short, this is no elementary textbook; indeed, it is a postgraduate text, given out to a highly spiritual student. Laksmana-like students alone can comprehend the truths expounded herein:

Reality is most ancient because the world of things and beings came from Him alone. Thus, He, the Father of the Universe, is more ancient than time. This "ancient Purusa'91 is the theme of all scriptures, including Sri Rama Gita. In it, Sri Rama talks about this eternal, timeless Essence in all of us, the Self.

The sanctity of the text, the thoroughness of the delivery, the depth of suggestion, and the sublimity of the goal pointed out are all rendered valid and eloquently clear because of the spiritual perfection in Sri Rama, the teacher, and the glorious personality of his lifelong devotee, Laksmana, the disciple.

The style of the Puranas is to relate philosophical truths through the vehicle of stories, telescoped one into the other. In Sn Rama-Gita, Parvati, the consort of Siva, requests him to describe what happened to Sri Rama after he had banished his pregnant and innocent queen, Sita. Thus, we are not privileged to listen directly to the divine discourse of Sri Rama as he gave it out to Laksmana. Instead, we hear this Rama-Laksmana discussion through the words of Lord Paramesvara as he reports it to his inquisitive consort. Mother Paramesvari. This reminds us of the Vyasa technique in the Bhagavad-Gita, where we hear the Krsna-Arjuna discussions through the words of Sanjay.

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