Self-Growth by study of Ramayana
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    Self-Growth by study of Ramayana


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    Ramayana is one of the greatest epic the world has ever known. It is seemingly based on historical events and embellished with the poetic license of its original poet Valmiki.


    Sri Rama Navami is celebrated over several millennia and Sri Rama is worshipped as Bhagavan.


    In this thread, my intent is to share few messages from Ramayana that can possibly lead to one's self growth.


    A great thing about Hindu tradition and the Hindu religion overall is that it is not based on 'one size fits all' approach. Based on the nature and preparedness of the audience, scriptures are available that anyone can relate to.


    If we look at ourselves we are endowed with three distinct capacities.


    1. Ability to act using our hands, legs, and speech etc. (physical power)
    2. Ability to emote and express our likes and dislikes even if they are not supported by reasons (Power of desires and emotions)
    3. Ability to think which could lead to discriminative thinking and wisdom (Power of intellect and Viveka)

    Corresponding to each of these capacities, we have scriptures that teach 'how to use these powers' for our growth . For example:


    - Power to act : We have rituals prescribed in detail in the Vedas
    - Power to emote : We have Puranic stories that can help develop a devotional sense to relate to Bhagavan
    - Power of Viveka and thinking : We have Upanishads that teach the true nature and purpose of human life


    Depending on Adhikari-beda, namely differences in the audience and their preparedness one can relate to one of more of the above. For most part, the messages of each of the above are very different and yet at another level are not contradictory.


    Ramayana has a message regardless of where one is in their relationship to Isvara.


    In this thread, I just want to share few examples using the story of Ramayana as to how it can teach us how to act, help develop our emotive capacity to relate to Bhagavan in our lives and offer supporting insights about how the story of Ramayana communicates the seminal teachings of the Upanishad.


    Om Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram
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    When will you start?
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    A human being like all life forms is a conscious being.


    Consciousness expresses itself as our power to know (Jnana Shakthi) that enable us understand, and as our power to feel emotions such as desire (Iccha Shakthi). Both of the above enables us to speak and act with our hands and legs (Kriya Shakthi).


    This Jnana shakthi in turn powers our sense organs enabling perception, powers our intellect to reason and powers our capacity to be wise by enabling our sense of discriminatory thinking (Viveka). If our life is guided by this power of discriminatory thinking, our speech and actions naturally conform to a conflict free life.


    The entire story of Ramayana rests on one premise - the power of the spoken word.


    King Dasharatha gave a 'word' in terms of certain boons to one of his wives Kaikeyi and that too in the setting of a battlefield.
    Later after many years Kaikeyi insists on using the promises made as boons and tells the old King to send his loving son Sri Rama who is about to be coronated to the forest for 14 years and crown her own son instead.


    There was not any witness to this incident of the boon being given by Dasharatha. It was given a very long time ago. There could have been ample means to re-interpret the promise or spin the word or deny what was offered.


    The great and powerful king was simply bound by the power of his own word. He could not bring himself to deny or lie. He was willing to die and in fact died but could not bring himself to go back on a word given many years ago which had no other witnesses.


    Even more significant, Sri Rama honored those words given by his father and went to the forest without any questions in his mind. In fact, poet Valmiki describes in a moving manner how Sri Rama prepares to go to forest. He liquidates voluntarily all his possessions lest there is any doubt one anyone's part of his intent of coming back. His commitment to keep his father's word is total.




    The story illustrates how human beings have to learn to live with Integrity which is much more than honesty. In the word of Stephen Covey, "Honesty is telling the truth—in other words, conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words—in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. This requires an integrated character, a oneness, primarily with self but also with life”


    The story also illustrates how Sri Rama is unwavering in his convictions. He is not bothered by the challenge or fear of being committed to the forest. He is not worried that he is not being loved or displays any insecurity. His integrity is enabled by total clarity of what is needed to be done and how to conform to Dharma.


    In today's life, it is rare to find people of integrity who act in alignment with Dharma especially in the face of adversity. There is also lack of clarity as to what Dharma is. Story of Ramayana teaches in a compelling manner what it means to lead a life of Dharma.


    In today's world, where the edict is 'end justifies the means', some have questioned the need to pay so much price to keep one's word.




    If the powerful king Dasharatha or Sri Rama had refused or re-interpreted the promise, story of Ramayana as we know would not have happened.


    By keeping the word, the great King died, Sri Rama went to the forest, and lost his wife to a kidnapper. The war that followed killed many.


    Now is it all really worth the price of keeping one's word?


    We see all around us people that seem to get away and get ahead with lies. Is following Dharma just a myth? Why should one act in accordance with Dharma in the face of adversity?

    To be continued ...
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    Well the story goes that Dasharatha had promised Kaikeyis father that her son would be King but Dasharatha tried to go back on his word and coronate Rama when Bharatha was at his maternal uncles kingdom.

    So Dasharatha was no big Sathyvan to have kept his promise..he tried to not instal Bharata as the actual promise he made to Kaikeyis father.

    So technically Dasharatha had no choice..he had to keep his word..in fact Kaikeyi didnt even need to ask the 1st boon to install Bharata cos that was no boon..it was an earlier made promise that Dasharatha did not want to keep.

    When one reads Ramayan one starts to wonder why Dasharatha sort of prefered Bharatha to be away at his maternal uncle Yudhajit's kingdom most of the time.

    In Ramayan ..Kaikeyi does lament that Dasharatha never bonded with Bharata.

    Dasharatha was a person who practiced favortism.

    He favored Kaikeyi over other wives..Kaushalya cries to Rama saying Dasharatha is partial and if Rama is not king..she would just be like a maid for Kaikeyi.

    Kaushalya wanted the Rajmata status to be glorified cos she was never the prefered queen


    Then when Dasharatha gets it royally from Kaikeyi he comes running back to Kaushalya.

    Sumitra is totally non existent in all these happenings.

    So is it really Dharma or Drama?


    '
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    We indeed see the world the way we are


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    Continuing from Post #3
    ===============


    Questions posed in Post #3 will be answered later. If there are scholarly responses to those questions, without deviating from the topic area, they are welcome.


    There are two essential principles we discern from the premise of the epic Ramayana


    1. Power of the spoken word which translates to value of Integrity
    2. Power of clarity in understanding Dharma


    We see that Dasharatha is indeed conflicted due to lack of clarity of the situation. On one hand he is bound by his word that was given unconditionally. On the other hand he suffers immensely and could not dismiss the entire demand of Kaikeyi as not appropriate using his positional power.


    First he gave his commitment unconditionally and then forgot about it. That itself is a major blunder. He is reminded about this boon at a time when he was euphoric and was sharing his happiness with Kaikeyi about his coronating plans of Sri Rama. He was clueless about the promises he had made.


    Dasharatha pleads with Kaikeyi by falling on her feet, by calling her names and even saying that even Bharatha will not accept the plan because Bharatha is even more dharmic than even Rama. But Dasharatha is still bound by the words given in private. In any case he pleads that let Rama not be banished to the forest for 14 years. When he is unable to convince Kaikeyi to take back her request he loses consciousness bound by the power of his own words.


    In contrast, when Sri Rama is told about the boons by none other than Kaikeyi, Rama is least bit affected. He cheerfully accepts the words as commands and moves on to execution. One has to think and reflect if such a reaction is natural to anyone other than someone who is extraordinary.


    The value of spoken word is taken very seriously by both Sri Rama and Dasharatha but Sri Rama has absolute clarity which obviously the king Dasharatha lacks.


    Our own personal growth is not possibly by knowing the right things alone but to know that with absolute clarity. Many of us are exposed to teachings of our scriptures but their impact is muted more often than not because we lack the clarity of understanding along with lack of preparation.


    Often we do not learn the subject matter properly under proper setting fulfilling all the prerequisites. We may even lack the ability to focus being distracted by all kinds of sensual objects that are constantly vying for our attention.


    In many different contexts, Sri Krishna teaches in B.Gita about the value of clarity leading to Nischaya - firmness in understanding. A well cultivated mind is a pre-requisite for making progress, especially when it is related to personal growth. For example, in B. Gita verse 2.41, Sri Krishna describes ' vyavasathmika Buddhi' as a requirement which is all about clarity of what one seeks.


    Since most of us have read Ramayana and know the story somewhat superficially, we are often unable to relate to the feelings of the characters portrayed. None of the characters shine as perfect beings but many try to live by their understanding of Dharma. Even Sri Rama is alluded indirectly to have faltered at least in the words of Valmiki after the killing Vali while hiding.


    It is not easy for a parent to decree own son to the forest for 14 years. If someone holds our word and asks our son or daughter to be banished to some far away land as a worker, I am sure none of us would agree to that in order to keep a promise made a long time ago. It is easy to understand the plight of Dasharatha in this context. However his understanding lacks clarity in many areas resulting in enormous suffering leading to his death.


    Our actions conforming to Dharma is only possible if there is clarity.


    If however, we are conflicted in trying to do the right thing , our growth still is possible if we use that feeling as a feedback for introspection.


    In this forum we have had threads on Ramayana often doing psychoanalysis of the characters. That itself may be fun to do but it cannot help with our self-growth which is the focus of this thread.


    We indeed see the world the way we are. If we are cynical, we see the world as cynical. Our mind projects on the external world our inner attitudes, pride and prejudices and superimposes our attitude towards life.


    If a person is striving to lead of Dharma, they will see enormous wisdom in how the characters are portrayed in an epic like Ramayana which has stood the test of time.


    The question still remains which is that Dasharatha could have simply refused to abide by the requests because the boon involves another person (Sri Rama) being sent to forest and also creating possible issues in running the kingdom. But he chose not to do that. Is that wise? Why not admit he made a mistake in giving his word during a moment of weakness and simply refuse to abide by those boons?.

    Next post will be about Dharma itself..
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    Quote Originally Posted by tks View Post
    In this forum we have had threads on Ramayana
    It was nice to see this old thread and read it through. I am impressed with what Shri Sangom had to say then.

    On an other note, shri mskmoorthy had pasted two links that talk about the verious tribes across India, and the various flora and fauna. I am suddenly struck by the thought that the author "Valimiki" need not have been one poet... rather like how ants build up anthills (hence the name Valmiki), many poets could have contributed to the epic thus giving it the accuracy of the diverse details depicted in it.
    Q. Who are you? A. I am God.
    Q. How do I know it? A. I can do anything; ask me.
    Q. Can you make me more powerful than you? A. I will make you the priest.
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    What is Dharma?


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    The word Dharma is intuitively understood correctly and a human mind can easily interpret its application in a given situation. Often religious, cultural and political dogmas come in the way of its proper application. The description of Dharma occurs in many of our scriptures and one definition that is most popular is this.
    धारणाद्धर्ममित्याहु: धर्मो धारयते प्रजा: |
    यस्याद्धारणसंयुक्तं स धर्म इति निश्चय: ||

    dharanaddharmamityahu: dharmo dharayate praja: |
    yasyaddharanasanyuktam sa dharma iti nishchaya: ||
    Simple translation: Dharma (representing universal principle and order) holds the cosmos together. Therefore if something is able to hold a society together then it is definite that it is an expression of dharma.

    A set of physical laws of universe represent Dharmic laws. A constitution of a country need not be Dharmic but if it is aligned with Dharmic laws then it will be successful in holding the society together. If there are deviations from Dharmic laws in one's conduct, which only humans endowed with free will are capable of doing, the universal order will destroy those actions restoring Dharma. But this may not all happen in real time.

    Animals and all other beings, not endowed with free will experience or wisdom, naturally live in accordance with Dharma.

    Dharma is a Sanskrit word that has no corresponding word in any other language. A simple definition is not possible but can be only explained in many varied contexts. The human mind that has the 'free will' experience is capable of knowing what Dharma is without the need of any scriptures. Its meaning is often imparted and amplified through stories.

    Ramayana is one such epic that, and if studied with Shraddha can lead one to appreciate what Dharma is and why Sri Rama is often said to be a personification of Dharma itself.

    Sri Rama is not portrayed as a perfect being in Valmiki's version of Ramayana. As a human being he has uttered statements that cannot be considered divine by some people. In Kishkinda Kandam , Sri Rama while describing the Sharad season used descriptions that borders on sensually and even salaciousness in the understanding of some people. Sri Rama continues thus:

    चंचत् चन्द्र कर स्पर्श हर्ष उन्मीलित तारका |
    अहो रागवती संध्या जहाति स्वयम् अंबरम् || ४-३०-४५

    There are two legitimate translations.

    1. "Aha! By the touch of the moonbeam of the shining moon, the damsel called twilight is delightedly unfolding the stars releasing her ochre hue off the sky on her own, in all her love for the moon.

    Or

    1. "Aha! By the touch of the hand of her twinkling hero a damsel in all her love to him is delightedly widening her pupils and disrobing her ochre robe on her own.

    Further down Sri Rama continues:

    दर्शयन्ति शरन् नद्यः पुलिनानि शनैः शनैः |
    नव संगम सव्रीडा जघनानि इव योषितः || ४-३०-५८
    Here it is unmistakable as to what was in Sri Rama's mind according to the poet.
    Translation: The autumnal rivers are showing their dunes slowly and slowly, as with shying brides showing hips in their new trysts, slowly and slowly.

    These expression of humanness of a person lonely and missing his wife does not imply he is adharmic. Only a mind that is judgmental of others will call this immoral. Some scholars think that Valmiki the poet should not have used Sri Rama's character to describe the season in this manner.

    The entirely of Ramayana has to be read and learned from a proper teacher to appreciate what it means to lead a Dharmic life. A casual reading of translation alone cannot provide the needed insight that is useful for adoption in our life. In fact by describing Sri Rama in human terms that we can all relate to, the epic is even more glorious since it enable us to get past our limitations in our quest to follow Dharma.

    A simplistic attempt at a definition of Dharma would be to state that it is which contains and upholds the entire cosmos. In that sense, when one follows Dharma one is actually worshiping Isvara. In this thinking, Dharma is not a destination but a journey itself. The attitude of being aligned with natural order and focus on the underlying 'process' is all about being aligned with Dharma.

    Dharma sustains all life forms in harmony with natural laws which are Isvara's laws. By our commitment to Dharma we are in alignment with the order that holds the universe together.

    Sri Rama seem to have had understood this very clearly. It is that clarity that enabled him to act so decisively in many situations. Rather than immerse oneself in specific events in the epic, let me summarize two main take-aways (principles) for our own action.

    Many of us have read Rajaji's version of Ramayana. I found one book that I read a long time ago to be particularly well written and it is a book that was derived from 30 lectures given by the Right Honorable V.S. Srinivasa Sastry in 1944 under the auspices of Madras Sanskrit Academy . In those lectures the story is analyzed from many perspectives. My comments below are not from that book but used the analysis to provide a different perspective.

    Dharma as a purushartha is often taken to mean religious activities to gain Punya that can enable one to go to heaven after death. Some people interpret Dharma to mean the laws of Manu. In studying Ramayana with a view to adopt useful aspects in our own life, these interpretations are not the focus.

    If Dharma is embodiment of a set of universal principles how do we conduct our life in accordance with those principles?
    In the next post I will go into two specific principles that describe Dharma in a way we all can relate to. A reader can then explore if Sri Rama's life as described by Valmiki is in accordance with those two principles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tks View Post

    Sri Rama is not portrayed as a perfect being in Valmiki's version of Ramayana. As a human being he has uttered statements that cannot be considered divine by some people. In Kishkinda Kandam , Sri Rama while describing the Sharad season used descriptions that borders on sensually and even salaciousness in the understanding of some people. Sri Rama continues thus:

    चंचत् चन्द्र कर स्पर्श हर्ष उन्मीलित तारका |
    अहो रागवती संध्या जहाति स्वयम् अंबरम् || ४-३०-४५

    There are two legitimate translations.

    1. "Aha! By the touch of the moonbeam of the shining moon, the damsel called twilight is delightedly unfolding the stars releasing her ochre hue off the sky on her own, in all her love for the moon.

    Or

    1. "Aha! By the touch of the hand of her twinkling hero a damsel in all her love to him is delightedly widening her pupils and disrobing her ochre robe on her own.

    Further down Sri Rama continues:

    दर्शयन्ति शरन् नद्यः पुलिनानि शनैः शनैः |
    नव संगम सव्रीडा जघनानि इव योषितः || ४-३०-५८
    Here it is unmistakable as to what was in Sri Rama's mind according to the poet.
    Translation: The autumnal rivers are showing their dunes slowly and slowly, as with shying brides showing hips in their new trysts, slowly and slowly.

    These expression of humanness of a person lonely and missing his wife does not imply he is adharmic. Only a mind that is judgmental of others will call this immoral. Some scholars think that Valmiki the poet should not have used Sri Rama's character to describe the season in this manner.

    I dont see any reason for these two verses to be considered salacious in any way.

    Sensuality is the ultimate expression of union of mind,body and soul..where the difference between physical and non physical disappears...it totally appears like a lover pining for his beloved but in a higher sense its much more that..physical union of even lovers are a micro-cosmic enactment of the macro-cosmic act of creation.

    Even Sufi poems are full of Love and Lover scenarios.

    The human emotions usually relate to Love of the Lover Beloved kind cos that does not limit the mind and lets us explore the depths of our hearts and desires.


    Rama is Purusha and Sita is Prakirti(Nature)..these two can not be separated and yearn a union in a higher sense,

    Rama was describing the beauty of Prakirti at its best and how much He misses Her that everything reminds Him of Her for Nature is verily Her.

    To the average intellect these expressions would only seem "Adharmic" cos average humans can not go beyond duality that is tainted by Pride and Prejudice.

    It takes a very evolved mindset to see God even in Sense and Sensuality.
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