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Inner Significance of Ramayana by Swami Chinmayananda

RAMAYANA – the poem was written by a man well-established in the Ultimate Reality, who expressed the pure Advaita Philosophy in his work, the contents of the Upanishads. The glory of the poem is that the ideal “states of living” are expressed – the ideal brother, son, king, enemy, friend and the ideal man living in society. But all this is mere paraphernalia. The core of this poem is utterly divine – which explains why the glorious story of Rama is so popular even today!

RAMA itself means “Sarveshu Ramante iti Ramah” — that which revels in every one of us, the pure Light of Consciousness, the Atman, the Self, the Atma-Rama. This spiritual essence in us can come out only as a son of Dasaratha, who has conquered all the ten indriyas – five jnanendriyas and the five karmendriyas. It will be born in you and reborn only in Ayodhya (yuddha means conflict, and Ayodhya means where there is no conflict, meaning where all conflict has ended). RAMA was born in Ayodhya, which is where the self-controlled Dasaratha governs.

Role of Sita

This Rama, the pure Self, cannot participate actively in life unless wedded to the mind. Sita (the mind) is ready. She was not born to Janaka by wedlock. While ploughing the land, he finds Sita. The mind appeared from the most inappropriate place ever. It is absurd to enquire deeply into this. Later, you find that the same Sita disappears into Mother Earth. From Mother Earth, she came; to Mother Earth, she went back. Nobody can tell where the mind comes from and where it disappears during samadhi. This is Maya !!

Wedded to the mind when Rama returns, he finds that he cannot live in Ayodhya. Once the mind has come, you start expressing yourself through it. You have to enter the ‘forest of life,’ self-exiled. Some cause must emerge as one enters the ‘forest of existence.’

So long as Sita was looking up to Rama, living in Rama, for Rama, by Rama, she never found any difference between Ayodhya and a jungle. But how long can the mind remain constantly centred on the higher divine potential in us? It has to become extrovert. And this is just what happened the moment Sita looked away from Rama. The golden deer was noticed. The finite, ephemeral, ever-changing objects start pulling you towards them. The mind demands them. Rama and all the Scriptures might argue that it is all Maya, that it is not real, that it is only a Rakshasa. Yet even Sita, Rama’s consort, will not accept it, and she will exile Rama in search of the sense object. Once desire-polluted, you fall. Rama goes, and Sita is in Lakshmana’s charge.

Role of Lakshmana

Lakshman represents Tapas (austerity). He had no reason to go to the jungle. But he left of his own accord and lives in perfect Brahmacharya, even without sleep. It is perfect Tapas. But then, one cannot live in Tapas. The delusion of the other world will force you to give it up.

The moment Sita hears the sound of Rama’s voice, she forgets Rama’s glory and might and becomes anxious about his safety. She even urges Lakshmana to go to her husband’s aid. And when Lakshmana assures her that the great Rama will never come to any harm, for there is none to match him in skill and valour, Sita severely rebuffs him. When the beautiful ideal woman, Sita, utters such malignant words, Lakshmana is shocked into silence. He goes away, drawing a line of demarcation around the hut, urging her not to go beyond it.

Once desire enters your bosom, you cannot constantly live in Tapas as an ordinary individual. But you can at least draw a line — thus far and no further. But once Tapas is given up, such lines are of no use. You readily step over them. And when you do this instead of Dasaratha, you are confronted by Dasamukha, the opposite character. The latter is an extrovert, as the former is self-controlled. The sensuous materialistic power persuades Sita to cross over the line because it cannot affect you as long as you are within the moral boundary. You go beyond it, and permissiveness starts and Dasamukha ensnares you.

Significance of Dasamukha

Dasamukha does not mean having five heads on the right and another five on the left, with one neck in between. What is meant here is that the five jnanendriyas and the five karmendriyas constitute the Dasamukha. An extrovert man lives in the flesh, for the flesh, and by the flesh – it is the rule of the flesh. Such a man is a sensualist and a total extrovert. Materially, he can become great, as did Ravana, who ruled over a prosperous land, Lanka.

In Lanka, nobody worked, the socialist government supported everybody, and people from all over the world came to pay homage to Ravana, who was supremely powerful. But does materialism provide anything more than mere physical comfort? It is not a solution to the problem of life. Spiritual and cultural values alone can save the world. This idea is brought out in the Ramayana.

Sita’s abduction

Sita was abducted and taken away. She was no longer a citizen of Aryavarta, the hallowed and cultural land. She will be given a place in Lanka, another island, no doubt very near, but altogether another land. Even there, she was exiled. We are all at this moment “Sitas” in exile. Should we give in to sensuality? What should we do to get back our original Ayodhya? We should do precisely what Sita did.

She realized she had fallen, and to prevent a further fall, she firmly said ‘No’ to Ravana and remained in the garden under an Ashoka tree. Shoka means ‘dukkha,’ i.e., sorrow; Ashoka means ‘not dukkha’ (devoid of sorrow). You and I will have sorrow, but we will not recognize it. This is the ‘Ashoka’ state. Under the “tree of non-recognition of sorrows,” when we want to remain steadfast in character, we will doubtless be tempted and put under much strain. But with that Ashoka attitude, we should remain steadfast and constantly remember Rama.

Sita was constantly and vigorously thinking of Rama. And we cannot say that Rama did not respond. In Ramayana, we will find that the scene alternates — once Lanka is shown, Rama is shown in the jungle the next moment. This indicates that there is a secret communication between them. The more intense Sita’s cry, the more frenzied Rama’s search for her becomes. He weeps like an ordinary mortal, not because he is attached to her but because he longs to help a devotee.

The spiritual essence in man can kill and destroy Ravan, the ten-headed monstrosity of extrovertedness. It can do it with the army of monkeys. An educated man reading this should know what the monkeys refer to. The monkey has two qualities – asthiratwa and chanchalatwa – instability and restlessness. The thoughts in the human mind have these two qualities. They cannot remain – stable. The monkey cannot stay on one branch; it jumps from one branch to another and from tree to tree. It will still be restless if it gets tired and sits on a tree. Thus, it cannot keep quiet even for a minute. So, too, are our thoughts. They can never remain quiet but keep jumping from topic to topic. The army of thoughts is to be controlled. But, at this moment, Vali, who stands for lust, controls them. This has to be destroyed. And how? It can only be done from behind. From the front, every time, it is your lust that wins, and not you. So, if ever you want to conquer this lust, you have to shoot it from behind the tree.

About Vali

Vali had such great power that anytime an enemy approached him, half the enemy’s strength would drain away, and Vali himself would become three times stronger. So, Rama had to kill him from behind. To whom should he then give the kingship of the monkey-clan – the “thoughts?” To whom better than Sugreeva? “Greeva” means reins, “Sugreeva” means well-reined, i.e., well-controlled. When the thoughts are under one’s control, the army can cross the frontiers and reach Lanka to kill the ten-headed monster and bring back Sita.

When Rama regains Sita after destroying extrovertedness, the mind that is no longer extrovert is no mind. It (Sita) has to disappear. Without Sita, Rama cannot bring about “Rama-Rajya.” He cannot rule without a wife. Therefore, Kapila comes and offers him a Mithya Sita or Maya Sita. And with Maya Sita, Rama returns to rule Ayodhya with a tranquil and poised mind in a state of perfection, having regained his spiritual status. 

Though he returns with a mind, it is not there. It is like the sky, which allows everything to remain in space without contamination. So, Rama, the Man of Perfection, also allows the mind to remain in him but is unaffected by it. Since Rama functioned in the world outside with a perfectly controlled mind, the result had to be a RAMA-RAJYA !!!

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