The Mother Divine
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Dr Prema Panduranga
(Discourse at Ram Naam Aradhana, Rikhia, December 1996)

By the grace of the Lord, we will look into the highlights of the Valmiki Ramayana, concentrating in particular on the Sundarakand. All great works of the world have withstood the test of time because they have been in the form of a dialogue between two inspiring people. In the Ramayana, Valmiki is asking Sage Narada, one of the greatest of speakers, “Tell us who is the ideal man?”

Who is the ideal man?

Thousands of years ago, long before management schools were talking about leadership qualities, Indian history recorded what these qualities are. Long before the ‘Ten Commandments’, the Bhagavad Gita gave us the Three Commandments in the 18th chapter. Every man is asked to do three things in this world: yajna (thanksgiving), daana (charity), and tapa (holding oneself within oneself).

Everybody, whether a student in a classroom or a citizen ruled by a government, wants an ideal person at the helm of affairs. The Bhagavad Gita tells us there is nothing more important or pure than gyana. However, this gyana is not available in supermarkets or in bound books or in museums. It is available only with live souls like Paramguru Satyananda, who is sitting here with us. That is why you all leave your homes, your countries and come here and search, because only after constant querying and persistent humility can you gain gyana.

A man who has not eaten sugar cannot describe sugar, a man who has not known the Lord dare not and cannot talk about the Lord. We want someone who has known the Lord, a tattwadarshi, who has known the Supreme Truth. Narada is such a person.

Goodness, bravery, gratitude and truth

The first quality of the ideal man is goodness. Whether you are looking for a job, a husband or a wife, whatever you are looking for, you are impressed by a man's good conduct. All the scandals in the newspapers are caused because people lack goodness. It is not enough to be powerful, rich, proficient and efficient.

At the same time, we want someone who is brave. There are good people who are cowards sitting in dining rooms and drawing rooms talking about the world. They don't contribute at all. We want people who are good and we want people who are brave. Today there are many brave people who are not good, like the terrorists who can blast bombs, destroy airports and kill people by the thousands. But that is bravery without virtue. We want virtue accompanied by proficiency, efficiency and bravery.

Among all the qualities of Sri Rama, the one that stands uppermost is gratitude. Today people who have risen in life have forgotten those who have helped them. They suffer from terrible diseases, emotional breakdowns, the ups and downs of life, because they have forgotten those who were responsible for their elevation in life. In the Ramayana, never did the Lord exhibit even one moment of ingratitude. No wonder Shakespeare said, “Blow, blow thou winter wind, thou are not so unkind as man's ingratitude.” Animals are never ungrateful, gratitude is a natural feeling in them. It is only man in his supreme selfishness who is ungrateful.

We want a man who will speak the truth, who will keep his promises. We want a man of good conduct. No leader can afford to have skeletons in his cupboard. Bad conduct itself will undo him. He doesn't need external enemies, adharma will kill him. As he passes on in the world, one day he will have to face destruction.

Kindness, wisdom and self-control

We want a leader who loves everybody, who is kind to everybody. We want a man who knows the wisdom of learning. We all have to learn to unlearn. After learning we come to know that mere bookish knowledge is not enough. Exposition has its limitations, experience has none. Exposition has to lead us on to experience. Those of you who practise yoga know that it is not enough to merely read books on yoga, you must practise a little too. As you go on learning more and more, you come to the essence of experience. We want a man who knows everything, who has registered everything that he has read. Today we have scholars but scholars are not efficient people, they are only good at reading and writing. We want an efficient scholar.

I used to tell my students, “You can't choose your faces but you can choose your expression.” Whenever you look at Sri Rama, he smiles, whether he is offered the kingdom, denied the kingdom or sent into the forest. We want a man who has self-control, who has conquered his anger. People often say, “We can't control our temper.” Common sense says that it is your temper and it is your business to control it, nobody can do it for you. People often say, “I lost my temper”. The very phrase suggests that there is something that should not be lost, something that should be preserved. Anger should be used only when it works. Most of us use anger as an expression of helplessness. Anger should work as a principle, not as a passion. Anger should be used to get the work done, when you want your subordinates or children to improve and they won't listen to you. But please remember it's more play acting than a passionate distortion of the mind or body. When the Lord got angry, not only the world but the entire heavens trembled with fear.

Valmiki asked Narada, “O Naradaji, you are capable of knowing the entire world. You have a cosmic passport, you can travel whenever and wherever you want. Please tell us who is the ideal man.” Narada replies, “You want all these qualities in one man. Impossible! To combine these qualities in one man, the Lord had to come down as the son of King Dasaratha. He came as Sri Ramachandra, as the prince of Ayodhya, and proved to the world that he is nonpareil, incomparable, without equal, that he is a master and fund of virtue.” This is how the Ramayana begins and this is the narration Narada gave to Valmiki.

How did this great work happen?

One day Valmiki went for a bath in the river. On his way back, he saw two birds cooing together. Into this idyllic scene came a ruthless hunter who shot at the male bird. The male bird died and the female bird cried. This is the way of the world. Out of Valmiki's sorrowful reaction came a sloka. “O you ruthless hunter, you will come to no good. Because you have destroyed the joy of another, you will never be happy.”

We all know that every action will have a repercussion and we have to be prepared for that repercussion. The Ramayana was the first epic poem written in world literature. So, when this little sloka – “You will come to no good” – came, Valmiki was surprised at the arrangement of its words and syllables. His disciples learned the sloka and began to repeat it. They sat around him in the ashram, chanting together. Then Brahma appeared and told Valmiki, “Don't worry sir, you have written a sloka and it is by my grace that you have been inspired to write it. With this particular style in mind, you are going to write a great work. Go on writing about Rama.” “But I don't know about Rama, sir.” “Don't worry, you will know about Him. Everything about Rama will be shown to you and people will accept everything that you write as authentic.”

“How long will my Ramayana remain in the world?” asked Valmiki. Every writer wonder, “Will my work be read? Will it be published? I hope there won't be a malignant review in the newspapers.” “No”, said Lord Brahma. “So long as the Himalayas stand, so long as the rivers flow, so will the Ramayana remain a popular work. It will be famous in the world as long as life continues.” That is why the popularity of the Ramayana continues.

After a work is written comes the problem of who will publish it. In the world of advertising, everything sells by marketing. The problem was, “Who will market the Ramayana and make it popular?” When a good soul has a problem, the solution comes instantaneously. As Valmiki was sitting in deep meditation wondering, “Who is going to sing the glory of the Lord?”, he felt two small pairs of hands touching his feet. When he opened his eyes, he found Lava and Kusha, the twins born to Sita, the children of Rama. He was so happy that the Lord had given him the subject, the style, the creativity, the imagination, the vocabulary, and now He has also given him singers. Everything was provided by the Lord.

The children of Rama began to sing the glory of Sri Rama on the highways of Ayodhya. Sri Rama himself was the first official listener of his own biography, the Ramayana.

King Dasaratha and family

There was a great warrior king called Dasaratha who could control ten chariots simultaneously. Dasaratha had everything: the best country, capital, ministers, citizens and wives. But he did not have a child and so he felt sad. The Lord always denies us something, otherwise we would not go to Him. He creates a vacuum and He is also the one who fills it. Dasaratha asked all the pundits of his country, “Can we perform a yajna, a sacrifice, and propitiate the gods so that we may have progeny at home.” They agreed and an offspring giving sacrifice was performed. At the end of the sacrifice, a beautiful person came out of the fire and gave Dasaratha payas, a preparation of sugar, milk and grain, which he took to his three wives, Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, all of whom were devoted to him. He gave half to Kaushalya, who was to be the mother of Sri Rama, a quarter to Sumitra, one eighth to Kaikeyi and the remaining one eighth again to Sumitra.

It is difficult to bring leaders into the world but it is more difficult to produce people who serve these leaders faithfully. Sumitra is held in high esteem, because although Kaushalya produced a master and Kaikeyi produced a master, Sumitra produced two faithful servants, one to serve the Lord and one to serve the servant of the Lord. That is why we bow down to Mother Sumitra, who in the Ramayana is called a tapaswini, a woman of sacrifice.

King Dasaratha had four beautiful children, all stalwart sons. They grew up stately and proud, brave and intelligent, fond of their parents and of each other. One of them is better than the others – he is called Rama because he pleases everyone. The second brother is called Bharata, the bearer, because for fourteen years he had to bear the burden of the kingdom when the Lord went into exile. It is he who bore the insults of the public who said, “Oh here is a man who won the kingdom through foul means.” It is Bharata who served the Lord, day and night. The third brother is called Lakshmana who had all the good qualities of serving the Lord. The fourth brother is called Shatrughna, the conqueror of enemies. Within us all there is a constant war raging between kama (lust); krodha (anger); lobha (greed); mada (arrogance) and moha (infatuation). These are the six enemies which have been conquered by Shatrughna.

The importance of Dharma

The highlight of the Ramayana is dharma, which means righteousness, in Sanskrit it is 'that which holds together'. It is dharma which finds significant repetition throughout the Ramayana. Dharma is used when Vishwamitra takes the Lord to Mother Sita and the wedding takes place. “Hey Rama, I present my daughter to you. Sita is beautiful. She has a big dowry, she brings elephants, horses and jewellery with her. But the greatest dowry that she brings is her dharma.”

According to Indian custom, the wife is not a biological counterpart, not a sexual vessel, but the spiritual counterpart of man. She sits with him and performs all the holy work he has to do. Without her, he is incomplete. “She is going to be with you against the law of primogeniture. When you go to the forest for fourteen years, she will travel with you; she will not return to her mother's house.” This is the path of dharma.

When Sri Rama is seated with Sita in Chitrakoot, Bharata comes along with the army to take Rama back to Ayodhya. He wants to return the kingdom to Sri Ram which his mother had snatched away as a result of the two boons she had received from her husband, Dasaratha. Lakshmana grossly miscalculates Bharata’s intentions and thinks he has come to harm Sri Ram. Lakshmana says, “Sri Rama, our dishonourable brother, Bharata, is coming. Please get your spears, lances, swords and shields ready.” The Lord said, “You don't need any protection with weapons when Bharata, the great master of non-violence and dharma, comes to you.”

Whenever the word dharma is used in the Ramayana, the Lord makes it significant. Suparnakha, the sister of Ravana, the demon king, meets the Lord. She is ugly, pot-bellied, has a terrible voice and is unrighteous. The Lord is handsome, kind, slender-waisted, sweet and lovely to look at. He is everything that she is not and she is everything that he is not; they are a picture of contrasts. She stands for lust and he stands for righteousness. Naturally, her heart goes out to him. She calls to him lustfully, “I would like to make you my own. I will take you everywhere as my consort.” But Rama is a very faithful husband and tells her, “Please gentle lady, understand that my wife is here beside me. She loves me and I love her which means there is no possibility of my accepting you.”

(…. To be continued)