“For those who believe in God
no explanation is necessary
For those who do not believe
no explanation is possible”
— Rev. John La Farge S.J.
Ramayana has always fascinated me.
would find the story of Rama intriguing enough. I however could not understand
the almost impossible characters, like monkey-humans with magical powers, or a
demon king with ten heads who could change his appearance at will.
is just to name a few of the many such incidents that abound in the Epic.
there was another startling fact that was confusing me. The Ramayana
has swayed the imagination, head and heart of millions for thousands of
made me feel that there has to be more to it than meets the eye.
attending discourses of learned scholar, I realised that the Ramayana
is more than a religious scripture; it is a way of life. Each character is
symbolic and each incident has its equivalent place in life.
the Ramayana abounds with superhuman characters, incredible in strength
and valour, so does Homer’s Odessey speak
of one-eyed giants and lotus-eaters. Neither Homer nor Valmiki could have drawn
their characters unless they had heard of or seen mammoths and monsters of
unbelievable strength. Evolutionary history tells us that the earth was
inhabited by giant animals, whose height is estimated at 100 feet, from the
fossils found in the deserts of Africa. One need not, therefore, dismiss as pure
mythology, characters like Bali, Sugreeva, the monkey-kings or the 10-headed
Ravana of Lanka.
as recently as two decades ago, it was common for people to deride another, with
the statement ‘you are asking for the moon’. It has become a fact in this
atomic age. Till the beginning of the First World War of 1914, airplane was
unknown. People used to joke about man flying in space. The advent of the plane
and the jet has exploded all this. Similarly, the divine missiles described in
the Ramayana need not be cursorily
dismissed as pure imagination. Perhaps the age in which Ramayana took place was much more advanced scientifically and
technologically than the age in which we live.
sages emphatically believe that the Ramayana
is a historical fact. They claim that the Ramayana
is the Sun which will give it’s warmth and light at all times and on which
humanity will have to depend for its spiritual well being.
Ramayana is the story of Sri Rama – the ideal Son, the Ideal Husband, the
ideal Ruler and the ideal Warrior (Ramo Vigrahavan Narah). In delineating his
characters. Adi Kavi Valmiki must have had the good of mankind at heart when he
wrote the Ramayana. If a poet or artist is to create a masterpiece, he must have
had an example to draw inspiration from. As the legend goes, Valmiki asked
Narada whether he knew of anyone among the then living kings who is an
embodiment of all the 32 noble qualities, the highest hallmark of the
complete, integrated person. Narada, in reply, pointed to Sri Rama of Ayodhya.
Ramayana is an Epic that teaches us the ethics and the political
set-up of the people in ancient India.
is a lesson in Duty, Sacrifice, Service and Devotion.
philosophy of the Hindus is beautifully interwoven into the narration to make
a tapestry, a classic of such calibre that it is not surprising that the Ramayana is of such immortal value.
we enter into the main narration of the Ramayana
we must get acquainted with a glimpse of the way Hindus think and believe.
Muller has said, “If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most
deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of
some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied
Plato and Kant — I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from
what literature we may draw the corrective thought which is most wanted in order
to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact
more truly human a life, not only for this life only, but a transfigured and
eternal life — again I should point to India.”
common western view is that India is ascetic, otherworldly and life denying.
This is however not true. India has not condemned enjoyment as evil. Hindu
scriptures claim that there is nothing wrong with pleasure; it is one of the
legitimate ends in life, but one must see that pleasure is fulfilled as richly
and aesthetically as possible.
is inevitable that when man pursues pleasure he must one day realise that
pleasure is not all that he wants. A man of maturity knows that pleasure is not
wicked, however he does conclude that it is too trivial to satisfy man’s total
writes in Sickness unto death: “In
the bottomless Ocean of pleasure, I have sounded in vain for a spot to cast
success cannot satisfy man completely because he knows that wealth, fame and
power do not survive physical death.
philosophy knows that one cannot gain by suppressing desire or by imagining that
it does not exist.
Hinduism asksis that one has an awareness of the above facts. Then one can go
after desire and pleasure in a prudent manner and deal with people and
circumstances with the fair play it deserves.
the stage where man is involved in pursuing worldly goals a Spiritual master
is not likely to disturb the aspirant beyond offering some suggestions as to how
to deal with the mundane problems of his everyday life.
man follows the desire of fame and wealth to its hilt, another stage unfolds in
his life when he asks: “Is this all? Am
I going to leave all this that I own or have achieved behind, when I die?”
realises deeply that he does not want to die. Sometimes one may find oneself
driven to suicide but no one really feels happy about dying.
wants to be immortal and man seeks Joy. These two desires together coin into one
word —Mukti or Liberation — a liberation from the sorrows of Life and Death.
not only promises infinite being and infinite joy but also claims that they are
is this then not obvious, one may argue? The Hindu sages claim that -the reason
that we are not aware of the infinite joy that is within us is because of the
dust of distraction and false ideas that cover the light of our infinite centre.
Christ also claims that the “Kingdom of God is within you.”
how does one reach that Infinite Ocean of Bliss which is now hidden deep within
does one start his journey towards divine perfection?
Hindus have prescribed three different paths to purify one’s personality and
to guide people to a higher state of being.
the goal is one, should there not be one path to it?
starting point is determined by the kind of person one is, by the kind of
personality one possesses.
are, according to Hindu analysis, three different kinds of persons. Some are
basically reflective; their way to God would be through knowledge.
second kind is primarily emotional. Their way to God would be through Devotion
third kind is essentially active. Their way to God would be through work and
The Path of Knowledge
people follow where their Intellect leads. By prolonged intensive reflection
such personalities touch upon the unchanging element in themselves, which Hindus
call the atman.
constant introspection they pierce through the various identifications of the
roles, that they have played, i.e. as father, as son, friend, husband etc.
doing so they touch upon true self, which is synonymous with peace and joy. With
it they finally identify and merge.
Marg – The way to God through love.
path is dominated totally by Love. Love for love’s sake and not for any other
ulterior motive. This love for God will automatically weaken the world’s grip
of attachment and desires.
path knows only to give of oneself totally without asking for anything in
Karma Marg — The Way to God through Action
is needless to state that the human body was made and meant for action. People
who are idle or made to retire from their profession are generally not very
does not believe that one must take to the woods in order to worship. We must in
fact turn each activity of ours into a thoughtful movement, which takes us
closer to God and to our ultimate goal.
must come to feel that one is only an instrument through which God’s work is
done. That way the ego is kept at bay. One must work like a person who loves and
does everything for his beloved seeking nothing for himself but taking
pleasure in service alone.
is an essential function of life and when one looks closely it becomes obvious
that the way of knowledge and the way of devotion are both complementary. Both
are required to round up a personality to perfection.
the conclusion, one may be predominantly a
follower of one path, but all the paths must eventually join into one main
Versions of the Ramayana
is important to remember is that Sri Ram is an ideal model to emulate and Sita
is a perfect model of womanhood.