Hanuman meets Lakshman and Rama. A painting from Thailand
Sri Rama Navami today. The ninth lunar day of the bright fortnight in the month of Chaitra. I gave class to the assembled Vaishnavas and 24 onliners.
Here are some of my points:
1. We learn of Lord Rama, the seventh avatara, in the Ramayana, ‘The Path of Rama’.
2. Ramayana is 24,000 verses long
3. The story of Rama is told as far apart as Africa and Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Bali and Vietnam– all these countries have Ramayana in their art and architecture.
4. Lord Krishna is known as Lila-purusottama because He displays wonderful activities. Lord Rama is known as Maryada-purusottama because He displays the very perfection of Maryada, literally ‘boundaries.’
5. Dharma – the practise of following the laws and intentions of God, can only be followed when we are aware of the ‘boundaries’ of good and bad actions.
6. Lord Rama shows perfect dharma in His life, His opponents such as Ravana display adharma, and His activities reveal how He and others were able to practise dharma under the most trying circumstances.
7. Whilst we cannot imitate many of Lord Krishna’s actions, we can attempt to emulate the behaviour of Rama.
8. For this reason, for giving the greatest example of Vedic dharma to humans, Lord Rama is loved.
9. The Ramayana is also a Sharanagati Veda, a book revealing how to surrender to God. In each of the Kandas – divisions of chapters – surrender is displayed.
10. As first generation ISKCON devotees, we brought with us our Christian, Jewish or Muslim ‘maryada’ – a certain sense of right and wrong. When our second generation do not hear either the Abrahamic maryada, or the Vedic marayada, it is inevitable that their sense of moral propriety will be unfocused.
11. As practising Vaishnavas we need to practise transcendental devotional service on a firm foundation of morality.
12. You can’t transcend conventional morality until you know what it is. Ignorance of morality, or rejection of it in the name of transcendence, will result in our sampradaya becoming crippled as it has at other times in history by ‘premature transcendence’ or sahajiya-ism.
13. People can copy what Rama does and they will prosper. Copy Krishna and you drink poison as Lord Siva did.
14. Rama is the ideal king, father, son, friend, brother, and husband. Even though these relationships, from the perspective of the Srimad Bhagavatam, are ‘temporary’ still we need to do them properly because otherwise the result is chaos in our own life and that of society.
15. So God himself comes to show how to do it.
16. Even in the beginning we see from the tale of Rishiasringa – the young sage with deer horns on his head – how the results of dharma were demonstrated before the very birth of Rama.
17. King Romapada’s kingdom was stricken with drought. The presence of Rishiasringa would bring rain. The young rishi lived in a forest and had never seen any female living being. Girls dressed as brahmacari monks were sent to invite him to the kingdom. He travelled overnight on a boat made to look like an island. When he reached the kingdom it rained, the king apologised for the deception, and the young man married the daughter of King Dasaratha.
18. Dasaratha called for Rishasringa to perform a special ceremony by which he would get a son. Four sons were born from three queens: Rama, Lakshman, Bharata and Shatrughna.
19. Kaikeyi, mother of Bharata, was influenced by the constant criticism of her maidservant, Mantara. Lesson: Be careful who you listen to.
20. She demanded that her own son be crowned king instead of Rama, and that Rama be sent into exile for 14 years.
21. Lakshman accompanied Sita and Rama into the forest, while Bharata took Rama’s sandals and installed them on a throne where he worshipped them for the entire duration of the Lord’s exile.
22. Ravana demonstrated the perfection of sinfulness – adharma – by stealing Sita while Rama was away.
23. Just before the final battle, Ravana’s brother, Vibhisana comes to surrender to Rama, disgusted by his brother’s behaviour.
24. The initial protests of Rama’s monkey army at Vibhisana’s disqualifications, Rama’s explanation to them of the dharma involved, and His acceptance of Vibhisana as one of His own, form one of the most beloved examples of sharanagati.
25. Rama recovers Sita and rules for 11,000 years.
First the Lord’s story of how to understand how to act with Vibhisana, followed by His famous declaration of how He accepts His devotees:
THE TIGER AND THE MONKEY – A STORY TOLD BY LORD RAMACHANDRA
As retold by Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja
The Ramayana describes how Lord Rama built a bridge and crossed the ocean to Lanka. Before the battle with Ravana began, Ravana’s youngest brother Vibhishan came to take shelter of Rama. Rama immediately gave him shelter. That is the duty of a king, a kshatriya. If someone seeks shelter, you must give him protection. But the advisors of Lord Rama said, ”No! Don’t give him shelter. He’s from the enemy’s camp. He has come here as a spy.”Lord Rama then told his advisors a story.
Once, a man was passing through a dense jungle. In that forest were many tigers, lions, and ferocious animals. One tiger came to attack that man, so he climbed a tree and saved his life. But the tiger had developed greed to drink human blood. So the tiger sat down underneath the tree to wait. He then noticed a monkey in the tree. He told that monkey, ”You are my brother. This human is your enemy. When you jump from one tree to another to get fruit, the human beats you and throws stones at you. And when you come down to the ground he sends his dog to catch you. Also, human beings cut down trees. So they are your constant enemy. You should understand this. You are very intelligent; you are my brother and my friend. Don’t stay with such an enemy. It is very dangerous. Push that man down from the tree. I am hungry. If you do this then I’ll get food. I’ll satisfy my hunger and our friendship will remain forever. I’ll be very, very grateful to you.”
The monkey replied, ”O my brother tiger, I understand what you have said. But the human being has dharma. Although I am an animal with no dharma, still my conscience says that it is wrong to put one in danger who is trying to save himself.”
Then the tiger thought of another plan. He gave assurance to the man, ”O my brother, you have dharma, you are a human being. Is it not your dharma that you should give food to one who is very hungry? I am very hungry now, you must give food to a hungry jīva. You should push down this monkey, then I’ll get food. The man thought, ”Yes, very good”, and he pushed down the monkey, who fell in front of the tiger.
But the tiger didn’t eat him and the monkey climbed back up the tree. The tiger had developed greed to drink human blood, so he didn’t eat the monkey. No one eats the flesh of a monkey.
Then the tiger said, ”O my brother monkey, you see, we are friends! I didn’t harm you. I spared you because we are friends. But see what that irreligious man did. He pushed you down right in front of me. So now you should push him down so that I can satisfy my hunger, and thereby he will get a good lesson.
The monkey said, ”This man may be adharmic. Although I am only an animal, I am not adharmic. I cannot do this.”
It is considered that the human birth is a rarely achieved, superior birth. But they have a history of irreligiousness which is not even found in the society of animals.
Bhagavan Ramachandra told this story, and said, ”This is my mission. I have come to establish ideal behavior in human society.” Therefore he is known as maryādā-purusottama, the topmost example of and enjoyer of Vedic propriety. He never transgressed veda-maryādā, Vedic regulation and etiquette. Lord Ramachandra was the ideal king, father, son, friend, brother, and husband. He was ideal in every respect. Lord Ramachandra said, ”If someone comes to take shelter of me, I never think of his past history. I immediately give him shelter. Vibhishan has taken shelter of me. I have given him shelter and he is our friend. No one should have any doubt about him. He has been made the commander-in-chief.” This is the nature of Lord Ramachandra.
— From a class on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Bhubaneswar. 6 February 1995.
LORD RAMA’S ASSURANCE
Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda, chapter 12
mitrabhāvena samprāptam na tyajeyam katham cana, doso yady api tasya syāt satām etad agarhitam
[Lord Ramachandra said:] I cannot refuse to receive under any circumstances one who has come to me in a friendly spirit. Even if there is wickedness in him, his acceptance is not reprehensible in the eyes of good people. (Text 3)
sakrid eva prapannāya tavāsmīti ca yācate, abhayam sarva-bhūtebhyo dadāmy etad vratam mama
It is my eternal principle that if any living being takes shelter of me even once, saying, ”I am yours,” then I award that person freedom from all fear. (Text 20)
-Unknown translator, unpublished BBT manuscript
–Srimad Valmiki Ramayana. Gita Press. Gorakhpur, India, 1995