Ramayana

Diwali: Celebrating the Darshan of Sita-Rama

In the treta yuga, the people of Ayodhya celebrated their first Diwali on Sri Sita-Rama’s return to their hometown from Lanka. The lighting of lamps on this occasion was subsequently followed by the darshan of Rama. In our age, we can view this popular festival as an opportunity to welcome Sita-Rama in our lives. It reminds us that by dispelling darkness from our mind, we too can be blessed with the darshan and refuge of Rama.

It is not surprising that Diwali follows Dusshera, the victory of dharma, and is a bigger festival than Dusshera. If Dusshera is the defeat of unrighteousness, Diwali signifies the Rama’s revelation to the jiva. Interestingly, the face-to-face meeting of Ayodhya’s subjects with their ideal king and an incarnation of God was the result of fourteen years of longing — a kind of God’s remembrance. This tells us something about the natural sequence of events in devotion: Remembrance and alignment with dharma are the precursors to God’s darshan, which is a major aim of devotional spirituality.

Once a jiva who adores the Lord sees him, separation again from the Divine may not be possible. According to the Adhyatama Ramayana, the residents of Ayodhya became so attached to Rama that they never separated after celebrating their first Diwali. When Rama completed his divine play on Earth and left for his abode, Saket Dham, all his subjects and beings who were devoted to him, except Lord Hanuman, Vibhishan, and Jambvant — the immortal beings — renounced their bodies and were guided to the higher worlds (lokas). Hanuman was instructed to remain on Earth so that he could guide humanity towards Rama.

On the auspicious festival of Diwali, Sita Devi is also worshipped in her aspect as Mother Goddess Lakshmi, the mother of the universe. In our prayers, we can request Devi Sita for granting us bhakti — and the desire for letting go. She can always bestow upon us one of the most precious gifts that exist: firm trust in Rama. Surrender to Sita-Rama, who transcend nature, may ensure that the right words flow from our mind and mouth as we put our wish list before God on one of the most auspicious festivals of the globe.

(Content for this post was mainly derived from a previous post on this blog.)

Renunciation by King Janaka

Once upon a time, Janaka, the king of Mithila, became disinterested in worldly affairs. After some serious contemplation, he informed his wife, ”I no longer feel interested in materialism. I am planning to hand over the crown to someone else and move to the forest.” His wife, the wise Sunaina Devi, took Janaka to the balcony of their palace and asked him to take a look at the people, standing in a queue near the base of the palace, who were obtaining free food from the royal kitchen.

Sunaina said, ”Renunciation is always a good idea. But the next king may not be as compassionate as you are. Your decision may hurtfully affect the lives of all the people who depend on your presence today. Besides, renunciation may have multiple variants. You may leave home and wander all around the world, searching for self-realization. Or you may choose to stay at home and renounce the whole world; your own desires and distractions may be blocking your spiritual growth, not your family and home.” Janaka chose to stay at home. With time, he became a seer himself, while successfully carrying out the responsibilities of a king. Janaka’s spiritual evolution set an example, for ages to come, around how human beings can finely harmonize virtues and duties with self-realization.

Connecting to Lord Rama

Chanting Ramanama, the name of Rama, is a very simple and effective method to connect to Lord Rama (God). Sometimes, chanting Ramanama for a few minutes (with a devotional feel) is better than chanting for half an hour. In the beginning, there is no need to aim for long periods of time. Once interest develops and if our health permits, the duration of worship can be increased.

Reading, listening to pravachan (discourses), and listening to bhajans (devotional songs) are also forms of bhakti and complement chanting and praying to God very well. As for which books to study, we have to be very careful. Some books by today’s authors may be very nicely written but may totally lack spiritual connectivity; they may, in fact, disconnect us from God. Reading books by saints or devotional writers is a safe bet. My top suggestions are the Ramacharitamanasa and the Hanuman Chalisa.

Lord Hanuman, the top devotee of Lord Rama, likes connecting jivas (individual beings) to Rama — the Supreme God. Accordingly, Hanuman is the ultimate guru and savior for all devotees of Rama. We can request Lord Hanuman directly to guide us towards Lord Rama. We can just talk to Lord Hanuman as we would talk to a guru. Lord Hanuman and Lord Rama always listen to us.

Lord Rama: Selected Interesting Facts

Given below are some interesting facts about Lord Rama, who has limitless divine qualities.

  1. Rama is the most ideal and accessible form of God — the Supreme God who also chose to live with us — on Earth. He is God as how God should be.
  2. It was Rama’s name that was chanted by saints like Sri Ramananda, St. Tulasidasa, St. Thyagaraja, St. Mirabai, St. Raidasa, St. Tukarama, and Samarth Guru Ramadas. These saints have had the highest impact, in recent times, on Hindu spirituality; the full list of his devotees is very big.
  3. In the Adhyatma Ramayana, at the beginning of his fourteen-year long exile, when Rama asked Rishi Valmiki where he could live in the forest, Valmiki replied, “You, the Lord of all, already live everywhere – in all beings.”
  4. Goswami Tulasidasa says that his Lord, Sri Rama, is beyond comparison and “Rama is only comparable to himself … If one compares the Sun to a billion fireflies, it is, in fact, a criticism of the Sun.” This implies that all metaphors and adjectives used for the glorification of Rama are trivial, but Rama accepts them out of his mercy on beings; they may get counted as prayers.
  5. Rama’s name is bigger than the words Paramatma, Para Brahman, and Paratpara Brahman — all of them combined.
  6. From a human perspective, Rama has the strongest astrological chart mathematically possible.
  7. During his divine plays on Earth, Rama was the disciple of Brahmarishi Vasistha — the topmost sage of Hinduism. Some of the questions he asked his guru are documented in the Yogavasistha.
  8. Rama’s ista devata is Lord Shiva. Rama is the ista devata of Lord Hanuman, the ultimate Vaishnava.
  9. Diwali, the top Hindu festival, also known as the festival of lights, celebrates Rama’s return to Ayodhya from exile.

God’s grace may be essential for liberation

No matter how focused and self-assured we happen to be in our spiritual pursuits, our own potential may not be adequate to give us deliverance from the universe. This is one reason why devotional saints have considered the grace of God so important in the context of liberation. Surrender of the self to the Divine makes us more worthy of His grace, which is our ticket to gaining eternal proximity to God.

Reflecting on the glory of God’s grace, Saint Tulasidasa has said, “Ja par kripa Rama ki hoi, ta par kripa kare sab koi,” which basically means, “Whoever is blessed by the grace of God wins the grace of every single being in the universe.” For human beings, it is the grace of God that transforms as guidance and blessings from mentors and saints, as guidance from scriptures, as positive energy from places of worship, and as the development of virtues like forgiveness and patience.

It is God’s grace that protects us from all kinds of sufferings, brings us in contact with true and spiritual friends, gets reflected as selflessness in our work, and provides us with food and other basic needs. God’s grace, in one of its highest forms, becomes bhakti (devotion), the basis of our spiritual connection to God. Once bhakti — the love of God — is granted to us, peace, bliss, and liberation always follow it.

Do Hindu scriptures say that Rama is the Supreme God?

I would like to share my answer to a Quora question. The answer tries to reject some of the misconceptions people have about Lord Rama. Though Rama has been established as the Supreme God in most Hindu scriptures, some individuals continue to propagate the false viewpoint that he is not divine.

If a human being does not want to believe that Lord Rama is Purna-Brahman — and all-knowing, — no literature support for this fact will be sufficient for him or her. On the other hand, if someone has developed faith, he or she will unambiguously recognize Rama’s divinity in all authentic versions of the Ramayana — including those written by Maharishi Valmiki, Maharishi Ved Vyas, and Goswami Tulasidasa — and in other devotional Hindu scriptures. So in the end, it is Rama (God) himself — the Real Doer — who decides if Rama will be perceived as the Divine by an individual soul (jiva) or as a mere human being or as an allegory. This is where faith and trust on Rama become important.

Unfortunately, today we do not have access to many scriptures in their original forms [1]; many scriptures appear to have later additions in them with internal logical inconsistencies or errors. Because we did not have a printing press in earlier times, it came down do hand-written manuscripts being transferred from generation to generation and memorization by later scholars. This is where unnecessary words may have been inserted, in spite of good intentions.

What can be a solution to deal with this situation? Rather than developing a My favourite scripture is perfect or My favourite scripture is better than your scripture kind of paradigm, we should learn to absorb what is useful in any scripture and skip what is not relevant for us. Moreover, equally importantly, we can also request Rama to directly guide us towards himself. In Hinduism, Rama’s being the Supreme God is not solely a scripture-dependent concept; it is more dependent on the personal experiences of devotional saints who have met him in person [2] and the experiences of commoners, some of which have also been documented in scriptures.

[1] Some relatively newer scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita may have had a higher chance of reaching us in their original state or with minimal modifications. In North India, the Ramacharitamanasa was more recently written and may have reached us in its original state.

[2] For many exclusive devotees of Rama like Sri Ramananda, Goswami Tulasidasa, Saint Thyagaraja, and Samarth Guru Ramdas, Lord Rama happens to be the source of Lord Vishnu and all incarnations. For many Vaishnava saints like Mirabai and Surdas, Rama is an equal of Krishna; for some, he is an incarnation of Vishnu. In spite of the superficial differences, Rama has been considered divine by all Vaishnava saints.

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