Lord Rama meets Shabri: Devotion is the sole reason for ‘darshan’

According to the Adhyatma Ramayana, when God-incarnate Lord Rama visited Shabri’s hermitage, Shabri told Rama that she had been waiting for his visit ever since her guru, Rishi Matang, left for Lord Brahma’s abode. Her mystic guru had foretold her that the Eternal Supreme Soul, who had incarnated on Earth for the preservation of dharma, would bless her with his darshan (face-to-face meeting with God) one day and had instructed her to maintain her life till that moment. After pleasantly receiving Lord Rama and offering him some fruits, Shabri asked a question, “When even my guru, a great sage, could not obtain your darshan, how could I — a socially disadvantaged person — attain it?”
In reply, Lord Rama explained that his remembrance is not influenced by gender, caste, title, or age but finds its source in bhakti (devotion) alone. In the absence of bhakti, virtuous actions like sacrifices, charity, asceticism, and learning are fruitless in leading to his darshan.

Chanting, God remembrance, and prayer are interrelated devotional techniques for spiritual connectivity, and they can also antidote some of our bad karma while transforming us. Once love of God gets triggered, we may achieve the grace of God (kripa), which should generally include guidance for our liberation from the universe. Grace may also be seen in the spiritual guidance that we already possess — from religious scriptures, from discourses by saints, and from our learning experiences in temples. And grace may also be seen in our interest in spirituality.

In Goswami Tulasidasa’s retelling of Shabri’s meeting with Lord Rama in the Ramacharitamanasa, Lord Rama gave Shabri a discourse on the nine kinds of devotion through which an individual soul (jiva) can reach God. Rama concluded by clarifying that devotion leads to the experience of the Divine which, in turn, leads to emancipation: “I am here because you are endowed with bhakti. And my darshan will unquestionably lead to your liberation.” Lord Rama explained that his darshan has a unique result for an individual soul (jiva): the attainment of one’s true nature.

Because Hinduism allows multiple approaches to God, devotion and faith in God are not seen as prerequisites for liberation. If we choose to approach God through Bhakti Yoga, we can add devotional elements like forgiveness, patience, perseverance, and enthusiasm to our favorite devotional techniques to shape our spiritual path to God. It is interesting to note that some members of Hinduism’s devotional schools do not cherish liberation as highly as a darshan. It is the face-to-face meeting with God that the devotee seeks. Transcendence of the karmic field and permanent proximity to God consequentially follow a darshan.

Edited on July 24, 2019.

Peer-to-peer learning: An instance from the Ramacharitamanasa

According to the Ramacharitamanasa, when Garuda (eagle; Vishnu’s vehicle) helped Lord Rama in His divine play on earth by untying Him from a mystical weapon, he got doubtful about the divinity of Rama. He kept pondering that if Rama were the Absolute, why would He ever need any help from him. On seeing no end to this confusion, Garuda eventually reached Lord Shiva for help. All Shiva had to do was explain to him that Rama is the Absolute Reality and Rama’s maya is responsible for such divine plays. And Who could have been a better guru than Shiva – the Only One Who knows Rama. But in stead of resolving Garuda’s problem, Shiva prescribed a “long term satsang” with another bird named Kakbhushundi for the reason that “a bird can understand only what a bird says.”

This is an example where Shiva promotes peer-to-peer interaction in learning and clearance of doubts. We have better chances of learning from people we have faith in and who resemble us. In line with this logic, a saint understands what a saint says and entrepreneurs understand what their corporate community says. When we see people like ourselves, we open our mind to receiving data from them. The similarity of our experiences in a peer group can also enable better connectivity and information exchange between the ‘preacher’ and the ‘learner.’ This may also explain why Shiva rarely initiates us into spirituality Himself, but sends us to another human guru so that we can reach Him.

Dussehra Special: Lord Rama’s Chariot

On the auspicious festival of Dussehra, celebrated to honor the victory of righteousness over evil, we should take a moment to look at the chariot that Lord Rama used in His battle to defeat Ravana in the Ramayana. While a visible chariot was delivered as an aid by Indra, the actual chariot, made from spirituality, that Rama used is described by Goswami Tulasidasa in the Ramacharitmanasa. When Vibhishana inquires how Rama would fight a war without a chariot and armor, He responded that a different type of chariot is used for victory:

Valor and patience are the wheels of this chariot; truth and morality form its flag; strength, discrimination, control of senses and good deeds are its horses, which are fixed to the chariot though the straps of forgiveness, compassion and equanimity. While God remembrance is the driver, intellect is the energy that drives this chariot. After describing the rest of the ‘artillery’, which includes the shield of renunciation, a sword made of contentment, an axe of charity, a bow made of spiritual knowledge, a quiver symbolized by a clean and firm mind, an armor from faith in one’s gurus, and arrows represented by a controlled mind and the yam-niyam of yoga, Rama continues that with such a chariot, no opponent remains undefeated.

Bringing at least a couple of elements from this chariot in our own lives may be a fruitful complement to burning the effigies of Ravana on today’s special occasion.

Lord Rama: In search of a home

In the Adhyatma Ramayana, at the beginning of His fourteen-year long exile, when Rama asks Valmiki where He could live in the forest, Valmiki reiterates the omnipresence of Rama by responding that He, the Lord of all, lives everywhere – in all beings. Still, there are some places He certainly and preferably inhabits with Goddess Sita. Briefly, His homes include the hearts of devotees who are peaceful, level-headed, free of hatred for all beings, and who continually remember the Lord. Similarly, He resides in the hearts of mortals who have reached beyond the dualities of good and bad, gold and dirt, and happiness and sorrow, who are in His refuge, who surrender all karma to Him, or who see Him everywhere and serve Him continually.

So it should not be a surprise that Rama has fewer places to live today, at least on earth. Having diminished many of His prospective homes through our selfish guidance to fellow beings, are we expecting Him to search and build His own residence? Well, the unfortunate difficulty for the jiva is that Rama does not reveal Himself in an ‘abode’ unless He is adorably invited to stay in it. And in His absence within us, we will definitely have trouble associating Him with monuments like the Rama Setu, which He had personally touched only once.

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