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Honouring The Ramayan Part 2
• Part Two
In this Indian heritage month of May, we pause to celebrate the arrival of the first contingent of Indian immigrant labour on May 30, 1845. These arrivals were generally unlettered but were versed in Indian languages and were able to read quite easily the verses of Hindu holy scripture, the Ramayan of Saint Tulsidas. He, himself was inspired at a place called Chitrakoot.
Chitrakoot means the “Hill of many wonders” and falls in the northern Vindhya range of mountains spread over the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It is a holy place inhabited by the great sages, abounding in monkeys, bears and various other kinds of fauna and flora.
Tulsidas who produced the Ramayan, is the saint-poet of Hinduism and has spoken very reverently of this place. It was here that he had the darshan (vision) of his beloved deity Lord Rama at the intercession of Hanumanji. It is declared of the Ramayan that as long as the mountains stand and the rivers flow, so long the Ramayan will be recited, sung and listened to for the upliftment of all of humanity. The Ramayan is appreciated universally and across race, religion, caste, ethnicity and geography.
The enactment of the Ramayan through Ramleela dramatisations is one of the grandest achievements. The philosophy, costuming, scenery and other elements of drama constitute a magnificent portrayal of the human situations and reactions. It is a learning theatre. Apart from the meaning of this scriptural text, the work inculcates the loftiest thoughts and the highest traditions known to man. It has always succeeded in providing enlightenment to seekers and has been an effective solution for destroying unhappiness and misfortunes.
The Ramayan is replete with human interest situations and guides and advises on moral and ethical principles. It targets every single individual and has mass appeal through its universal and timeless message. The sacred Ramayan, above all, instills an attitude of reverence to God who assumed a mortal body to live like a common human. In assuming such a form, Lord Rama is able to engage the attention of every individual to listen with absorption, the messages which he delivers for the upliftment of all mankind.
The Ramayan is accessible and loved in the smallest of villages and the largest of cities. It synthesises, fuses and reconciles the various streams of thoughts and philosophy of Hinduism, and integrates the full spectrum of values for appreciation in daily life. While the Vedas and Uparishads (major Hindu scriptures), are largely iconoclastic in study (ashrams and libraries especially), the Ramayan and the Bhagwat Gita are considered the two most loved books worthy of the highest regard and veneration.
The central theme of the Ramayan is bhakti or devotion. It has inspired devotees to turn their lives to the Lord Ram as confirmation of their very existence. It has been taught through discourses by Lord Shiva to Mother Parvati, saint Yagnavalkya to Bharadivaja, Kaakbhushundr to Garuda and Tulsidas to the masses.
Tulsidas’ love for Lord Rama through the Ramayan is mirrored in how Rama took the human form to bring an end to all forms of unrighteousness, to bless the devotees, sages, saints, holy cow and others, as well as to deliver the most profound discourses on all aspects of human conduct. The Ramayan also conveys the understanding and appreciation that everyone in the world is subject to the vagaries of life but the pathway to freedom is delivered through the comforting message of devotion to God.
The Ramayan provides for inner and outer illumination. It grants us the wisdom to discriminate between good and evil, positive and negative, and the entire spectrum of dualities. Prayer to God is the antidote to transcend all dualities. The pathway of devotion is easy and both the lettered and unlettered have equal opportunities in attaining realisation through devotion.
The spiritual power of the Ramayan validates and confirms all the qualities that are required to conquer the lower self. It repeatedly points to the dangers of pursuit of greed, infatuation, arrogance, lust, hatred, jealously and other allied negative qualities.
The Ramayan encourages and inspires selfless service in every individual (Nishkama Bhakti), and teaches the noble son how to succeed over negative qualities and tendencies. Those who seek the welfare of others are guaranteed an auspicious state. Ramayan allows us to understand how to traverse the ocean of birth and death, while reminding us that everyone reaps the fruit, good and bad, of his/her actions.
Sri Rama promises the devotee eternal blessing in return for complete surrender. He assures every individual that the greatest distress and grief can be adequately addressed if one has the right spirit to confront all difficulties.
The enduring messages of the Ramayan make it one of the greatest treasures known to man, and millions the world over have been consoled by the soothing words and advice. No wonder then, the Ramayan is kept in devotees’ homes, chanted by pundits and bowed to reverently by humanity on a daily routine.