|Date: 22 May 2002||Occasion: Summer Course||Place: Brindavan|
That which fosters universal peace,
That which destroys all scope for mean thoughts,
That which encourages unity and cooperation,
Is real Education;
This is the education a student should aspire to acquire.
Embodiments of love!
The principle of Rama attracts everybody. Such a principle can be explained for days one end and still cannot be explained satisfactorily. As you keep hearing the song of the cuckoo bird, it may bore you after sometime. As you keep drinking, even the nectar may taste sour at some point of time. But the story of Rama can be read any number of times and it would still feel new. He who sings, or reads, or hears, or gets to read this sacred story of Rama will find it highly nectarine.
No one knows the origin of the Ramayana or from when it was being sung in public. However, based on certain evidences, scholars have made a few predictions. The conversation that Ravana was having with Sita while abducting her gives a hint of the age of the characters in the epic, in that era. Ravana told Sita, "My age is now 2000 years, your husband Rama is just 40 years of age, and your own age is 39 years."
The earth is invested with several forms of energy. In between ether and the earth, a vast body of energy field is condensed. This is why ether cannot attract the earth. The power of planet earth is unimaginable. Hence, earth is considered to be the storehouse of all energies. Predominant among the energies is the power of magnetism. Repeated investigations have failed to throw light on the nature of this energy.
Sita is a daughter of Goddess Earth --Bhudevi. She is therefore also called Bhujatha. When Rama went to lift Lord Siva's bow, Bhudevi rejoiced. The various kings and princes who had assembled were not of the right age for Sita. Their looks were of no match to those of Sita. Only Rama looked extremely youthful. His physical features were beyond description. He was extremely handsome. Bhudevi decided that Rama was the right match for Sita. She saw to it that there was no obstruction on Rama's path to victory in the assembly. When Rama lifted Lord Siva's bow, He used his left hand. This indicates that Rama required just His left hand to accomplish something that others found impossible. This was actually the great strength of mother earth at work. She reduced the weight of the bow and enhanced Rama's strength. In this way, mother earth always conducted herself as occasion demanded.
The wonderful powers of the earth are indescribable. However, all the minerals, metals, and chemicals that are in the earth are also present in man. Electric, chemical, magnetic --these and many more strengths are in man. One cannot say how many, but every kind of energy and material in the core of earth are already in man. But there is no realization in man regarding his great potential.
The Divinity in man is extremely sacred. Man is tremendously powerful because of this Divinity in him. He can do anything, if only he wills . Today, thanks to the influence of science, man has reached the moon. He has also brought back dust from the moon. But these are all expressions of the inner strength of man. It is a pity that man cannot recognize his own strength.
Today, everyone asks the other, "Who are you?" Not even one asks the question, "Who am I?" All your problems get solved when you inquire into this question. In this question is embedded the answer to all questions.
Ravana was abducting Sita across the ocean to Lanka. He was highly materialistic and hence wanted to impress Sita with glimpses of his riches, power, opulence, and acquisitions. With this intention, he took Sita into the inner apartments of his palace. But Sita didn't open her eyes to any of these.
Mandodari was very sad at the turn of events. She advised Ravana thus, "Oh! Lord! Why are you inviting your doom? Rightly is it said that as the time of destruction approaches, good sense takes leave. Why did you have to bring here such a chaste and pious lady like Sita? This is our fate. You are not making attempts to understand the true nature of mother Sita. For that, you need to know and control yourself first. She definitely cannot stay in the inner palace. Instead select a peaceful location and put her there, so that she can derive some solace by thinking about Lord Rama."
Paying heed to Mandodari's advice, Ravana set up a small house in the Ashoka Vana (small forest of Ashoka trees) for Sita to live in peace.
Mandodari is ranked as an ideal wife because, like a minister who warns his king against danger, she gave timely advice to Ravana and made sincere attempts to prohibit him from going astray. She told him, "Lord! Instead of doing Ramachinta (thoughts about Lord Rama ) you are doing kamachinta (indulging in lustful thoughts). You will never face good times. Your doom is approaching. This is why you are entertaining such wicked, destructive thoughts. You should never cause a woman to cry and make her shed tears. If you do, for every tear that she sheds, you will have to shed a thousand. Never hurt a woman. She should never be made to worry." Thus Mandodari tried her best to make Ravana realize his folly.
One day, Mandodari herself went to Sita. She implored, "O daughter of Mother earth! Accept my salutations. You are a chaste and noble lady. You are highly sacred and pure. My husband is an evil man. His evil deeds are dragging him to his destruction. It is said that,
With good feelings, man enjoys happiness;
With evil feelings, he himself becomes evil.
His bad intentions are making him evil. Please forgive him and save me from widowhood." This episode of Mandodari pleading with Sita is not chronicled in any version of the Ramayana.
Meanwhile, Sita was totally lost in contemplation of Rama. Mandodari's pleas did not even register in her.
At such a time, what was the situation in Lanka? Just like the situation today, people were highly agitated. There was a strange sense of uneasiness and unrest amongst the citizens. They suppressed their sufferings in their heart and would not express them freely for fear of persecution by Ravana.
Meanwhile, Vibhishana's wife Sarama took upon herself the task of serving Sita. She had several conversations with Sita and tried to give her strength. She said, "Mother! I am indeed fortunate to serve such a holy person like you. Your pure character alone can lend some peace to Lanka. Ravana is no ordinary king. He is exceptionally wicked, and it is our misfortune that you have got caught in his hands." Sarama did her best to thus console Sita and lift her spirits.
One night, Sarama had a prophetic dream. She had a daughter named Sakini, who had an identical dream. The dream vividly showed Lanka as being totally dry and arid. It showed all the trees as having withered and fallen. The royal palace was seen utterly ruined, and Ravana was stumbling about without even water to drink. This was the dream. She understood that what she saw to be Ravana's fate was a direct consequence of his own wicked deeds. At the same time, she could not but help feel sad.
Meanwhile, Ravana appeared at the Ashoka gardens. He visited Sita everyday to announce the countdown to the number of days left for her to accept him. Sita would remain oblivious to all such threats.
One day, Sarama approached Sita, caught Her feet and prayed, "Mother! This has been a unique good fortune that I have had. My daughter also has been blessed by this opportunity. My husband is a person of sound character. He is also a devotee of Rama. He has surrendered himself to Rama at the seashore. I am thrilled that our entire family has had this unique opportunity of being at Rama's service."
Sita felt a little peaceful when she heard this from Sarama; she realized that she had someone She could trust, around her.
At that moment, Hanuman entered the scene. He had been searching for Sita all over Lanka. He was constantly censuring himself at the predicament he was in. To find Sita, he was forced to look amongst and at the ladies. He hence entered the inner apartments of the palace. He could feel the evil vibrations from the cruel demonesses who inhabited the rooms. Their actions were most grotesque. Hanuman scolded himself, "Alas! What a sin I am committing! Are these the scenes I am expected to see? These eyes must see the divine form of Lord Rama and not such ugly spectacles. Yet, I am forced to do so if I must succeed in finding Sita. I must not allow these situations to overcome me." So strengthening his resolve, Hanuman climbed over the walls of the inner chambers and continued his search.
At the time when Hanuman was captured and brought before Ravana, an interesting conversation took place between the two. Ravana was holding a court in a gigantic hall of the palace. Ravana looked at the captive Hanuman and demanded, "You are a monkey. You have destroyed entire gardens. Who has sent you here, O foolish fellow?"
Hanuman was no ordinary being! He replied using the same harsh language, "Foolish fellow! The same hero who chopped off the ears and nose of your sister has sent me here!"
Ravana was angry at this. He threatened Hanuman, "You impudent fellow! No king has dared address me in such derogatory terms! Watch your tongue, or I shall silence it forever!".
Hanuman shot back, "Maybe none has dared to demean you like this. I am Rama's servant, and I will definitely talk to you in this tone for you deserve nothing better!"
This was the conversation between Hanuman and Ravana. Ravana had already got the news of Hanuman visiting Sita and the exchange of messages between the two. When Hanuman set fire to Lanka and went back, Ravana started worrying that Rama would definitely come, anytime from then on. He looked at the possible defeat at Rama's hands. These were the effects of his own guilty conscience! It led him to hallucinate all such scenarios and did not give him a moment's peace!
We shall now go back to Hanuman's search for Sita. Hanuman was on the rooftop of the inner apartments, and from a distance, he espied the tall trees of Ashoka Vana. He jumped and reached the gardens. And there, under a tree, he finally saw the forlorn form of Mother Sita. She was definitely very sad. Hanuman climbed the tree under which she sat and started singing the glory of Dasaratha's son from the beginning.
Sita was perplexed and looked up in astonishment. She wondered, "Who is this monkey?" She had never seen a vanara (monkey) before. Hence, Hanuman was a total stranger to Sita.
As an answer to her enquiring look, Hanuman respectfully folded his palms and said, "Mother! I am a servant of Lord Rama. I am here to serve Your lotus feet."
Hanuman's arguments didn't have any effect on Sita. She didn't acknowledge his presence or his explanations. It was her bitter experience that the demons acquired a variety of forms and were masters of illusory tactics. She suspected that Hanuman too was a part of such a ploy.
Hanuman jumped down from the tree. Constantly chanting the name of Rama, he addressed Sita, "Mother! Here is proof of my identity." He then handed over to Sita the ring given by Rama to him.
Sita respectfully pressed the ring to her eyes. She told Hanuman, "Hanuman, how lucky you are! Did Rama Himself give you this ring? This was a gift to my Lord from King Janaka at the time of my wedding. Where is Rama now? How is He?" She eagerly enquired about the Lord in this way.
Hanuman gave her courage by saying, "Mother! Be brave, He is coming shortly. He shall definitely come and take you back with Him. You must not worry. If You are anxious and permit this humble servant, please sit on my back. I shall fly you to Rama immediately."
Sita smiled and said, "Hanuman, if I was to sit on your back and go back to Rama, you would be accused of committing the same sin of abduction as Ravana. I don't want you to get such a bad name. Rama Himself must come. He must kill Ravana and release me from this prison. Till then, I shall wait and put up with this torture. Kindly carry this news to my Lord Rama." With great reluctance and sadness, she gave permission for Hanuman to leave.
Hanuman couldn't bear to see the sadness in Sita. He decided to teach the demons a lesson and proceeded to lay the beautiful Asoka gardens to utter waste, . He was finally captured and brought before Ravana.
Hanuman accused Ravana of being a sinner and a wicked king. He told that it was the misfortune of the citizens of Lanka to have him as their king. If the ruler was so wicked, he wondered, what could be said about the ruled? Hanuman poured scorn on Ravana thus.
Later, when he reached Rama, Hanuman conveyed the good news to Him. Rama, Lakshmana, Sugriva, and all other vanaras (monkeys) were waiting eagerly on the seashore. Hanuman landed in front of them. He was greeted with congratulations and benedictions of victory from the ecstatic battalions of vanaras. They praised Hanuman and said, "Hanuman! It is by such timely, helpful and sacred spirit of service to Rama that you have won His heart. You have indeed brought good news. May all auspiciousness greet Rama from now on."
Before Hanuman took leave of Sita, she gave him her crown jewel. This was one among several that were presented to her by Sage Agastya's wife, Anusuya. Rama was aware of this jewel. The moment Hanuman handed over this to Rama; Rama was both joyful and agonized. He heard the news that Sita was safe. This gladdened His heart. Hanuman explained to Rama everything that had occurred in Lanka.
Oh! Sri Rama, listen to my prayers!
Accept the sacred jewel Sita has sent for you.
I have seen Sita shivering like a parrot in a cage.
Surrounded she is by a number of fierce demonesses.
Oh! How they scare her by their threats and weapons.
Poor mother can only bow her head in fear and anguish.
Oh! Sri Rama, listen to my prayers!
Firstly, there is Indrajit.
Then comes the commander in chief, Prahasta.
The vast courtyards, the palatial bungalows,
The big markets, and the dazzling orchids,
I have seen them all!
Oh! Rama listen to my prayers!
In this way, Hanuman described in great detail everything that he had seen in Lanka. Hearing about Sita's plight, Lakshmana immediately grabbed his bow and arrows. He urged his brother to get up and act immediately. He said, "This is not the time to rest even for a moment. Let us proceed immediately and put an end to Mother Sita's plight and bring Her back safely."
Rama calmly replied, "Peace, peace, peace! One should not act in haste. Without proper enquiry, investigations, and planning, any action can produce only negative results. Let us therefore proceed cautiously."
Sugriva sent instructions to his friends and kinsmen to mobilize a huge army. He instructed that the army enter Lanka, destroy Ravana, and only then return.
With such enthusiasm and vigour, the vanara army, comprising experienced heroes like Sugriva, Hanuman, Jambavanta, and others, soon reached the shores of Lanka. The entire city was panic-stricken. The vanara army was all over the countryside around Lanka. They were on the hills, on the treetops, on the plains, and everywhere! The Lankans were strangers to monkeys till they saw Hanuman. The memory of the destruction that Hanuman caused during his previous visit was all too fresh in their minds. They were wondering among themselves.
Oh! Where from has this terrible monkey come?
Who has sent this messenger of destruction to Lanka?
Our houses are in ruins, our families are homeless.
All the houses are on fire, oh!
Where are we to take shelter?
We hear he is Rama's messenger come to see Sita.
He is contented with the cooling vision of Sita.
But his anger has heated up our Lanka!
Oh! What destruction! What a calamity!
Our city lies in ruins, thanks to the monkey!
Oh! Where from has this terrible monkey come?
Ravana will face certain ruin.
He has abducted chaste and pious Sita.
If the messenger be so strong,
Oh! What to say of the Master!
In this way, the citizens of Lanka were terror stricken. The monkey that had caused tremendous destruction earlier had now reappeared with more of its kind! Ravana's ministers, courtiers and allies were at a loss as to what to do.
How did the vanara (monkey) army cross the ocean? The mighty Hanuman could do it, but what about the entire army? Rama propitiated the God of Ocean with an arrow. The deity responded and facilitated the crossing.
The vanaras were raising war cries against the demons. Ravana could not stand the noise. A fierce battle was imminent. Ravana was sure to meet his end in the war. This was also the popular sentiment of the citizens of Lanka. They all wondered, "Why is this wicked person so keen to meet his doom? He is aiming to burn to ashes not just himself but his entire kingdom as well". Everybody was thus criticizing Ravana within themselves. None of them entertained any pleasant feelings for Ravana.
War commenced. It was a fierce pitched battle. Indrajit, the son of Ravana, who had defeated Indra himself, entered the battle. He was the eldest son of Ravana. It was the second day of the battle. He was geared splendidly in the war attire. The vanaras mistook him to be Ravana himself. He caused a great deal of havoc and destruction in their ranks. There was none in the army equal to him in might and valour.
Vibhishana approached Rama and explained, "Rama! You must kill him somehow. If you kill him, it is as good as striking at Ravana himself. Indrajit is a mighty support for Ravana's army. If you hit his thumb, he is sure to fall".
And so it was done as told. Indrajit fell. Vibhishana was observed wiping his tears. Lakshmana was surprised. He asked Vibhishana, "So many have died in the battle. But why do you weep for Indrajit alone?"
Vibheeshana replied, "Lord! He was like my only son. It is with this filial attachment that I weep. But in truth, it was vital that Indrajit be removed from the scene. Ravana's arrogance was primarily based on the might of Indrajit. There are several more such heroes on whom Ravana depends".
In this way, Vibheeshana gave Rama a brief account of several warriors in Ravana's army. Gradually Ravana started losing each one of his celebrated generals.
Soon, Kumbhakarna entered the fray. But he too met his end. How can one expect a person to fight when he is always either eating or sleeping? A poet once explained an interesting aspect in the names of the three brothers. These names are written as, Rabhana, Vibhashana, and Kumbhakarna. The second syllable in all the names is that of 'Bha'. The syllable 'Bha' signifies 'AH'. Hence, it is indicated that they would all be burnt to ashes.
Finally, Ravana himself came to the battlefield. Deep within himself he was worried; but he hid it and fought. As each of his head was knocked off, another took its place. It was proving to be impossible to vanquish Ravana.
Once again, it was Vibhishana who revealed to Rama the secret of Ravana's invincibility and directed where the arrow had to be shot. He said, " ama! There is no sin in betraying such a wicked person. His death is highly beneficial for the world. I don't aspire for or desire to rule the kingdom. But this evil Ravana must be killed."
Rama followed Vibheeshana's directions and shot his arrow. Ravana fell on the battlefield.
Mandodari came running and wailed in agony, "Lord! I warned you several times not to meddle with chaste and pious married women. I told you not to cast lustful eyes on spiritually accomplished women. You are now reaping the consequence of your sins. You have accumulated plenty of vices. I tried to dissuade you. But you would never pay me any attention." It is rightly said,
Good advice is never accepted.
Though given with a good heart.
Evil counsel is immensely attractive to the ears.
How will such people ever realize Me?
Of what use is one's accomplishment if one doesn't listen to good advice? One is bound to be ruined. Ravana too could not escape this fate, and he paid for it with his life.
The vanaras rejoiced at Ravana's fall. They had also lost a number of their own members.
Sita was brought to Rama. Strangely, Rama wouldn't raise his head to look at Sita. Sita was highly anxious and eager to catch a glimpse of Rama. She had been away from her husband for ten months and wanted to see Him at least once. Rama did not seem to show any interest. Instead, He ordered Lakshmana to light a fire for Sita to prove Her chastity. It was Rama's intention that Sita pass through the fire and prove to the world that She was blemishless, sacred, and pure. It was only after this proof that Rama was willing to accept Her.
Rama knew about Sita's innocence, but the world was bound to spread rumours about Her character. If Sita were to prove Herself with a trial by fire, none would dare open their mouths.
Sita saluted Rama, circumambulated the fire thrice, and hurled Herself into it.
The Fire God appeared. He proclaimed, "Rama! Sita is innocent. She is a highly accomplished, sacred, and virtuous lady. There is no need for you to prosecute Her. I am withdrawing and extinguishing Myself."
Thus Sita was brought to Rama. The monkeys were all agog to catch a glimpse of Mother Sita and fell one over the other in total disarray in their eagerness to see Sita. Rama accepted Sita as His own.
Meanwhile Vibhishana brought the aerial vehicle --pushpaka vimana-- and put it at Rama's disposal. This vehicle belonged to the stepbrother of Ravana. Ravana had vanquished him in battle and usurped it. Rama, Lakshmana, Sita, Vibhishana, Sugriva, and all others boarded the vehicle and proceeded to fly toward Ayodhya.
At the same time, Bharatha was eagerly awaiting Rama's arrival. The deadline Rama had given him for His reaching Ayodhya was over that day. He was disturbed with anxiety as to whether Rama would come or not. He had a chariot kept ready to receive Rama and take Him to Ayodhya. Shortly, to his great joy he saw pushpaka vimana approaching in the sky. The citizens of Ayodhya were overjoyed. Their hearts were dry without seeing Rama for fourteen long years. The state of the women was beyond description. They had spent fourteen years in great despair. They were unable to relish their food. They had all become almost skeletons in appearance. They had spent their time chanting Rama's name and consoling themselves.
Meanwhile, Satrughna arrived from Ayodhya with garlands for his brothers and sister-in-law. Pushpaka vimana landed, and everyone alighted from it. And then a wonder occurred. Satrughna had not seen Bharatha for a very long time, since Bharatha was on a self-imposed exile at Nandi Grama. He was astonished to see that Bharatha and Rama looked identical! This wonder was witnessed by one and all. Since Bharatha had spent every moment of the fourteen years in constant contemplation of Rama, he had acquired Rama's features and attributes. As everyone was wondering, Lakshmana came to Satrughna's rescue. Rama was garlanded, and one garland was presented to Sita. The entire group moved in a procession toward Ayodhya.
At Ayodhya, there was gaiety and happiness all around. Functions were organized everyday. The populace was extremely happy to get Rama back after fourteen years. This was all due to the power of His Mother's blessings. Kausalya blessed Rama, "Son! May you pass the fourteen long years like you spent just fourteen minutes. No obstacle will obstruct You because You are the incarnation of Lord Narayana. None can trouble You. You will definitely reach Ayodhya safe and sound." She lovingly embraced Rama on His return.
It was now Sumitra's turn. She is a good friend to all. Her virtues cannot be described. She too was thrilled at the victorious return of Rama. She was confident all through that none could harm Rama or cause Him an iota of trouble for the simple reason that no such person could be born. She brought her daughter-in-law Urmila to Lakshmana.
It was fourteen years since Lakshmana and Urmila had seen each other. She fell at her husband's feet and said, "Lord! It was your total dedication to Rama that has saved and protected you so far. You would always think of Rama. It was that sacred name that guarded and guided you." She was overjoyed and applied vermilion to Lakshmana's feet, as was the custom in those days.
Kaikeyi too arrived on the scene. She was not wicked, as is commonly depicted. She was fully aware of the purpose of Rama's incarnation. She praised Sumitra that it was her good wishes and blessings that had kept her son Lakshmana safe and secure. The house of Dasaratha was indeed fortunate to have four gems of sons and four equally virtuous daughters-in-law.
Sumitra gathered the four couples together, blessed them contently and retired from the scene. She told Rama, "I spent fourteen years life thinking of You. It was my cherished desire that I see You after fourteen years. I have seen You now and sanctified myself. My life's purpose is served." There was nothing else she wanted from life, and she soon died peacefully.
Kaikeyi was also highly contended and at peace with herself. She was subjected to malignant attacks. But she did not heed any attention to them. She was fully aware of the mission that Rama was to undertake. When Rama was very young, she was teaching him archery. Rama had then already cautioned her, " Mother! I incarnated to put an end to the demons. You must plan to be a part of this mission".
This is the reason that Kaikeyi went on to ask the two seemingly heartless boons from Dasaratha. She pretended to succumb to Manthara's wicked promptings and asked Dasaratha to banish Rama. All that was now past. Rama had returned victorious, and everybody was singing praises of His glory. Kaikeyi also passed away, contented with her role in the master plan. Ayodhya was decked in all frenzy and rejoiced at the return of her princes.