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Date: 21 May 2002 Occasion: Summer Course Place: Prasanthi Nilayam

Rama, The Ideal Hero
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

The one whose heart is laden with compassion,
The one whose words are marked by truth,
The one whose time is spent in performing beneficial deeds for the welfare of others,
Such ones are not affected by influence of the age of Kali.

Embodiments of love!

Today, the power of Kali affects everybody without any distinction. Realising that Ravana would pass away in a few minutes, many sages, scholars, and noble men came to Ravana and asked him, "O Ravana! You performed many good deeds as well as evil deeds. What is it the most memorable thing that you have discovered in your life?"

Ravana replied, "Sirs! Don't delay the noble acts you want to perform at any time. Put into action whatever noble thoughts and feelings that arise in your heart instantaneously. Procrastination is the thief of time. It is dangerous to delay. At one time, I thought of connecting the earth and heaven with a ladder. I wished to turn the saline water surrounding Lanka into sweet water. I wished to bring comfort and solace to the residents of Hell. Though I decided to do these things, I delayed acting. Thereafter, I could never succeed in doing them. Translate into action whatever good resolve emanates in your minds. We waste our time in postponing the good deeds. We should be ever ready to put into action all the good thoughts that arise in the mind."

This is the noble advice that Ravana gave to the people who came to him at the fag end of his life. Since he delayed the performance of good deeds, it brought disaster to him.

While Rama and Lakshmana were moving in the forest in search of Sita, they accosted a strange person who had his face in his stomach. Seeing his form, they concluded that this person was a demon. Rama and Lakshmana went to the demon and asked him, "Who are you? You don't have any head. How do you live? Why don't you have a neck, like other people have?"

The strange creature answered, "O sir! My name is Kabandha. I have hands that can extend to ten miles. They can grasp any prey that I desire to eat. I fill my stomach without moving much. Who are you? Why have you entered this dense and terrible forest? You seem to be tender beings. You look like princes. To which kingdom do you belong?"

Rama, who always spoke the truth, replied, "We have come here in obedience to the command of our father. I suffer from the pangs of separation from my wife. Someone has kidnapped her. Please tell us where she is and what happened to her."

Kabandha told Rama, "O sir! First burn me to ashes. I will then give you all the information you need."

They killed him and burned his body. A handsome being arose out of the ashes and told them, "I was forced to assume this ugly form due to the curses of sages. I was told that whoever burns me to ashes is verily God himself."

Lakshmana answered Kabandha, "He is Rama, my elder brother."

Kabandha said, "O Rama! Your Sita is in Lanka. She is a lady of great chastity. Whoever dares touch her will be burned to ashes. Very soon you will see Sita in Lanka and will go back to Ayodhya. My words never fail. May you enjoy comfort and solace immediately."

After saying these words, Kabandha vanished.

Vali and Sugriva were brothers, who ruled over their kingdoms. They were men of great valour and courage. Vali decided to deprive Sugriva of his kingdom. Vali wanted to put Sugriva to many troubles and banish him from the Kishkinda kingdom. Rama befriended Sugriva, Hanuman, and other Vanara warriors. Sugriva rendered all help required to search for Sita. He rallied his forces and reached the shores of the sea.

They then encountered the problem as to who would cross the sea and go to Lanka. The veterans said that they did not have enough strength to cross over. No one came forward to cross the ocean. Hanuman volunteered to do so and accomplish Rama's mission. He was ever ready to do any work for the Lord.

In the meanwhile let us find out about Vali. Vali was a very strong and powerful Vanara king, but he was wicked and indulged in evil deeds. Once, Vali fought against a powerful demon Dundhubi. He killed him in the fight and hurled his dead body. The body fell on the Rishyamukha Mountain, where the sage Matanga was doing penance. The blood dripping from the body of the demon fell on sage Matanga and disturbed him. Enraged, he cursed that whoever killed Dundhubi would have his head broken into a thousand pieces if ever he set foot on that mountain.

Vali picked up a quarrel with Sugriva, his own brother, and banished him from the kingdom. Sugriva started living on the Rishyamukha Mountain for he felt that Vali would not be able to touch him if he went to Rishyamukha due to sage Matanga's curse. Hence, Sugriva, accompanied by Hanuman and other well wishers, settled on the Rishyamukha Mountain. He was contemplating on the ways and means of defeating Vali.

One day,Sugriva and Hanuman noticed two handsome persons walking at a distance in the forest. He wondered who they were. He thought that they might have come for hunting. He sent Hanuman to find out about the two brothers.

Hanuman disguised himself as a Brahmin and met Rama and Lakshmana. Hanuman's speech was soft and gentle. He introduced himself as a Minister of Sugriva and volunteered to carry them on his shoulders and take them to Sugriva.

There ensued a beautiful conversation between Rama and Sugriva. Rama understood from the conversation that Vali was unjust towards Sugriva. Vali had appropriated the kingdom of Sugriva and driven him out of the kingdom. He accused Sugriva of criminal conduct. Sugriva had never indulged in any such crime. Sugriva was in need of a friend who was stronger than Vali. He wanted to test whether Rama was stronger than Vali. He wanted to enlist the help of Rama only if he proved himself to be stronger than Vali.

So, Sugriva said to Rama, " Rama, my brother is of great power and strength. He has also many virtues. I want to find out whether you are stronger than my brother." When Rama nodded his ascent, he further said to him, "Once my brother shot an arrow through the sal trees. It pierced five sal trees in a row and emerged out of them. It is very difficult to charge an arrow through a sal tree because it is made of hardwood. Shoot an arrow and let it pierce through at least four trees."

Rama smiled and discharged the arrow. The arrow pierced a number of trees. Sugriva was deeply impressed by the strength of Rama. He sought the help of Rama to defeat Vali. He also promised to help Rama in searching for Sita. Rama asked Sugriva to call his brother for a fight but cautioned him that that the fight should take place ten miles away from Kishkindha.

Rama requested Sugriva to do this because the rules of exile prohibited him from entering into cities and villages. These rules compelled him to confine himself only to the forests. Hence, he wanted Sugriva to call Vali out of his kingdom so that he would be able to help Sugriva.

As advised by Rama, Sugriva roared and called Vali for a fight.

Tara was the faithful wife of Vali. She wanted to restrain him from entering into a fight with Sugriva. She pleaded with him by holding his hands; "You should not go for a fight now. I have heard that Sugriva befriended some powerful princes to help him. Don't be in haste. It is dangerous to be hasty. The wise ones pause and ponder before doing any work. Haste can make waste. It can be dangerous too."

Tara spoke these words to Vali and took him back. She was a chaste wife who had many virtues. She was highly intelligent and virtuous.

However, when Sugriva persisted in his challenge, Vali came out running to fight. Sugriva fought valiantly, but slowly Vali gained an upper hand. He then beat Sugriva black and blue.

Sugriva felt disappointed that Rama had not come to his rescue. He expressed his disappointment to Sri Rama. Sri Rama explained to him that he could not distinguish the two brothers, since they looked alike. Rama talked to him sweetly and consoled him. He also infused courage into him and assured him that he would kill Vali in the next fight. But he asked Sugriva to have a garland around his neck so that He would be able to distinguish him from Vali. He asked Lakshmana to gather flowers in the forest and string them into a garland. Sugriva put the garland on and challenged Vali for a fight for the second time.

A fierce fight ensued between the two brothers. Rama, hiding behind a tree, shot an arrow at Vali and brought him down. Though Vali fell down, there was still life left in him. Sri Rama went to Vali and said to him, " You have sinned against your brother Sugriva, you have appropriated his wife. That is a sin because a brother's wife is like one's mother. You appropriated his kingdom, banished him, and appropriated his wife. You blamed him for crimes that he had not committed. Since he surrendered to Me, I promised him that I would help him".

Vali said to him, "O Rama! You have come into the forest to keep up the word of your father. But you have interfered between my brother and me. It is unjust on your path to kill a person hiding behind a tree".

Sri Rama replied, "O Vali! What you have said is correct. I no longer live in Ayodhya. I am like a hunter moving in the forest. I am in exile, and you belong to the race of animals. A hunter kills an animal hiding behind a tree. He never goes face to face with an animal to kill it. So I had to kill you hiding behind a tree".

Vali listened to him and further said, "Rama, you are of great power and strength, you could have come face to face to fight with me".

Sri Rama replied to him, "Vali, I know the boon that was bestowed on you. You have a boon that whoever fights you face to face, half of his strength will enter into you. I know this secret".

Vali entered into long argumentation with Rama, but Rama convinced him of his folly. Finally, Vali called out to Rama and said, "O Rama! My life is ebbing away. Make a promise to me that you will make my son, Angada, the crown-prince of Kishkinda". Rama agreed to this and fulfilled the promise that He gave to Vali. He crowned Sugriva as the king and Angada as the crown prince.

There are three clashes amongst brothers mentioned in the Ramayana.

They are:
(1) the clash between Vali and Sugriva
(2) the clash between Ravana and Vibhishana, and
(3) the 'clash' between Rama and Bharatha.

Vibhishana protested against the evil actions of his brother Ravana and incurred his anger. When Ravana banished Vibhishana, he sought refuge at Rama's feet. He helped Rama against Ravana. Rama crowned him as the King of Lanka after killing Ravana. Sugriva sought the help of Rama to kill Vali; he then became the King of Kishkinda.

In the first two cases, one brother became the king by standing against his own other brother. But the 'clash' between Rama and Bharatha was of a different kind! Neither of the brothers wanted to become king of Ayodhya! Bharatha told Rama, "Rama, you are the eldest and only you have the right to become the king."

But Rama protested, " I will not step into Ayodhya, since I want to respect the promise given to my father. You have to rule over the kingdom, since it is mother's wish". Thus, Rama refused to yield to the request of Bharatha and rule over the Kingdom. Both brothers wanted to convince the other to rule over Ayodhya. At last, sage Vashishta came out with the solution that Bharatha should take care of Ayodhya, keeping Rama's sandals on the throne, till Rama came to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile. Both brothers had to accept Vashishta's solution.

Rama adhered to truth at all times, "Sathyam Nasthi Parodharmah". For him observance of truth was the highest dharma. He clung to dharma tenaciously and believed that truth would be triumphant at the end. Rama was steadfast in his observance of sathya (truth) and dharma.

At last, the battle between Rama and Ravana started. Rama had respect for Ravana, though he was his enemy. He even praised the virtues of Ravana. He knew that Ravana was under the curse given to Jaya and Vijaya. Though Rama killed Ravana, he forgave him.

Rama had to act by public opinion also. Since some people had doubts about the chastity of Sita, He had to make Sita undergo the ordeal of fire. Rama had to make Sita undergo the ordeal of fire to respect the public opinion. The fire god said to Rama, "Sita is pure and flawless."

Rama acted justly at every step. The Ramayana was a drama in which Sri Rama was the sutradhari (director). He was also a patradhari (actor). The people also had their parts to play in the drama. Rama performed his role excellently. The Ramayana has survived the test of time. It has survived even though thousands of years have passed. Sri Rama was dear to everybody. He was an ideal that mankind needs to emulate.

The people of Mithila were fascinated by the appearance of Rama. They went into ecstasy watching the conduct and beauty of Rama. They thought that Rama and Sita made an excellent match. They sang songs inviting people to see the marriage of Rama and Sita. One such song goes like this:

Come all of you to see Rama's marriage;
Let all of us go together to see Rama's marriage.
Many a people have come to see Rama's marriage.
The ladies have rich jewellery;
they have put on Garlands of pearls and diamonds.
They are beautified with ornaments studded with precious stones.
Rama will tie the sacred Mangalya to Sita today.
They make a fine match!
It appears as though they are made for each other.
Dasaratha has made grand arrangements for marriage.
He has called sage Vashishta and other sages.
People have come in great numbers to rejoice at the marriage of Rama and Sita.
We will earn merit if we see their marriage.
Ramachandra is shining splendoursly and Sita is resplendent.
Rama is a noble prince, who enquires the welfare of one and all.
Come; let us go to see Rama and Sita's marriage.

People sang songs like this, rejoicing at the marriage of Rama and Sita. The people of Ayodhya as well as of Mithila were greatly delighted. They rejoiced immensely.

The Ramayana is the history of Rama. It is HIS-story. TIt is full of noble characters. The four brothers and their wives hold out great ideals for mankind. The mothers, Kausalya, Sumitra, and Kaikeyi, were also great women. They were embodiments of virtue and good conduct. People blame Kaikeyi, saying that she was responsible for the suffering of Rama and Sita. She was actually a divine instrument in the mission of Rama. She was not the kind of lady who would be swayed away by the words of Manthara. She was instrumental in sending Rama to the forest so that He could punish the wicked and protect the good. There are great subtleties and secrets in the Ramayana . We will try to know them in the days to come.