The Nectarine Story of Lord Rama!
The story of Rama sounds sweeter each time one hears it, and, indeed, it assumes the flavour of nectar when retold authentically by Sri Rama Himself (Sai Rama). Sathya Sai Baba elevates our perspective of the story of Rama to spiritual heights when He describes Rama as the indweller of every being through Ramakatha Rasavahini, Part 1 and Part 2.
The Message of Sri Ramanavami
The world today is in dire need of the message of the Rama story. In the sacred epic of Ramayana, many profound secrets and truths are embedded. Rama taught the world how to remain unruffled in the presence of difficulties or joys, in pain or pleasure. He responded with a smile to any criticism. He did not exult over praise. Thus, He displayed total equanimity in weal or woe, success or defeat, gain or loss – this is the attitude that everyone should cultivate.
Lakshmana Surrenders to Rama
Rama wanted to stay at Panchavati on the banks of the Godavari river for some length of time. So, reclining under the cool shade of a spreading tree, Rama called his brother and said, “Lakshmana! Brother! Find a beautiful and comfortable spot in this area and build a nice little cottage there, as charming as you wish.” Lakshmana received this order as a dagger thrust! He could not bear the agony. He fell at Rama’s feet, crying out in anguish: “Tell me what crime I committed to deserve this cruel command.” Sita and Rama were struck with amazement at this behaviour. Rama said, “Lakshmana! I can’t understand what makes you so sad. Have you heard a single cruel word from my tongue? Have I become so insane as to utter harsh, unpleasant words to you or anyone else? You attend to my needs and wishes and serve me as the very breath of life. How then could I speak in cruel terms to you? Your grief is meaningless, mistaken. After all, what did I tell you now? I told you only this: Choose any spot you like and build a hut there for us to live in. Isn’t it so?” Lakshmana closed his ears with the palms and protested, “Rama! Rama! I can’t bear to hear these words.” Rama was surprised at this gesture of grief. But Lakshmana stood before him with folded hands, supplicating with these words: “Lord! There is no one in me to say ‘I’. My only treasure, my only possession, is Sita and Rama.
I have no wish of my own; I have no will of my own. My wish, my will, is Rama’s wish, Rama’s will, Rama’s command. Obeying it is my wish, my will. I am the slave who cares for nothing else. How then can I bear to listen to words that indicate that I have to choose a spot for the cottage according to my wishes? As if I had the capacity and inclination to choose! Had I preferences of my own, how could I be a fit servant of Rama? How could I deserve this privilege and pleasure? It would mean I was unfit to be alive on earth, and my life would be but a burden and a shame.” Lakshmana stood, sobbing aloud, unable to stifle his grief.
Rama saw his plight and consoled him with kind words. “Brother! Your heart is highly sanctified. I used those words in the ordinary worldly sense, but don’t be under the impression that your brother is unaware of your innermost quality of dedication. Don’t grieve.” Rama showered His smiles on Lakshmana and continued, “Brother! I am delighted at the purity of your devotion and the genuineness of your service. Your intentions are innocent and elevating. I will not pain you by such words, hereafter. I spoke to you in the language of common usage, that is all. Don’t take them so much to heart. Come! Let us go and choose!” Saying thus, He took Sita and Lakshmana with him. After traversing some distance, Rama stopped and said, “Well! Erect the hut (parnasala) here!” When he heard those words, Lakshmana exclaimed in great joy. “Ah! I am blessed indeed. My duty is to carry out such commands, not to exercise my wish or will or to do anything on my own.” He fell at his elder brother’s feet. Rising happy and content, he began to collect branches and twigs for the hut that was to be their home.
Sita and Rama realised that Lakshmana had a highly sensitive mind, a delicately subtle intellect. They derived great joy within themselves at the recollection of the depth of his faith and devotion. Sita often confessed to Rama that, for her, life in the forest was even more delightful than life at Ayodhya, because a brother like Lakshmana was accompanying them and serving Rama. When Sita and Rama saw the hermitage constructed by Lakshmana, they were charmed by its beauty, its captivating simplicity and comfort, and the inspiring setting in which it shone. Sita entered the cottage and was immediately struck by the skill and artistic taste of her brother-in-law. She praised him for finishing it so quickly and with useful adjuncts and parts.
Rama discourses on spiritual matters
“Lakshmana!” he said once, “Affection for the body, attachment toward possessions of any kind, egotism that breeds the conflict of ‘You’ and ‘I’, the bonds that grow between the individual and his wife, children, and property —all these are the consequences of the primal illusion (maya). That illusion is basic, mysterious, and wondrous. It establishes her domain over all beings and things, all species of living creatures. “Each of the five senses of perception (five jnanendriyas) and five senses of action (five karmendriyas) has its presiding deity, and illusion (maya) perceives the objective world and derives pleasure therefrom through these instruments. Every item and particle of such pleasure is illusion-produced and is therefore illusory, evanescent, and superficial. “Illusion has two forms. One type is called knowledge-based illusion (vidya-maya); the other, ignorance-based illusion (avidya-maya). The latter is very vicious; she causes boundless misery. Those drawn by it will sink into the depths of flux, the eternal tangle of joy and grief. The first kind of illusion has created the cosmos, under the prompting of the Lord; she has no innate force of her own. Only while in the presence of the Lord can she create the three-stranded cosmos (prapancha). (The three strands are the qualities (gunas) serenity, restlessness, and inertia (sathwa, rajas, thamas), each of which separately or in some kind of combination is characteristic of beings.
Sathwa means the equal balanced temper; rajas, the sanguinary or the emotional, active temper; thamas, the dull, inert temper). “The truly wise (jnani), who has realised the Reality, is the person who has given up the rights and obligations of caste and society, of age and status, and who lives in the constant awareness that all is Brahman. He has understood that there is no manifoldness or diversity here; it is all One. (Sarvam khalvidham Brahma; na iha nanaasthi kinchana.) He knows that the entire cosmos is constituted of the same Brahman, that there can be no second entity apart from Brahman. “O Lakshmana! You must know that the Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra) are but the reflections of the one Brahman in each of the three strands or attributes —serenity, restlessness, inertia (sathwa, rajas, thamas). The restless attribute is personified as Brahma, the serene aspect as Vishnu, and the unchanging aspect is known as Rudra or Siva or Iswara. The entire cosmos, including the world, is the manifestation of the one Brahman through one or more combination of these three attributes. So, the wise person goes beyond and beneath these three strands and seeks the origin in the One. Only such a person deserves the name monk (vairagi), for such a person has no likes and dislikes, no attachment (raga).”
Sometimes, Rama explained to Sita and Lakshmana that as long as the individual (jivi) does not understand aright the affinities it has to illusion (maya) and to the supreme Brahman, it cannot liberate itself and merge in the Supreme; it has to remain just a particularised individual, bound by the coils of illusion to the limits of the name and form. But Rama said, the instant the individual discovers and knows that it is but the image of the Supreme, and that the distinction between the Supreme and itself has no basis in truth, the illusion will disappear, like fog before the risen sun. This is the genuine self-knowledge (Atmajnana), for the Supreme is Supreme Self (Paramatma) and the individual is the same Supreme Self seen as an image in the body-with-name-and-form, the container (upadhi). “Act in accordance with the rules of conduct laid down for the status you have risen to and the call that has come to you (your swadharma); you derive detachment thereby. Practise yoga, the search for union with the Supreme, and derive spiritual wisdom (jnana) thereby. This wisdom is the very last step in spiritual progress. It leads to consummation. “Adoring the Supreme with the greatest possible love is called devotion (bhakthi). I shower grace on one with such love; devotion will grant full prosperity. Devotion emanates from the heart, spontaneously. It doesn’t depend on extraneous things or persons. Devotion can also confer spiritual wisdom (jnana) on the person who has dedicated himself to the Supreme. The joy that devotion endows on a person is unique and immeasurable. How does a person first decide to walk on the path of devotion? It all begins with the compassion of some one good and godly sage or realised soul. This path leads people quickly to Me.” Listening to such discourses, Sita and Lakshmana forgot where they were and under what conditions. Rama also seemed unaware of all that happened in the enthusiasm with which He dilated on the attractions of the spiritual path. They spent long periods in introspection and exploration of inner delight.