Ramayana – Rama meets Vibishana

Hanuman returns to Rameswaram after seeing Sita in Lanka. He confirms her presence to Rama who then fixes an auspicious hour for their departure to Lanka. Meanwhile in Lanka, Ravana convenes a meeting of all his ministers to discuss about what happened in Lanka. All the asuras and demons that are present there eulogize on their collective strength and encourage Ravana by misleading him to think that they are actually stronger. Ravana also thinks that the entire army of Rama is like Jatayu whom he killed while bringing Sita to Lanka.

Vibishana, Ravana’s brother, begs to differ. He offers words of morality to his brother king and his ministers. He also advices Ravana to send Sita back to her husband so that the impending war could be avoided. After hearing these words from Vibishana, Ravana goes to his court and asks Prahasta to defend the city. In his court, seeing that he is enraged, a very strong demon named Mahaparsva advices Ravana to take Sita by force. But Ravana knows fully well that he cannot do that due to a curse that he has earned from Brahma.

Sensing that the discussions are going in the wrong direction and that Ravana is being misled by all the demons surrounding him, Vibishana talks in length about Rama’s valor and the strength of his arrows. He urges and even pleads with Ravana to send Sita back to avoid bloodshed. But he finds that all his counsels are falling into deaf ears. So he leaves the sides of Ravana and comes to Rama.

On seeing him all the monkeys are agitated. They are ready to attack him and kill him once he lands on this side. Sugriva announces that Vibishana has come and that he wants to join hands with them. Rama is happy and asks Sugriva to bring Vibishana to him. Sugriva and the others try to persuade Rama against this move as they suspect that this is a ploy by Ravana and that Vibishana is dangerous.

Rama dismisses this argument and instinctively but casually remarks that if he wished, he could kill all the devilish beings, demons, ogres and supernatural beings living on this earth with just a tip of his finger.

Now how many human beings could say that? In typical Rama style, Godliness and Humaneness keeps bursting out alternately in his acts, talks and emotions. Rama keeps establishing again and again that he is God and he uses that fact to steer all those around him towards the path of dharma in the Ramayana.

Ramayana – Rama releases Jatayu

Jatayu is lying down in Rama’s arms, making them his death bed. Rama is crying that Jatayu is going to pass away and is complaining about his fate to Lakshmana. After Jatayu’s death, Rama performs all the last rites that are usually performed for one’s own paternal people. Then the brothers took funeral bath in the waters of river Godavari and Rama oblates waters from the river for the king of vultures.

Before all these duties, he looks at the departed Jatayu and says

“”Oh, greatly mighty king of eagles, by me cremated ritually and by me aptly consented to, you depart to the unexcelled heavenly worlds… you depart to those worlds that are destined for the virtuosos of Vedic-rituals, and to those worlds that are destined for the practicing people of ascesis amid Five-Ritual-fires, and to those that are destined for un-retreating combatants, and to those worlds that destined for the donors of lands…”

In short, he gives Moksha or Mukti to the bird instinctively. At one instance, he is crying and the next instance he gives moksha. Two extreme emotions are coming out from Rama as seen frequently before.

Now, release from the cycle of birth and death can only be granted by The Supreme Being. Also, he overrides some very important rules that have been laid down for humans for obtaining Moksha. He who has no familiarity with the path of Yoga (Yoga Margam), he who is born as something that cannot practice the means for obtaining Mukti and he who has been killed by a Brahmin- is not eligible for the final release. Jatayu breaks all these rules. He is a bird and is killed by Ravana(however bad he may be) who is a Brahmin. But still Rama overrides all the rules that he set forth and grants Moksha because he does not need a reason to do what he thinks. When god wishes to do something, he does it.

On one side, Rama is stricken with sorrow, wails over Sita’s loss and reaches out to Lakshmana for counsel. But on the other side, he grants the ultimate wish any jivatma would ask for and which ONLY he can grant. Happenings like these throughout Ramayana keep reinforcing the fact that Rama is God, although he wants the world to feel otherwise.

Ramayana – Rama and Jatayu

Sita has been abducted by Ravana and is being taken to Lanka in his pushpaka viman. Rama and Lakshmana know the general direction in which the Viman went, but they do not know the exact location. So they go in search of her through the forest.

While on flight, Ravana is blocked by the vulture king – Jatayu. Jatayu is one of Dasaratha’s close friends. He is the son of Lord Aruna  who is the son of sage Kashyap, brother of Garuda and the charioteer of Surya, the sun god. He very well knows that Ravana is abducting Sita and tries to stop Ravana by putting up a brave fight. Ravana easily slays Jatayu by cutting both his wings during the fight.

Now that the wings are gone, Jatayu falls down. He is holding his life, for he knows that Rama would come following Ravana. He realizes that he needs to guide Rama in the right direction. Rama comes to the spot where Jatayu is lying and becomes crestfallen after seeing his spate. He embraces Jatayu and starts crying bringing to the fore, his human nature.

He tells Lakshmana that it is because of his luck that all those who are associated with him are facing miseries in their lives inferring to his brother, his father, his wife and now Jatayu, whom Rama considers to be his father’s brother. He goes to the extent of saying that if he sits under a tree, the tree would fall and if he drinks the water from a river, it would dry up. Then he remembers his human duties, as Jatayu, whom he considers his own uncle, is dying in his arms. He embraces Jatayu knowing very well that he is breathing his last. After Jatayu dies, he performs the last rites according to the vedas. He feels that since he could not perform the last rites for his father, he could at least perform them for Jatayu.

After the death of Jatayu in Rama’s arms, he feels, emotes and acts like any other human being would do (on seeing one of his close relatives die).  He cries and rues about his fate, feeling very lowly about himself. While what he does after Jatayu died are his humanely duties,  he also did something that is astonishing and proves without any doubt what august seers like Vishwamitra knew – that Rama is God in plain clothes!

Ramayana – Vishwamitra asks for Rama’s help

Although Rama wanted to show the universe that he was only human, there were a lot of places where the God in him erupted out like a volcano. When we read the Ramayana, we can find a lot of instances in which Rama’s Godliness is displayed by him intentionally or unintentionally, or by people around him.

Vishwamitra comes to Dasaratha’s court asking to take Rama and Lakshmana to guard his Yagna. The king is not ready to send his sons. They are after all 12 years old. But then he also realizes that he cannot give a direct “no” as an answer to the great sage. So he indirectly states that he is not ready to send Rama (and Lakshmana). The dialogue that happened between the king and the sage is as follows.

“My Rama is not even 16 years old! He is lotus eyed. How can I send him with you?” asks the king.

The sage is not ready to take “no” as an answer though. He says

“I know who Rama is. He is the Mahatma (who is on top of all the Jivatmas) and so full of Valor and Satya Parakrama. You can even ask sage Vasishta, your guru. He will agree with me on this”

What Dasaratha said, is loaded with hidden meanings and that is why the sage had to emphasize on the fact that Rama was indeed God.

When the king talked about Rama’s age, he made it clear to Vishwamitra that Rama was not ready to fight as dharma stated that a person had to be at least 16 years old to engage in a fight. When he said that Rama was lotus eyed, he indirectly meant that Rama was still a kid and was like a gentle lotus which would close all its petals once the sun set in the evening and would wait for the sun to rise before opening its petals again. This can be seen as an important reason because the sage was asking for Rama’s help to kill Rakshasas and Asuras who fight through the night. So the king meant that Rama was not ready for such a fight spanning across nights as he was still a gentle boy not accustomed to being awake through the night.

To counter this argument, Vishwamitra had to admit to Dasaratha, something that he always knew- that Rama was the Supreme Lord himself and in one of his incarnations and also asked for Vasishta’s help to re-inforce this fact with the king. Vasishta and Vishwamitra were always found on the opposite sides of an argument and never saw things similarly. But Vishwamitra was confident that in this context Vasishta realized the same thing and hence would agree with him. Vasishta agreed with him and nudged the king to send Rama and Lakshmana with Vishwamitra.

Someone as august as Vishwamitra and Vasishta knowing that Rama was God clearly tilts the balance in favor of Rama being more God than human. Let us see other such instances in the future posts.

Ramayana – Rama fights Khara

Rama sends Sita and Lakshmana from the battle ground and gets ready to fight the 14000 strong army of the asuras alone. Khara comes to the place in the ground on his chariot where Rama is standing casually, with his bow swaying back and forth. Khara is encircled by his deputies who are giving out loud battle cries. They are all charging towards Rama with their maces, tridents and various other deadly weapons.

The devas and other celestial beings are watching this scene from their abodes high up. Although they know Rama has an uphill task in the fight, they are not ready to help him yet and he is not expecting any, anyway. He uses his bow and the quiver of arrows to injure and kill all the asuras including Khara, but leaves one asura named akampana to live. (Rama makes it a habit to let one asura live!)

For the first time, Rama shows how skillfully ambidextrous he is. The speed with which he selects his arrows, strings them and releases them with the highest precision clearly shows that he is no human. It is crystal clear to everyone around him seeing this episode in Ramayan that it is no mean feat to kill 14000 asuras single-handedly and suggests that Rama is divine.

Let us come to the question that we asked in the previous post. Why was Rama happy to get into this fight when Lakshmana could have easily killed all the asuras? He could have easily asked his brother to finish the battle while he was taking rest which Lakshmana would have finished with equal skill and dexterity.

The humanely husband in him took control and came to the forefront when he assessed the situation. He thought that this was a chance to prove his bravery and valor to his beloved wife although he knew that Sita uttered those angry words just to make him agree to her proposal. Still, he grabbed it with both hands like any other normal husband would have. He displayed his divine fighting skills and the “always waiting to please his wife” husband emotions at the same time.

There were a couple of occasions where Rama showed that he was God and not human at all…

Ramayana – Rama wants to fight

“What would King of Mithila, Janak, think of himself to get Rama – a woman in the form of a man – as his son-in-law?”

“It is a pity that the people of Ayodhya are preaching a falsehood that Rama is like the blazing sun and full of valor

We would be surprised to know that these strong statements about Rama came from none other than Sita!

Rama tells her that he has to go to the forest and that she cannot accompany him as life in the forest is full of hardships. Sita tries her best to persuade Rama to take her, but fails as he is steadfast in his decision. First, she pleads and then she requests. But nothing moves Rama. Then she becomes aggressive and utters the above two statements to him after which she makes him understand that she is totally dependent on him and cannot imagine a life without him. Rama finally agrees to take her with him.

In the forest, they are living a peaceful life, till Surpanaka enters the scene. She lusts for Rama and Lakshmana, gets her ears cut by Lakshmana and reports this to her brother Khara. She misguides him to think that she has been punished unjustly and this act needs to be avenged. Khara first sends 14 demons to Rama. Rama asks Lakshmana to stay away from the fight and takes on the 14 dreaded asuras himself. Rama easily slays them in no time. Surpanaka reports the slaying to Khara and asks him to wage a war on the brothers, adding that they might ask khara to a battle, if not attacked first. Khara hesitates to do that, but finally succumbs to his sisters’ pressure tactics and comes to fight Rama with 14,000 asuras.

On seeing the big army, Rama is very happy. Although Laskhmana gets ready for the fight, Rama stops him once again and assigns him, the duty of guarding Sita. The younger brother takes her to a distant cave, although puzzled at why Rama insisted on fighting alone. He knows that Rama possesses an array of missiles that they obtained from Vishwamitra, but he also knew that if both stood together, the army of asuras was nothing and could be destroyed without breaking a sweat.

So, why would Rama, who does not want unnecessary fights, happy to get into this fight wantonly and alone at that?

Ramayana – Rama slays Subahu

After Tadaka was killed by Rama, it was the turn of her sons – Maricha and Subahu who came roaring from the skies and poured blood in the ritual altar on the last day of the yagna. Rama and Laskhmana were now stronger than before due to their new found knowledge of the divine astras.

Rama used an astra called Maanava on Maricha. The astra hit the asura on his chest and threw him away a hundred yojanas into the sea but did not kill him. Rama realized that the astras that he was using were acting in accordance to his thoughts and that this blessing was due to Vishwamitra. But even after this warning, Subahu continued to dirty the altar. Hence Rama used another astra called Aagneya to kill Subahu. Then he used the Vaayavya astra to decimate the remaining asuras.

Maricha who was let off by Rama, was so clearly shaken by Rama’s valor. We will see about the impact that this meeting had in him in subsequent posts.

But why did Rama kill one asura and let one asura live? While the story is straight forward, the inner meaning is not.

We, as Jivatmas, commit loads of sins in our lives. But after we surrender ourselves to the feet of the lord, he completely washes away the sins that we have committed till that point of time like cotton destroyed in a fire. But what about the sins that we commit after the surrender? Those that we commit unwittingly after the surrender (please note the word unwittingly!)-he whisks them away from us like water from the surface of the lotus leaves so that they don’t stick to us. While killing of Subahu is an allegory to the first situation, throwing Maricha into the sea to remove him from the scene, is a parable to the second situation.

Clearly shows that every little story in our scriptures have more substance and context than what meets our eyes.

In this instance, Rama showed that he was God, although indirectly. But there was another situation in which he acted like a human and true to his role of a husband…

Ramayana – Tadaka killed by Rama

The Ramavatar is the seventh avatar of Dasavatar. In this, the lord takes the form of an human being and lived the life of one, to show the world who a perfect human being is. Our ancient scriptures have clearly differentiated between his birth as a human and our births. While we are born as a result of our karma, He decides to be born into this world and chooses his own parents.

In the Ramavatar, he chose King Dasaratha and Queen Kousalya as his parents. He always introduced himself as “the son of Dasaratha” ! showing all of us how humble he was, as Rama. Throughout his life he always displayed humanly characters, underwent all the tribulations like any other person, cried and laughed and made mistakes. At the same time, he showed his godly side from time to time too.

Let us look at both these characteristics of Lord Rama in the next few posts.

Sage Vishwamitra took Rama and Lakshmana to safeguard his yagna. Although king Dasaratha was very reluctant to send them at first, he finally heeded to the words of his Guru Vasishta and let them accompany Vishwamitra in what he perceived to be a dangerous mission.

But we all know how this mission turned out to be, for Rama and Lakshmana. Actually Vishwamitra wanted to test Rama’s resolve for upholding dharma and the law of the land as he knew Rama would become king soon. The first test was killing Tadaka who was an Yakshi turned asura. Although Rama hesitated to kill her at first since she was a woman, he soon realized that she was no ordinary woman and that she deserved to be killed. After the death of Tadaka, the sage was so happy that he taught about the various astras or missiles and their usages to Rama and Laskhmana knowing fully well that the techniques were in safe hands. But Rama was more interested in the annulment of such supernatural missiles rather than their usage!

so what happened next? who followed tadaka to the Yagna? in the next post…


Vamana Avatar – 5

We have seen about Vamana Avatar in the previous posts. So what’s the importance of the Avatar?

For starters – the all-pervading lord showed the world that he will do anything to protect those who surrender to him, by taking the form of a dwarf. Thus he is also called Raksha Vaamana. From Bali’s perspective, he surrendered to the lord at the end and Hari took the form of a watchman to protect Bali!

Next is the fact that the Supreme Being went begging. During Nrsimha Avatar, He promised Prahlaada that he will not harm any of his family members and descendants. So when Indra asked for help, he knew that he could not kill Bali since Bali was Prahlaada’s grandson. So he performed the lowly act of begging to complete what he could not complete by force-defeat bali. This shows that as the Paramatma, he will stoop to any level to protect us.

Also, the Lord who always likes to be identified with Goddess Lakshmi (that is why he is called Sreeman Narayanan – Lakshmi’s name always comes first) took the vamana avatar without any association with the Goddess – as a Brahmacari. It is said that He went to her and asked her to alight from her permanent place (the right side chest) so that he could go to Bali as a Brahmacari (This was because he was going to take everything away from Bali. But if Bali was seen by Lakshmi- he would get everything back due to Lakshmi Kadaksham!). But she refused the suggestion outright and made it clear that she will not forego her place and it was up to him to manage his business. So he used a vastram to cover her.

It is clear that this reincarnation was taken to tell everyone the significance of Saranagathi. If we leave everything to the lord and fall in his feet, he will do whatever it takes to fulfil our wishes and keep us safe even if it means that he is belittled in that process. One who helps others but expects something in return is a adhaman. One who helps others without expecting anything in return is a madhyaman. But the one who belittles himself and does not mind being dishonored while helping others is a Uthaman.

That is why we call him Uthaman.

We have seen about the lesser known Avatars in the Dashavatar series till now. From the nest post we will start seeing about some interesting stories in Krishna Avatar and Rama Avatar.( not the Avatars themselves, but some interesting stories that happened during their times on earth)

Vamana Avatar – 4

Bali did not feel bad that his guru Sukacarya had lost an eye while trying to stop him from extending alms to the Lord. Instead he was elated that he was going to fulfil his dharma. Now it was time for Vamana to pace the land.

From his present avatar of a dwarf, he started increasing in size and grew and grew and grew until his body contained the entire universe. All the people who were present there could see everything (including the planetary systems of the universe, the sky, the earth, the directions, all the important manifestations of the earth like mountains, seas, oceans, birds, humans and beasts and even the demi-gods and the other beings who reside in the higher lokas of the universe, the gross material elements, the senses, the sense objects, the mind, the intelligence and the false ego) within the Supreme Being.

Being in this form, He took his first step and covered the entire universe. He covered the entire surface of the Prithvi with his step, the sky with his body and all the directions with his extended arms. Then he paced in his next step and covered the entire planetary systems of the cosmos. From the Bhu loka, the legs extended till the Satyaloka , passing through Maharloka, Janaloka and Tapoloka. Brahma who was seated in his position was amazed to see one leg suddenly coming out of nowhere. Immediately he realized whose leg it was – for he knew that only one entity could measure the entire universe. The effulgence of Satyaloka and all its residents dimmed by the effulgence emanating from the toe nail of the leg that appeared.  Lord Brahma offered his prayers and paid his obeisance by washing the lotus feet with the holy water from his kamandal. This water poured down, purifying all it touched and reached Earth as Ganges.

King Bali now realized that there was no place for the third step and hence he would fail in his promise to the Brahmacari. So he asked Vamana to place the third step on his head. Vamanadeva knew that Bali had to be punished for not fulfilling his promise. At the same time, He was also happy with the truthfulness and integrity of Bali. So he placed his feet on Bali’s head and sent him down to Sutala loka, showered all the necessary benedictions and made him the owner of the loka. Since Lord Vamana was very pleased with Bali, He graciously offered his disc to protect Bali Maharajah and also promised to remain with him in Sutalaloka as the doorman! This was something that even the demi-gods could not achieve. Furthermore when the time of Savarni Manu comes, Bali would become the head of the heavenly planets or Indra!

We will see about the significance of this avatar in the next post.