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Understanding the Valmiki Ramayana

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It has become the norm for every Tom, Dick and Harry to quote from the Ramayana as though they are authorities on the subject to malign Hindus. Worse still, is the proliferation of so-called “rationalists” and “secularists”, who seem to think themselves sufficiently qualified on the subject to pass opinions on Lord Rama. The comments made during the Ram Setu debate in the UPA era by the Congress, DMK and others cannot be forgotten. The recent diatribe spewed by the acutely anti-Hindu and Aurangzeb obsessed Audrey Trushke and the recent movie Kaala are among the long list of such inaccurate and venomous attacks against this great Ithihasa of Valmiki. Anonymous Twitter handles such as @anamyid which are of dubious credentials with respect to their “neutrality” have also unabashedly distorted the Vedas and other Shastras.

On the flip side, it is also a matter of concern that many modern-day right-wing Hindus, who despite being sincere in their attempts to refute these malicious individuals, are hampered by a lack of knowledge of their predecessors’ works. Thus, we have some respected right-wing personalities writing in an article intending to defend the Ramayana that “Hindus are allowed to criticize their own gods”, thus inadvertently and tacitly accepting the charges levied by the opposition! This article thus aims to educate Hindus of the richness of the Valmiki Ramayana and thus provide them with an unambiguous explanation of all the events which are taken up by our opponents. What is presented in this article is based on the commentaries of Vedantins belonging to the traditions of Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita whose priceless works and insights have enriched our culture?

Before we get to the main issues that the leftist and other anti-Hindu individuals rake up, we need to first understand who Lord Rama was. The key question to understand his behaviour is – was he human? Or was he God? And if he was divine, what was the nature of his birth and was his body made of flesh and blood?

The Valmiki Ramayana unequivocally establishes that Sri Rama is the Supreme Brahman, Lord Vishnu, and no mere human. Thus our opponents cannot profess to embark on a study of the Lord’s activities without first accepting that the source text claims him to be God and not a human. As an example, if you are analysing the Koran, you are doing so by first considering the claim that Mohammed is a prophet as mentioned in the text, and thus you judge his activities based on that primary assumption of the text – that he was divinely inspired.

Similarly, when you analyse the Ramayana, you are bound to first consider the claim that Rama was not a human, but the Supreme Being himself. Because that is what the text says – and then you analyse and judge his activities based on that assumption.

So, what are the proofs in the Ramayana that Lord Rama was Parabrahman? Here they are:

sarvalokeśvarasyaivaṃ kṛtvā vipriyamuttamam । rāmasya rājasiṃhasya durlabhaṃ tava jīvitam ॥ (~ VR 5.51.43)

Meaning: Rama is the supreme lord of all worlds, a lion among kings. Having pained him, it is very difficult for you to sustain your life after offending him to this extent.

“sarvalokeśvarasya” means not just the Lord of Ayodhya, but the Ruler of all the Worlds.

idānīṃ ca vijānāmi yathā saumya sureśvaraiḥ ।vadhārthaṃ rāvaṇasyeha vihitaṃ puruṣottamam ॥ (VR 6.119.18)

Meaning: O gentle one! I recognize You now to be the Supreme Person, duly enjoined here by the rulers of gods, for the destruction of Ravana.

artaa sarvasya lokasya shreShTho j~naanavataaM prabhuh |

upekShase kathaM siitaaM patantiiM havyavaahane || kathaM devagaNashreShThamaatmaanaM naavabuddhyase | (VR 6.117.6)

Meaning: Oh! Lord, You are the creator, destroyer, and supporter of all the worlds, You are all knowing, and the doer of all actions. How can You ignore Sita who is falling to fire, as an ordinary woman? How do you not recognize yourself to be the foremost of the troop of gods?

Lord Hanuman tells Ravana that Rama is a Being more powerful than the gods Brahma, Rudra and Indra, which is obviously not the trait of a human.

brahmā svayambhūś caturānano vā rudrastrinetrastripurāntako vā |

indro mahendraḥ suranāyako vā trātuṃ na śaktā yudhi rāmavadhyam ||” (~VR 5.51.45)

Meaning: Neither Brahma the self-existing god with four faces or Rudra with three eyes and the destroyer of Tripura or Mahendra the god of atmosphere and sky as also the lord of celestials can protect the one to be killed by Rama in battle.

The words of Vishvamitra in the Ramayana here:

aham vedmi mahaatmaanam raamam satya paraakramam || vashiShTho.api mahaatejaa ye ca ime tapasi sthitaaH | (~ VR 1.19.14)

Meaning: Oh Dasaratha ! I fully comprehend Rama as the greatest of Souls and as the most valorous and righteous One. Sage VasishtA of great lustre due to his superior penance and others like him in Your court also understand these qualifications of Your young son, Rama.

The words “aham vedmi mahaatmaanam raamam” is nothing but the explanation of the Purusha Sukta mantra “vedAhametam puruSham mahantam” (I know that Great Purusha) – it denotes the Supreme Being. “Knowing” means “Meditating”.

The words of Mandodari to Rama:

vyaktameSha mahaayogii paramaatmaa sanaatanaH | anaadimadhyanidhano mahataH paramo mahaan || tamasaH paramo dhaataa shaN^khachakragadaadharaH |shriivatsavakShaa nityashriirajayyaH shaashvato dhruvaH || maanuShaM ruupamaasthaaya viShNuH satyaparaakramaH |sarvaiH parivR^ito devairvaanaratvamupaagataiH || sarvalokeshvaraH shriimaan lokaanaaM hitakaamyayaa |saraakShasa pariivaaram hatavaaMstvaaM mahaadyutiH || (~VR 6.111.14-17)

Meaning: This Rama is certainly a great uniter of contradictory attributes (mahAyogI) , an eternal person, having no beginning middle or end, greater than the Jivatma or Individual Self, the one beyond the darkness of prakrti, the nourisher, wielding a conch, a disc and a mace, wearing the ‘Srivatsa’ mark on his chest, of lasting beauty, incapable of being conquered, a perpetual one, being the constant soul of the universe, truly mighty, the lord of all the worlds, the prosperous one having a great splendour and Vishnu, the lord of maintenance of the world with a wish to benefit the worlds, assuming a human form surrounded by all the gods in the form of monkeys, Rama killed you (Ravana), surrounded by demons.

In another context, Rama tells Brahma:

aatmaanaM maanuShaM manye raamaM dasharathaatmajam || so’haṃ yasya yataścāhaṃ bhagavaṃstadbravītu me | (~VR 6.117.11)

Meaning: I consider myself as Rama, the son of Dasaratha. O Respected Brahma, You, tell me that which I as such really am.

The key word is “Atmanam manye”. “I consider myself” as such and such. Shri Rama does consider himself as the son of Dasaratha *in this avatAra*, in so much as kR^iShNa considered himself a cowherd. But he is not in actuality the mere son of Dasaratha. If he had really been only the son of Dasaratha, he would have said “aham rAmo dasharathAtmajaH”.

Brahma replies,

bhavānnārāyaṇo devaḥ śrīmāṃścakrāyudhaḥ prabhuḥ || ekaśṛṅgo varāhastvaṃ bhūtabhavyasapatnajit | akṣaraṃ Brahma satyaṃ ca madhye cānte ca rāghava ॥lokānāṃ tvaṃ paro dharmo viṣvaksenaścaturbhujaḥ । (~VR 6.117.13-14)

Meaning: You are the Lord Narayana himself the glorious god, who wields the discus. You are the Divine Boar with a single tusk, the conqueror of your past and future enemies. You are Brahman, the imperishable, the Truth abiding in the middle as well as at the end of the universe. You are the supreme righteousness of people, whose powers go everywhere. You are the four-armed.

jagatsarvaM shariiraM te…. || 6-117-26

Meaning: The entire cosmos is your body.

We could go on and on, there are so many verses. Let us end this section with the following words of Brahma.

tvaM yajJNstvaM vaShaTkaarastvamoMkaaraH paraatparaH || prabhavaM nidhanaM vaa te no viduH ko bhavaaniti dR^ishyase sarvabhuuteShu goShu cha braahmaNeShu cha || dikShu sarvaasu gagane parvateShu nadiiShu cha |sahasracharaNaH shriimaan shatashiirShaH sahasradR^ik || tvaM dhaarayasi bhuutaani pR^ithiviiM cha saparvataam | (6.117.20-22)

Meaning: You (Rama) are the sacrificial performance. You are the sacred syllable ‘Vashat’ (on hearing which the Adhvaryu priest casts the oblation to a deity into the sacrificial fire). You are the mystic syllable ‘OM’. You are higher than the highest. People neither know your end nor your origin nor who you are in reality. You appear in all created beings in the cattle and in Brahmanas. You exist in all quarters, in the sky, in mountains and in rivers. With thousand feet, with hundred heads and with thousand eyes along with Lakshmi, you bear the earth with all its created beings along with its mountains.

This body of text refutes the opinion of anyone who dares to say “Rama was a human and was not God as per Valmiki”.

The Lord is mentioned to be “tAmasa paramO dhAta” – One who is beyond Prakriti. The meaning is that he is not dictated by the laws of karma, and all his activities are due to Sport, assumed by his own will. The brahma sutras clearly say “lokavattu leela kaivalyam” – everything is a sport of Brahman. And hence, his body is not made of flesh and blood, and neither is Sita’s, who is verily Mahalakshmi as per the following shloka:

sītā lakṣmīrbhavān viṣṇurdevaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ prajāpatiḥ || vadhārthaṃ rāvaṇasyeha praviṣṭo mānuṣīṃ tanum | (VR 6.117.28)

Meaning: Sita is none other than Goddess Lakshmi, while you are Lord Vishnu. You are having a shining dark-blue hue. You are the Lord of created beings. For the destruction of Ravana, you entered a human body here, on this earth.

“Entered a human body” means, “assuming a form similar to a human” in appearance. But this form is actually not made of flesh and blood but is non-material. That is proven by the fact that Rama is beyond karma, has no gender in the material plane (such as man, woman etc) and his form is all-attractive as evidenced by how the Rishis of Dandakaranya (who were all males and not female) enjoyed the beauty of his appearance:

rūpasaṃhananaṃ lakṣmīṃ saukumāryaṃ suveṣatām |dadṛśurvismitākārā rāmasya vanavāsinaḥ ||(VR 3-1-13)

Meaning: The Rishis of Dandakaranya saw Rama’s body, which despite no decoration, looked richly decorated, whose body parts were beautifully well-arranged, with self-luminous augustness, which was delicate like a blooming flower, which was suited to his nature.

The rishis thus fell in love with that form, which no man can cause them to. Padma Purana says these rishis were reborn as some of the gopis who indulged in Rasa-Leela with Krishna as they desired to experience his form.

Thus, we have established that Rama and Sita are not human, their bodies are not made of flesh and blood, and their activities are not governed by karma. That being the case, what miscreant can accuse them of this and that, when the entire episode of Agni-pariksha etc was just a sport? Even Sita, being Mahalakshmi herself, feels no sorrow, and her pregnancy later on is also part of her leela!

Despite this easy explanation, we will still analyse those incidents and show how misguided our opponents are. There are three major incidents in the Valmiki Ramayana that our opponents love to take up for criticism – Agni-Pariksha, Shambhuka’s death and Vali Vadha.

First, the issue of Agni-Pariksha.

This is actually very simple. Firstly, one must note that Rama never asked Sita to do Agni-Pariksha. Sita herself chooses to do so upon hearing Rama’s words.

In any case, before Rama tells Sita that he cannot accept her, this is what he says:

nirjitā jīvalokasya tapasā bhāvitātmanā |agastyena durādharṣā muninā dakṣiṇeva dik || (~VR 6.115.14)

Meaning: You have been won by me, whose mind is purified by knowledge as the southern quarter, which was difficult to be approached by the world of mortals, was conquered by the Sage Agastya.

Note two things here – firstly, “tapasA” means “knowledge” and not “ascetism” as per the Upanishad vAkya “yasya jnAnamayam tapas”. Rama first says that his mind is pure on account of his knowledge, which is nothing but his omniscience, as he is the Supreme Brahman. Thus, prior to chastising Sita, he is actually saying that he knows she is pure by his omniscience, but nonetheless will chastise her for show since some of his entourage have a doubt regarding her purity.

How can we say this? Because he says he won Sita like Agastya won the Southern Quarter. The story is that Agastya conquered this region and made it a pure place, unapproachable by the Asuras. Similarly, Sita is someone who is unapproachable by Asuras like Ravana, and thus by making this comparison, Rama has already shown that she is pure!

Rama, in this avatara, was executing dharma. Some of the warriors who had fought with him had impure thoughts regarding Sita, and so he decided to show Sita’s greatness to the world. That the fault lay with the accusers and not Sita is declared by him in the next shloka:

prāptacāritrasaṃdeha mama pratimukhe sthitā |dīpo netrāturasyeva pratikūlāsi me dṛḍham || (~VR 6.115.17)

Meaning: “You, with a suspicion arisen on your character, standing in front of me, are extremely disagreeable to me, even as a light to one, who is suffering from a poor eye-sight.”

On the face of it, this seems like Rama is insulting Sita. But analyse the shloka. Rama says Sita is like a great light, that he cannot see due to poor eye-sight. If one with poor eye-sight cannot see the Sun, then does the fault lie with the pure and bright Sun, or the poor eye-sight which limits vision? It is the latter. Thus, by this analogy, Rama tacitly lays blame on those who had doubts about Sita’s purity and actually praises Sita!

And this is finally revealed by Rama below:

pratyayārthaṃ tu lokānāṃ trayāṇām satyasaṃśrayaḥ |upekṣe cāpi vaidehīṃ praviśantīṃ hutāśanam || na ca śaktaḥ suduṣṭatmā manasāpi hi maithilīm |pradharṣayitumaprāpyāṃ dīptāmagniśikhāmiva || (~VR 6.118.17-18)

Meaning: In order to convince the three worlds, I (Rama), whose refuge is truth, ignored Seetha while she was entering the fire. The evil-minded Ravana was not able to lay his violent hands, even in thought, o the unobtainable Seetha, who was blazing like a flaming tongue of fire

Thus, Rama acted fully in accordance to Dharma and nowhere castigated Sita. It was some of the watchers who were at fault for harbouring such thoughts.

The entire episode also has an inner meaning. Rama is Brahman, Sita is the individual self and Ravana is the body with 10 senses. When the self-detaches from the body, it reaches Brahman, and it is proven to be inherently pure, and untainted by the impure body despite long association. Similarly, Sita is attained by Rama and is held to be pure, despite being held captive by the impure Ravana. To illustrate this Vedantic truth, Rama and Sita, the divine couple, performed this sport of Agni-Pariksha. Unfortunately, Aurangzeb obsessed “Sanskrit scholars” cannot understand this lofty truth.

Next, the issue of Shambhuka.

A portions of the Dalit fraternity aligned to Marxist, Christo-Islamist ideologies seem to take issue with Rama killing Shambuka merely due to the fact that the latter was a Shudra. Firstly, “Dalit” is not even a Hindu caste that exists in the scriptures. Shambhuka was not a “Dalit” – he was a shudra, the 4th varna. Secondly, it is mentioned in the shAstra that Shambhuka had been performing a penance which led to the death of the son of a Brahmin and that he was trying to conquer the world of the gods. Thus, his death was deserving.

The leftist elite seems to think just because someone was a Shudra, he automatically is a good person. Au contraire, there are good and bad shudras in the scriptures, just as there are good and bad Brahmins. Rama blessed the Brahmin rishis in Dandakaranya, but killed the evil Ravana who was also a Brahmin. Rama called the low caste Guha as his brother, more dear to him than Lakshmana, but killed an evil shudra named Shambhuka. Thus, Rama has again acted impartially in punishing the wicked and blessing the righteous regardless of caste.

It is very funny that those who bleat about the killing of Shambhuka fail to see Rama embracing Guha, or calling Jatayu, a vulture (and hence lower than a human, let alone the lowest caste), as his own father.

The issue of caste, manu smriti etc can be addressed, but that would make the article too long. Maybe another time.

Finally, the issue of Vali vadham. Our ignorant opponents claim that Rama hiding while killing Vali was against dharma.

A very simple explanation – this is bhagavad leela. This episode has the following thread – Sugriva was weaker than Vali. Vali, it is mentioned, was much stronger than Ravana. Sugriva was also weaker than Ravana.

If so, why did Rama befriend Sugriva, who is weaker than both Vali and Ravana, to defeat Ravana, and to gain Sugriva’s trust, killed Vali who was stronger than both Sugriva and Ravana? And to gain Sugriva’s trust, Rama uprooted seven trees with one arrow to prove he was stronger than Vali, who could only uproot one. Remember that Vali was also stronger than Ravana, and if Rama is stronger than Vali, then he really needs no help in defeating Ravana! This is the incredible sport of Lord Rama!

The simple reason is that Sugriva had retrieved the jewels of Sita and by that, had earned the grace of Lakshmi, by which Rama was compelled to shower his grace on Sugriva. Thus he befriended Sugriva and gave the latter the chance to help him (Rama).

Hence, the arguments of Marxists, anti-Hindu scholars and other such elements stands refuted by the light of Sanatana dharma. It is hoped that this article will clarify the doubts of sincere truth seekers who wish to combat such unsavoury elements.

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