[Excerpts from articles and letters by Swami Chinmayananda]
RAMAYANA – the poem was written by a man well-established in the Ultimate Reality, who was expressing through his work, the pure Advaita Philosophy, the contents of the Upanishads. The glory of the poem is that the ideal “states of living” are expressed – the ideal brother, son, king, enemy, friend and the ideal man living in society. But all this is mere paraphernalia. The core of this poem is utterly divine – which explains why the glorious story of Rama is so popular even today!
RAMA itself means “Sarveshu Ramante iti Ramah” — that which revels in every one of us, the pure Light of Consciousness, the Atman, the Self, the Atma-Rama. This spiritual essence in us, can come out only as a son of Dasaratha, one who has conquered all the ten indriyas – five jnanendriyas and the five karmendriyas. It will be born in you and reborn only in Ayodhya (yuddha means conflict, Ayodhya means where there is no conflict, meaning, where all conflict has ended). In that Ayodhya which is ruled by the self-controlled Dasaratha, RAMA is born.
This Rama, the pure Self, cannot enter into any active participation in life unless wedded to the mind. Sita (the mind) is ready. She was not born to Janaka by wedlock. While ploughing the land, he finds Sita. The mind appeared from the most inappropriate place ever. It is absurd to enquire deep into this. Later you find that the same Sita disappears into Mother Earth. From Mother Earth she came, to Mother Earth she went back. From where the mind comes, and where it disappears during samadhi, nobody can tell. This is Maya !!
Wedded to the mind when Rama returns, he finds that he cannot live in Ayodhya. For, once the mind has come, you start expressing through it. You have to enter the ‘forest of life’, self-exiled as it were. Some cause or other must emerge as one enters the ‘forest of existence’. So long as Sita was looking up to Rama, living in Rama, for Rama, by Rama, she never found any difference between Ayodhya and a jungle. But how long can the mind remain constantly centred in the higher divine potential in us? It has to become extrovert. And this is just what happened the moment Sita looked away from Rama. The golden deer was noticed. The finite, ephemeral, ever-changing objects, start pulling you towards them. The mind demands them. Rama may argue, and all the Scriptures might also argue, that it is all Maya, that it is not real, that it is only a Rakshasa. Yet even Sita, Rama’s own consort, will not accept it, and she will exile Rama in search of the sense-object. Once desire-polluted, you fall. Rama goes…. and Sita is left in Lakshmana’s charge.
Lakshman represents Tapas (austerity). He had no reason to go to the jungle. But he left of his own accord, and he lives in perfect Brahmacharya, even without sleep. It is perfect Tapas. But then, one cannot live in Tapas. The delusion of the other world will force you to give it up. The moment Sita hears the sound of Rama’s voice, she forgets Rama’s glory and might and becomes anxious about his safety. She even urges Lakshmana to go to her husband’s aid. And when Lakshmana assures her that the great Rama will never come to any harm, for there is none to match him in skill and valour, Sita severely rebuffs him. When the beautiful ideal woman Sita utters such malignant words, Lakshmana is shocked into silence. He goes away, drawing a line of demarcation round the hut, urging her not to go beyond it.
Once desire enters your bosom, as an ordinary individual you cannot constantly live in Tapas. But you can at least draw a line — thus far and no further. But once Tapas has been given up, such lines are of no use. You readily step over them. And when you do this instead of Dasaratha, you are confronted by Dasamukha, the opposite character. The latter is an extrovert as the former is self-controlled. The sensuous materialistic power persuades Sita to cross over the line because, as long as you are within the moral boundary, it cannot affect you. You go beyond it, and permissiveness starts, and Dasamukha ensnares you.
Dasamukha does not mean having five heads on the right and another five on the left, with one neck in between. What is meant here is that the five jnanendriyas and the five karmendriyas together constitute the Dasamukha. A totally extrovert man lives in the flesh, for the flesh, and by the flesh – it is the rule of the flesh. Such a man is a sensualist and a total extrovert. Materially he can become great as did Ravana who ruled over a prosperous land, Lanka. In Lanka, nobody worked, everybody was supported by the socialist government, and people from all over the world came to pay homage to Ravana, who was supremely powerful. But does materialism provide anything more than mere physical comfort? It is not a solution to the problem of life. Spiritual and cultural values alone can save the world. This idea is brought out in the Ramayana.
Sita was abducted and taken away. She was no more a citizen of Aryavarta, the hallowed and cultural land any longer. She will be given a place in Lanka, another island, no doubt very near, but altogether another land. Even there she was exiled. We are all at this moment “Sitas” in exile. Should we give in to sensuality? To gain back our original Ayodhya, what should we do? We should do exactly what Sita did. She realised she had fallen and to prevent a further fall, she firmly said ‘No’ to Ravana and remained in the garden under an Ashoka tree. Shoka means ‘dukha’, i.e., sorrow, Ashoka therefore means ‘not dukha’ (devoid of sorrow). You and I will have sorrow but we do not recognise it. This is the ‘Ashoka’ state. Under the “tree of non-recognition of sorrows”, when we want to remain steadfast in character, we will doubtless be tempted and put to a lot of strain. But in that Ashoka-attitude, we should remain steadfast, constantly remembering Rama.
Sita was constantly and vigorously thinking of Rama. And we cannot say that Rama did not respond. In the Ramayana, we will find that the scene is alternately changing — once Lanka is shown, the next moment Rama is shown in the jungle. This shows that there is a secret communication between them. The more intense Sita’s cry, the more frenzied does Rama’s search for her becomes. He weeps like an ordinary mortal, not because he is attached to her, but because of his longing to help a devotee.
The spiritual essence in man can kill and destroy Ravan, the ten-headed monstrosity of extrovertedness. It can do it with the army of monkeys. An educated man reading this should know what the monkeys refer to. The monkey has two qualities – asthiratwa and chanchalatwa – instability and restlessness. The thoughts in the human mind have these two qualities. They cannot remain – stable. The monkey cannot remain on one branch, it jumps from one branch to another and from tree to tree. If it gets tired and sits on a tree, it will still be restless. Thus, it cannot keep quiet even for a minute. So too, our thoughts. They can never remain quiet, but keep jumping from topic to topic. The army of thoughts is to be controlled. But, at this moment, Vali, who stands for lust, controls them. This has to be destroyed. And how? It can be only done from behind. From the front, every time it is your lust that wins, and not you. So, if ever you want to conquer this lust, you have to shoot it from behind the tree. Vali had such great power, that anytime an enemy approached him, half the strength of the enemy would drain away and Vali himself would become three times stronger. So, Rama had to kill him from behind. To whom should he then give the kingship of the monkey-clan – the “thoughts?” To whom better than Sugreeva? “Greeva” means reins, “Sugreeva” means well-reined, i.e., well-controlled. When the thoughts are under one’s control, the army is then available to cross the frontiers and reach Lanka to kill the ten-headed monster and bring back Sita.
When Rama regains Sita after having destroyed extrovertedness, the mind that is no longer extrovert is no mind at all. It (Sita) has to disappear. Without Sita, Rama cannot bring about “Rama-Rajya”. He cannot rule without a wife. Therefore, Kapila comes and offers him a Mithya Sita or Maya Sita. And with Maya Sita, Rama returns to rule Ayodhya, with a tranquil and poised mind in a state of perfection, having regained his spiritual status. Though he returns with a mind, it is not really there. It is like the sky which allows everything to remain in space without getting contaminated. So too, Rama, the Man of Perfection, allows the mind to remain in him, but is not affected by it. Since Rama functioned in the world outside with a perfectly controlled mind, the result had to be a RAMA-RAJYA !!!
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