The Eternal Lessons of the Ramayana
Comprising 500 Sargas, 7 Kandas and nearly 24,000 verses, the Ramayana is one of two grand epics of Hinduism from Ancient India which narrates the life of Lord Rama. Ramayana at the surface level is the story of the life of Rama, but it's much more than that when we begin to delve deeper into its true purpose. The very name of the story for example. Rama + Ayanam = Ramayanam. Ayanam means ‘The Path’. From this alone, we find that the real meaning of the Ramayana is to follow the path which Rama has laid out for us over the course of his life. In the ever-so technological and advanced world we find ourselves in today, it can be very easy for many of us to simply neglect the teachings of the Ramayana with the notion that its teachings are simply outdated. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. So what can we learn from the Ramayana? What does our beloved Baba have to say about these lessons? And most importantly, how can we adapt these lessons into our daily lives?
For a text of such immense length, it would be impossible for me to touch on every lesson there is to learn from the Ramayana. The Ramayana is a vast ocean of life teachings, and to cover everything, I’d have to write a book. Therefore, I will instead focus on the lessns which stand out most to me and those lessons which I believe apply most to daily life. With that being said, I’d like to firstly touch on the topic of morality. As I touched upon in my last article, man is beginning to be consumed by narrow-mindedness, which in turn loosens man’s grip on morality. Even with a man who claims morality, we find that the moment their greed or desire is even slightly tempted, their so-called morality suddenly disappears, giving way to things like corruption and unjustness. Rama himself is a symbol of morality. Even when he was being prepared for his coronation, when his father (Dasaratha) ordered for his banishment under the wishes of Kaikeyi, Rama obliged whole-heartedly. Rama relinquished his position as soon-to-be king purely down to the word of his father, even though he was more than deserving of it. How many of us can truly say that faced with a similar situation, we would be able to act in the same manner? Why did Rama do this? He did it because of his morality. Rama firmly believed one must respect one’s parents in every manner, which also came down to doing exactly as his father ordered, which was his duty as a son. He did not let the wonders of the throne blind him, but instead stayed true to what he believed in. So what does this mean for us? How can we apply this in our own lives? I believe it teaches us to hold true to what we truly believe in, even if it may come at our own detriment. Doing what we believe is right should come before any personal benefit which we may stand to gain. When speaking about Rama, Swami said,
“Rama was courageous in the face of adversities. He never gave any scope for weakness. The one who is in the company of Rama will always be a Dheera (courageous one), and not a Deena (weak-minded one)”
- Divine Discourse, 25 March 1999
The Ramayana is a story built on Dharma (righteousness). In fact, one of the key teachings of the Ramayana is to follow the path of Dharma and Sathya (truth). Both Dharma and Sathya are codependent on one another. As Swami lovingly explained,
“Dharma is born out of Sathya. In fact, Dharma cannot exist without Sathya.”
- Divine Discourse, 7 April 2006
While some may believe that Dharma is limited to performing charitable acts or helping poor people in need, it is in fact something that should flow through each one of us seamlessly. When Rama had come to Kausalya (Rama’s mother) to take her leave before beginning his exile in the forest, Kausalya ordered Rama to allow her to come into the forest with him, reminding Rama that it should be a son’s duty to obey the mother and father equally. Rama however reminded Kausalya of her very own duty as Dasaratha’s Ardhaangini (his better half), professing that it was her dharma to take care of the distressed Dasaratha in Rama’s absence, to which she obliged. Looking beyond Rama, the other characters of the Ramayana demonstrate Dharma through their fulfilment of their own various duties. Lakshman was an ideal brother for Rama, Sita was an ideal wife for Rama, and Hanuman was the ideal devotee of Rama. Though the characters of the Ramayana were set so long ago, we should strive to be embodiments of all of these characters in our daily lives, which I believe is truly what the Ramayana is about. Every son should strive to be a son like Rama. Every wife should strive to be a wife like Sita. And every devotee of God should strive to be a devotee like Hanuman. When referring to the Ramayana, Swami said,
“The Ramayana is a text-book for Dharma to be lived out in every home, by the father, the mother, the son, and the members of a joint family - both men and women” - Sai Speaks, Vol 10, p26
Along with keeping one’s words, thoughts and deeds aligned, Dharma will be able to flow effortlessly through one’s self. The Ramayana is something we practice every single day. Everyday, we must strive to be an ideal son, an ideal friend, an ideal parent, an ideal devotee, whatever it may be. It won’t be an instantaneous change, but just getting on the path of Dharma and Sathya and following that path will bring everything into place. The uniqueness of Rama is that he never openly revealed himself to be an Avatar, as he instead wanted to show humanity how to lead the ideal human life, built upon Sathya, Dharma and Prema. Therefore, we too can lead the ideal human life by upholding these values, whilst maintaining both our morality and beliefs. Wishing you all a sacred and happy Rama Navami!
Om Sri Sai Ram
Yuvraj Kewal Chaudhary
Sai Center of Papatoetoe (Auckland, New Zealand)