Symbolisms in the Ramayana – Chapter Five

SRI RAMA GOES TO THE FOREST

One of the main lessons of the Ramayana is that one should keep one’s promise at any cost. This was the staunch foundation on which Sri Rama’s family – the Raghukula – had built its kingdom.

“Raghukul Riti sada chali aeee,
Pran Jaye par Vachan na jaya.”

Rama’s ancestors believed that if one was faced with the choice of either giving up one’s life or go against one’s word – one must choose the former. ‘Give up your life, but not your word’, they proclaimed.

Rama was told of the wish of his mother Kaikeyi. The prince who was getting ready to ascend the throne did not even flinch. To Rama both the positions held the same importance. In a way the Renouncing Spirit of Rama was thankful to Kaikeyi for being instrumental in bringing about the journey to the forest where the main purpose of his life lay. Sri Rama’s incarnation’s main aim was to get rid of the demons that had been harassing the sages and his beloved devotees for years.

Rama left for the forest to make his father’s word true. Rama’s wife Sita insisted on accompanying Sri Rama to the forest.

Lakshmana would not let Rama and Sita go alone, he wanted to accompany them to serve them.

Some people who read the Ramayana claim that it was not fair on Lakshmana’s wife Urmila. She should also have gone to the forest with Lakshmana.

The question however arises – Does a policeman’s wife accompany her husband when he is out on duty? Or does an army officer’s Wife go with him when he is posted at the border to protect the country?

Rama left for the forest and that came to pass which was destined.

DESTINY AND THE KARMA THEORY

Karma literally means “deeds”

The Hindu Karma theory is that as one sows, so one reaps.

The Karma theory says that what one is now is the result of what one thought and did in the past and what one shall be in the future will be the result of what one thinks and does now. According to the Hindu religion a person suffers not only for wrong committed in the present life but for misdeeds or sins, which may have been committed in the past. One sometimes cannot change what blows life inflicts upon us but one has control over what one can do with one­self in that condition. It is under the effect of pain and suffering that unbelievable works of art have seen the light of the day.

Each man is born for a purpose and no one is born without a certain talent – each is given the power to use or develop this talent, and it is more beneficial if one can use it for the benefit of others.

According to Hindu belief there is a certain Karma which is entirely predetermined and cannot be avoided e.g. sex, parentage, colour of skin.

According to another kind of Karma, man acquires certain tendencies which are under one’s control, to use to one’s benefit and lastly there is that Karma which is being created now, the fruits of which will be enjoyed by us in the future during another life­time. This kind of Karma we have complete control over. Man’s will is ever free to make what he will with those elements that have been pre-ordained.

Hence within certain limits one can alter one’s destiny – we are tied to destiny with a loose rope whose looseness allows us limited freedom within that restricted situation.

One must also remember that one is bound by Nature’s Law, which applies to all equally.

LAW AND EFFECT

Thus if one has pursued studies one would be educated.

If one has followed certain rules of health one would be healthy.

Destiny is a law related to cause and effect.

Man is free to desire and think as he deems fit. Action is the outcome, and thereby his destiny.

There are two schools of thought on the above dilemma – some say that God is wholly responsible for our fate whereas others believe that destiny is the making of man. As a matter of fact both are right; just as one would be right in stating that for a car to function, engine and petrol are both essential. According to Vedanta, God Is the Seer behind the sight. Or that which causes one to hear and see. But what one learns and sees is man’s own choice.

The Law of Karma should fill one with hope to know that one is not governed by the whims of a dictatorial power and one does not live in a lawless nature but one can mould one’s destiny with the help of this knowledge.

The Law of Karma like the law of gravity prevails, though we do interfere with the law of gravity when we travel by aeroplane or go up by elevators. Similarly if one understands the Law of Karma, one can create future happiness and present contentment by understanding scientifically its working.

Also just like the law of gravity does not operate beyond the world’s atmosphere, similarly with prayer and repentance, one enters that realm where all con­flict between good and evil melt away under the bene­volent grace of the Supreme Law.

It is believed that Rama’s advent to the forest was to fulfill certain promises that he had made to his devotees.

When the people of Ayodhya learned that Sri Rama was leaving for the forest, they decided to follow him there.

They were not interested in living in a kingdom without Rama.

They left their belongings and all that they were attached to, for the hardships of the forest. However the people of Ayodhya fell asleep on the way and Rama went ahead without them.

This is symbolic. In the spiritual path one has to be awake all the time, not physically, but spiritually one must be constantly aware of one’s failings and weaknesses. If one falters, God just leaves.

Dasaratha could not bear the separation of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. He gave up his body.

KEVAT

During Rama’s sojourn in the forest he met vari­ous devotees. One of the most interesting of such encounters is that with Kevat, a simple boatman. Sri Rama wanted to cross the river and he asked the boatman Kevat to ferry him across. Kevat refused to take Rama on his boat until he was allowed to wash Rama’s feet.

In Hinduism washing the feet of one’s beloved God or teacher is considered a great privilege not accessible to many.

Kevat, after having washed Rama’s feet, took the divine trio Rama, Sita and Lakshmana across the river. When Rama wanted to give him a ring as a payment for Kevat’s services, the latter refused.

He had recognised Rama as God. Kevat claimed that both Rama and he were in the same profession. Both ferried people across; he, Kevat, did it across the river whereas Rama ferried his devotees from Earth to Heaven, from Death to Immortality.

Kevat told Rama that since Rama owed him a service, he should promise to safely ferry Kevat to God’s land of Love and Plenty when his time comes.

Hindus believe that only a Bhakta (Devotee) has he privilege to talk on such a personal level. A Bhakta truly loves, and love makes one fearless.

Rama came to Kevat. Kevat did not have to go to Rama.

The above is symbolic.

In Bhakti (the path of Love) one just loves and surrenders to that Love. God being Love does the rest. He comes to you.

When Bharata and Shatrughna returned from their maternal grandparents’ home, they were shocked at what had transpired in Ayodhya during their absence.

Bharata refused to acknowledge Kaikeyi as his mother.

One would wonder how Bharata, who is symbolic of Love, could disown his own mother.

It has been mentioned that Bharata did not only stand for Love, he stood for Dharma, he stood for “What is right”.

Love sometimes takes the form of a Doctor who inflicts pain on a patient to relieve him of a greater malady.

He was angry with his mother to the point of dis­owning her to make her aware of the great harm she had done due to her false attachment, which she mis­took for her love for her son Bharata.

Bharata also refused the throne. He decided to proceed to Chitrakoot, a nook where Rama, Sita and Lakshmana had made their abode in the forest.

Bharata decided to go there to persuade his brother to return to Ayodhya to take his rightful place on the throne.

Bharata’s journey to Rama and Sita in Chitrakoot is symbolic of an aspirant’s spiritual path.

At first, the forest-dwellers Bharata met on the way to Chitrakoot felt that Bharata was a hypocrite pretending to be a saint. However Bharata urged them to come along with him.

A true sage has such love and compassion that he does not want to go to God alone. He wants to take all whom he comes in contact.

Bharata is also symbolic of love.

On his way to Chitrakoot, Bharata reaches the great pilgrim centre Prayag Raaj. There he proclaims that he does not desire anything but to be able to serve Rama.

Isn’t that what true love only desires?

Sri Rama and Bharata meet. Sri Rama however feels that he cannot return to Ayodhya despite Bharata’s desire.

Bharata is made to understand that even though love is greater than duty, love never demands. True love allows freedom to his beloved to do what he deems right.

Sri Rama promised to accept the throne after 14 years and in the meantime urged Bharata to be its caretaker.

Bharata asked for Sri Rama’s wooden sandals.

These wooden sandals Bharata kept on the throne while he executed the duties of running the kingdom.

Bharata said he wanted to constantly remember that he was only a caretaker.

If only we could remember that we too are care­takers of our possessions! All we possess truly be­longs to God, which is to be returned ungrudgingly whenever the time is up.

The greatness of the Ramayana lies in the idea­listic behaviour of its characters.

The brothers all know the art of giving and in that sacrifice lay their happiness.

Compare this to the strife prevalent in today’s world where one is not satisfied with what one possesses and wants to usurp our so-called near and dear ones’ rights by unfair means, if need be.

How can we then have peace of mind? In our Hindu philosophy it is said one cannot expect flowers, where one plants thorns.

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine