The Four Divine Brothers
The four brothers grew up to be fine young boys -pampered and equally loved by all their three mothers and their father.
In one of the poems Tulsidas tries to compare what Sri Rama looks like. He finally gives up and claims that Rama is so unique to behold, that he cannot be compared. Rama looks like Rama.
Finally it was time that the boys started their education. They were sent to the forest with their family Guru.
According to Hindu tradition great importance has been attached to the status of ‘Guru’, the Preceptor or the teacher. Just like a teacher is required to acquire any kind of skill or art, a Guru would be required to initiate one into the spiritual journey. As a matter of fact the word Guru can be interpreted thus (according to the Advayataraka Upanishad).
The syllable ‘Gu’ — means darkness, the syllable ‘ru’ means dispeller — so the word ‘Guru’ would mean ‘the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance’.
According to another interpretation Guru means the “weighty one”, thereby denoting the spiritual quality in terms of quantity. He is heavy with wisdom and learning and ever ready to pour to the thirsty. He is like a mature ripe fruit, which is ready to fall on the hungry and deserving. Since the Guru becomes the means by which one aspires to attain the Lord, it is not uncommon for the Hindu to treat God and the Guru as one.
In one of the famous couplets, one hears the devotee feeling puzzled as to whom to offer obeisance first, to the Lord or to the Guru. He then is convinced that he should first bow to the Guru, as he is the means through whom the Lord would be united to him.
The Guru is however different from the family priest whose task is to perform religious rituals.
It is said in Hindu scriptures that one ought to have implicit faith in one’s Guru which, the world; being as commercialised as it is today, is difficult. However the scriptures also claim that once an honest aspirant is ready, his destined Guru does materialise.
In the hermitage of Guru Vashishta, all the boys, be they Princes or of ordinary lineage, were treated alike. The Princes were however taught archery and the art of defense.
In ancient India, emphasis was not only laid on the academic and physical aspect, but also upon the spiritual upbringing. Hence the four boys became well versed in ancient Hindu scriptures. They not only learned them but also imbibed them into their soul.
Sri Rama emerged the most brilliant and most rounded personality — he was not only wise but was considered wisdom incarnate.
According to Hinduism God assumes the form of a trinity as Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.
Brahma is the Creator of mankind; Vishnu the God responsible for it preservation; Shiva or Mahesh the annihilator.
According to the legend, Lord Vishnu rests on a Milky Ocean. His wife Laxmi who is the Goddess of Wealth is at his feet (as a Preserver of Mankind, he would have to own Natural Wealth). The hoods of the serpent Shesh protect the Lord like an umbrella.
Despite Lord Vishnu having temptations of wealth around him and lying on the turbulent sea with a serpent over his head, he seems to be at unmatchable ease, which is shown by the fact that he is reclining.
This is the quality that one aspires for in life. One must be able to take temptations and ups end downs in one life without getting agitated. This is what Sri Rama was able to do during his lifetime.
Rama’s ability to do his duty with every member of his family, his compassion and understanding of human nature, make him, according to Hindus, the symbol of knowledge, the Incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Lakshmana, the son of Sumitra, is considered the incarnation of the serpent Shesh. A popular legend claims that the world rests on this particular serpent. Hence this serpent never rests but is ever alert Even when God, in the form of Lord Vishnu, rests, it is the fangs of the serpent that protect the Lord in the form of an umbrella.
Lakshmana through his life depicts the quality of a soldier. He never sleeps but is ever alert to the work of Rama. He serves him like no other.
The son of Kaikeyi stands for Dharma and Love. He loved and did his rightful duty despite going through pain and criticism through no fault of his own.
Shatrughna the son of Sumitra seems to be the least talked about character in the Ramayana, maybe because he hardly talks; yet he acts when necessary.
His name is Shatrughna, which means the destroyer of the enemy the destroyer of evil.
By Shatrughna’s character the Ramayana is probably trying to tell us that those too serve, who stand and watch and act when necessary.
In our Hindu philosophy it is a well-accepted belief that those serve most who talk least.
The Bow that Rama always carries is curved on one side with a tight straight string tied to it.
Rama as God embraces all, the straight as well as the crooked.
After the formal education of the four brothers was completed they returned back to the Kingdom of Ayodhya to their parent’s home. After a while Vishwamitra, a sage, came to the court of Dasaratha to seek permission to take the young princes with him, to kill certain demoniac characters who were harassing the sages during their prayers.
The demoniac character is symbolic of evil. The main purpose of Rama’s life was to eradicate evil. Rama, with his brother, Lakshmana, therefore went with sage Vishwamitra where he killed the demons and rescued his devotees from their plight.
When we are in true trouble it behaves us to put in our efforts to improve the situation. When all else fails, one appeals to God through a sage. God comes and redeems us from our troubles.
Once, during that trip, to the forest, Rama was asked to do an unusual task. He was asked to touch a stone statue with his feet and bring it back to life. Rama was informed that the stone statue was once a living woman called Ahilya. She had done some wrong deeds and hence had been turned to stone, with a promise that only Rama could restore her back to her original form.
This story is symbolic.
When one continuously does wrong deeds, one’s conscience dies and one’s heart literally can turn into stone.
It requires a divine word or a divine touch to melt that heart and make it live again.
Rama’s touch had that very magical soothing effect. Ahilya lived