Nobility and Relevance of Lord Ram
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 6 Nov 2017
Dr. Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service
6 Nov 2017 – We look forward to persons who are good, noble and trustworthy and who inspire us to follow in their footsteps. There have been some noble and enlightened souls in the world – Krishna, Buddha, Madonna, Jesus, Mahavira, Ram, Muhammad, Guru Nanak and recently Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and others whom we respect and try to follow their path of love, compassion, vision, and truth. Some of these personalities have shown us the power of godliness, kindness, religious truth and bhakti, others have been active politically but all of them display values of goodness, truth, love, compassion including teachings on the goals of human life that are inspiring and cherishable and which we try to emulate.
Many books, writings, sculptures and paintings are available all over the world in different languages, different styles and in different historical epochs about the qualities and virtues of these great personalities. Churches, temples, cities have been built in their honor to remind ordinary mortals about their vision and teachings. It is no wonder that millions of ordinary people have joined these institutions to be associated with and imbibe some of the teachings of these noble people. In this essay I shall confine myself to talk a little bit about Lord Ram who is revered in India and in many other regions of the world – as a God without in any way ignoring the greatness of the other luminaries.
But Ram was also a fine human being and showed exemplary qualities as a son, husband, brother, prince, wanderer etc. who continues to inspire millions of ordinary mortals. The Ramayana written by Valmiki in Sanskrit language more than 2500 years ago and Ram Charita Manas by Goswami Tulsidas (AD 1532–1623) in Awadhi language (old Hindi ) depict the qualities of goodness, compassion and obedience of Lord Ram both as a prince and as a human being. Ramayana is often called as adi kavya (ancient poem) that consists of seven kands (books) and comprises 24,000 verses. These kands start with bal kand (childhood of Ram) and end with Uttra kand after the victory of Ram with the help of Hanuman over Ravana and his return to his kingdom. Ram Charita Manas is considered a literary classic.
In the Hindu philosophical text Vedas, there is the concept of purushartha or important aspects of life. There are four elements of these – dharma, arth, kaam, moksha. Many treatises have been written on the meanings and significance of purushartha. In simple terms we can explain dharma as one’s duty both religious and in society (righteousness, moral values); arth literally means money or wealth which signifies prosperity and economic well being, that are required for living properly; kaam has different meanings including (pleasure, love, passion and sex) that are necessary to marry and to raise a family; kaam is necessary in one’s life both for a man and a woman. The fourth aspect of purushartha — moksha signifies the last phase of mortal life and it is ordained that a person gives up the tendencies to have arth or kaam and to think of one’s afterlife – to think of God, goodness, truth, spiritual liberation and other similar values that are free of self-interest and normal constraints of life to which people are bound.
Analyzing the contents of Ramayana and the qualities of Ram, one sees all the four aspects of purushartha in this epic. Ram the son of Dashratha’s first wife Kausalya, is an upright man of dharma right from the time he attains youth and understands the meaning and goals of life. Being the eldest son he is the heir apparent but he is obedient to his father even though the latter wrongly asks him to go on exile for 14 years; he is truthful and kind to all – his mother and step mothers, brothers and everyone else that he comes into contact. Ramayana of course not only talks of wealth but displays it in the court of Dashratha in Ayodhya. Ram’s marriage to Sita the daughter of Janak has been vividly described – how although there are several eminent princes who display their skills to get married to Sita, it is Ram who lifts and strings the divine bow of Shiva and win’s Sita’s hand in marriage.
The newly married couple of Ram and Sita are warmly welcomed by the people of Ayodhya and their marriage is acclaimed by one and all. The happiness is short lived however because of two commitments made by Dashratha to his second wife Kaikeyi who wants her son Bharat to become king after Dashratha. This results in the banishment of Ram for 14 years. Sita and Ram’s younger brother Lakshmana decide to accompany Ram in exile.
The exile of the three persons – Ram, Sita and Lakshmana is presented interestingly and display the characteristics of nobility and dharma of Ram as well as the other two persons. They live a simple life in the forests and show kindness to all living beings – animals, birds and plants etc. They become one with the nature around them. In fact, their relationship with nature which provide them with the basic necessities of life is a lesson for all of us as how to live in harmony with our environment without degrading it. It is well known how our environment has been polluted by the overexploitation of nature’s resources leading to global warming and climate change.
Occasionally, the trio meets some people such as Shabri a lower caste woman who offers Ram some berries to eat, and Kewat a boatman who takes the three in his boat without charging any money from them. This shows Ram’s kindness and behavior to ordinary persons without considerations of any type of superiority. But the forest and the trees also impose certain constraints so that they are not harmed by wild animals or otherwise. The exile is a sort of temporary moksha for the three.
Ramayana informs us of many challenges they face and adventures which the trio have to undergo. One of these is the fancy taken by Shurpanakha (sister of the Lankan king Ravana) to Ram but she was spurned by him telling her that he loved Sita and could not have another wife. Since she persisted, her nose was chopped off by Lakshmana. Again we see Ram’s quality of love for his wife. This leads after some interesting events to the abduction of Sita by Ravana to his kingdom in Lanka.
Hanuman, the Vanar (monkey chieftain) is an interesting character of Ramayana – in fact he is adored by ordinary people for his heroics and his success in freeing Sita from Ravana’s hold. Ram meets Hanuman in Kishkinda and the part where the adventures of Hanuman are described are provided in the Kishkinda kand and Sunder kand. After many twists and turns Ram, Lakshmana and Hanuman attack Lanka and kill Ravana and free Sita. Their return is met with great joy and celebration which we see today also in the festival of Diwali. However, people suspect Sita of impropriety and this leads Ram to reject Sita. This is a flaw in Ram’s character but this displays the humanness of Ram. For all his wonderful qualities his behavior towards Sita is unjust and tragic for her and she exhorts the mother earth to accept her since she was blameless.
Ramayana is a powerful and absorbing story that reinforces the nobility and relevance of Lord Ram both as divinity and as a human being that is cherished not only by millions of Indians but by people all over the contemporary world.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 6 Nov 2017.
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One Response to “Nobility and Relevance of Lord Ram”
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How could Ram tolerant to the injustice done by his father could do justice to others? He let Laksman cut the nose of Shurpanakha causing not only immense bodily pain but also the great injustice to the innocent woman that simply wanted to love Ram. You have rightly said that Ram had flawed his character rejecting the pregnant Sita, and sending her to the forest where she risked her life.