By Swami Harshadananda
By way of adaptations of Valmiki’s Ramayana, one of the most important Sanskrit work of this type is the Adhyatma Ramayana. In fact, it is this work that provided Tulasidas (1511-1637 AD) with the inspiration to compose his immortal work, the Ramacharitamanasa.
Rama tradition ascribes its authorship to Vedvyasa since it is said to be an integral part of Brahmanda Purana. Some scholars ascribe it to the period 14th-15th century AD and the author as unknown. Adhyatma Ramayana has 4200 verses and is popular amongst the devotees of Ram and also among the Vedantins. Written in mellifluous Sanskrit, the work admirably sums up the main events of the Valmiki Ramayana. New materials pertaining to Vedanta philosophy, the path of Bhakti (devotion) in general and Ramabhakti in particular and several hymns in praise of Rama is liberally added.
A few of the changes and innovations made, departing from the original (Valmiki Ramayana) may be noted here:
The major alteration in the fact of the story is the introduction of a "Shadow Sita" throughout the period of her abduction. The real Sita having disappeared into fire just before the golden deer episode. Tulasidas also follows Adhyatma Ramayana.
Compare Tulasi’s Sri Ramacharitamanasa, Aranya Kanda, Doha 23 and the Chopai:
"When Lakshmana had gone to the woods to gather roots, fruits and bulbs, Sri Rama, the very incarnation of compassion and joy, spoke with a smile to Janak’s daughter (Sita):-
Listen my darling, who have been staunch in the holy vow of fidelity to me and are so virtuous in conduct: I am going to act a lovely human part. Abide in fire until I have completed the destruction of the demons."
"No sooner had Sri Rama told Her everything in detail than she impressed the image of the Lord’s feet on Her heart and entered into the fire, leaving with Him only a shadow of Hers, though precisely of the same appearance and the same amiable and gentle disposition. Lakshmana, too, did not know the secret of what the Lord had done behind the curtain."
In the Adhyatma Ramayana, Sita emerges from the fire at the end of the war when the shadow Sita enters into it. (The whole drama is preplanned and enacted at the bidding of Sri Rama Himself).
Other alterations in the Adhyatma Ramayana include : Ravana treats Sita with the respect due to a mother and Sri Rama establishes a Sivalinga at the site of the bridge to Lanka.
The major contribution of the Adhyatma Ramayana lies in the casting of Rama in the role of the spiritual teacher and in the several exquisite hymns sung in praise of Rama. There are four occasions when Rama assumes the role of the teacher and gives philosophical disquisition. In response to Lakshmana’s questions on different occasions he teaches knowledge, devotion and detachment, methods of worship and the way of emancipation. In reply to Kaushalya’s query, Rama teaches the three Yogas of Karma (action), Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakti (devotion).
The well known Ramagita is part of Adhyatma Ramayana. It contains teachings on Advaita Vedanta. The real contribution of this work is in its repeatedly propounding the doctrine that Rama is Brahman the Absolute and that Sita is His Maya-shakti or Prakriti, thereby raising the personality of Rama to the highest level and providing a firm base to the worship of Rama.
In the orthodox circles of Rama devotees, the Adhyatama Ramayana is considered to be a Mantra-sastra, a sacred book, each stanza of which is revered as a Mantra (mystic syllable) and devoutly repeated in a ceremonial way.
Sage Chandramas Expounds the Philosophy of the Atman to Sampati
Translated by Swami Tapasyananda
Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore
Because man thinks of his body as himself, Karma becomes operative. This I-sense, which binds one to the body, is beginningless and is a result of ignorance. In itself it is inert without consciousness, but being in association with the reflection of pure consciousness, it appears conscious, just as a red-hot piece of iron appears hot and shining in association with fire. Because the body is in identification with this I-sense, the body too appears to be endowed with consciousness.
Dominated by the I-sense, the Atman (embodied soul) thinks of himself as the body and becomes subject to the cycle of births and deaths, and to the consequent experience of happiness and misery. The Atman it itself is changeless but because of this false identification, he thinks: ‘I am the body and I am the doer of various actions’. Thus, the embodied being becomes the performer of many actions and is helplessly bound by their consequences. He finds himself fettered and wanders hither and thither in this trans-migratory cycle as a victim of sinful and meritorious actions. He makes a resolution:
‘I have done many meritorious actions like sacrifices and charities. I shall therefore attain to heaven and enjoy heavenly felicities’.
By the same sense of identification, he enjoys these heavenly pleasures for a long period, and then when the effect of these meritorious deeds has dwindled, the same power of Karma sends him down, however much he may dislike it.
Travails of the Jiva (embodied soul)The descending Jiva reaches the sphere of the moon, and from there, united with a drop of water, comes down to earth, and falling on cereals, gets identified with them. After remaining in that condition for long, he becomes any of the four types of food and in that condition is eaten by man. In the human body he is reduced to the seed, which being deposited in the womb of a woman and becoming united with the blood therein, becomes solidified within a day into the state called Kalala ensheathed by the placenta. Within five nights the foetus develops into a foam-like substance, and within seven nights into a muscular tissue. Within fifteen days blood will appear in it, and within twenty-five nights a small shoot develops from it. In one month the neck, head, shoulder, backbone and abdomen will be formed one after another.
Then in the second month, the arms, legs, hips and kneecaps develop one after another. In the third month, all the joints of organs are formed, and the fingers, in the fourth. In the fifth month the nose, ears, eyes, teeth, nails and the genitals develop. In the sixth month, the orifice of the ears, anus, the sex organ and navel are formed. In the seventh month, hair on the body, and the skull and the distinctiveness of all organs are formed. By the eighth month, the full human form comes into shape. In this way, the foetus gradually develops in the womb. By the fifth month, signs of life are seen throughout the foetus. Through the small orifice in the umbilical cord the foetus draws a little of the essence of the food consumed by the mother. It is by the power of its own Karma that it develops without perishing.
The foetus now gets the memory of its previous lives and actions. Within that memory, and suffering from the heat of the abdomen, the foetus thinks as follows:
‘Born in innumerable wombs, I had association with many wives and children, relatives and possessions. Preoccupied with the maintenance of the family, I managed to earn money in righteous and unrighteous ways. But unfortunate that I am, I never thought of the Lord even in dream. As a consequence of it, I am now undergoing tortures in the womb, considering the impermanent body as permanent. I have done things, which I should not do. I never did things beneficial for the Atman. After undergoing the sufferings due to all such actions, when I get out of this hell-like womb, I shall hereafter engage myself always in adoration of Mahavishnu’.
While thinking like this, he is ejected by the powerful forces of parturition, subjecting him to very great sufferings. Just as a sinner emerges from hell, he comes out of the foul smelling bodily orifice, resembling a worm in appearance. Thereafter, he undergoes all the sufferings of infancy. I am not going to describe them or the sufferings of youth and other periods of life, as they are well known to you and all other creatures. Thus as a result of identifying oneself with the body, the Jiva undergoes the sufferings of hell and the life in the womb.
Therefore abandon this sense of identification with the subtle and gross bodies, one should recognise oneself as the Self transcending Prakriti (Nature). Abandoning the feeling that ‘I am the body’, he should know himself as Atman (soul). He should know himself as the Self, who is not involved in the states of waking, dream and sleep, who is distinguished as Truth and Consciousness, who is pure, wakeful and peaceful. When the Atman, who is of the nature of Truth and Consciousness, is realised and the infatuation caused by ignorance erased, it is immaterial whether the body dies or continues to live as a consequence of the operative Karma (Prarabdha Karma). A man of realisation will not identify himself with the body, and he has as a consequence neither enjoyments nor sufferings afterwards. Therefore, until your operative Karma is exhausted and the body perishes, you live in the body without identification with it, just as a snake carries on its external sheath of skin, until the time for it to separate comes.
(Chaitra Sukla Navami)
Swami Harshananda, Ramakrishna Math, Bangalore
Eight days after Yugadi or on the ninth day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra, falls the birthday of Sri Rama, one of the two most popular and highly revered incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Rama is said to have been born (manifested) at noon.
The Ramanavami vrata is nitya or compulsory for the devotees of Rama and optional for others. One of the highly eulogized vrata in the Hindu calendar, it can destroy one’s sins and also confer even mukti or liberation.
Actually the vrata commences from the previous night with fasting. On the Navami day also the votary has to continue fasting, perform worship and homa to Rama in an image installed in a specially prepared shrine, do japa (repeated recitations) of Ramamantra and keep vigil in the night. After the completion of the vrata he has to donate the image to the acharya (a learned Brahmin well versed in the rites) along with other gifts made liberally.
In the modern days gifting the image of Rama is extremely rare.
People assemble in very large numbers in Rama temples and enthusiastically participate in the Ramanavami festivities. Parayana or ceremonial recitation of the Ramayana (usually spread over the nine days from Yugadi), arranging religio-cultural programmes like Hari-katha (discourse on mythological stories accompanied with music) and classical music or devotional songs are quite common.
Celebrations at places associated with Sri Rama, like Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh and Ramesvaram in Tamil Nadu attract thousands of devotees.
By Swami Shivananda
Divine Life Society, Rishikesh
Written in 1947
Blessed immortal selves!
Out of the fullness of my heart and love for you all I send a Message Divine to inspire you, to instantly elevate and to transform your life. It will transport you from weakness to tremendous strength, from failure to flaming success, from sorrow to blessedness and joy. Hearken, therefore, with utmost attention to this message of Ramanavami.
The most sacred Ramayana abounds with innumerable life-redeeming lessons. But in receiving a message, the receiver eagerly looks for something therein which will throw light upon and guide him in the most pressing problems of the day. He seeks solutions for the crying questions of the moment. And at the present period the one matter that is terribly agitating all minds and hearts is the widespread Adharma – falsehood and passion that is everywhere rampant in the world. To know the cause of it and the direct way to quickly remove it is the thing needed now. And to this end, out of the countless lessons teeming in the Ramayana, I wish to awaken you all to the most important and timely ones for humanity now. All the main ills of the modern world will be removed if these two lessons from the ideal life of Rama are adopted in our lives individually as well as nationally.
Amongst numerous lessons I wish this day to particularly impress upon you two lessons. They are special need of the world today. Humanity has become corrupt today due to the falling away from two essential ideals indispensable to the weal and happiness of life, individual, national as also international. They are the ideals of Truth and Purity. Let these twin flames of Truth and Purity burn bright upon your broad bosom.
At the present moment you have excommunicated ethics and murdered morality in the name of modernism. Fraud and falsehood have acquired the status of fashionable fine arts. People make out a polished pretence of purity and truth but there remains just a travesty. Fraud flourishes in all the quarters of the globe. Politics has degenerated into a mere game of fraud. Broken pledges, discarded promises, dishonoured contracts once solemnly made, hypocritical avowals and assertions and deliberately misleading and falsified statements – these are the kind that you meet with everywhere you turn.
Enter a house, talk to the family therein and enquire about its affairs; then this will be the story you will hear. Analyse the internal affairs of a nation; then too the same story greets your ears. And behold the state of international affairs in this world; once again a similar tale you hear.
Therefore I emphasize upon these two great ideals – the sublime ideal of purity and the lofty ideal of Truth. Rama was the embodiment of both. The entire Ramayana was the outcome of his burning desire to uphold the promise of his father made to Kayikayi, the queen. An illustrious prince, Sri Rama voluntarily subjected himself to untold hardships for fourteen years of forest life amidst fierce beasts and Asuras (demons) just to keep up a promise and that too a promise not made or given by him but by another even before he was born. What an ideal of highest purity is this life-long vow of Eka Patnivrata. How dire is the need now of adopting this ideal in life when the solemnity of sacred matrimony and its sanctity are outraged and scandalised all over the world.
Ramayana is permeated with the spirit of these two ideals. Dashrath sticks to truth even though it costs him his very life. Grief breaks his heart and shatters his body to death, yet the word (promise) to Kayikayi is kept. Then take Sri Rama. He loves Bharata more than his life-breath, yet having given his word to his step-mother, not even the most poignant entreaty of the beloved Bharata could make him deviate an inch from his resolve. What a proof of the strength of truth. In every man’s heart should ring today the grand and most memorable declaration of Rama:
“The fire may abandon its heat, ice its coolness, jasmine its fragrance, but I never break the promise made to my father.”
Rama’s own mother, Queen Kaushalya, tries her utmost to dissuade him. She tells him how the mother is even greater than the father for has it not been said, first and foremost: “Matru Devo Bhava” – let thy mother be like a God unto thee. But no, truth is indeed the supreme God of all gods.
Remember again the heroic adherence to truth that Prince Bharata exemplifies with grand, superhuman resolution for fourteen tedious years. Bharata stuck to his lofty vow and to the little village of Nandigrama bowing with folded hands and bent head before the royal sandals of Lord Rama. And at the end of the period, had but Rama delayed a moment more, then true to his word, Bharata would have cast himself into a burning pit of a blazing fire. Such is the stuff of Truth – Truth that makes man immortal. And this precious human body is given to thee to strive to attain immortality. Therefore, blessed selves, embrace this Truth and inherit the Life Immortal.
Then comes the marvellous fidelity of Sita in the grove of the Ashokavana. What unforgettable adherence to the vow once taken. What adamantine steadiness in the midst of the severest trials and temptations. How Ravana tempted Sita; how he tries to convince her that Rama is dead even by producing an exact likeness of his severed head before the shocked and agonised gaze of Sita. But all through this we note the unwavering constancy of Sita. She was Truth personified. For what is Pativrata if not being absolutely true to one’s chosen lord. And such truth is indeed of the very form of the highest Purity.
Therefore, blessed selves! men and women, young and old, great and small, O ye Adhyatmic warriors! All take up this trident of Truth, with its threefold prongs of truthful thought, speech and deed. Deal the deathblow to all untruth and falsehood with this invincible weapon of Truth. This is the Mahastra (Maha-astra), the real Ram-Bana (Bana = bow and arrow) that I give unto you today. With deep reverence and determined resoluteness, wield this Satyastra (Truth as weapon), slay the enemies of Shanti (peace) and Sukha (happiness) and see the dawn of Satya-Yuga.
On this most auspicious and joyous Ramanavami Day, this therefore, is the message I send to you; this the present I give to you, this the promise I ask of you – let these two – Truth and Purity be the motto of your life. Let these principles animate every moment of your existence, motivate each action of yours, dwell in your heart, fill your mind, pervade your speech. Let Truth and Purity light up your career, guide your conduct and mould your character. Let these twin forces sweep away all inauspiciousness and evil forever from your life. Banished will be the black night of sorrow and suffering and before their divine blaze will vanish the shadows of vice and of unrighteousness.
And on this great – Sri Ramanavami Day – I shall tell you a great secret. In bestowing the present of the invincible weapon of Truth and Purity I shall reveal one thing, the only thing that is equally powerful and marvellous as the Mahastra. This is the Divine Name of Rama. Rama-Nama and Rama-Bana of Truth and Purity are a marvellous pair. He who has the one has the other also. Repeat Rama-Nama. Stick to Truth. Practise Purity. These three will raise you to transcendent perfection.
Hear, O beloved self! Thy body is a living temple of the Divine. Enshrine then the deity of Truth in the sanctum of the heart. Let each person be a veritable Pagoda of Purity, housing this Presence Divine.
The advent of Rama Rajya (rajya = kingdom) verily implies the ushering in of prosperity and plenty, blessedness, bliss and peace on earth and goodwill among men. If such a state of true happiness and brotherhood is to come about then all fear and uncertainty must vanish from man’s heart. But fear will persist as long as there exist suspicion, distrust and disbelief amongst men. To eliminate distrust and suspicion all falsehood, deception, crookedness and untruth must go. Then alone mutual trust and love will spring up between man and man. Truth alone can do this. The power of truth is that power which has made the memorable name of Harishchandra forever immortal and renowned, the power that will vanquish and exterminate falsehood and untruth from this fair earth of ours.
There is no doubt, if these principles are immediately adopted, sincerely cherished and earnestly practised, real Rama Rajya will come about on earth not merely for one kingdom, nation or country, but for the whole world. It will be Rama Rajya for the entire humanity.
Such periodical celebrations are a boon and blessing to you. They serve to keep bright and alive these lofty examples by following which life on earth becomes fruitful. Attend the celebrations with the right and proper Bhava (attitude) and benefit fully by it. Resolve from this Ramanavami Day to take a daily dip into the life-redeeming waters that the Ramayana is. Read a small portion of the Ramayana everyday. You will be constantly inspired. You derive valuable guidance in your day-to day life. You will without fail imbibe into your being the lofty qualities embodied therein. Within a short time you will surely find yourself a different person, greatly filled with Sattwa, with the Divine Spirit of Truth and Purity, peace, joy and prosperity will be yours here and hereafter.
From Tulasi Ramayana
Ayodhya Kanda, Doha and Chopai 123 to 131
Sri Rama arrives at the hermitage of Sage ValmikiThen perceiving that Sita was tired and seeing a Banyan tree and cool waters near by, the Hero of Raghu’s line (Rama) partook of bulbs, roots and fruits and staying there overnight and bathing at dawn the Lord of Raghus proceeded further. And beholding lovely woods, lakes and hills, the Lord reached the hermitage of Sage Valmiki. Sri Rama saw the Sage’s beautiful dwelling with its charming hills and forest and its sacred waters. The lotuses in the ponds and the trees in the woods were in blossom. Intoxicated with their honey, bees hummed sweetly over them. Birds and beasts made a tumultuous noise and moved about in joy free from all animosities.
The lotus-eyed Rama rejoiced to behold the sacred and lovely hermitage; and hearing the arrival of Sri Rama, Sage Valmiki came forth to receive Him.
Sri Rama fell prostrate before the sage and the holy Brahmin (Valmiki) blessed Him in return. The sight of Sri Rama’s beauty gladdened his eyes and with due honour he took the Lord into the hermitage. Finding a guest as dear to him as life itself the holy sage sent for delicious bulbs, roots and fruits. Sita, Lakshmana and Rama partook of those fruits and the sage then assigned them beautiful quarters. Great was the joy of Valmiki’s heart as he beheld with his own eyes Sri Rama, who was bliss personified. Joining His lotus palms the Lord of Raghus (Rama) then spoke to him in words which were delightful to the ears:
"You directly perceive everything relating to the past, present and future, O lord of sages. The whole universe is as if in the palm of your hand."
Saying so the Lord (Sri Rama) related to Valmiki the whole story as to how the queen (Kaikeyi) had exiled Him into the woods.
"Compliance with my father’s command, gratification of my stepmother (Kaikeyi), the installation of a brother like Bharata to the throne and my seeing you- all this, my lord, is the result of my meritorious acts."
Sri Rama continued saying:
"In beholding your feet, O king of sages, all my good deeds have been rewarded. While the satisfaction of Brahmins is the root of happiness, their wrath consumes millions of generations. Bearing this in mind pray tell me a place to which I may proceed with Sita and Lakshmana, and building a charming hut of leaves and grass I may spend some time there, O good sir."
Hearing these guileless and unsophisticated words of Sri Rama, the enlightened Sage (Valmiki) exclaimed: "Right You are. Why should You not speak thus, O Glory of Raghu’s line (Rama), ever busy as You are in maintaining the laws laid down by the Vedas? While You are the custodian of the Vedic laws and the Lord of the universe, Sita (Janak’s daughter) is Your Maya (Divine Energy) who creates, preserves and dissolves the universe on receiving the tacit approval of Your gracious Self. As for Lakshamana he is no other the thousand-headed Sesa (the lord of serpents), the supporter of the globe and the lord of the entire creation, both animate and inanimate. Having assumed the form of a king for the sake of the gods You are out to crush the host of wicked demons."
Sage Valmiki continued:
"This world is a spectacle and You (Rama) are its spectator. You make even Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver) and Sambhu (Siva, the Destroyer) dance to Your tune. Even these latter know not Your secret; who else can know You? In fact he alone can know You to whom You make Yourself known; and the moment he knows You he becomes one with You. It is by Your grace, O Delighter of Raghus, that your votaries come to know You, O Comforter of the heart of devotees. Your body is all consciousness and bliss and is devoid of change; it is the competent alone who realise this. It is for the sake of saints and gods that You have assumed the human semblance and speak and act even as worldly monarchs do. The stupid get puzzled while the wise feel delighted when they see or hear of Your doings. All that You say or do is true; for one should play the role one has assumed on the stage."
Sri Rama abides in the heart of those..."You ask me ‘Where should I take up my residence?’ But I ask You with diffidence: tell me first the place where You are not; then alone I can show You a suitable place."
On hearing the Sage’s words, imbued as they were with love, Sri Rama felt abashed and smiled within Himself. Valmiki too smiled and spoke to Him (Rama) again in words as sweet as though they were steeped in nectar:
"Listen, Rama. I tell You now the places where You should abide with Sita and Lakshmana. The heart of those, whose ears are, like the ocean, constantly replenished with a number of lovely streams in the shape of Your stories but know no surfeit, shall be Your charming abode. Again, the heart of those whose eyes long to see You should dwell in the heart of him whose swan-like tongue picks up pearls in the shape of Your virtues in the holy Manasarovar lake (mind is the Manasarovar lake) of Your fame.
Abide, O Rama, in the mind of those whose nose devoutly inhales every day the fragrance of sacred and lovely offerings (in the shape of flowers, sandal-paste etc.) made to their Lord (Yourself), who eat only that which has been offered to You and put on clothes and ornaments first dedicated to You, whose heads bow down most submissively and lovingly at the sight of a god, preceptor or Brahmin, whose hands adore Sri Rama’s feet every day, who cherish in their heart faith in Rama and none else, and whose feet take them to holy places sacred to Rama.
Again, those who are ever engaged in muttering the Rama-Mantra (Sri Ramaya Namah), the king of all sacred formulas, and worship You along with Your associates; who offer water to the manes and pour oblations into the sacred fire in diverse ways, who feed the Brahmins and bestow liberal gifts on them and who look upon their preceptor as greater than Yourself and wait upon him with due honour and entire (total) devotion.
And who having done all these ask only one boon as their reward: ‘Let me have devotion to Sri Rama’s feet!’ Enthrone Yourself in the temple of their heart, both Sita and the Delighter of Raghus (Yourself).
Those who have no lust, anger, arrogance, pride or infatuation, are without greed, excitement, attraction or aversion and who are free from fraud, hypocrisy and deceit,- it is in their heart that You should abide, O Chief of the Raghus. Again, those who are beloved of all and friendly to all, to whom joy and sorrow, applause and abuse are alike and who scrupulously utter truthful and polite words, and who are resigned to You whether awake or asleep and who have no support other than Yourself,- it is in their mind, O Rama, that You should dwell.
Again, those who look upon another’s wife as their own mother and to whom another’s wealth is the deadliest of all poisons, who rejoice to see others’ prosperity and are particularly grieved to see another’s distress, and to whom, O Rama, You are dear as their own life,- their minds are Your blessed abode. Those to whom, my dear, You are at once Master and Companion, Father and Mother, Preceptor and everything else,- it is in the temple of their mind that Sita and You two brothers should reside.
Those who overlook others’ faults and pick out their virtues and endure hardships for the sake of the Brahmins and cows, who have established their reputation in the world as well-versed in the laws of propriety (good or proper conduct),- their mind is Your excellent abode. Again, he who attributes his virtues to You and holds himself responsible for his faults, who entirely depends on You, should stay along with Sita. He who, renouncing his caste and kinsmen, wealth, faith and glory, his near and dear ones, his happy home and every thing else, cherishes You in his bosom- in his heart You should take up Your residence, O Lord of Raghus (Rama).
Again, he to whom heaven and hell and even freedom from birth and death are the same inasmuch as he beholds You armed with a bow and arrow here, there and everywhere, and who is Your servant in thought, word and deed,- make his heart, O Rama, Your permanent abode.
Lastly, he who wants nothing at any moment and bears natural affinity to You,- incessantly dwell in his mind; for that is Your own home."
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to Swamy Harshananda ji , Swamy Tapasyananda ji for the collection)