Short Notes from the Valimiki Ramayana

From The Valmiki Ramayana, Bala-Kanda.Canto I.
Opening verses:
The celestial Sage Narada narrates to Valmiki
the qualities of Sri Ram
The Sage Valmiki once put the following question to Sage Narada
, the chief of the hermits and the foremost in the art of expression:
"Is there any one in this world at present who is full of virtues and at the same time possessed of great prowess, who knows what is right, is well versed in Dharma (religion), who is conscious of service done (grateful), truthful, and of firm resolve?
Who is possessed of right conduct and who is friendly to all living beings. Who is a man of knowledge, who is powerful and who has a singularly lovable appearance. Who has subdued his self, who has conquered anger, who is possessed of splendour and who is above faultfinding and whom the very gods dread when his wrath has been provoked in battle?
I wish to hear this; for there is a great curiosity in my mind about it while you are capable of knowing such a man, O eminent Seer!"
Being pleased on hearing these words of Valmiki, the Sage Narada who possessed knowledge of the three worlds, and greatly delighted, addressed the following words:
"Listen! I shall duly consider and tell you of such a hero. Be please to hear from me of the man endowed with the many and rare virtues and qualities mentioned by you.
There is one born in the line of Ikshvaku and known by men by the name of Rama. He has fully controlled his mind, is very powerful, radiant and resolute and has brought his senses under control. He is intelligent, sagacious, eloquent, glorious and an exterminator of foes. He is distinguished with broad shoulders, powerful arms, a neck shaped as a conch and a stout chin.
He is marked with a broad chest, a mighty bow and a collar bone covered with flesh, Ram is capable of subduing his foes. His (unusually long) arms extend right up to his knees. He has a well formed head, a shapely forehead and a charming gait. He is of medium stature, has well proportioned limbs and of charming complexion. He is mighty. He has a well shaped chest, large eyes, is full of splendour and has auspicious marks on his body.
He knows the secret of virtues and is true to his promise. He is intent on the good of the people. He is illustrious, full of wisdom, pure in his dealings, a man of self-control and a sharp (concentrated) mind. He is like the Creator Brahma in supporting all, affluent, the slayer of his enemies, protector of all living beings and a staunch defender of faith (Dharma).
He is well principled and protects his people. He knows the truth expounded in the Vedas and Vedangas (six sciences) auxiliary to them and is a master in archery. He knows the real meaning of all the scriptures , possessed of a bright intellect and good memory. He is gentle, noble, shrewd and is loved by all.
He is always sought by the righteous (even) as the rivers seek the ocean. He is courteous to one and all and always well composed, noble and always wears a pleasing countenance. He is endowed with excellence and gladdens the heart of his mother Kausalya. He is dignified and profound like the ocean and firm (steadfast) like the Himalayas.
He is a replica of Lord Vishnu in prowess and soothing like the moon. In (show of) anger he resembles the conflagration (destructive fire) at dissolution (end of creation). He is a counterpart of Mother Earth in forbearance. He equals Kubera (the god of riches, the bestower of wealth) in liberality and steadfast in truth like Lord Dharma."

Three distinctly contrasted societies
By Sri N. Nanjunda Sastry
The overall picture that we get on the large canvas of Valmiki is of three distinctly contrasted societies; Sattvic in Ayodhya, Sattvic and Rajasic in Kishkindha, and Tamasic and Rajasic in Lanka. If Dharma is the cardinal principle of the Aryan society (of Ayodhya), Adharma is the ruling principle of the Rakshasa (demon) society. We have a Manava in the north, a Vanara in the peninsula and a Rakshasa in the island. In all three kingdoms, be it noted, the elder is ousted and the younger secures the power, though Bharat’s instance is of a different nature altogether. Eventually in one of the three kingdoms the throne is restored to the eldest.
Valmiki has drawn three scintillating pictures representing three levels of civilization, three societies, as it were, with their own values, mores and structures.
The first picture
In the North is the Aryan society based on Sattwic qualities with a fairly advanced political organisation. Dasaratha, the noble king, ruled over a vast territory and had a number of loyal vassals. He had administrative counsellors (Sumanthra, for example), as also spiritual mentors (Vasishtha, for example). He was held in high esteem by the members of all the Varnas of his kingdom, by the Rishis and Ashramites living in the dense forest pursuing their esoteric studies.
In such an advanced society the family was the central unit where the father was treated with love and reverence. The eldest son of the family enjoyed the respect and affection of his brothers and relatives. There was no physical clash among the brothers, and one did not lust for the other’s wife. They were all learned in the ancient lore of the land and performed the traditional rites, rituals and duties with devotion and zeal. All in all, the Aryan society represented by Ayodhya and Rama was a highly advanced and worthy society cherishing Sattwic values, Sattwic way of life and Sattwic pursuits.
The second picture
Drawn by Sage Valmiki is of the Vanara society of Kishkindha. Here the administration was no doubt competent but tending to be autocratic. The family was of a loose structure and one brother sought the help of an "outsider" to have another killed The wives moved from one brother to another and remained pleased and satisfied with what they secured at a given moment. There was a large physical force at the command of the king and he agreed to put it at the disposal of the "outsider" provided he helped him to secure his kingdom. This Vanara society was composed of Rajasic and Sattwic Gunas, with Rajasic Guna being preponderant. Hanuman stands out as a lone exception by his being a Brahmachari (celibate) and a real Bhakta (devotee) and a very wise and dependable emissary.
In the third picture,
To emphasize the contrast presented by the Aryan society of the North and the Vanara society of the South, the literary artist par excellence that he is, Adikavi Valmiki draws the captivating picture of a Rakshasa society out there in the island kingdom of Lanka. Ravana the ten-headed (king of Lanka), is very learned but very unwise. He is out and out a dictator whose physical prowess and strategic maneuvering are matchless. Ravana is intolerant of opposition and easily excitable. Ravana maintained a large harem. His handsomeness, his charm, his learning and his glory were all household words. All the women in his harem had come to him on their own accord. He was a good king, powerful, invincible.
In his kingdom he wants the traditional rites to be performed and Veda Ghoshas (uttering Veda Mantras) to be intoned, not at the usual prescribed hour, but at an unearthly hour. One of his brothers is a heavy sleeper (Kumbhakarana) and the other (Vibhishana), because of his non-Rakshasa qualities, a misfit in that society.
Ravana has no respect for his brother and does not hesitate, to oust him at the slightest protest raised by him. Ravana is sensual, aggrandizing, unscrupulous and gargantuan. He is the very personification of Rajasic qualities and takes immense pride in the exercise of those qualities. In that Rakshasa society there is an admixture of the Tamasic Guna also.
An inordinate pride raised its head and Ravana became extremely arrogant. That was his undoing.

The Supreme Virtue of the Ramayana
From The Valmiki Ramayana, Chapter 111
(The concluding text)

This then is the whole of the great epic and its sequel called the Ramayana, which was composed by Valmiki and is revered by Brahma Himself. …. Gods, Gandharvas, Siddhas, and great Rishis in heaven, ever listen with delight to the poem Ramayana. This epic, which promotes long life, grants good fortune and destroys sin, is equal to the Veda and should be recited by the wise to men of faith.
On hearing it, he who has no son will obtain a son, he who has no fortune will become wealthy; to read but a foot of this poem will absolve him from all sin. He who commits sins daily will be wholly purified by reciting a single shloka.
The reciter of this narrative should be rewarded with raiment, cows and gold, for, if he is satisfied, all the gods are satisfied. He who recites this epic ‘Ramayana’ that prolongs life, will be blessed with his sons and grandsons in this world and after his death, in the other world. He who, with devotion, recites the Ramayana at the hour when the cows are loosed or at noon, or at dusk, will never suffer adversity.
A private side of Sri Rama
As revealed by mother Kaushalya

From The Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, Chapter 25
(The queen ,mother Kaushalya, gives her blessings
and the Brahmins pronounce the benediction.)
Restraining her grief and sipping a little pure water, queen Kaushalya, purifying herself, the high minded mother Kaushalya performed rites conducive to the welfare of Sri Rama.
Mother Kaushalya said: "Since your departure (to the forest) cannot be stopped, depart now, O jewel among the Raghus! Follow in the footsteps of the righteous (by redeeming your word of honour) and return soon (after serving the term of your exile). May the gods you have worshipped in the temples, and those too whom you humbly bow at cross-roads and the Rishis protect you. May the weapons given to you by the wise Vishwamitra protect you. Protected on all side by the services you have rendered to your father and mothers as well as by your truthfulness, my mighty armed son, may you live long!
May the deities presiding over wooden sticks used for feeding the Sacred Fire, blades of the sacred Kusha grass and rings of Kusha grass ( worn on the fourth finger on sacrificial occasions), sacrificial altars, temples, and sites selected by Brahmins for worship of gods, as well as mountains, trees, bushes, large and deep pools of water, birds, reptiles, and lions protect you, O jewel among men!
….. May no Rakshasas (demons), pishachas (ghosts), those who practise cruelty, that which is ill-omened and the eaters of flesh, ever cause you injury! …. May your way be blessed, may your undertakings be crowned with success. O my son, may you ever find fruits, roots and the means of subsistence. May you ever tread the forest unhindered. May all things between heaven and earth protect you at all times. May Indra, the Moon, the Sun, Kuvera and Yama, worshipped by you, protect you from the enemies. May the gods presiding over fire (Agni), air (Vayu) and smoke (Dhuma as well as the sacred formulas, taught by the Rishis, protect you when inadvertently contacting the untouchables!
[Note: the Sanskrit words are: Upsparshanakaale Tu Paantu Tvaam Raghunandana
Agnirvayustatha Dhumo Mantrashcharishimukhachyutaha.
Verse 24]
May the Lord of the world, Brahma, Vishnu and the gods not mentioned by me, protect you in the forest!"
Then the illustrious Kaushalya worshipped the gods with flowers and sandalwood, offering oblations and kindling the sacred fire for the health and peace of Sri Ramachandra with the aid of the pious Brahmins, learned in rituals. With ghee (clarified butter), white flowers, sacrificial fuel and mustard seeds prepared for the oblations by queen Kaushalya, the learned and pious Brahmins performed the Havan ceremony (sacred fire ceremony) for the welfare of Rama.
Then the mother of Rama asked the Brahmins to pronounce the benediction and present the oblations to the Lokpalas, the priests receiving the remainder. With honey, curds, rice and ghee, the Brahmins pronounced their blessings and the queen having offered them abundant alms and whatsoever they desired, addressed Rama, saying:
"O Rama, may the same blessing bestowed on Indra on the destruction of Bratrasura be yours. .. O Rama, may the seasons, the ocean, the islands, the Vedas and the cardinal points contribute to your happiness."/p>
Saying so and fixing unbroken grains of rice on Sri Rama’s forehead (as a form of benediction) the large-eyed queen Kaushalya, applying sandal paste to his forehead, fastened about his wrist by way of an amulet a herb known as ‘Vishalya Karani. For his protection the queen silently repeated the Mantras, and though her heart was filled with distress, appeared as one content. Bending low and smelling and kissing the head of Sri Rama and embracing him, she said:
"O my son, now go in peace. May you, having fulfilled the commands of the king, return in health to Ayodhya. O my child, my joy will be complete when I behold you at your coronation…. Having fulfilled the injunctions of your father, you will return, and I, beholding you clad in Royal apparel with innumerable gems, shall then find peace. O Prince, now depart and accomplish the desire of Princess Sita and me."
The queen, reciting the Peace Chant, her eyes suffused with tears, embracing her son again and again, circumambulated him, gazing on his face.
Touching her feet repeatedly, the illustrious Ramachandra, resplendent in the light of the perfection of Self, left for the palace of Princess Sita.
[Note:  The Ramayana is a poetical work of great antiquity. The author, Rishi Valmiki, is known as the 'First Poet' (Adikavi) and his pre-eminence in Sanskrit verses has never been seriously challenged to this day. Ramayana consists of 24 000 slokas (48 000 lines). The following translated extracts ('Ravana- The Terrible Rascal'  and   'Ravana Begs Sita To Wed Him') give us a glimpse of the exquisitely   imaginative and rich style of writing that has come to us from the most ancient times.]
Ravana- The Terrible Rascal
From The Valmiki Ramayana, Uttara Kanda, Chapter 26
Translation by Sri Hari Prasad Shastri
The Rape of Rambha
Nalakuvara Curses Ravana
It was on Kailasha, the sun having withdrawn behind the Astachala Range, that Dashagriva (Ravana), full of vigour, chose to encamp the army. The mighty Ravana, resting on the summit of the mountain, surveyed the splendour of the forests in the light of the moon. Sweet-throated Kinneras, transported with love, sang melodies that ravished the soul with delight; there the Vidyadharas, intoxicated, their eyes inflamed, diverted themselves with their consorts like unto a carillon of bells, sweet music was heard from the troops of Apsaras (beautiful women) who were singing in Dhanada’s abode. Trees, shaken by the wind, covered the mountain with a shower of blossom, distilling the perfume of honey and mead, and a balmy breeze, laden with the enchanting aroma of nectar and pollen, blew, enhancing Ravana’s voluptuous desire. The songs, the myriad flowers, the freshness of the breeze, the beauty of the mountain in the night, the moon at its zenith, threw Ravana, that mighty warrior, into a ferment of passion.
Meanwhile, Rambha, loveliest of nymphs, adorned with celestial ornaments, was on her way to a sacred festival and her face was like unto the full moon, her limbs smeared with sandal-paste, her hair sown with Mandara flowers, and she was garlanded with celestial blooms. Her eyes were beautiful, her waist high, adorned with a jewelled belt, and her hips were shapely, the gift of love as it were. She was enchanting with her countenance embellished with the marks of flowers that bloom in the six seasons. [It was customary for women to use flower dyes to trace patterns on their skin.] And in her beauty, stateliness, radiance and splendour, she resembled Sri (goddess of wealth).
Swathed in a dark blue cloth, like unto a rain cloud, her countenance bright as the moon, her eyebrows resplendent arches, her hips like the tapering trunks of elephants, her hands like two fresh buds, under Ravana’s eyes she passed through the ranks of the army.
Thereupon he, rising, pierced by the shafts of love, with his hand stayed the course of that nymph who was abashed and, smiling enquired of her:
"Where art thou going, O Lady of lovely hips? What good fortune art thou pursuing? For whom has this auspicious hour dawned? Who is about to enjoy thee? Who, this day, will quaff the elixir of thy lips exhaling the perfume of the lotus that rivals nectar or ambrosia? Who will caress those two breasts like unto twin goblets, rounded, blooming, that touch each other, O Youthful Woman? Who will stroke thy large hips shining like refined gold covered with dazzling garlands, celestial to look upon? Is it Shakra or Vishnu or the Twin Ashvins? O lovely One, if thou dost pass me by in order to seek out another, it will not be a gracious act! Rest here, O Lady of lovely limbs, on this enchanting mountain side, it is I, who exercise dominion over the three worlds, who with joined palms address this humble request to thee, I Dashanana (Ten faced Ravana), Lord of the three worlds and their Ordainer, therefore grant my request."
Hearing these words, Rambha, trembling, with joined palms, replied:
"Look on me with favour. It is not fitting that thou shouldst address me thus, thou who art my superior! Rather is it thy duty to protect me from others if I should be in danger of suffering violence at their hands, for apart from duty, I am virtually thy daughter-in-law, I speak the truth!"
Then Dashagriva (Ravana) answered Rambha, who had prostrated herself at his feet and whose hair stood on end merely on beholding him, and said:
"Hadst thou been my son’s consort, thou wouldst in effect be my daughter-in-law!"
Thereupon she answered:
"Truly it is so, by law, I am the wife of thy son and dearer to him than his life’s breath, O Bull amongst the Rakshasas (demons); he is the son of thy brother Vaishravana, who is renowned in the Three Worlds, and is named Nalakuvara. He is an ascetic in virtue, a warrior in respect of valour and, in wrath he resembles Agni (fire); in forbearance he is like unto the earth! I was going to meet that son of the Guardian of the Worlds. It is for his sake that I am adorned with these ornaments so that he and no other should enjoy me. For these reasons, let me go hence, O King, O Subduer of thy foes, for that virtuous prince awaits me impatiently. It is not for thee to thwart his desires. Let me go! Do thou follow the path of the virtuous, O Bull among the Rakshasa! It is for me to pay thee homage and for thee to protect me!"
Thus did she address Dashagriva (Ravana)
who answered her in smooth accents, saying:
"Thou hast said thou art my daughter-in-law! For those who have but one husband, this argument is valid but in Devaloka, the gods have established a law that is said to be eternal, that Apsaras have no appointed consorts nor are the gods monogamous!"
Thus speaking, the Rakshasa, who had stationed himself on the mountain ridge, inflamed with desire, ravished Rambha and, when she was released from his embrace, her garlands and her ornaments spoiled and torn away, she resembled a river where a great elephant, disporting himself, muddying the waters, has borne away the banks. Her hair in disorder, her hands clenched, like unto a creeper with its flowers shaken by the wind, trembling with terror, she sought out Nalakuvara and, with joined palms, fell at his feet.
Then Nalakuvara enquired of her saying:
"What is this, O Blessed One? Why dost thou prostrate thyself at my feet?"
Thereupon she, sighing deeply, trembling, with joined palms began to tell him everything and said:
"O Lord, this night, Dashagriva (Ravana) scaled the Trivishtapa Peak while he was encamped on that mountain with his army and I was observed by him as I came to meet thee, O Conqueror of Thy foes! That Rakshasa seized hold of me and questioned me saying; ‘To who dost thou belong?’ Then I told him all, verily the whole truth, but he, intoxicated with desire, would not listen to me when I pleaded with him, saying ‘I am thy daughter-in law!’ Refusing to listen to mine entreaties, he assaulted me ruthlessly! This is mine only fault, O Thou of firm vows, thou shouldst therefore pardon me. O Friend, verily there is no equality of strength between man and woman!"
These words filled the son of Vaishravana (Nalakuvara) with indignation and hearing of this supreme outrage, he entered into meditation and having ascertained the truth, the son of Vaishravana, his eyes inflamed with anger, instantly took water in his hand and sprinkled his whole person in accord with tradition, after which he pronounced a terrible curse on that king of the Rakshasas, saying:
"Since, despite thy lack of love for him, he ravished thee thus brutally, O Blessed One, on this account he will never be able to approach another woman unless she shares his love. If carried away by lust, he does violence to any woman who does not love him, his head will split into seven pieces."
Having uttered this curse like unto a scorching flame, celestial gongs resounded and a shower of flowers fell from the sky. All the gods with the Grandsire at their head were filled with joy, conversant as they were with the whole course of the world and the future death of the Rakshasa.
When Dashagriva (Ravana) learnt of the curse, however, his hair stood on end and he ceased to indulge in uniting himself with those who had no affection for him. Thereafter, among those who had been borne away by him and remained faithful to their consorts, there was great rejoicing when they heard of the curse uttered by Nalakuvara, which was pleasing to their heart.

Ravana Begs Sita To Wed Him
From The Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kanda, Chapters18-19-20-21-22
Translated by Sri Hari Prasad Shastri
Ravana goes to the Ashoka Grove
Then the mighty ten-headed Lord of the Titans (Ravana) awoke to the sounds of auspicious music, delightful to the ear and, waking, that great and powerful king, his garland and attire in disarray, remembered Vaidehi (Sita, who was abducted by him). Passionately enamoured of her, that titan filled with pride could not restrain his desire.
Thereupon, adorned with every kind of ornament, gorgeously robed, he entered the Ashoka Grove filled with innumerable trees, laden with fruit and flowers of every kind with ponds embellished with lotuses and lilies enlivened by birds of rare beauty ecstatic with love and sculptured wolves wonderful to behold.
Dhshagriva (Ravana) gazed on those avenues with their arches of gold and gems, thronged with deer of every sort and carpeted with the fruit that had fallen on the ground. And one hundred damsels, daughters of the gods and Gandharvas, followed in the train of Ravana, resembling the nymphs who follow Mahendra and some carried lamps of gold whilst others bore chanwaras and fans in their hands. Some carrying water in golden ewers, walked ahead, others following with a golden seat and round cushions, and one on his right bore a cup encrusted with gems and filled with wine whilst another carried a canopy resembling a swan, golden-ribbed like the moon and having a handle of fine gold.
In this way, the most beautiful of Ravana’s wives, their eyes heavy with sleep and wine, followed their august lord like flashes of lightning following a cloud. Their bracelets and necklaces of pearl, swung to and fro, their sandal paste was effaced and their hair hung loose while drops of perspiration stood on the brows of those women of lovely mien who stumbled on account of the effects of wine and sleep, and the sweat had caused the flowers that adorned them to wither and their locks were full of shreds from their garlands; in this way, those women of tender appearance full of pride and affection, followed the King of the Titans (Ravana).
And that powerful lord, slave of his desires, his heart fixed on Sita, proceeded at a slow pace. Ravana of inconceivable prowess, whose energy and vigour were unimaginable, entered the gate, and he was illumined on all sides by the innumerable lamps. Fed with fragrant oil, which were carried by those damsels and, intoxicated with pride, desire and wine, his eyes of a coppery red, he looked like Kandarpa himself bereft of his bow. He adjusted his magnificent cloak, decorated with flowers, stainless as the foam of Amrita when churned, and which flung back was held by a clasp. Ravana, eager to see that dark eyed Sita of faultless limbs, whose breasts touched each other, and whose tresses were black, strode on.
Sita’s Grief
Beholding Ravana, the Lord of the Titans, endowed with youth and beauty, wearing gorgeous raiment and priceless jewels, that irreproachable princess trembled like a palm agitated by the wind and, covering her breasts and belly with her hands, seeking to conceal them, shrank away.
Ravana gazed on Sita, who was guarded by companies of female titans and that unfortunate One (Sita), given over to grief, resembled a ship foundering in the sea.
Seated on the naked ground, Sita who was fixed in virtue, resembled a branch severed from a tree that has fallen to the ground. Her limbs covered with a soiled cloth, she, who was worthy of ornaments, now no longer adorned, resembled a lotus stalk stained with mud and, though radiant, her beauty was dimmed.
By using imagination, she took refuge with that lion among men, Rama, her mind a chariot drawn by the steeds of resolution and that charming princess, devoted to Rama (her husband), emaciated, weeping, separated from her kinsfolk, was a prey to anxiety and grief and saw no end to her misfortune. Rocking herself to and fro, she resembled the female of the King of the snakes under the spell of an incantation or the planet Rohini pursued by Dhumaketu or a saintly and virtuous woman of a noble house who finds herself, through marriage, placed in a low-born family.
She resembled a great reputation that has been lost or a faith that has been disregarded or a mind that has become clouded or a hope destroyed, a future shattered, an order misinterpreted, a region obliterated at the destruction of the world or an offering rejected by the gods, a night on which the full moon is obscured by clouds or a lotus pool laid waste, an army bereft of its warriors, a moon under eclipse, a dried up river, an altar which has been desecrated or a flame that has been extinguished or a lotus pond bereft of flowers, its birds struck with terror agitated by the trumpeting of elephants.
In separation from her lord, consumed with grief, she appeared like a river whose waters have run dry and on account of her limbs not having been washed, she resembled night during the period of the waning moon. That lovely and graceful woman, accustomed to a palace filled with precious gems, now, with wasted limbs, resembled the stalk of a lotus freshly plucked and wilting in the sun.
As the female elephant which has been captured, chained to a stake, grieving for its mate, sighs again and again, so seemed she. Her long dark tresses, utterly neglected, lay along her back so that she appeared like the earth covered with a dark forest at the end of the rainy season. Tortured by hunger, sorrow, anxiety and fear, emaciated, desolate, weakened by abstinence and given over to austerity, stricken with grief, resembling a goddess, her hands were joined offering prayers to Rama for the destruction of Ravana.
And beholding that blameless Sita with her beautiful dark eyes and graceful eye-lashes, Ravana, to his own destruction, sought to seduce her.
Ravana Begs Sita To Wed Him
Thereupon Ravana approaching Sita, who was helpless, surrounded by female titans and vowed to a life of austerity, with sweet words and courteous gestures said to her:
" O Thou whose thighs resemble the trunk of an elephant, who, beholding me dost seek to conceal thy breasts and thy body, as if thou didst fear me, O Lady of large eyes, I love thee. Be gracious to me, O thou of charming looks who art adored by all the world! There is no man present here nor any titan able to change his form at will, therefore banish the fear which I inspire in thee, O Sita.
It has ever been the unquestioned and special privilege of titans to unite themselves with the wives of others, either taking them of their own free will or bearing them away by force. In spite of this, O Sita, I shall not lay hands on thee since thou hast no affection for me but, as for myself, I am completely under thy sway. Therefore, trust in me and respond to my love. O Goddess, have no fear of me, take courage, O Dear One, and do not let thyself be consumed by grief.
To wear but a single plait, to lie on the ground in soiled attire and fast unnecessarily does not become thee. In my company, O Mithili (Sita), do thou enjoy garlands, perfumes, sandal, ornaments, wine, rich beds and seats, singing, dancing and music. Thou art a pearl among women, do not remain in this condition. Adorn thyself as heretofore. Having united thyself with me, O Lady of lovely form, what will not be thine?
Thine enchanting youth is passing away, which like the waters of a river, once gone, do not return. O Thou of fair looks, the creator of thy loveliness, Vishvakrita, after devising thee, ceased from his work for I see none who is equal to thee in loveliness and grace! Who, having seen thee, resplendent with beauty, could withstand thee O Vaidehi? (Sita). Even Brahma Himself is moved, how much more other beings? O thou whose countenance resembles the moon, on whatever part of thy body mine eyes rest, my gaze is riveted. O Mithili (Sita), do thou become my consort and renounce this thy folly. Become the foremost queen of these innumerable and lovely women who belong to me.
O Timid One, all the treasure I have won throughout the worlds I offer thee as also my kingdom. O sportive Damsel, for thy sake, having subjugated the entire earth with its many cities, I will confer them on King Janaka (Sita’s father). None on this earth can withstand my prowess; behold mine immeasurable valour in battle! Did not the celestials and the demons find me irresistible on the battlefield as I broke through their ranks shattering their standards?
Therefore yield to my desire and attire thyself in splendid robes, letting brilliant gems adorn thy person. O timid One, enjoy every comfort and luxury according to thy pleasure divert thyself and distribute land and treasure to others. Live happily depending on my support and exercise supreme authority. By my favour, all thy relatives shall share thy felicity. Observe my prosperity and glory, O gentle Lady, what canst thou hope from Rama who is clothed in robes of bark? O fortunate One, Rama has been deprived of his kingdom and is bereft of his might. He practises asceticism. His couch is the bare earth, indeed, it is doubtful whether he still lives.
O Vaidehi (Sita), Rama will never be able to find thee, thou who resembles a star veiled by dark clouds preceded by cranes. Rama will never rescue thee from my hands.
O Lady of sweet smiles, O thou of lovely teeth and beautiful eyes, thou dost ravish my heart as Suparna carried away a serpent. Although thy robe is torn and stained and thou art stripped of ornaments, seeing thee, my mind turns away from all my other consorts. O daughter of Janaka, do thou hold sway over all the women in my harem, who are endowed with every accomplishment. O Princess of raven locks, these women, the foremost among the beauties of the world, shall be thy slaves and attend on thee as the Apsaras attend on Sri (goddess of wealth).
O graceful Princess, enjoy the pleasures of the world with me and the riches of Kuvera to the utmost of thy desires. O Goddess, neither in asceticism, strength, prowess, wealth nor fame is Rama equal to me. Therefore drink, eat, enjoy thyself and indulge in every pleasure. I shall confer on thee immense wealth, nay, the whole world.
Do thou satisfy all thy desires in my company, O Timid One, and let thy relatives share thy felicity also. Adorned with dazzling golden bracelets, O beautiful One, in my company range the groves of flowering trees on the shores of the sea where the black bees hum."
Sita Rejects Ravana’s Advances With Disdain
Hearing the words of that terrible titan, Sita, overwhelmed with grief, answered in a faint and feeble voice. The unfortunate Sita, afflicted and trembling, faithful to her lord and anxious to preserve her virtue, her heart fixed on Rama, placed a straw between Ravana and herself and with a sweet smile answered him, saying:
"Take back thy heart and set it on thine own consorts. As a sinner may not aspire to heaven, so should thou not expect to win me. That which should never be done and is condemned in a woman faithful to her lord, I shall never do. Born in a noble house, I have been joined to a pious family."
Having spoken thus to Ravana, the virtuous Vaidehi (Sita), turning her back on him, continued:
"It is totally out of the question that I become thy wife since I am united to another. Do thy duty and follow the rules laid down by men of integrity. The wives of others, like thine own, are deserving of protection, O Prowler of the Night. Do thou furnish a good example and enjoy thine own consorts. That wretch, who, in the inconstancy and levity of his heart, is not satisfied with his own wives, will be brought to misery by those of others. Either no pious men exist here or thou dost not follow their example, since thy mind is perverse and turns from what is virtuous; or the wise having uttered sage counsel, thou, to the destruction of the titans, dost ignore them.
Prosperity, kingdom and city are all brought to naught in the hands of a vicious monarch who is not master of himself. Hence, Lanka, overflowing with treasure, having thee for her king, will suffer destruction before long. O Ravana, that wicked being who brings about his own downfall, succumbs, to the delight of all. When you meet with your end, this evil deed will cause the oppressed to say: ‘Fortunate are we that this great tyrant has fallen.'
Thou art not able to tempt me with wealth and riches; as the light of the sun cannot be separated from the sun so do I belong to Raghava (Rama). Having rested on the arm of that Lord of men, how should I depend on any other? Like unto the spiritual truth known to a Brahmin faithful to his vows, I belong to the Lord of the world alone and am lawfully wedded to him. It is to thine own advantage to restore me to Rama, wretched as I am, like unto a she-elephant anxiously awaiting her mate in the forest. It behoveth thee to seek Rama’s friendship , that lion among men, if thou desireth to preserve Lanka and dost not wish to bring about thine own destruction.
He is wise, conversant with every duty and ever eager to serve those who seek his protection. Form an alliance with him if thou desirest to survive. Seek to conciliate Rama, who is full of devotion to those who take refuge in him and humbly conduct me to him once more. If thou dost bring me back to the greatest of the Raghus, thy well-being is assured but if thou dost act otherwise thou art doomed. Thou mayest evade the thunderbolt of Indra, even death himself may overlook thee but there will be no refuge for thee from the fury of Raghava, that lord of men, when thou dost hear the terrible twanging of Rama’s bow resembling the thunderbolt hurled by Indra. Soon shall those arrows, bearing the impress of Rama and Lakshmana, like serpents with flaming jaws, penetrate Lanka and those shafts, decorated with heron’s plumes, shall cover the whole city annihilating the titans.
You have perpetrated this cowardly deed in order to revenge thyself for the destruction of Janasthana and the hosts of the titans. In the absence of these two brothers, those lions among men who had gone forth hunting, didst thou carry me away, O Vile Wretch; but, dog that thou art, thou didst not dare stand before those tigers, Rama and Lakshamana! Wealth and friends will be of no avail to thee in conflict with them and thou shalt be defeated as the one handed Vritra who entered into combat with the two handed Indra.
Soon shall my protector, Rama, accompanied by Lakshamana, draw out thy life’s breath, as the sun with its rays dries up shallow water.
Whether thou takest refuge in the abode of Kuvera or terrified, descend into Varuna’s realm, thou shalt assuredly perish, struck down by the son of Dasaratha, like a mighty tree felled by lightning."
Ravana’s Threats
To this stern speech from the gracious Sita, the King of the Titans replied harshly:
"In the world it is said the most gentleness one manifests towards a woman, the more responsive she becomes, but the more kindness I show to thee the more thou dost repulse me. Verily only the love I bear thee restrains my wrath, as a skilful charioteer controls the horses who seek to leave the road. Mighty indeed is the power of love, for even if the object of his affection invoke his anger, man covers her with pity and tenderness. It is on this account, O Lady of lovely mien, that I do not slay thee. Thou dost merit death and dishonour, thou who delight in asceticism without reason. For each and every harsh word which thou hast addressed to me, thou merit a dreadful end, O Mithili (Sita). I shall grant thee two months as the term assigned to thee, after which thou must share my bed. If thou should refuse, my cooks shall mince thy limbs for my morning repast."
Hearing these threats addressed by the King of the Titans to Janaki (Sita), the daughters of the gods and Gandharvas were exceedingly perturbed and, by the expression of their lips and eyes and their gestures sought to reassure Sita thus menaced by him.
Encouraged by them, Sita, fortified by her virtue and her pride in Rama, addressed Ravana, the Lord of the Titans, in his own interests, saying:
"It appears that there is none in this city who desires thy welfare and therefore seeks to prevent thee from this despicable deed. O vilest of Demons, how wilt thou escape the consequences of this insult offered to Rama’s consort, he whose valour is immeasurable? Like unto an infuriated elephant, encountering a hare in the forest, so shalt thou, the wretched hare, meet with that elephant Rama. Thou dost not fear to rail at Rama so long as thou art not in his presence.
Why do not those cruel, terrible, coppery eyes of thine fall out, looking on me so lustfully, O Ignoble Creature? O Contemptible wretch, when thou didst threaten the spouse of that high souled Rama, the daughter-in-law of King Dasaratha, why did not thy tongue dry up? By the power of my asceticism, I could reduce thee to ashes instantly had I Rama’s mandate. On account of my consuming virtue and ascetic observances, I could never have been wrested from Rama, were it not that thine evil act was to be the cause of thy destruction, O Dashagriva (Ravana). Assisted by the brother of Kuvera and proud of thine own heroism, thou didst lure Rama from the hermitage and succeed in bearing me away by stealth."
Hearing Sita’s words, the King of the titans, cast ferocious glances at her. Like a mass of black clouds, with his enormous arms and neck, endowed with an elephantine gait, his eyes smouldering, his tongue like a darting flame, of immense stature, wearing a plumed diadem, covered with necklaces, sprinkled with perfumes, decked with garlands and bracelets of gold, his waist encircled with a dark blue belt so that it resembled the Mandara mountain encompassed by the snake at the time of the churning of the ocean; with his vast arms, the Lord of the Titans looked like a mountain with twin peaks. Adorned with earrings gleaming like the rising sun, he resembled a hill between two Ashoka trees enveloped in crimson flowers and buds or like the wish-fulfilling tree or spring incarnate or an altar in a crematorium.
Then Ravana cast furious glances from his bloodshot eyes at the Princess of Videha and, hissing like a serpent, addressed her, saying:
"O thou who art attached to that wretch without resources or moral sense, I shall destroy thee today as the sun's radiance is obliterated at the time of dusk."
Having spoken thus to Sita, the oppressor of his foes, looked at those female titans of formidable appearance, some of whom had single eye or ear, some enormous ears and some the ears of kine (cow) or elephants. Some had ears that hung down and some none at all.
Then Ravana, transfixing those titans with his glance, said to them:
"Ye Titans seek by fair or foul means, by threats or persuasion or honeyed words or gifts to induce Sita to look on me with favour."
Repeating his command again and again, the King of the Titans, filled with desire and anger began to inveigh against Janaki, whereupon a female titan named Dhanyamalinin, approaching Dashagriva, embraced him and said:
"O great King, enjoy thy self with me. What need hast thou for this human being who is wretched and whose countenance is pale? O King of the Titans, it is not with her that the gods have destined thee to taste the exquisite pleasures that are the reward of the strength of thy arms. He who loves one who is unwilling exposes himself to torment, whereas he whose love is reciprocated, enjoys perfect happiness."
Having said this, the female titan drew Ravana away but he, resembling a mass of cloud, turned back, laughing scornfully.
Then Dashagriva (Ravana) strode away, causing the earth to tremble, and returned to his palace that shone with the brilliance of the orb of day.
Surrounding Ravana, the daughters of the gods and Gandharvas as well as those of the Serpent race returned to that sumptuous abode with him. Thus Ravana, distracted with desire, left the Princess of Mithila (Sita) of irreproachable virtue trembling and entered his own dwelling.

The Birth of Ravana and his Brothers
From the Valmiki Ramatana Uttara kanda, Ch. 2
Translated by Sri Hari Prasad Shastri
After a time, that Rakshasa named Sumali, emerged from the nether regions to range the world of men. With his earrings of pure gold, he, like unto a dark cloud, took with him a young girl who resembled Sri without her lotus, and as that Rakshasa wandered about on earth, he beheld the Lord of Wealth, who in his chariot Pushpaka was going to visit his sire. Beholding that son of Poulastya, that lord who was as radiant as a god, advancing towards him like unto fire.
Thereafter, that exceedingly intelligent Rakshasa, reflected
‘Which is the best way of increasing our power?’
Thus did the foremost of the Rakshasas, who was like unto a dark cloud and was wearing golden earrings, reflect within himself and, having considered awhile, that extremely sagacious Rakshasa said to his daughter Kaikasi, for such was her name:
My daughter, it is time for thee to wed. Thy youth is slipping away and, afraid of being refused, those who are in love with thee do not pay their suit. Striving to fulfil our duty, we seek only thine advantage. Assuredly, thou art endowed with every good attribute and resemblest Sri in person, O Dear Child! A young daughter is a source of anxiety to her father who is concerned for her honour, nor does he know whom she will wed. O Beloved Child, the mother’s family, the father’s family and the one into which she is received are all three involved in this anxiety. Do thou therefore seek out that blessed ascetic, the foremost of Poulastya’s offspring and choose Vishravas, the descendant of Poulastya, O My Daughter. Assuredly thou wilt beget sons equal to that Lord of Wealth who, in his splendour, rivals the sun.’
At these words, in filial obedience, that young girl went to seek out Vishravas where he was undergoing penance. At that time, O Rama, that Twice-Born, the issue of Poulastya was engaged in the Fire Sacrifice and himself appeared like unto a fourth fire. Heedless of the late hour and, in obedience to her sire, she presented herself before the ascetic and, halting there with her eyes cast down, fixed on her feet, she scratched the earth from time to time with her toe.
Beholding that lovely girl whose face resembled the full moon and who shone in her own radiance, that Muni (ascetic) of exalted lineage, enquired of her saying:
O Fortunate One, whose daughter art thou? From whence dost thou come and for what reason or with what motive? Answer me truthfully, O Beautiful One!’
Thus questioned, that young girl with joined palms answered:
‘By thine own powers, O Muni, thou must be conversant with mine intentions! Learn only, O Brahmarishi, that it is by the command of my sire that I have come, and Kaikasi is my name. You must know the rest.’
Thereafter the Muni, reflecting awhile, uttered these words:
‘I know well, O Fortunate One, what brings thee here. Thou art desirous of having sons by me, thou whose gait is like unto an intoxicated elephant! But, having presented thyself at this hour (at dusk, interrupting the evening devotion, which is inauspicious), hear me, O Fortunate One. Thou shalt bring forth offspring of a dark aspect delighting in the companionship of doers of evil deeds. O Lady of lovely form, thou shalt beget Rakshasas of cruel exploits.’
At these words, Kaikasi prostrated herself, saying:
‘O Blessed One who recites the Veda, I do not desire such sons, whose nature is depraved, from thee. Be gracious unto me!’
Thus besought by that youthful maiden, Vishravas, foremost among Munis, like unto the moon in the presence of Rohini, added:
‘O Lady of lovely face, the son thou shalt bring forth last will be like unto me, assuredly he will be virtuous.’
Thus did he speak to that young girl, O Rama, and after some time she gave birth to a hideous child with the face of a demon, exceedingly dark; and he had ten necks and great teeth and resembled a heap of collyrium. His lips were of the hue of copper, he had twenty arms and a vast mouth and his hair was fiery red. At his birth, jackals and other wild beasts with flaming jaws circled from left to right. The god Parjanya let loose a rain of blood whilst clouds emitted harsh sounds. The sun ceased to shine. Fierce winds blew and the unchanging ocean, Lord of the Rivers, was agitated.
His father, who resembled the Grandsire of the World, thereupon conferred a name upon him and said:
‘This child with ten necks shall be called Dashagriva.’ (Ten-necked or ten headed. Ravan’s name at birth was Dashagriva).
After him the mighty Kumbhakarana was born, that giant who was unequalled on earth. Thereafter was born a daughter of hideous aspect, named Surpanakha.
Kaikasi’s last child was named Bibishana (or Vibhishana).
When this great being was born, a rain of flowers fell and in the heavens, celestial gongs resounded whilst an aerial voice cried:
‘Excellent! Excellent!’
Thereafter, Kumbhakarana and Dashagriva (Ravana) throve in that vast forest and each was exceedingly powerful and they were the scourge of the worlds. The insensate Kumbhakarana ranged the three worlds devouring the great Rishis who were fixed in their duty, and yet he remained unsatisfied.
As for the virtuous Bibishana, ever vowed to righteousness, the study of the Veda being his chief nourishment, he lived as the subduer of the senses.
After a time Vaishravana, the Lord of Wealth, went to visit his sire in his chariot Pushpaka and seeing him flaming with effulgence, the Rakshasi sought out Dashagriva and said to him:
‘My son, behold Vaishravana, thy brother, blazing with glory and behold thy state, who art of the same family, O Dashagriva. Thou who art of immeasurable might, strive to be like Vaishravana himself.’
Hearing his mother’s words, the arrogant Dashagriva experienced a wave of overpowering bitterness, whereupon he formulated this vow:
‘I swear to thee in truth that I shall become my brother’s equal if not his superior in power. Banish any fear that may have entered thine heart!’
Thereafter, in his spleen, Dashagriva, accompanied by his younger brother Kumbhakarana, began to undertake an exceedingly difficult task, undergoing a rigid penance.
He thought: ‘I shall accomplish mine end by asceticism.’
Having thus resolved, he went to the lovely hermitage of Gokarna in order to purify his soul. There that Rakshasa with his younger brother Kumbhakarana, performed unsurpassed austerities. Such were his mortifications that he gratified the Lord, the Grandsire of the World (Brahma), who, in his satisfaction, granted him those boons that would assure him a victory.

From the Valmiki Ramayana
1. Vibhishana (of Sattvic nature)
2. Ravana (of Rajasic nature) and
3. Kumbhakarana (of Tamasic nature)
Then Rama enquired of Agastya Muni:
How did those very powerful brothers (Ravana, Kumbhakarana and Bibishana) practice penance, O Brahmana, and of what nature was it?
Agastya Muni of tranquil mind told Rama:
Various were the pious observances of each of them. Kumbhakarana too, putting forth all his strength, constantly pursued the path of duty. In the heat of summer he stood amidst five fires and, in the rainy season, he took up the Vira posture, whilst in the winter season he remained plunged in water.
Thus two thousand years passed during which he applied himself to piety and remained on the righteous path.
On his side, Bibishana, who was virtue itself, intent on duty and of pure soul, stood on one leg for five thousand years. This penance accomplished, troops of Apsaras (Beautiful women) danced and a rain of flowers fell, whilst the gods hymned his praises. During another five thousand years, he stood facing the sun, his head and arms raised, his mind fixed in contemplation of the Veda. In this wise, Bibishana, like an inhabitant of heaven in the Nandana Gardens, dwelt for ten thousand years.
Dashagriva (Ravana) deprived himself of nourishment for the same period and every thousand years sacrificed one of his heads to the God of Fire. Thus nine thousand years passed and nine of his heads had been sacrificed to Fire. When ten thousand years had gone by, Dashagriva (Ravana) prepared to sever his tenth head when the Grandsire of the World (Brahma) appeared, and He, with the gods, highly gratified, presented Himself before Ravana and said to him:
‘I am pleased with thee. What boon shall I confer on thee this day? Thou shalt not have undergone these austerities in vain. O thou who art conversant with Dharma (virtuous duty), speedily choose what boon will most please thee. Thou hast found favour with me, O Dashagriva!’
Thereupon, Dashagriva (Ravana), delighted, bowing down to that God (Brahma) answered in a voice trembling with joy:
‘O Bhagawat (Brahma), for living beings there exists no fear like that of death. There is no foe comparable to Mrityu (Death), therefore I choose immortality!’
Thus spoke Dashagriva (Ravana) and Brahma answered him saying:
‘It is not possible to grant thee immortality. Choose some other boon!’
At these words of Brahma, the Creator of the World, O Rama, Dashagriva (Ravana) replied with joined palms:
‘May I not be slain by Suparnas, Nagas, Yakshas, Daityas, Danavas, Rakshasas nor by the gods, O Eternal One, O Lord of Beings. I do not fear other creatures, who, with men, I look upon as mere straws, O Thou who art adored by the Celestials!’
Thus spoke the Rakshasa Dashagriva, and the Lord, the Grandsire of the Worlds, who was accompanied by the gods, said to him:
‘It shall be as thou desirest, O Foremost of the Rakshasas!’
Then having answered Dashagriva thus, O Rama, the Grandsire added:
‘Hear what great favour I shall grant thee further in my satisfaction. The heads that formerly were sacrificed by thee into the fire, O Irreproachable One, will now grow again as they were before and, O Rakshasa, I will finally confer another boon on thee that is hard to obtain, O My Friend, thou shalt be able to assume any form thou desirest at will.'
As soon as the grandsire had spoken thus, the heads of the Rakshasa Dashagriva, that had been consumed by fire, grew again.
O Rama, having spoken thus to Dashagriva, the Grandsire of the Worlds said to Bibishana:
‘O My Dear Bibishana, thou whose intellect is fixed on virtue, I am gratified with thee. Choose a boon, O Righteous and Pious One!’>
Then the pure souled Bibishana, who radiated good qualities as the moon radiates her beams, spoke with joined palms, saying:
‘O Bhagavat (Brahma), I have endeavoured to do that which I ought to do. Thou art the Guru of the World. If, in thy satisfaction, thou dost accord me a boon, then hear me, O Blessed Lord. May my soul ever be fixed in righteousness in the midst of the greatest adversity. Without being instructed, may I be able to use the Brahma Weapon. May whatever thoughts come to me, wherever or in whatever state I find myself, always conform to virtue and may I fulfil my duty! O Most Exalted of Beings, these are the boons I consider to be the most precious, for those who follow Dharma, nothing is impossible!’
Then Prajapati (Brahma), full of joy, again addressed Bibishana saying:
‘O Most Virtuous and Dear child, let it be as thou sayest. Though thou wast born in the Rakshasa Race, O Slayer of Thy Foes, no evil ever enters thy heart! I grant thee immortality!’
Having uttered these words, as Prajapati was preparing to accord a boon to Kumbhakarana, all the gods, with joined palms, addressed him thus:
‘As for Kumbhakarana, do not grant him any boons! Thou knowest well how the three worlds fear this perverse wretch! In the Nandana Gardens, seven Apsaras and ten servants of Mahendra were devoured by him, O Brahma, as also Rishis and men. Such are the deeds of this Rakshasa before receiving a boon. If one is conferred on him, he may consume the three worlds! O Thou whose splendour is immeasurable, feigning to grant him a boon cause him to become bemused. In this way, the worlds will live in peace and he will receive his just deserts.’
Thus did the gods speak, and Brahma, born of the lotus, thought on the Goddess, his consort (Saraswati, Goddess of Speech and Learning)), and as soon as He called her to mind, Saraswati appeared at His side and with joined palms said to him:
‘O Lord, I am here, what shall I do?’
Then Prajapati answered that Goddess, who had come there, saying:
‘O Thou who art Speech, be Thou in the mouth of that Indra among the Rakshasas (Kumbhakarana) and utter that which the gods desire.’
‘So be it!’ she answered and having entered his mouth, Kumbhakarana said:
'To sleep for innumerable years, O Lord of Lords! This is my desire!’
‘May it be so!’ answered Brahma and with the gods, He departed.
The Goddess Saraswati then left the Rakshasa, while Brahma, with the gods ascended to the heavenly region.
When Saraswati had departed, Kumbhakarana came to himself and that perverse wretch, in his misfortune, reflected:
‘How can such words have passed my lips? I must have been bemused by the gods who came hither.’
Having received those various boons, the three brothers of flaming energy, returned to the Sleshmataka Forest where they dwelt happily."
[Note: Comments by Swami Nisreyasananda, Ramakrishna Math:
In Indian mythology we find that all the demons that are represented there were very often children of sages born under adverse circumstances of the mother. … Not necessarily because she is a woman, but, the sage being perfect, the varying factor of the woman’s mind is being shown. If the woman can be uncontrolled, a very powerful, uncontrolled son is the result, … and that is a ‘Demon’. Born out of a Sage, from a Sage’s family, but having a negative position in the mind, like blue and red mixed together would produce violet colour.
The demons are all children of the sages. These demons meditate, get God face to face in His creative aspect, ask for Power not Wisdom, and after the vision is gone, become outright rascals and rogues and oppressors of humanity. (Under the influence of Rajasic guna (Ravana, or Hiranyakashipu, Prahlad’s father) and under the influence of Tamasic guna (Kumbhakarana), the demons desired Power with which to dominate and oppress. Contrast these with the boon of 'Wisdom' desired by Vibhishana, under the influence of Sattwa guna).
So, intelligent people, when approached and asked, "Please give me a method for meditation" will always tell: "Practise God’s presence".
God is present before you. What will you ask of Him? Will you ask God for power? Where is the guarantee that you will not misuse it? Therefore ask for God’s continuous stay with you, and if you want that, practise it. There is nothing further to be done. Picture it in your mind as if God is already present. Do not use your meditation to ‘Catch Him."
So meditation is not the goal. It is only a means. Wisdom is the goal. The right words – Harmony, Truth, Beauty, Goodness – that must be suggested till the mental field, which is a display of God’s Creative Power, condenses it. Condenses it first in every cell, then spills it over into the magnetic field of a person, which is co-terminus with God’s field. So according to one practice, you visualize God’s presence, and according to the second practice, correct words are used, representing not power, not even prosperity or happiness, but Wisdom, the right attitude.
Ask for wisdom, which will have power and pleasure subordinated to it. A triangle as it were, with Saraswati (goddess of Speech) or the ‘Word’, the ideal harmonious expression, consciousness, at the very source. Let this enter the ‘switchboard’ of human personalities. Wisdom and Harmony, equally present in everybody. Then the two other angles of the triangle, at the base, will be subordinated. Not one against the other, but one subordinating the other two.
Goddess Durga representing Power, Goddess Lakshmi representing Prosperity or Happiness, subordinate to Goddess Saraswati, representing Wisdom. When this is explained to people and illustrated by stories, they will immediately pick up the Wisdom aspect first. Then they will see that the other two aspects are not neglected, but are suitably harmonised and subordinated to the dominant all covering principle ‘Wisdom’, the Word which is God. It is not the property of God. It is God.]

 Vali and Sri Ram
An esoteric interpretation

Consider the episode where Sri Ram, after being hidden Himself behind a tree shoots the monkey king Vali, while Vali was engaged in a fight with his brother Sugreeva. This episode has a deep mystical significance.
Vali, the immoral and vicious brother represents Lust, the lower nature of man. Sugreeva, the moral and virtuous brother represents man’s higher and nobler nature.
Vali had earned through austerity a boon by which half the strength of his enemy was transferred to him as soon as an enemy confronted him in a battle. Similarly the power of lust becomes invulnerable the moment man comes in direct contact with the object of lust. The sense objects overpower man and they leave him a helpless victim of temptation. To avoid this, and to overcome successfully the disastrous influence of the sense objects, man has to stay away physically from the objects in the initial stages i.e. before he gains an absolute hold and control over them. So long as man remains in the midst of sense objects and tries to exercise his self control over those objects, he can never be successful since the power of the sense objects is almost invincible.
To indicate this great truth, Sri Ram is described as hiding behind a tree i.e. physically keeping away from Vali, and shooting him from a distance.
Sri Ram’s bow and arrows symbolise his preparedness and strength to maintain peace, and justice, both within and without. Sri Ram is the ideal of "aggressive goodness" as opposed to "weak and passive goodness". He stands for righteousness. He opposes and destroys all that is unrighteous.

The philosophy of the Ramayana
By Swami Vivekananda
The foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa

Sri Rama was the Parmatman (Supreme Reality) and that Sita was the Jivatman (embodied individual soul). Each man’s or woman’s body was the Lanka. The Jivatman which was enclosed in the body, or captured in the island of Lanka, always desired to be in affinity with the Parmatman, or Sri Rama. But the Rakshasas would not allow it, and the Rakshasas represented certain traits of character.
For instance, Vibhishana represented Sattwa Guna, Ravana represented Rajas Guna and Kumbhakarana represented Tamas Guna. Sattwa Guna means goodness, Rajas means lust and passion and Tamas means darkness, stupor, avarice, malice, and its concomitants.
These Gunas keep back Sita, or Jivatman, which is in the body (Lanka) from joining Paramatman (Rama). Sita, thus imprisoned and trying to unite with her Lord, receives a visit from Hanuman, the Guru or divine teacher, who shows her the Lord’s ring, which is Brahma-Jnana, the supreme wisdom that destroys all illusions.
Thus Sita finds the way to be at one with Sri Rama or in other words, the Jivatman finds itself one with the Paramatman.

The esoteric meaning of Ramayana
By Sant Keshavadas

(Ramayana is not a mere story. It is the
story we live every moment of our lives.)

Dasaratha symbolises the intellect that controls the senses. The three queens of Dasaratha are the three Gunas known as Sattwa (tranquillity), Rajas (activity), and Tamas (malice, ignorance, darkness). Vasishtha and Viswamitra are the gurus who guide the intellect. Rama is the transcendental Self and Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna (Rama’s three brothers) are the triple manifestations of God as immanent, God as in-dwelling spirit, and God as soul, respectively.
Manthara (the maid servant) symbolises the negative qualities that poisons Kaikeyi (the Rajasic-Tamasic mind). Demons and demonesses in Ramayana are the evil propensities in us. Ravana is the Rajasic ego. Kumbhakarana is the Tamasic ego. Vibhishana represents the Sattwic ego. Rama’s wife Sita is the Cosmic Energy (Kundalini) abducted by Ravana, the ego, for wrong use. So, through (with the help of) Hanuman, symbolising Pranayama, or rhythmic breathing, you will find the location of Sita, the energy and convey the news of Rama, the Self. Rama’s destruction of Ravana and Kumbhkarana symbolises the destruction of Rajasic and Tamasic egos. The installation of Vibhishana symbolises the establishment of Sattwa Guna and equanimity through Self-realisation. Union of Rama and Sita is the union of Shakti with the eternal consciousness of the true self. Rama’s coronation symbolises the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. This, in short, is the esoteric meaning of Ramayana

The Ramayana’s relevance to modern times
The professed objective of all governments, down the corridors of history of man, has been to provide and ensure the welfare and happiness of the people through an efficient and good administration. However, despite the advance of civilisation and progress in science and technology and efforts through international forums like the United Nations to achieve peace and happiness, the world is riddled with strife, misery and tension.
Any person in charge of administration has to follow certain well tested codes to bless the generation with peace, prosperity and efficiency. In this context, the ancient and many faceted Ramayana is very relevant today as the epic has very many lessons to offer in the art of administration. A deep study of the epic would not only reflect the high level of civilisation that existed during the Ramayana era but would also furnish meaningful guidelines on Public Administration through the medium of several characters.
At the outset, the epic opens with the administrative setup prevalent in Ayodhya (the capital city). Further, there are the following three situations where detailed and wholesome advice is rendered on the art of efficient administration.
Theses are:
1. King Dasharath’s advice to Sri Rama
on the eve of coronation.
2. Sri Rama’s questions and advice to
Bharata at their historic meeting at Chitrakut.
3. Surpankha’s advice to Ravana.
An exhaustive cross-section from the epic, revealing valuable instructions on the art of administration that have a refreshing relevance today, is furnished below.
The administrative setup in Ayodhya is designed to provide the maximum happiness for the maximum number of people for the maximum period, based as it is on the principles of Dharma –righteousness and moral values.
The king, who was Dharmic (righteous) and solely concerned with the welfare of his subject was assisted by a cabinet of eight ministers of pure and unblemished characters. The cabinet was the Executive Council and the administration of the kingdom was carried out in consultation with it. The king was advised and supervised by a council of eight Sages, whose sole wealth was non-attachment (vairagya) and wisdom (Gyaan). Thus they functioned, without fear or favour, solely motivated by the welfare of the people, and provided the very foundation of the administrative system. The opinion of these sages possessing self-restraint, headed by sage Vasishtha, was the law. Thus, the cabinet ruled the people. The king supervised the cabinet. The Sages controlled the king in turn. In all matters, the moral code of the Lord of the universe (Dharma ) reigned supreme.
1.  King Dasharatha’s Advice to Sri Rama
On the eve of Sri Rama’s coronation, king Dasharatha summoned his darling son and tendered wholesome and mature advice on Administration based on his experience.
King Dasharatha said: "My son, although you are a storehouse of merits, I wish to offer some friendly advice to you out of sheer affection. Resorting to even greater humility (than before), constantly keep your senses under control. Avoid vices born of lust and anger."
[Note: Vices (vyasanani) according to Manu Smriti arising from lust include hunting, playing at dice, sleeping by day, slandering others, fondness for women, vanity and vices resulting from anger are tale-bearing, violence, vindictiveness, jealousy, fault-finding, squandering one’s wealth, abusive speech, and cruelty in punishment.]
Rule according to both the direct and
indirect methods of governance
Indirect method:
Ascertaining the conditions and loyalty of one’s own people and the relative strength and intentions etc., of the neighbouring states through a network of spies.
Direct Method:
To make a tour of one’s dominions and ascertain things personally, to invite direct petitions from one’s subjects, hear their grievances and decide their cases on their own merits.
"Please your ministers and others (namely, the Army Commanders and Civic Guards) as well as people responsible for maintenance (against future contingencies) of numerous stores (of useful materials such as jewelry, gold and silver, textiles and ornaments) along with barns and armouries."
"The friends and allies of a King, who protects the earth with fostering care and whose subjects are not only loved by him as his children but are devoted to him in their turn, exult in the same way as the immortals did on securing nectar. Therefore, disciplining your mind, my son, conduct yourself well as instructed by me."
The importance attached to personal discipline and far-sightedness in matters of efficient administration will be evident from the foregoing.
2. Sri Rama’s advice to Bharata
The Noble Bharata when he came to know that his mother was responsible for Sri Rama’s exile was tortured by the agonies of grief, anger and guilt. Wearing Jata (hair bound in knot) and bark garments he proceeds from Ayodhya, along with its entire population, to pursuade Sri Rama to return. After their momentous and affectionate meeting at Chitrakut, Sri Rama addressed Bharata on the art of administration, which is exhaustively detailed in the Ayodhya Kanda of the epic known as the famous '‘Kacchit Sarga’.
As Bharata was to rule the kingdom as per the King’s promise to queen Kaikeyi, Sri Rama enquires of Bharata whether he was ruling the Kingdom efficiently. He was also asked to explain by Sri Rama why he had left his post of duty and come to the forest.
In this context, Sri Rama enquires of Bharata and instructs him extensively on the finer points of the art of administration. This address highlights the duties and responsibilities of Kingship covering all aspects and the entire range of administration in which a King should attain proficiency if he was really concerned with the happiness and welfare of his subjects.
It is interesting to note that earlier Sri Rama had clearly told Lakshamana when he suspected Bharata’s intentions, that Bharata was coming in agony and solely with the purpose of offering the Kingdom to Sri Rama. Hence, questions addressed to Bharata were obviously not intended for him but, over his shoulders, they were guidelines meant for the benefit of those who wished to get educated on the principles and art of efficient administration!
Since each stanza begins with the word ‘Kacchit’, it is known as the Kacchit Sarga of the Ramayana. A summary of the questions and instructions are furnished below with a few stanzas by way of illustration.
Starting with human relations at home and Bharata’s personal conduct and self-discipline, the questions cover his reverence and service to his parents, teachers and elders to ensure domestic harmony. It embraces all Departments of Government activity like Home Affairs, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Labour Relations, Agriculture etc.
"Are you rendering service to our father, oh my dear Bharata? Is the celebrated preceptor of Ikshvakus (Sage Vasishtha) being duly honoured by you?"
"Do you hold in high esteem gods and manes, dependents, elders, kinsmen of your father’s age, the aged, the physicians as well as the Brahmanas? Do you respect Sudhanva, your teacher of the science of Archery who is equipped with knowledge relating to the use of excellent arrows both direct and remote-controlled and well versed in political economy?"
"I hope the ministers you have appointed are valiant like you- full of learning, who have controlled their senses, who are born of high pedigrees (cultured family) and know the meaning of signs (discreet and shrewd)."
"The sound advice given by experienced ministers well versed in the laws of truth and virtues is the very foundation on which the prosperity of a King rests."
"The learned in times of difficulty bring endless glory by solving knotty problems."
"I hope you prefer learned men to thousands of fools. No help will come to a king if he seeks advice from thousands of evil advisers or even ten thousands of them."
"Even if there is a single minister if only he is wise, brave, clever and discreet, he will bring fame and prosperity to a King big or small."
"He who does not get rid of a physician adept in devices of aggravating a disease, a servant intent on bringing disgrace to his master and a gallant warrior seeking kingly power, is himself destroyed by these persons."
"I hope the person appointed as your Commander-in-chief is ever pleased, full of resolution, is gallant and talented, is of spotless character and well-born and devoted and clever."
"Are the foremost of your skilled warriors being recognised by bestowing suitable honours by you?" (gallantry awards).
"I hope you distribute (daily) provisions and distribute the monthly salary due to them at the proper time in a suitable manner and do not delay their payment (to prevent discontentment). For, salaried servants surely and positively get enraged even at their master when the distribution of their provisions and the disbursal of their salaries are delayed and that itself is a very great harm done to the State." (Labour Relations).
"Has a man of your own State, who is learned, clever, ready witted and capable of delivering messages correctly, who is able to distinguish between right and wrong, been appointed by you as an Ambassador, O Bharata?" (Foreign Affairs and Diplomatic assignment).
"Do you keep an eye on the eighteen functionaries of the enemies and fifteen functionaries of your side through three unknown, independent spies?"
[Note: The eighteen functionaries are : 1.The chief minister 2.The King’s family priest 3.The crown prince 4.The generalissimo 5.The chief warder 6.The chamberlain 7.The superintendent of jails 8.The chancellor of the exchequer 9.The herald 10.The government advocate 11.The judge 12.The assessor 13.The officer disbursing salaries to army men 14.The officer drawing money from the state exchequer to disburse the workmen’s wages 15.The city Kotwal (mayor of the city) 16. The protector of the borders of a kingdom, who also performed the duties of a forester 17.The magistrate 18.The officer entrusted with the conservation of waters, hills, forests and tracts difficult of access.
The fifteen functionaries of one’s own side are the last fifteen of this very list, omitting the first three, viz., the chief minister, the family priest and the crown prince.]
‘I hope you do not patronize Atheists Brahmins, for being ignorant and conceited they are skilled in perverting the minds of people."
Next Sri Rama instructs Bharata on the defence and protection of Ayodhya and enquires about the various aspects and measures designed for its prosperity (like water storage, well cultivated fields not depending on the vagaries of the monsoon (or rainy season), cattle wealth, peopled by highly delightful men and women, free from violence and fear etc.).
"Are the Vaisyas (who live by trade, agriculture and breeding and rearing cattle) loved by you? Are they thriving well in agriculture and animal husbandry?"
‘Are the women folks well protected?"
"Are the forests which are the homes of elephants preserved by you?" (Wild life preservation and ecology).
"Are the milch-cows in abundance with you?" (dairying).
"Are all your fortifications fully supplied with wealth and provisions, arms and water, mechanical contrivances and equipped with artisans and bowmen?" (Defence installations in a state of readiness or full alert).
Regarding Financial management.
" Is your income sufficiently large to meet your expenses and your expenditure comparatively less? (Balanced budget without deficit financing). I hope your wealth does not go to undeserving men."
"I hope the laws are administered justly and impartially. I hope the innocent do not suffer and the guilty are not let off without punishment due to greed (corruption)."
"I hope disputes between the rich and the poor are dealt with and judged impartially by the ministers. For, the tears from the eyes of those falsely convicted, destroy the sons and cattle of the king who rules the people for the sake of pleasures and not caring for equity and justice."
"Do you see to win over the elders, children and foremost physicians by gifts, a loving mind and polite words?" (Human Relations).
"Do you greet your teachers, and elders, ascetics, deities and unexpected visitors as well as the trees standing on cross roads (ecology) and the wise and learned Brahmins who have achieved the object of their life through character and austerities?"
"Do you avoid the fourteen failings of kings?"
[Note: These are the fourteen failings (vices ) of a king: Atheism, Untruth, Anger, Carelessness, Procrastination, Neglect of the learned, Laziness, Slavery to the senses, Obsession with wealth, Counsel with those who do not know the proper way (perverted insight), Non-commencement of the decided issues, Absence of caution in keeping secrets, Non-use of the auspicious, Showing respect to all and sundry without any discrimination (e.g. getting up from the seat to receive anybody and everybody)].
" I hope you deal properly, after fully taking into account and knowing the ten evils born of lust, the five kinds of fortifications, the four expedients (recommended for kings), the seven important limbs of a state, the eight evils born of anger or the eight measures (conducive to the welfare of a state), the three worldly objects of human pursuits (Dharma, Artha, Kama) namely religious merit, material wealth and sensuous enjoyment or the three kinds of powers (namely energy or ‘Utsaah-Shakti’, the power of dominion or ‘Prabhu-Shakti’, and the power of counsel or ‘Mantra-Shakti’. The three branches of learning (viz., the three Vedas or ‘Trayi’, the knowledge relating to agriculture, commerce and other vocational pursuits, and political science, subjugation of the senses, the six strategic expedients (viz., coming to terms with the enemy, waging war against him, marching against him, biding one’s time to seek a favourable opportunity, causing dissension in the enemy’s ranks, and seeking the protection of a powerful ally; Adversities brought about by diverse agencies (such as fire, excessive rains or floods, epidemic diseases, famine and pestilence) and human agencies (such as officials, thieves, enemies, a king’s favourite and the king himself when motivated by greed).
The stern duties of a king (as dictated by policy, such as to win over enemy’s men whose emoluments have been withheld, who are greedy, who have suffered indignity at his hands, who are irate or have been provoked by him for no reason, who are afraid or have been intimidated) twenty types of monarchs who are not worth negotiating with (viz., who is a minor, aged, suffering from chronic sickness, greedy, without character etc.) the entire population of the state; setting forth on an expedition for conquest against the enemy; drawing up an army in battle array."
"O wise one! Do you hold consultation in accordance with scriptural injunctions with only four or three (selected) counselors collectively or severally to guard against a split among them and to prevent the secrets from leaking out?"
"Has your study of the Vedas borne fruit
and are your undertakings successful?"
"Has your learning borne fruit?"
Sri Rama concludes the illuminating address thus:
"Having obtained as his share and ruled in the right way over the entire globe, a wise king holds sway over the earth and administering justice to the people quite in consonance with righteousness, surely ascends to heaven when detached from his body."
3.  Surpankha’s advice to Ravana
It will be surprising to note that of all the people, Surpankha (Ravana’s sister) talks on administration! After her mutilation (cutting off her nose and ears) by Lakshmana for her foolish misadventure, she rushes to Ravana’s court and criticizes him on his lapses in Public Administration and tenders him advice on good government.
‘A greedy king, who is addicted to sensual pleasures and who acts at his sweet will and pleasure is avoided by his subjects like the cremation fire."
"A king who fails to attend to his duties personally at proper moment, hastens his downfall and ruins himself and his realm."
"If a king is ruthless, stingy, indifferent, proud and arrogant, his subjects will not come to his rescue in his times of crisis."
"A king who thinks too much of himself, who is evasive, self-conceited and ever irritable has to be mortally afraid even of his own kith and kin."
"Kings are said to be far-sighted because they can easily visualize the distant calamities with the aid of spies."
"That king alone who is discreet, erudite, self-controlled, grateful and who obeys the divine law, can rule his kingdom well."
"That king is verily worshipped by his subjects, who though physically asleep is mentally awake, and does not indiscriminately punish or reward them."
‘A slanderer, one steeped in worldly pleasure, one who is not in tune with time and one who cannot discriminate the good from the bad, loses his empire and perishes soon."
It will be evident from the foregoing that the rich heritage enshrined in the Ramayana shines through every facet of the epic, like the sophisticated instructions on Public Administration, that have eternal relevance to humanity. That is why the epic ‘Ramayana’ is described as the ocean full of gems and the prime role of the human Avatara (incarnation) is to educate humans on all aspects of the art of living.
Sri Rama, an Embodiment of Dharma
(part 1)
Extracts from the writings of Sri N.S. Anantharangachar
interspersed by contributions from other sources [printed in brackets].
Dharma is defined in a general way as:
"That on which the existence and prosperity of this
universe as well as fair dealing depend is Dharma."
That which is for the good of this universe is Dharma. This signifies that Dharma is virtue that is to be practised by each individual. These virtues are identified and listed for giving proper guidance to humanity.
[Note:"Existence and prosperity of this universe" is the key sentence here. The Dharma of the individual is the "existence and prosperity" of the individual self. Higher than that is the Dharma or duty to the family. Higher than that is the Dharma to the community. Higher than that is the Dharma to all the city dwellers. Higher than that is the Dharma to the entire nation. Higher than that is the Dharma to the entire human race. Higher than that is the Dharma to all creatures, to the whole universe. The higher category supersedes the lower category.]
Rama says: "When the oppressed seeks relief, at the hands of a virtuous and capable person, it is supreme Dharma to protect the surrendered even at the cost of one’s own life." Rama revealed this supreme Dharma by saying that even if the surrendered person is Ravana himself, he would save even those that deserve to be killed.
When mother Kaushalya and also the citizens of Ayodhya plead with Rama not go to the forest, Rama replies that Dharma lies in obeying the words of the father and that he, being devoted to Dharma, cannot transgress the words of his father.
(Rama is not yet a king.) At this stage Rama’s Dharma is that of a son. After returning from the forest, upon being crowned as King, Rama’s Dharma as a king takes precedence over his own self or over his family. The interest of the kingdom or the nation is above that of the individual or the family of the individual (now crowned as king.) In the interest of the kingdom, Rama would sacrifice his own life; would sacrifice his family life (banish his wife Sita).
Rama says: "I can renounce my life, Lakshmana, and you, Sita, but I cannot break my promise.
(A quotation from Tulasi Ramayana: From Ayodhya Kanda, Chopai 27:)
Raghukula Riti Sadaa Chali Aai,
Praan Jaahun Baru Bachanu Na Jaai
Valmiki shows, by using extreme examples, how Dharma assumes different roles according to the changed circumstances. Contrast the Dharma of Rama as a son (not yet a king) with Rama as a King. Rama as a son did not have the relationship between king and subjects as when citizens of Ayodhya plead with Rama not to go to the forest.]
In one of the passages describing the words of Sita, the significance of Dharma is expounded. Sita asks Rama to practise Dharma of the Tapovana (of the Rishis and the ascetics) so long as he dwells in the forest and to take to the bow and arrow after returning to the capital. Sita wanted Rama to follow the path of the hermits and not to engage himself in vanquishing the demons that troubled the sages.
Rama, who was steadfast in Dharma says that it is the Dharma of a Kshatriya to redeem the world from suffering and sorrow. Dharma is not a mood of helpless passivity but dynamic activity against the offenders of Dharma.
The following is from the Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kanda, 9-30,31.
"Wealth comes out of Dharma. Happiness comes out of Dharma. Everything is obtainable from Dharma. Dharma is the essence of this universe. The adept attain Dharma by disciplining themselves by the conditions of Dharma, with great effort; one cannot get happiness from happiness.".
Dharma is eightfold as: "Sacrifice, Vedic study, Charity, Penance, Truth, Fortitude, Forgiveness, Non-desire."
The following ten are characteristics of Dharma (Dharma Lakshanam).
Fortitude, forgiveness, restraint, non-stealing, purity, control over sense organs, intelligence, knowledge, truth, absence of anger.
‘Dharma’ is a term which could be understood but which cannot properly be translated into any other language. This word comes from the root ‘DRI’ which means supporting. That which is the support of this universe is Dharma. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.14.says:
"Yet he did not flourish. He created that Dharma which has an excellent form. This Dharma is the controller of Kshatriya. Therefore, there is nothing higher than that. Even a weak man hopes to defeat a strong man by Dharma as one does through the king. Dharma is verily Satya or truth. A speaker of truth is said to speak Dharma or a person speaking Dharma is said to speak truth. Both these are but righteousness."
The glory of creation was not complete without Dharma. Dharma may mean action approved by the scriptures. It may also mean the unseen result of such action. Dharma has different shades of meaning and signifies different things acording to the context. It may mean a Sadhana or a means and then it signifies righteousness. It may also mean in another sense the very Principle which is the support or ground of everything else in this universe. In this supreme sense ‘Dharma’ means the Supreme Being who is the support of every other thing.
Sri Rama is described as the very embodiment of Dharma in both these senses.

Sri Rama, an Embodiment of Dharma
(part 2)
By Sri B.S. Satyanarayana, Bangalore University
Adi Kavi (the first poet laureate) Valmiki wrote Ramayana not only to sing the melodious glory and story of Sri Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya, but to present to the posterity a practical philosophy of life, a vision of Truth, by telling how to lead a pious life, within the prevailing conditions of one’s existential conditions.
It has a pragmatic message for a busy man how to go about his daily life so that he would not only acquire his needs here, but also get what he deserves hereafter. The Bard of ancient lore sang into Ramayana songs of sacrifice, heroism, service, love, suffering, pathos and songs of sane advice, and made it a long epic and a perennial source of inspiration and enculturing influence upon the readers. Honourable Srinivas Sastri gave a word of caution to the reader of Ramayana when he said: "Deal Rama not as a man in whom there was all knowledge, all propriety, all virtues from the very beginning and unfailing till the end. That is not the way to read his life but as a man who struggled, was tempted, who has his weakness."
Valmiki did not want to treat the problem of Dharma in abstraction but wanted to give a demonstration of Dharma in action. Hence he wrote this beautiful song Ramayana. One meets therein personalities from among men, monkeys, birds and other primates who demonstrate from their views, feelings, behaviour and actions the heights of stature a person may rise to. It is in this sense that Sri Rama is an embodiment of Dharma in action. Therefore, Valmiki is very fond of using the expression that Rama is a living Icon of Dharma (Ramo Vigrahavan Dharmah).
The Concept of Dharma
The essence of an individual is manifested through his action. The character exhibits itself in action – mental, verbal and physical. Therefore, the Dharma of an individual operates through every action of an individual. It is that basis from which springs every deed of a person. Hence, the word Dharma is a very comprehensive one. It cannot be delineated in one word or in a few sentences. It is neither religion nor philosophy, though they stem from it. It is the very foundation for both of them and for many more things of life. It encompasses the duties, responsibilities, rights, religious observances, social obligations, secular laws, conventions, nay, the very fabric of one’s own life in such a way that one cannot live without it. Everyone acts one’s own Dharma through and through.
Dharma is that force which shapes and sustains human life (Radhakrishnan). Manu identified ten dimensions of Dharma like contentment, forgiveness, self-control, coercion of organs, wisdom, knowledge, truthfulness, abstention from anger, abstention from unrighteously appropriating anything, and purification. It is so much entwined with life that it follows an individual at death when everything else is left behind
When this Rta of the cosmic order operates
in the human realm it becomes Dharma.
Dharma is a richly connotative term that stands for a divine order (Rta), and also for laws of life and codes of conduct, social, moral and religious. It stands for Sadachara (good conduct). In Vedas the principle of Rta is the inner balance of the cosmic order because of which everything runs smoothly. Rta essentially signifies a single world embracing unity, prior in time to the phenomena of diverse manifestation which is rooted in the Rta itself.When this Rta of the cosmic order operates in the human realm it becomes Dharma.It is the upholder of not only the cosmic order, but also that of microcosmic order of the individual. Therefore, Dharma is the standard, the norm of human action according to which one has to fashion one’s life. It covers a great number of precepts and performances, both sacred and secular, religious and occupational, purification and pilgrimage. It covers the whole duty of man in relation to the fourfold purposes of life, namely Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha by the members of the four groups (Chaturvarna) during their respective stages of life, namely Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanprastha and Sanyaasa (See the Topic ‘Four stages of life’). Dharma is a mode of life and a code of conduct with the sole desire for betterment and upliftment of the individual socially, morally and spiritually
Concept of Dharma in Ramayana
Valmiki considers Satya (Truth) as Dharma. He does not see any difference between these two concepts. The knowers of Dharma say that Truth is the Supreme Dharma. Truth is the sole abode of Brahma and in Truth is established Dharma. Valmiki also accepts that Truth is Vedas undecaying and eternal, and through Truth alone one attains the Supreme Abode. One is asked to hold on to Truth if his mind is fixed on Dharma. Valmiki tells that the Truth is the Lord of everything in this world, in Truth Dharma is always established, everything has Truth for its root. There is nothing superior to Truth. Satya (Truth) is Supreme, and Dharma has its basis in Truth, it has its life in Truth, and it is nothing apart from it. Again Valmiki observes that for those who are devoted to True Dharma, there is no fear of even death.
Throughout Ramayana one reads a discussion going on about the nature of Dharma. Valmiki is never tired of telling about the importance and pragmatic value of Dharma. He presents different views about the nature of Dharma, the inter-relatedness of Dharma, Artha (economic security)and Kama (fulfillment of legitimate desires) as the goals of human life and examines very elaborately the course of action one should pursue if one wants to stay within the path of Dharma.
In order to tread the path of Dharma one has to internalise the principles of Dharma and Valmiki tells us that even though it is very difficult to be understood by an ordinary man, Dharma is within the heart of every person. It is this internalised Dharma that renders one capable of discriminating between good and evil. This discrimination is not something mysterious but it is to be obtained by intellect and rational faculty.
Valmiki has presented the functional aspects of Dharma throughout Ramayana to show how it operates in the life of a person, and each of such statements reads as a beautiful Sutra explaining the nature of Dharma, bringing into focus one or the other aspect of Dharmic behaviour. In this respect Ramayana becomes the Vademecum of moral science, a ready manual for universal ethical behaviour. It is also to be noted that Valmiki himself was very well qualified to take up this task of identifying and recording the moral behaviour that would ennoble the life of an individual.
Even though legends believe that Valmiki was an uncultured hunter in the forests, there is no evidence to that story in the Ramayana. On the other hand, within the available scanty reference about Valmiki in the Ramayana itself, it would be clear that he was a very learned Tapasvi (Sage) of a very high order. Referring to himself Valmiki says that he is the tenth son of Prachetas and he has performed penance for a long time. Valmiki confesses that he never committed any sin in thought, word or in deed. His knowledge of many subjects is evident in the Ramayana. Not only his skill as a great poet with a high degree of imagination, but his knowledge of geography, agriculture, wild life, medicine, polity, human psychology and exact understanding of human character. No wonder he is respected and revered as the Adi Kavi (the first poet from the ancient time). Lakshamana himself refers to Valmiki as a great friend of his father Dasaratha and a Brahmin. Thus, Valmiki who is very well versed in the understanding of Dharma took upon himself to illustrate Dharmic way in action by personifying Dharma in the form of Sri Rama, the hero of Ramayana.
Illustrative expressions of Dharma
The understanding of Dharma involves the knowledge of ‘Dos’ and "donts’ as also the reasons thereof. If we study a few illustrative expressions from Valmiki Ramayana we would get the concept of Dharma as conceived by Valmiki.
The very first question Valmiki asked Narada illustrates his concern about Dharma. Who is there who knows Dharma well, whose speech is truthful and who is steadfast in the determinations? Narada tells about Sri Rama, an embodiment of Dharma and concludes by saying that Sri Rama would make people endeavour to act according to their Dharma. The four moral standards of life are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Lokachara, a knowledge of which is very essential for any one to lead a life of righteousness.
Among the three aspirations of human beings, Dharma, Artha and Kama, the Kama should be based on Artha that is rooted in Dharma. Valmiki is aware of the fact that Kama is very powerful. But he advises that one should renounce all the evil habits that are rooted in Kama (sensual desires) and Krodha (anger). He admonishes very clearly that whosoever takes up to lustful life renouncing Dharma and Artha would get himself involved in troubles. Again, Valmiki gives a striking example about the state of such a man. He who renouncing Dharma and Artha devotes himself to Kama alone is like a man who has fallen asleep on the top of a tree and wakes up only when he has fallen down.
Sri Rama justifies his actions on the basis of the sole principle of Dharma. Sri Rama says: "I am not introducing some such righteousness and dharma unfavourable to thee, that has never been practised before. I am simply treading that path that had been approved and followed by the predecessors." Thereafter in a cryptic way he states: "To obey the father – this is the eternal Dharma." Again Sri Rama tells Sita :"Obedience to parents is the Dharma."
It should be noted also that Valmiki had a very pragmatic view about Dharma and he suggests that there could be no ‘fixed path’ theory of Dahrma. Valmiki is very clear that Dharma is an internal, reflective principle of the Soul and it is not a mere formalism or externalism. Valmiki says: "Honour the duties of one’s station in life." But Valmiki is aware that this may change according to the circumstances.
It would be clear from the above that Valmiki does not accept a rigid form of Dharma that is unchangeable. To him Dharma is relative, the primary quality of which being goodness admitting no defect, the performance of which should be according to time and place. The injunction given is : "Be steady in virtue at proper hour." This relative principle of Dharma expresses itself in a particular way in a particular moral situation. Sri Rama showed this in every one of his acts (Dharma incarnate as he was).
Many modern scholars at this distance in time may not agree, as they have expressed in many of their writings, with Rama about what he did under certain situations. Sri Rama faced many moral situations, and each situation was unique and required a special adaptation. For Valmiki the Dharma ideal can neither be a static one nor could it be an abstract principle. It must be an integral part of one’s life, and a guiding principle in all of one’s actions. He explicitly states that in this world there are many people who practise Dharma in order to deceive others.
In one instance Valmiki is very eloquent about the significance of Dharma in life; Dharma being the foundation on which Sri Rama operated under all situations. Valmiki says: "Wealth springs from righteousness, and happiness results therefrom. One attains everything through Dharma in this world, as Dharma is the only substantial thing. Reflecting and understanding these, do, without any delay, what you would like to do."
Sri Rama was fully aware of the Dharmic injunctions under which he had to operate under all circumstances.
"Whichever Dharma you follow with steadfastness and according to the principles, may that Dharma protect you."
"There is no greater Dharma for a Kshatriya than the protection of his subjects."
"There are only two pious paths, as has been said by the sages, wherein is the Dharma established, namely, Ahimsa (non-injury) and Satya (Truth)."
Sri Rama also knew that Dharma stands for the proper observation of rites and ceremonies that are ordained by the scriptures and it also signifies the merit one acquires by the performance of religious rites. Dharma also covers the sense of law, both stationary and customary.
Illustrious Behaviour of Sri Rama
Valmiki never tires of referring to Rama’s behaviour that was exemplary and served as a model to anyone who would like to tread the path of Dharma. Quite often Valmiki uses such expressions as :
"Rama is always devoted to the welfare of the subjects."
"He does not injure anyone."
"He is the protector of living things."
"He is a beloved to the whole world."
"He is devoted to the well-being of the whole world."
"By which I am dear to all creatures."
Any such expressions are used to describe Rama and his behaviour which is Dharma in action.
One gets a beautiful picture of Sri Rama at the very beginning of Ramayana when Sage Narada gives a description of the qualities of Rama which are very rare even among the gods. He is a knower of Dharma; protector of Dharma; a protector of his own Dharma; in Truth he is Dharma itself and he is a noble person (Aryah).
Rama was totally committed to Truth. His vow to follow the path of Truth (Satyaparipaalana Vrata) is seen in every page of Ramayana. Rama did this in two ways. One by following the path of Truth by himself and by helping others to be truthful. He went to the forest to ensure that by his actions his father’s promise to Queen Kaikeyi is kept and thus helping his father on the path of Truth (Dharma). For the same reason Rama appealed to his brother Bharata to do the same.
The other aspect of his vow of following the truth is that he would never be untrue to his own words. He never contradicts what he has spoken once. Keeping a promise was a supreme Dharma and an eternal virtue. Rama says: "I can renounce my life, Lakshmana, and you Sita, but I cannot break my promise."
As a Kshatriya Sri Rama had a duty of rendering justice to those who have been wronged and to console those who in tears narrate the story of their sufferings. It enjoins upon him that he should give to others rather than take anything from others. And Bharata says; "Observing Kshatriya morality, I did not take anything, as ours is always to give."
Sri Rama gives the reasons why he carries arms: "The Kshatriya carries arms in order that the word ‘distressed’ may not exist in the world". Sri Rama never misuses his valour and power. Valmiki characterises him by saying that he is a person who is very powerful yet abiding in Dharma.
We find Rama, who was fully aware of the Raja Dharma (Dharma relating to the state and the king or the ruler), also was following it, keeping in mind that the State and the King is never an end in itself but it is a means for the realisation of Dharma. The end of the State was to enable men to achieve the goals of their life. The virtue of proper administration consists in humbly and freely dispensing justice and administering discipline, favour and punishment. The administrators should not follow their whims and passions. Valmiki expects in a good administrator the virtues of punishing the criminals, control of passions, forgiveness, piety, firmness, truth, powers, and suppression of the wicked
Sri Rama was not only a noble brother to his brothers, but he was an exemplary husband with the vow of ‘Ekapatnivrata’ (monogamy). Sita tells Ansuya about this quality of her husband. She says: "He is of a steady affection and that his affection for her was like that of her parents besides being that of a husband and a liver."
The brotherly love has been idealised by Valmiki through the characters of Rama, Lakshmana and Bharata. Lakshmana protects Rama and Rama protects Lakshmana. Their fraternal love is like that of Ashvini brothers.
Rama’s clear perception of the principles of universal brotherhood is very much evident in many instances throughout the pages of Ramayana. It is based on protection, service during both adversity and prosperity, wealth for the happiness of others and a deep affection for others and no sense of victory over others. His devotion to his duty as a son is too well known. Rama considers his father Dasaratha as a deity. The father is a god, even the celestials say this, therefore, I will look upon your words in the light of divinity. There is no greater virtue than serving the father and carrying out his command.
Rama was an ideal friend. "In pain or in happiness a friend is a resort of a friend. Friendship is loving, friendship is self-sacrifice, friendship is imperishable wealth. He who loses friendship with a qualified friend loses wealth."
In many instances, Valmiki illustrates the greatness of Sri Rama as the ideal of Dharma. Surely, in Raghava (Rama) are truth, charity, self-control, self-renunciation, friendship, purity, sincerity, learning and the disposition to serve his superiors. In Rama abide forgiveness, asceticism, renunciation, veracity, righteousness, gratitude, harmlessness towards all creatures.
Ramayana is never tired of explaining again and again many moral qualities, the practice of which make a person pious and noble. The most important of them may be identified as those that would give a noble luster to a person and make him really an Arya (a gentleman or a cultured and noble person). Sri Rama was an incarnation of Dharma in this sense that he possessed all these qualities which are rare even among gods. He verily stood for Sanatan Dharma, because of which this country (India)was great not only in wealth, but also in respect of many great achievements.
Valmiki stresses the importance of many supreme duties (parama Dharmas) in Ramayana that would have an ennobling influence on the person who practices them. Hence, one should cultivate these qualities in one’s life. These may be listed briefly as follows:
Forgiveness (Kshamaa), Renunciation (Tyaaga), Gratitude (Krtajnataa), Equanimity (Samadarsitva), Purity of the mind (Shuddhamanah), Chastity (Pavitrataa), Courage (Shouryam), Protection of the individual (Rakshana), Non-violence (Ahimsa), Truthfulness (Satyam), Charity (Daanam), Worship of the guest (Atithipoojanam), and Love (Prema).
Ramayana elucidates that the most important aspect of Dharma is truthfulness (Satyam) and on this alone every other aspect of Dharma is established. No wonder Sri Rama’s greatness is associated with his commitment to Truth.
"Truth is a great virtue."
"One attains heaven only by following truth."
"A man by remaining true to his words can swim over the ocean of life."
We find in Rama’s character that his words fully corresponded with his thoughts. This is very important from an ethical point of view. We see him very clearly asserting this when he said to Sita : "Truth is very dear to me."
Sri Rama stood for Sanatan Dharma. His whole life is an essay on the path of Sanatan Dharma which is to be followed in order to be happy here and hereafter. He never followed these principles blindly but examined them as and when the occasion arose, and took a decision to act according to their injunctions.
As a contrast to these virtues (that one should acquire), Ramayana also presents a set of vices that would lead a person to degradation and destruction. Valmiki has brought out in clear relief the evil effects of these vices such as drunkenness, pride, lust, meat-eating, gambling, anger, greed, deceit, cruelty, mental impurity, indolence, gratifying the five senses, hate, jealousy, harsh tongue, treachery and so on.
A special mention is to be made regarding grief (Shoka) which has a special place in the epic of Ramayana. Sri Rama is seen in excessive grief and Valmiki considers grief as the greatest and a formidable enemy of man. He says grief destroys patience, knowledge, and everything and there is no enemy like grief. Sri Rama behaved like an ordinary mortal when he was stricken with grief, but as an energetic and enthusiastic person he never lost himself to grief. Valmiki himself was a victim to Vishaada (grief) because of which he cursed a hunter and immediately he repented for his action and prayed that may his shoka (grief) be transformed into a Sloka (poetic verse).
Angada says; "Do not grieve in mind, for grief is the worst amongst vices. It kills a man just as an angry serpent kills its own brood."
When a doubt arises about deciding the right course of duty or Dharma in many situations, then a lay man is asked to follow the footprints of the pious and devout persons. We have the excellent example of a Mahajana (great person) in Sri Rama following whose example we can develop within our self a moral fiber that would certainly take us to the abode of happiness as Dharma is the source of all happiness. Therefore, it would be a question of developing a character within us that would guide us on proper lines.
The science of Dharma or ethics is essentially a science of morality intimately connected to the human conduct in a society. Dharma is the basic or essential principle of being and behaving. The theory of morality depends upon three basic postulates namely:
  1. Freedom of the will
  2. Immortality of the soul, and
  3. Concept of God.
Because man is free to choose, there is need for him to study ethics, the science of behaviour. If he is not free to choose then there is no need for a Dharma. In this sense the Dharma is a normative and prescriptive science and not merely a descriptive one. There is a need for such works like Ramayana wherein one sees the actual behaviour of a person under specific situations and learns from him the ways of conduct. In this sense Rama is called a living icon of Dharma (Raamo Vigrahavan Dharmah) by Valmiki in order to demonstrate to the world how Dharma acts always correctly and justly. This mode of behaviour develops within a person such a character which becomes exemplary, and then only he becomes truly an Arya (a noble and cultured gentleman).
The philosophers of ethics identify four specific stages of the development of a character within a person. They are:
  1. Strength of will
  2. Extending the mental horizon and developing a better insight
  3. Cultivating a sense of discipline and regular performance of one’s own duties, and
  4. Developing the attitude of honesty in thought, nobility in feeling and sincerity in action.
Sri Rama exhibited all these at every stage of his action. Therefore, he is rightly called ‘Dharma Personified"

Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to Swamy Vivekananda, Sant Keshavananda, Brahmasri Sreeman P G Ananthanarayanan, Sri Hari Prasad Sastri,  Sri B S Narayana, Sri Anantha Rangachar  and other great philosophers  for the collection)


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