Rishikesh. On Ram Navami we celebrate the divine time when Bhagwan Vishnu manifested on Earth in the form of Bhagwan Rama. The Ramayana gives us the message of Bhagwan Rama’s life and teachings. The word “Rama” literally means one who is divinely blissful and who gives joy to others, and one in whom the sages rejoice.
It is said that the repetition of his name (Rama Nama) is the surest, fastest and easiest way to attain purity, peace, wisdom, understanding, joy, prosperity and ultimately liberation. Bhagwan Rama Himself said, “Repetition of My name once is equal to the repetition of one thousand names of God or to the repetition of a mantra one thousand times.” As the founder of the nation, Mahatma Gandhiji, collapsed to his death after having been viciously shot, he had no words of vengeance or anger for his murderers. Rather, the only words which escaped his lips with his dying breath were, “He Rama, He Rama, He Rama.”
Messages of Bhagwan’s Life:
What lessons did he incarnate to teach the world? What lessons do we learn from the Ramayan, from the glorious depiction of Bhagwan Rama’s life?
Bhagwan Rama exemplified the perfect person; he embodied the divine on Earth, and he taught us how to live our lives in accordance with dharma and divine principles. Bhagwan Rama was the embodiment of compassion, gentleness, kindness, righteousness and integrity. Although he had all the power in the world, he still was peaceful and gentle. Through careful examination of his life, we learn how to be the perfect son, the perfect brother, the perfect husband and the perfect king. His reign in Ayodha is referred to as
Ramarajya, the epitome of perfect governance.
1. Differences between Ravana and Lord Rama:
The story of the Ramayan is a classic, eternal, universal message of dharma versus adharma, of deva versus demon, of good versus evil, as represented in the battle between Rama and Ravana. Ravana was a brahmin; he was a great scholar who wrote numerous works on scriptural philosophy. He was powerful, dynamic, and beautiful in appearance. As the brilliant, handsome king of Lanka he had everything one would need to be happy and peaceful.
Yet, I have never once heard of any child – anywhere in the world – named Ravana. Why? Why does every mother name her child Rama, and no parents, ever, have thought to name their son Ravana? What made Ravana — this great learned scholar — a demon? He was arrogant, egoistic, greedy and lustful. His insatiable desires led him to crave more and more power, more and more money, and more and more beautiful ladies to fulfill his every whim.
Covetous desires can never be fulfilled, and the ceaseless quest for them brings only frustration. Therefore, regardless of how smart we are, how rich we are, or how beautiful we are, we are demons if our hearts are filled with anger and greed. This is, in essence, the difference between Bhagwan Rama and Ravana. Both were kings; both were learned in the scriptures; both were charismatic; both were beautiful. What makes Rama God and Ravana a demon?
There is one main difference: Bhagwan Rama’s heart overflowed with divinity, love, generosity, humility, and a sense of duty. Ravana’s heart, in contrast, was filled with avarice, hatred, and egoism. Under Bhagwan Rama’s divine touch, the animals became his devotees and his divine helpers. Under Ravana’s touch, even humans became animals.
It says Ravayati iti Ravanah. This means that someone, anyone, who makes people cry is a Ravana. Anyone who brings joy to others is Rama. Bhagwan Rama was in peace; Ravana was in pieces. But, how can we become like Bhagwan Rama? How to be godly and peaceful and righteous? How to win the “war of Lanka” within ourselves? Bhagwan Rama has given us the perfect example through his life and his actions. The way to attain divinity, the way to be “perfect,” the way to be in peace instead of pieces, is to follow his clear example.
2. Killing the 10-headed Demon:
The killing of Ravana by Bhagwan Rama is a message and a symbol for us in our lives also.
Ravana’s ten heads symbolize passion, pride, anger, greed, infatuation, lust, hatred, jealousy, selfishness and crookedness. By slaying the 10-headed demon, Bhagwan Rama restored the rule of righteousness and goodness over adharma and lawlessness.
However, as we revel in Lord Rama’s victory, let us ask ourselves, “Has the Rama in us been victorious over our own Ravana? Is the good in our hearts conquering the evil? Have we decapitated the 10 headed demon within us?” Have we annihilated passion, pride, anger, greed, infatuation, lust, hatred, jealousy, selfishness and crookedness from our own lives?
3. Perform your duties according to Dharma:
Bhagwan Rama’s primary message is: fulfill your duty without any selfish motives; put other people before yourself. When he was exiled to the forest, Bhagwan Rama did not complain, “But that’s not fair!” He did not fight back in anger. Rather, he helped his father fulfill a promise; he lived according to his duty as a son and as a future king. He did not once think about himself, his own comforts, his own “rights.” Rather, he abided by his dharma and his duty.
The message of the Bhagwan Rama’s life and the Ramayana is:
Choose Dharma over Artha Choose Moksha over Kama
According to Hindu tradition, the four goals of life are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. All are important. All are necessary for a full, complete, fulfilling life. Dharma is translated loosely as “the right path” or the “path of righteousness.” Artha is the fulfillment of one’s career or professional path. Kama is the fulfillment of one’s path of physical intimacy (i.e.g marriage) and Moksha is the attainment of God realization.
Bhagwan Rama teaches us that when, given the choice, Dharma must be chosen over Artha. When, Bhagwan Rama’s father, Dashratha, the King of Ayhodya, is compelled to banish Rama to the forest for 14 years instead of coronating him as King, Bhagwan Rama takes the path of Dharma by peacefully and agreeably leaving the Kingdom for the forest rather than choosing the path of Artha, his duty as future King of Ayodhya. Then, at the end of the Ramayana, Bhagwan Rama shows us to choose Moksha over Kama. After the war in Lanka, Bhagwan Rama must leave Sitaji in the forest, for his subjects doubt her chastity. How easy it would have been to choose his own happiness over his subjects’ faith. How easy it would have been for him to say, “You are all stupid! You are all just suspicious.” But, he does not say that. Bhagwan Rama knows that he is a king first, and a husband second. His primary duty is to his kingdom, to bring health, happiness and prosperity to his subjects. Having Sitaji remain in Ayodhya would bring only resentment and disharmony. Therefore, he acts, once again, according to selfless duty and chooses his kingdom over his own marital happiness.
Through his noble and divine choices, he teaches the world to choose dharma over artha (when he leaves for the forest rather than be coronated as King) and to choose moksha over kama (when he chooses his kingdom over his marriage).
4. How to live as the perfect, divine person:
Bhagwan Rama teaches us:
- As a son: Respectfully and lovingly obey your father’s orders. Sacrifice your own comfort for your father’s dignity.
- As a step-son: Even when your step mother (or mother-in-law…) is not kind to you, even when she clearly discriminates against you in favor of her own birth child, do not resent her, do not fight against her. Respect her and her wishes.
- As a brother: Remain loyal to your brother. Care for him.
- As a husband: Protect your wife. Fight for her protection and her purity. But there are times when one’s divine path must even take precedence over the path of householder. Do not keep the role of householder as the ultimate role.
- As a King: Sacrifice everything for your people. Do not worry about your own comfort, your own convenience or your own pleasure. Be willing to put the Kingdom ahead of your own needs.
5. Be a Bridge Builder:
The war of Lanka was won because Lord Rama had built a bridge to Lanka, a bridge to the enemy. This is an important lesson. In our lives we should learn to build bridges between ourselves and others, even with those whom we may consider enemies. Rather than isolating ourselves from others, let us learn to build bridges. It is through building bridges, not burning bridges, that we may win the war of righteousness over evil.
6. Be humble:
Ravana’s ego led to his own demise, first the demise of his spirit and heart and then the demise of his body. He thought he was the one who ran everything. He thought that he was the “doer” of it all. On the other hand, Bhagwan Rama was always humble, and he never took credit for anything. At the end of the war in Lanka, Bhagwan Rama was giving Sitaji a tour of the city, showing her where all of the various events had occurred. When, they reached the place where Bhagwan Rama victoriously slew Ravana, he reported it to Sitaji only as, “and this is where Ravana died.” He didn’t say, “This is where I crushed the demon,” or “This is where I killed Ravana.” No. Even after achieving the great victory, he simply stated, “This is where Ravana died.”
Also, while Ravana lay dying, Bhagwan Rama did not revel in the victory. Rather, he sent his brother Lakshman to learn from the dying demon. For, Ravana was a great scholar, a peerless Vedic scholar who through his own ego, pride, vanity and insatiable desires became a de¬mon. So, Bhagwan Rama sent Lakshman to go and listen to words of wisdom from Ravana as the latter lay on his death bed. Bhagwan Rama knew that, although Ravana’s vices had brought about his downfall, he still was a venerable scholar and one from whom great wisdom could be attained.
As we revel in Bhagwan Rama’s appearance, let us ask ourselves, “Is Lord Rama [God] living inside us? Has the good in our hearts taken birth? Has the power of dharma vanquished the power of adharma within us?” Life is so short. We never know when the end will come. Do we want to let Ravana live in us? Do we want to be controlled by Ravana? We must let Bhagwan Rama live in our own hearts. We must make a pledge to let purity, honesty, humility and righteousness be the guiding factors in our lives.