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This day is celebrated as the New Year Day, Yugadi, and it is indeed good augury that you have gathered here to remind yourself of Rama, His Name and His Story. The Name Rama is the essence of the Vedas and of all scriptures. It is sweeter than honey, more tasty and soft than butter. Pray that your mind may be drawn by these qualities to attach itself firmly to the Name. For millions in India, the story of Rama has been and still is the source of inspiration and instruction. It has thrilled their hearts for thousands of years. Valmiki denoted the sections of the Epic—Ramayana, that he composed, as Kandas. Kanda means both `water' and `sugar-cane‑ section’. Water is intimately associated with Narayana and the Ocean of Milk is the residence of Vishnu, one of the Trinity. Hence, the word Kanda is appropriate for the story of the Lord. The meaning, 'Sugar‑cane‑section' is also very apt, since, however short or long, thin or thick, straight or crooked the canes may be, they are all equally sweet, for, they all have sugar in them. So too, whether the incident described is sad or joyful, distressing or delightful, terror‑striking or tender, humorous or holy, they are all equally sweet, for, they ail have Rama in them. The rasa or sap of compassion or Karuna runs through every fibre of the narrative, what­ever subject is dealt with. However many twists and turns the story may take, the native sweetness is not diminished at all.

Usually, the aims of human life are clas­sified as four—Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Of these, Dharma is the first and foremost, for it makes all the rest easy and beneficial. But, when man decides to earn them, he has to earn as a preliminary, the Grace of God. Then only can the venture end in victory. And, to win this Grace, the message of the Ramayana helps man. The Sarayu River that flows beside Ayodhya (the unconquerable fort, the Atma), takes its origin in the Manasasarovar, beyond the Himalayan Ranges. Symbolically, it flows from the Manasa, the pure Mind. The Sarayu represents Lakshmana—the embodi­ment of Prema, spontaneous, full and free. When the two streams of Karuna and Prema merge, we have Dharma, at its best and purest.

The Rishis depicted Rama as the Ideal Man, though they knew that he was Vishnu, and an Avatar of Vishnu; come to save mankind, including themselves. They subordinated the Divine aspect and highlighted the human aspect, so that he may serve as a model to inspire man. Each of the Rishis who dwelt in the forest through which he passed knew the Avatar, but, they did not reveal it, since the purpose of the incarna­tion was the destruction of the Rakshasas. Sarabhanga, one of these Rishis was invited by Indra, the God of gods to accompany him to Heaven. But, he declined the offer, for, as he said, Rama was about to pass through and he did not desire to miss his Darshan!

Rama too misled people to believe that he was just a man. When the coronation was cancelled and he was to get ready to go into exile for 14 years, Rama wore the same face of joy, before his parents, his preceptors and his subjects; but when he came to Sita, he revealed the hurt he had received. For, Sita was so dear and near to him that he could not but open his heart to her. When Lakshmana was struck unconscious on the battle field and was feared to be dying, Rama mourned like any human brother and even more pathetically, for, as he said, "A friend can be replaced; a wife can be secured but, a brother like Lakshmana can never, never, be got.” And, remember, they were not born of the same mother; Lakshmana was his step‑mother's son!

Not only the sages and Rishis, even the mothers knew that Rama was divine but, through some mysterious influence, they too, did not reveal their knowledge. The mission on which the Avatar had come insisted that Rama should enter the forest and, hence, Kaikeyi who loved Rama more than any of the other queens, had herself to play the role of the cruel step‑mother!

When Viswamitra came to the Royal court of Dasaratha, and requested that the two brothers be sent with him, so that he may celebrate a Vedic sacrifice unhampered by the demons, Vasishta and he were closet­ed for sometime, and they spoke to each other about the Reality of Rama. They both agreed that Rama who had come to complete the `sacrifice' of the wicked demons was the Yajurveda Itself. Lakshmana who was immersed in witnessing and glorifying the might and mercy of Rama was, they said, the Rgveda. Bharata who sang ever the praise of Rama was the embodiment of the Sama Veda and Shatrughna, ever engaged in overwhelming the enemies lodged in the consciousness and at large, outside Ayodhya, was the true sign and symbol of the Athar­vana Veda.

When the Ramayana is read, one has to imbibe the rasa, the essence, the compassion and the Prema, and discard the rest, as not so important. When a mango is eaten, don’t you discard the seed and the skin? Rama­katharasa is the nectar to be taken; people do not eat the skin and seed, for the reason that they too are parts of the fruit they have paid for. The bee is concerned with the honey, not the symmetry, the fragrance or the structure of the flower. Everyone who knew was interested that Rama should carry out the mission on which he had come. Agastya quietly recommended that Rama should build his parnasala at Panchavati, for he knew that spot was best suited for the plot that Ravana would weave. Panchavati was 16 miles away from Agastya's hermitage but, the sage did not care. He wanted to save the world from the demonic hordes. Rama demonstrated through his life the Dharma that each must adopt, that would suit the stage of life, the surrounding envi­ronment, the aim sought to be achieved, and the obligations of the participants. Every act of his is replete with inspiring example.

While journeying with Viswamitra, the young boy that Rama was, met three women, one after the other. The first woman he met, he killed; the second, he advised and admonished, before sending her back to her husband; the third he wedded. The first woman was Thataki, the demoness, the embodiment of Tamoguna; the second was Ahalya, the embodiment of Rajoguna; the third was the very embodiment of Satwaguna, whom he wedded and made a partner of his Avataric career. He knew whom to correct, whom to destroy and whom to accept. He cared for the Guna that was predominant in the make‑up. So too, he chose three friends, each of different Gunas. Vali, who was eager to die at his hands, had the Satwa guna dominant in him. Sugriva who approached him for help and who helped him in return was only a contractual friend. Jatayu who fought Ravana until his life was about to be extinct was the Rajasic friend and Guha, the chieftain of the fisher­men, was the Tamasic friend. Rama con­soled, comforted and convinced Vali of the justice of the punishment that was meted out to him and gave him the death he lon­ged for.

Sita, born of Earth is the symbol of Prakriti and Rama is the Purusha. Prakriti is the Pravarti Marga, the outward dra­wing force and Purusha is the inward‑indu­cing tendency. When their wedding took place in the palace of Janaka, the bride and the bride‑groom sat facing each other and went through the various rites, Vedic and traditional. One such was the pouring of handfuls of rice, on each other's head. They did not hold rice in their palms for this rite; they had fine white sparkling pearls. Sita held them in her palms and then, they flashed red, for, her palms were painted with henna and her face was flushed and her sari was red. Then, when she poured the handful of pearls on Sri Rama's head, or rather, on the white silk turban that Rama wore, as a ceremonial headgear for the wed­ding, the pearls were white. Then, when they fell in a shower on the floor, at the feet of Rama, they were blue in colour, reflecting the cloud‑blue complexion of Rama. Here too, you can find the Gunas—red for Rajasic, white for Satwic and blue for Tamasic. When one is in the hands of Prakriti, one is filled with Rajoguna; when one is near and adjacent to Rama, one is Satwic; when one falls away from Rama, one becomes Tamasic. That is the lesson to be learnt from the incident of the pouring of pearls.

Rama means, he who pleases, he who attracts and satisfies. That is the Divine Principle—the Rama Principle. Every little incident in the Ramayana and every word in the Vedas have inner significances which have to be sought and gained. Sita is Bhu­jata, born of the Earth and the Earth too has the power of attracting. Sita attracts the soul and the spirit of man; Rama attracts the soul and spirit of man. Both are Comple­mentary. Wherever there is the Divine latent, it will be drawn out by the Divinity patent. So. Rama is everywhere and every individualised I has the right to be drawn towards Rama, the Universal I.

—Inaugural Discourse: Ramakatharasavahini Sapthaha, Bangalore

(From Sanatha Sarathi, May 1978)