Rama’s incarnation was to lay down norms of life to observe and follow. He was the Ideal Man with qualities and virtues everyman could earn and imbibe. Rama along with His three brothers represented the four primal goals of man, says Bhagawan. Read on Bhagawan’s expostion on His Avatar as Sri Rama, as published in Sanathana Sarathi, May 1980.
Rama is a Name that is sweeter than all the sweet things in Nature imbibed alone or together. It can never cloy on the tongue or mind. It has vast mysterious mystic potentialities to elevate man. So, one must endeavour to keep the mind ever dwelling on it. The story of Rama—The Ramayana—is but another version of the Vedas. In fact, it is said that the Vedas incarnated as the Ramayana, in order to help in the destruction of evil and the revival of righteous living, tasks which the Lord took upon Himself during His human career as Rama. Why! Rama and his three brothers are from one point of view the Four Vedas in human form. The Yajur Veda lays down the rights and duties of man, the Dharma which ensures Peace and Prosperity for him, both here and hereafter. So, it is represented by Rama Himself, for He put on the vesture of manhood in order to establish and exemplify Dharma. "Ramo Vigrahavaan Dharmah" is how the Ramayana described Him. —"Rama, the embodied Dharma."
The Rg Veda enshrines mantras or potent formulae. It elucidates them and elaborates their meanings. These mantras have the mantra 'Rama' as their crown. And Brother Lakshmana, who repeated it, recited it and relied on it, for everything in life and beyond, is indeed the embodiment of the Rg Veda. He teaches mankind that the Rama mantra confers on man the Constant Presence of the Lord. The Sama Veda contains songs in praise of Creation and the Creator and through adoration sublimated in song, the Lord yields Grace. Bharata whose every thought, word and deed was an act of thanksgiving, a paean of praise dedicated to Rama, was the Sama Veda Itself. Then, we have the Atharvana Veda which is a collection of medical and ritual details, of charms and protective amulets to overcome internal and external foes. Shatrughna, whose every name means `the destroyer of foes' is therefore appropriately the avatar of the Atharvana Veda. This Veda enables man to conquer evil habits, attitudes and tendencies, so that he can listen to the Voice of God and gladly translate the words into daily life. Shatrughna demonstrated by his humility, loyalty and devotion how he had won victory over his ego, greed and anger.
Very often the mistake is committed of forgetting that Rama came, in order to lay down the norms of life and that His Life has to be observed and followed by mankind. He is the ideal Man, with qualities and virtues which every man can earn to elevate himself. Mere worship, empty adoration is not what the Avatar expects. Rama underwent trouble, disappointment and distress like any man, in order to show that joy is but an interval between two griefs, that grief is a challenge, a test, a lesson. He held forth the ideal relationship between son and father, husband and wife, brother and brother, friend and friend, ally and enemy and even man and beast. The Ramayana teaches also that, as a consequence of the individual's accumulated Karma consequence, children of the same mother may have opposite character and careers. The waters of a pond breed leeches as well as lotuses. Vali and Sugriva were brothers! So were Ravana and Vibhishana!
From another point of view, Rama and the brothers can be understood as models of the four primal goals of Man—the Purusharthas. Of these Rama was Dharma (Righteousness); Lakshmana was Artha (Prosperity); Bharata was Kama (Fulfillment of Desires) and Shatrughna was Moksha (Liberation). These four are the progeny of every human being, Dasaratha (ten chariot leader). Man having five sense organs of perception and five senses of action ruling over Ayodhya, the City that is impregnable (the heart wherein God resides). These four goals have to be reduced to two pairs—Dharma Artha and Kama Moksha: man must struggle to attain prosperity only through righteous ways. The prosperity should be used to achieve and maintain Dharma. This is the reason why Lakshmana follows in the footsteps of Rama. He served as the right hand of Rama and for Rama's sake, Lakshmana bore all travails and agonies with a smile on his lips. When the demon Kabandha had both Rama and Lakshmana in his deadly clasp, Lakshmana offered to stay in those arms, advising Rama to escape and live. This is the reason why, when Lakshmana fell unconscious on the battlefield and could not be revived, Rama lamented, "Perhaps I may get another Sita, if this Sita passes away, but, O Lakshmana, I can nowhere get another brother like you."
Rama also shared with Bharata the love that Lakshmana poured on Him so profusely. He told Bharata who prayed to him, with tears in his eyes, to return to Ayodhya as its ruler, "No. Father has ordered me to rule over the forests, helping the anchorites and hermits and saving them from the inroads of Demonic hordes. He has willed that you should rule over the Kingdom of Ayodhya. Let us both be loyal to him." That was the expression of His fraternal Love.
The next pair of Purusharthas is Kama and Moksha; the only Desire worth entertaining and pursuing is the Desire for Liberation. Bharata had it and Shatrughna shared it.
After the long pilgrimage to the shrines and holy spots of Bharat, Rama had a few years, until he was aged fourteen, of apparent introspection and solitude. He disliked food and regal apparel. He was not interested in materials and men. He waved his fingers and palms for no clear reason; he wrote on the air only He knew what. He laughed without reason. In short, His actions and movements were exactly the same as Sai Baba's (mine) when He (I) too was in His (my) early teens. Vasishta attempted to bring His mind back to normalcy but that was only a stage which all Avatars are in, before they enter upon the task for which they have come down. Those years, the Avatar was designing His Master Plan. At the end of that period, the sage Viswamitra arrived at the Palace, asking Dasaratha to send Rama (and the inseparable Lakshmana) with him, to save the hermits from the demonic gangs who desecrated Vedic rites. The Plan started unfolding.