Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Rama Mandir and the march to Rama Rajya !

Dr. Mohan Raghavan

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This is a civilizational moment, a day of fulfilment that has waited centuries. Lord Rama as the infant Ram Lalla is about to take his first step again into his birthplace. On this day when the efforts of millions of our countrymen come to fruition, it is but natural that our chests swell in pride, while our hearts melt in devotional fervour. Thoughts swirl about in our heads. Could this be the first step to the cherished Rama Rajya ? Will the dreams of a golden age bygone come back to us as reality in our times and all time to come ? Is it even possible ? Is such a dream constitutionally tenable ? On this momentous occasion, while we rejoice it is quite appropriate too that we ponder on its significance.  

The word ‘SriRama’ evokes a range of emotions. To the devotee he is the Lord of Lords, a most worship-worthy incarnation. To others he is an epitome of truth - the gallant one who smilingly walked away from the throne into the forests to keep his father’s word. To countless countrymen he is ‘Maryaada Purushottama’, an epitome of virtue, wedded to upholding Dharma  - come rain or shine. He is the matchless warrior - who could single-handedly vanquish thousands. People are enamoured of one or more of the various aspects of his persona in accordance with their taste and temperament - be it his handsome appearance, shapely long limbs, deep affection for his brothers and subjects, his leadership, the sense of dignity, depth of persona or any other of his countless traits.    
Along with the legions of Rama’s admirers, there are also the nay-sayers who believe Rama is a myth; those who think that Rama mandir is a colossal waste, that the madness of Rama Rajya will drag our society down to the abyss; that such a Rama Rajya is in breach of our constitution. These people believe that the need of the day is not the reign of Rama but the reign of humanism. 

The building of the Rama Mandir and Rama Rajya must be accomplished in such a time and place amidst such a variety of opinions. Hence it is but essential that our devotion, fervour and faith in Rama be fortified with the fence of intellect and reasoning handed down in our traditions.

The real identity of Rama ? 

Rama, as is well known, was the son of Dasharatha, a descendant of Raghu born in the line of Ikshvaku. As the Ramayana itself recounts, the life and achievements of Rama were recounted by the sage Narada to the poet and sage Valmiki in toto. However on acquiring all this information, Valmiki did not proceed to use his poetic abilities to create the epic. The Ramayana of Valmiki describes that before doing so, Valmiki embarks on a pursuit that would be considered strange in our times. He spread out the Kusha grass as his seat, with its tip pointing to the sacred east. Performing the achamana and purifying his faculties, he sat down on the sacred seat in meditation and dived deep within himself into the depths of Yoga Samadhi. There, in those depths, he beheld Rama in his true form, splendour and his activities. He saw it all, says the epic in such vividity and  clarity as the proverbial ‘myrobalan on the palm’. That supreme light in the cave of the heart, which forms the essence of Yogic experience is in reality none other than the Rama. In fact the word Rama itself proceeds from the root ‘ram’ meaning ‘to rejoice’; the Yogis rejoice within and the people rejoice without. Thus in order to describe the persona and epic of Rama in its true spirit, one would have to be a tapasvi and poet of the highest order. It is for this reason that Valmiki Ramayana is held in such high esteem by our traditions..     

The secret of Ramavataara

If Rama is a Yogic experience of Valmiki, then who was Rama, the son of Dasaratha. Was he a non-historical persona ? Was he as many say ‘a myth’ ? Our traditions call this relation between the Yogic truth and historic persona by the name ‘Avatara’ - an incarnation. An Avatara is an explicit expression of the implicit and the abstract. For instance, an angry face is an expression of the latent anger within. A smiling countenance, one may say, is an Avatara of the happiness within. The Rakshasas are verily the avataras of rage and lust, greed and infatuation, wanton violence and deceit. These incarnations of the common and basal aspects are quite commonly encountered. But the avataras or worldly manifestations of the extraordinary or Yogic states of mind are a rare occurrence. The appearance of Rama and Krishna may be counted amongst such Avataras of the highest order. In such Avataras, the expression of the Atma Bhava - Yogic state  is complete, it is ever so natural and very striking. It is so striking, that when the Yogis and ascetics who are conversant with the inner experience meet these Avataras, they are enchanted, they stare at times in amazement. Every aspect of what they saw within seems to have manifested in this external persona - the form, the colour, the countenance, the gait, the girth, the voice, the qualities; just about everything. It is then that they call him - Rama, as the idol of Atma Dharma. “Ramo vigrahavaan Dharmah”. As for other mortals; although they could not recognize Rama and Krishna as avataras, they could not help but notice the feeling of pleasantness and intense joy that was evoked in them.   

Rama and impact on the masses

If one were to stare intently at an angry face, it is but natural that it should cause consternation within oneself. At times it may even infuriate. A smiling countenance spreads a cheerful mood. This indicates a general principle of mirroring, wherein external expressions cause in others the underlying states of mind.  If one were to have the good fortune of beholding the great Avataras, hold the form tight in our minds or hear an accurate description of their activities, it naturally leads one to the Yogic state. The sages such as Vasishtha and Vishwamitra in the times of Rama were privy to that good fortune. For, in Rama, the Atma gunas came together beautifully. He was verily one who invoked soothing delight in those who beheld him. Those who looked at him, kept looking at him, again and again. But try as they might, they could never have their hearts full. Rama’s words and voice, describes Valmiki, was sweet and spontaneously forthcoming even before others could enquire of him. His heart melted at the sight of the suffering of his subjects. He carried himself with such gravitas as to resemble the deep rumbling ocean. Although the overlord, his mind was ever unattached to pleasures; so much so that the walk from the throne to the throes of the woods was ever so natural, so light and painless. One may see one or more of these traits in people from time to time, but one swallow does not make a summer.  The defining trait of an Avatara of parabrahman is that every aspect of its persona bears a direct link and leads unerringly to the inner states of Yoga. Yogis and Sages can identify such Avataras. When several of such sages share notes, it leads to an emphatic recording of this rare incarnation for all time to come. Thus it is in the fitness of things that Valmiki began the enterprise of writing the epic of Ramayana by his penance, before putting it to poetry. Such poetry as a vivid graphic record brings back to the minds of its listeners the persona of Sita and Rama in its entirety. Dwelling on the qualities of the divine couple is a means of recreating the spiritual bliss by the latent process of Yoga. In fact, if the ritual telling of this exalted epic -  ‘Raamayana Paarayana’ is performed by one who is realized, the effect on the committed and absorbed listeners is the same as the fruits of Yoga or askesis. It leads inwards to the highest Yogic state.
Rama Rajya and the protection of Dharma

The gentle and mild Rama turns in the face of Ravana into the fiery fires or destructive waves that spell death and destruction. The same Rama who inspires in others, the gentle and beautiful Atma Dharmas like compassion, forgiveness and contentment is also the one who perseveres to destroy the Asuric forces that are incompatible with the Dharmic tendencies. One who wishes for health must prevail over the germs. Those who are the antithesis of a civilization built on foundations of piety, penance and supreme bliss for one and all, must be defeated. The institutions that promote Atma dharma - of control, inner bliss coupled with worldly contentment must be strengthened and protected. Thus it required that Rishis, their penance, their sacrifices and their protective order of Dharma be protected. That precisely was the goal of avataras like Rama and Krishna. Vanquishing the external enemy in battle is relatively easy, but battling the vices in our hearts that deter and deviate us from the Atma Dharma are impossible for ordinary men. The state of mind that Seeta and Rama invoked in their subjects by their ideal conduct and their persona as role models was in fact the foundations of the real Rama Rajya.  The Ramayana describes that the subjects during the reign of Rama were largely free of greed and excesses. Their sense of balance and control over their passions led them to use only so much of resources  as was needed. The balance in nature was so good that the cycles of rain and shine were timely and in order. There was contentment in the hearts, plenty in the hearths and prosperity in the huts. All this flowed directly from the king. Even in the toughest of times when Seeta and Rama had to suffer untold suffering and their own personal lives were shattered, all for no fault of theirs, they chose to act in order that the faith and devotion of people to Dharma may not waver.  Sowing the seeds of the AtmaGunas and AtmaDharma in the hearts of subjects and the society, watering and bringing them to fruition are the ideals of Rama Rajya. The common folk like us are often prisoners in the Asuri Lanka of our uncontrolled passions, greed, discontent and related vices. It is through imbibing the persona of Rama, that shanti-peace personified by Sita is retrieved and one reigns in the secret cave of the heart as Aatma Rama. This cave of the heart that Rama reigns, is Ayodhya, that which cannot be conquered by weapons or external means. It is only attainable by penance of the highest order. But in this case brought to us ever so simply by the wonderful device of Ramayana.   

A temple for Rama 

Just as association with magnets under appropriate circumstances induces magnetism in other base objects, the Avataras are capable of inducing virtuous properties in objects animate and inanimate. That such great men can impart the effect of ‘sacredness’ or ‘teerthatva’ to a geographical area or object was an experiential and experimental truth propounded by Sriranga Mahaguru. Such places are ideal enablers and strong force multipliers for penance, worship and other spiritual pursuits. SriRama by his sojourns across the breadth and length of this country rendered countless such places as teerthas - Chitrakoota, Prayaaga, Dandakaaranya, Panchavati, Hampi, Rameshwaram, Dhanushkoti, Lanka and foremost of them all Ayodhya. If Ayodhya is utilized for building such a temple of spiritual pursuits, it will be a haven of joy, peace and inner joy to countless men and women. Hospitals, schools and other such institutions are very important no doubt. But they may as well be built in any other location with the same effect. If the sacred spaces are utilized for spiritual pursuits, it is we who benefit, not Lord Rama. On this historic occasion, it is with a deep sense of gratitude and reverence that we recall respectfully, Sriranga Mahaguru and his seminal contributions in unravelling the essence of Rama, Ramayana and Ramarajya from the depths of penance, verily like the sages of yore. It is only on account of that munificence that on this historic occasion we all fold our hands in prayer and hope that the abode of Rama in Ayodhya leads us all to the exalted state of bliss in the Ayodhya within. May this be the first step towards the establishment of Rama Rajya in our hearts, homes, society, country and the world - a kingdom where the Atma Dharma of Rama and Sita bloom to the fullest.