Friday, March 27, 2015

The Inner Ramayana



(This blog has been written with the assumption that the reader knows the story of Ramayana and various vedic terminologies.)
 

Truth, considered single faceted by humans, is in fact multidimensional in nature, just like a diamond with many facets. The light of divinity when passing through this diamond emits myriad reflections of colors and rays.

Divine epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata cannot be viewed as mere moral stories conveying assorted virtues as displayed in the lives of it's characters. There is more to it than meets the eye. Mahabharata may be considered the story of the virtuous Pandavas who with the help of Krishna emerge victorious in the battle against the Kauravas to regain their rightful inheritance of Hastinapur and Indraprasth. But at another level Mahabharata is also the story of an ideal devotee (Arjuna/Pandavas) guided by the inner Guru (Krishna) in the battlefield of life (Kurukshetra) against the Ego guided samskaras and desires (Kauravas) to attain Moksha (Hastinapur).

And Ramayana?


Dasharatha is the king of Ayodhya, ruling along with his three wives Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. 
Dashratha is the Ego/mind, custodian of the 10 senses – five inner five outer (Dasha - ten, Ratha – chariot of 10 horses or senses). 
His three queens are the three gunas which guide the mind –
Kausalya representing Sattwa (Pure), 
Sumitra representing Rajas (Activating),
Kaikeyi representing Tamas (Dull or impure).

The Mind and the gunas are unable to create an ideal heir for the sacred bodily kingdom. Only under the guidance of a master and divine efforts the mind and gunas are blessed with worthy progeny.

So,
Dashratha (Mind) and Kausalya (Sattwa) give birth to Rama – Soul Awareness.
Dashratha and Kaikeyi (Tamas), give birth to Bharat – Body consciousness.
Dashratha and Sumitra (Rajas) give birth to twins ~
Lakshmana – Disciplined, Pure concentration always serving the Soul (Rama) and 
Shatrughana – Karma Shakti or the power of action, always serving the body (Bharata).


RAMA AND THE THREE WOMEN

The story goes that Rajarishi Vishwamitra takes Rama and Lakshmana to his ashram for the protection of his Yagna. During this journey Sri Rama (Divinity incarnate) encounters three women and demonstrates how Divinity deals with different devotees or beings.

But first let us understand what a woman means. A woman here does not merely refer to females. In Sanskrit a women is referred to as 'Stri'. Sri Sathya Sai Baba explained Stri as any individual (I) under the influence of the three gunas – Sattwa, Tamas, Rajas. Hence the I of a being is dominated by S,T,R and it becomes a Stri. When the three gunas leave, all that is left is the pure I – the only male or Purusha beyond gunas, hence purely divine.

Coming back to the story, the first woman Sri Rama encounters is Taraka, the demoness. Taraka is pure tamas and so Rama destroys her.

The second woman is Ahalya. Ahalya though virtuous in nature was found guilty of inner impurity. She gave into the charms of Indra who came to her in guise of her husband even though she inwardly suspected this was Indra. Her husband Sage Gautama on knowing her impure thoughts through divine insight, cursed her to become a stone until Sri Rama blesses her. Sri Rama blesses her by the touch of his feet and the stone becomes a pure Ahalya again. Ahalya is Rajas and Sri Rama transmutes her.

The third woman is Sita. Sita is the embodiment of purity and virtues. She is Sattwa and so Rama embraces her and makes her his own.

Thus Divine grace destroys Tamas, transmutes Rajas and embraces Sattwa.


THE BANISHMENT

Queen Kaikeyi (Tamas), who loves Rama as much as her Bharata, under the influence of the crooked Manthara (evil thought or temptation) seeks to influence King Dashartha (Mind) towards banishing Rama (Soul consciousness) in favor of Bharata (Body consciousness). This is in line with the biblical story of Adam and Eve where the serpent tempts the female energy of Eve to influence the Reasoning energy Adam leading to the fall from paradise. And so Rama leaves Ayodhya banished for 14 years, accompanied by Lakshmana and Sita. Dasharatha suffers immensely due to parting with Rama leading to his death. The ego/mind suffers immensely when under the influence of tamasic qualities it banishes our divine consciousness within.


THE 14 YEARS

The banishment of 14 years has deep esoteric meaning. In a human body are 7 chakras. The top most is Sahasrara (Ayodhya) and the bottom most is the Muladhara (Lanka- filled with pleasure of the senses). 14 is 7+7. The 14 year banishment is the journey of the Divine Atma descending from the highest chakra to the lowest chakra and finally by supreme self effort of spiritual discipline (the war at Lanka) ascending from the lowest chakra to the highest. This is a banishment every single embodied soul faces. Thus we are all Ramas (individual Atmas) living to make our way back to our kingdom of Ayodhya (Self Realisation).


BHARATAS SORROW

When Bharata (Awakened Body Consciousness) comes to know of the banishment of his dear brother, he immediately renounces his mother (tamas) and father (influenced mind) and sets out to seek Sri Rama to return and surrender over the bodily kingdom. Sri Rama lovingly asks Bharata to be a good king of Ayodhya. But Bharata refuses and taking the sandals of Sri Rama and rules Ayodhya in proxy. This signifies that in an advanced state the awakened body consciousness gives up its claim on the body and senses knowing it to belong to divinity and rules the body on behalf of the soul while it waits for complete enlightenment (Sri Rama’s return)


4 YUGAS IN THE FOREST

Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana live in the forest during their years of banishment. Sita here represents an ideal devotee. Lakshmana represents one-pointed devotion and Sri Rama is God or the Divine consciousness. Thus a devotee lives with pure devotion in divine consciousness. They dwell in Chitrakoot in joy and simplicity in company of Sages, the beautiful flora and fauna and birds and beasts. This signifies the Golden Age or the Satya Yuga.


When the demon takes the guise of the golden deer it appeals to the mind of Sita (devotee) and a desire arises within her. Due to her desire for the illusive golden deer, Sri Rama (divine consciousness) leaves her to pursue the deer.
This is descending to the Silver Age or the Treta Yuga, marked by the arrival of desire and the departure of Divine consciousness.

Sri Rama in pursuing the illusive Golden deer, eventually shoots it to death. All desires like the deer that appears golden but is a demon within, promise joy but lead to sorrow. Sri Rama though having the capability of catching the deer (desire) destroys it knowing it's illusory nature.


Back in their hut now remain Sita (devotee) and Lakshmana (one-pointed devotion). This is the state of the Dwapara Yuga or the Bronze age, a state where pure devotion exists but Divine consciousness is lacking. The presence of this one-pointed devotion is what gives the devotee complete protection. However things change when Sita getting anxious for Rama tries to send Lakshmana away. Sri Lakshmana refuses to leave keeping in mind his promise to his brother to protect Sita at all costs. But in a state of delusion Sita (devotee) accuses Lakshmana (devotion) of being impure and forcing him to leave.

How do we understand this? Devotion to God is a devotee's greatest protection. Often a devotee who has been following spiritual practices for long may find no effect or instant fruits of his efforts. When temptations come and try to lure him away, the devotee may give up what little discipline (Lakshmana) he may be following, thereby losing all connection with the divinity within and becoming vulnerable to be taken over by the lower evil self.


Here then comes the final state of existence. Lakshmana, pressured by Sita agrees to leave. Before leaving Lakshmana using his powers, draws a boundary around the hut, beseeching Sita to remain at all times and at all costs within the boundary for protection, until they return. Saying thus, a reluctant Lakshmana leaves Sita behind all by herself. This is the Kali or the Iron/Dark age, wherein a devotee is left all by him/herself with only the Lakshmana rekha as his/her protection.


THE LAKSHMANA REKHA

The Lakshmana rekha drawn to protect Sita, has deep significance. Sita here represents both a human and a woman. It is interesting to note that at no point before in the story (in any other age) was any boundary drawn for protection. A human (Sita) is free as long as it has Divine consciousness and/or one-pointed devotion as its company. The need for the boundary comes in place where Sita is alone (Kali age) meaning where a devotee or a human is bereft of any spiritual consciousness for its protection. 

The Lakshmana Rekha are the moral and social codes of conduct that humans should strictly adhere to in the Kali age if they are to safe guard and protect themselves. These do’s and don’ts seen as restrictive and unwanted by modern society, play a role in protecting the inner sanctity of the soul which the ignorant humanity is utterly unaware of.

To be under restriction is not a state appreciated by humans and rightly so as it stands against our inner idea of freedom.. However just as a little baby is put in a crib for its protection; just as you build a fence around a young plant, so also you put these codes around humans in the kali age who are spiritually vulnerable or in a baby state, to protect them from the ever active maya temptations (Ravana) that can cause their downfall spiritually. Once the baby grows into a full fledged human (becomes God conscious) or when the plant grows into a strong tree, neither need a fence to protect it.

Sadly humanity today has long breached this Lakshmana rekha. Man and even women, considered the custodians of virtue, have long renounced these codes and volunteered themselves to be held captive by baser thoughts and feelings, all in the name of freedom and liberation.

Because humanity does not understand the use of the moral codes, they often use it in wrong ways or to suppress others. Codes of virtue then become weapons of suppression. Yet even then they cannot and should not be discarded. What is needed is wisdom of understanding.

These codes are true for every religion. It is interesting to note that while the teachings of the higher ages were so deep and profound these moral codes seem like child's babble before them. The insightful Vedas and Upanishads came to us in the Satya and Treta age.. The pure wisdom of the Gita came to us in the Dwapara age. And what came to us in the Kali age? Codes like the ten commandments – Thou shall not steal, shall not lie, shall not … These simple codes do not reflect on any lesser understanding of Moses; it simply is catering to a level of humanity that has lost its connection with higher understanding. The profound made way for the basic and simple. Yet we struggle to live up to these codes and fail them again and again. And what are the consequences? It is best learned from the Ramayana.



CROSSING THE  BOUNDARY

The demon king Ravana (representing the lower mind) yearns to capture the vulnerable Sita (devotee). Taking the guise of a Sadhu (evil camouflaged as good) he tries to lure Sita away from the boundary so that she can be captured. This teaches us that no teacher who is true will ever lure you away from what is good for your soul. In the modern age even God and religion is sold under false pretext to lure people under its fold for political and financial reasons.

Sita though not tempted in any way, purely out of good intent and respect for the disguised sadhu makes the mistake of crossing the boundary with dire consequences. This teaches us that no matter how good the reason one must not go against what our Dharma or conscience prohibits us from.. Never give in to the lower mind, no matter what the temptations.


SITA CAPTURED

As Sita crosses the boundary, Ravan the lower mind, captures her and takes her away to his kingdom where she is held captive, lost to the knowledge of Rama and Lakshmana (Divinity and devotion). One desire leads Sita from the presence of Sri Rama to being the captive of the evil Ravana. From here enormous efforts have to be made to bring Sita back, leading to an all out war where thousands are killed on both sides. Even victory cannot bring things to their pristine state, as Sita is first made to undergo the fire test to prove her purity. Despite her success in proving herself, Sita eventually is sent away from the kingdom when a subject doubts her purity and raises question on Rama the king.

This also has meaning at the mystical level where Sita represents the Kundalini shakti as well as a devotee and a woman. The Kundalini Shakti is found coiled in the muladhara chakra (Lanka). When the Kundalini rises it has to pass through the fire chakra - manipura before it can ascend to the highest chakra of Sahasrara (Ayodhya). This signifies that each devotee who has lived on earth being captive to the lower mind has to pass through severe tests to prove their purity and worthiness to reclaim their pure divine nature.

Sita was captured for a period of 9 months. During this time Ravana used many lures, tricks and threats to bring her into his fold. But Sita, one-pointed in her thought of Rama, never gave in. All of humanity is Sita. Captured by our base mind we face lures and temptations, fears and deceits in life, but we must at all times be take shelter in the God within to protect our inner sanctity and purity. 


THE VANARA SENA

On their return and finding their hut empty, Sri Rama and Lakshmana seek out Sita. This represents the state of the early seeker on the spiritual path who is keen to find something which its soul deeply seeks but he has no understanding of what it is and where and how to find it.

It is here that Sri Rama meets Hanuman, Sugriva and the Vanara sena.

Monkeys are restless in nature. The Vanara sena represents the controlled Prana shakti which in a worldly man runs hither and tither with no direction or control making him restless. Hanuman (Vayu shakti – son of Wind God) is primary of these prana shaktis which through supreme will power (Yoga sadhana) has brought itself in control and dedicated itself to the seeking soul consciousness or Rama. Sugriva literally means Su – good, Griva – throat. The throat is the most important body part while performing Yoga sadhana in order to control and keeping the prana in check. Hence Sugriva is the king of the vanaras. 

The Vanara sena (prana shakti) now forms an alliance with Sri Rama and helps to seek out Sita (the Kundalini Shakti) in its war against the demons of the lower mind.



HANUMAN SEEKS SITA

Hanuman, the mighty vanara hero, the ideal devotee, sets out on a mission to seek Sita. Here Hanuman represents the will power that initiates man in his search for emancipation. In his approach to Lanka, Hanuman leaps over the ocean. As Lanka is the Muladhara chakra, the ocean is the Swadhistan chakra (Element wise the Swadhistan chakra represents water.) It also is the chakra of the sex organ. Hanuman, a pure celibate, thus never puts even a foot on the ocean to rest.

Entering Lanka, Hanuman seeks out Mother Sita through the opulent city. This is the state of an early seeker on the spiritual path who seeks eternal truth through the myriad temptations and attractions of the world. 
Upon finding Mother Sita, Hanuman is delighted as Sita sheds tears of joy. When a sincere spiritual aspirant finds the truth of his Self, there is much inner rejoicing and elation upon discovering our Divine nature even if in theory. 
Thereupon Hanuman challenges the demons and ends up burning the city of Lanka.  Here the devotee in wanting to pursue the spiritual path to achieve absolute freedom,  throws a challenge at the lower self and sees through (Burns) all the illusory attractions that the lower self has to offer thereby revealing its reality.

At one point Hanuman offers to free Mother Sita by himself and take her back to Sri Rama, but Sita refuses this offer. Here again Sita represents Kundalini Shakti. By affirming to Hanuman that only Sri Rama should come and free her, Sitaji is saying that the Kundalini Shakti should not be attempted to be raised for any reason other than God realization alone. Many sadhaks seek to awaken the kundalini for the wrong reasons using various mystical techniques. Awakening the Kundalini may lead to siddhis which at best will delude and delay a devotee. The Kundalini must therefore be awakened by Rama, for Rama and towards Rama. When devotion towards God is pure the Kundalini raises itself naturally without any need to prompt it.



THE WAR BEGINS


The war of Ramayana is an inner war. The warriors of both sides are within us. Ravana is the Rajas within that dominates and activates our lower self. The mighty Kumbhakaran is Tamas that loves to procrastinate any spiritual efforts. Vibhishana is the Sattwa quality within, representing the good within the lower mind that knows its flaws and weaknesses and brings it forward to help the aspirant defeat the lower self.

Rama is the inner Guru or light that leads the aspirant in the war (spiritual sadhana) with the help of concentration (Lakshmana) devotion and will power (Hanuman) and disciplined prana shakti (Vanara sena).

The various demons aiding Ravana are the various weaknesses and desires that cause the downfall of man. Meghanada is a powerful general who can single handedly cause havoc. Megha means cloud or cloudy. Meghanada represents a clouded, confused, chaotic restless mind that prevents any sincere devotee from meditating on truth. Meghanada thus is the natural foe of Lakshmana (One-pointed concentration), and Rama uses Lakshmana to counter Meghanad.


During the battle however Meghanada uses the Naag paash weapons and manages to bind both brothers leading them to near death state. One of the common lure of the restless mind is the lust thought or temptations (Naag – Snake weapon). Thoughts of lust can easily break concentration and take one away from Divine consciousness. It is a potent weapon used by the lower mind in its battle against the freedom seeking sadhak. Interesting to note is the fact that even in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, it was a serpent that came  to lure Eve and Adam into lust consciousness.

Snakes crawl on earth and live in holes underneath the earth. Sex temptations keep an aspirant down and deep within worldly consciousness. During the war it is Garuda the celestial bird, that comes to aid and frees the brothers from the snake weapon. Birds fly high in the sky, away from earth. Garuda is divine thoughts and lofty inspiration that can help the aspirant regain concentration and Divine consciousness (Lakshmana and Rama).


Meghanada in his final attempt to destroy Sri Rama’s army, plans to initiate a yagna performing which he will become invincible in the war. It is Vibhishana, the good side of the lower self which brings to fore this information urging Sri Rama to act immediately. The yagna which is performed to appease the darker aspect of Shakti energy, signifies that the lower restless mind attempting to commit the aspirant to the sensations of lust which when fully awakened pulls the consciousness down making spiritual sadhana impossible.


Vibhishana urges Rama to act immediately before the yagna begins and not wait to engage Meghanada post the yagna which will then be too late. This is best explained by a advice that Sri Paramahansa Yogananda would give His disciples that whenever temptation comes in any form – Say No and get out of that place immediately and reason later. If you try to reason or deal with the temptation on the spot, you will most likely fail. Thus Sri Rama sends Hanumana  and Lakshmana (will power and concentration) to foil the plans of the restless mind. Finally it is Lakshmana who after intense battle manages to slay Meghanada. This should inspire all aspirants that no matter how restless one’s mind, it is deep and one-pointed concentration that is more powerful and can take you through all difficulties on the spiritual path.


THE RETURN

Finally Sri Rama defeats Ravana and Sita is freed. With the lower self defeated, the kundalini raises in order to ascend back to soul consciousness at the highest chakra  Sahasrara (Ayodhya). This is Moksha, the ultimate freedom that every soul seeks. 

In truth, Sri Rama and Ravana co-exist in an average human whose life is a constant war to reclaim the pure inner Sita lying captured as the dormant Kundalini at the Muladhara. This war wages not through a life, but through several lifetimes and incarnations. Smaller victories can be claimed by the Soul self or the Lower self at the end of each incarnation, however the battle continues as the fortunes of war change depending on the individuals effort. Until finally, when through supreme effort the sadhak through divine devotion, concentration and will power overcomes the lower self and frees the Kundalini reuniting it with the Purusha at the higher centers which results in enlightenment within. This enlightenment is celebrated as the festival of lights - Diwali when Sri Ramachandra returns to Ayodhya along with Sita and Lakshmana.

May we all awaken to the Rama within and find victory in the battlefield of life.


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