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Musings on Sita's "agni-pravEsam"#16

From: sudarshan (
Date: Sat Dec 19 1998 - 01:30:19 PST

Dear members and friends who are following this thread,

We will now take up for discussion the matter of "vAkya-" or "sabda-"

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At many points while reading Srimad Ramayana one might fail to notice the
unusually meaningful words the poet Sri.Valmiki puts into the speech of
Sri.Rama-pirAn. If we, as reverential readers, are not attentive or sharp
enough to catch those rare, fleeting words and phrases, there is every
likelihood of our ignorantly and mechanically moving on to the rest of the
epic after having inadvertantly passed up an opportunity to pause, sit
back, reflect on and savour a key moment of lucid revelation in the
narrative proceedings of Valmiki.

In the "sundara-kAndam", the reaction of Sri.Rama when He receives HanumAn
just returning to Kishkinda from the adventure of a reconnaisance tour of
Lanka .... the first reactions and utterances of the Lord on seeing Hanuman
then is an extremely singular case in point. We described in some detail
that scene in Musing # 11 and you may please re-visit it again just to jog
your memory.

"kimAha sItA vaidEhi brUhi sowmya puna-ha puna-ha I
 pitAsumiva tOyEna singh~chanti vAkya-vAriNA II"     (Valmiki V.66.8)

...........He said.

"Tell me now.... once, twice, thrice ....and then again ("puna-ha puna-ha")
and again ...What were Her words?!! Tell me AnjanEya, now, tell me what
were Her words.... for it is those words that will revive me ....".
This is a very unusual reaction, isn't it?

A person has been separated from his spouse under violent and unfortunate
circumstances. The spouse has been abducted by a notoriously villainous
character. After several months spent in anxious search of her in the deep
jungles and valleys comes, at last, a messenger with news about the
spouse's whereabouts. Now what do you think would be the most natural
reaction of the husband on seeing the messenger?

I would say the first and the most spontaneous reaction would be : "Did you
see her? How is she?! Is she unharmed?! Unhurt?! Did you see any signs on
her.... signs of suffering, physical abuse, torture or violence?".

Sri.Rama's first words, on the other hand, were: "kimAha sItA vaidEhi brUhi
sowmya puna-ha puna-ha I pitAsumiva tOyEna singh~chanti vAkya-vAriNA I" !!

This statement of the Lord, "pitAsumiva tOyEna singh~chanti vAkya-vAriNA ",
virtually defies the spontaneous and the natural, the expected or the
predictable.... and from the point of view of a dramatist or playwright,
with any degree of keen sense for human emotion and behaviour, it would
also seem
downright incredible.... isn't it?

A few "shlOkA-s" later, we see something even more extraordinary!

Instead of proceeding to make eager and anxious inquiries about Sita's
state, condition, health or plight .... instead of asking Hanuman to
quickly report on such and similar findings of his from Lanka.... what do
we see Lord Rama instead doing ?!

We see Rama in that moment, suddenly and quite strangely, turn anxious and
fearful not so much for the sake of Sita condition as for His own !!

Look at Him speak out in the following verses:

"chiram jeevati vaidEhi yadi mAsam Dharishyathi I
 na jeevEyam kshaNamapi vinA tAmasi-tEkshaNAm II

 kimAha sItA hanumam-statvata-ha kaThamAdhya may I
EthEna Kalu jIvishyE bhEsha-jEnAturO yaThA II

 maDhurA maDhurAlApA kimAha mama BhAminI I
 madviheenA varArOhA hanumann kaThayasva may II " (V.66.10,14-15)

""Tell me what were Her words?... Tell me exactly ... what those words of
Hers were! For, I tell you, O HanumAn, it is those words which, like rain
drops on parched earth, will bring me back to life.... I beseech thee,
tarry not... Tell me what did She say? Do not keep anything back! Like a 
desperately sick man depending on the medicines of the physician I grapple
now for my very life that depends on the words she spoke to you .... those
sweet words  ("maDhurA maDhurAlApA kimAha mama BhAminI") the sweet words of
Hers that you now bring me!"

When you read the above verses, you can virtually hear the tremulous quiver
in Sri.Rama's voice.... the quavering despair too of a man gasping the
breath of near-death.... of a drowning soul clutching at a floating straw,
a twig, a leaf... at anything that might ensure a sudden reprieve and
survival... anything that will, at the last moment, avert a free-fall into
jaws of death, as it were....and save him too from perishment whose
imminence is a just a whisker of a moment away....!

We see Lord Rama is, in that dramatic moment, in very dire and mortal want
Sita Herself...not news about Her or Her whereabouts... or about Her state
plight....What He is, in His own words, most in dire need of is Sita's
"vAkya"... Her
"word"... Her "utterances"... "Her speech" !!!

It is indeed extremely significant that Lord Rama in this poignant scene
asks Hanuman to reproduce to Him, carefully and repeatedly, just the mere
"words of Sita".....""kimAha sItA vaidEhi brUhi sowmya puna-ha puna-ha I
pitAsumiva tOyEna singh~chanti vAkya-vAriNAI" !!

It is precisely at this momentous point in the story, too, that the
phrase...."vAkya-vAriNA".... in the context of Sri.Rama's feverish
references to it as the virtual elixir that will instantly BREATHE LIFE
into His dying strikes us then that the "vAkya" referred to
here by Sri.Valmiki is, allegorically speaking, nothing but
"vEda-vAkya".... the hallowed Word of the Vedas.... the "sabda-pramANam" of
the eternal 'sruti-s' !!

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Now, you may well turn around to me and ask,"Why should it peculiarly
strike you so?". What is the thread of association... if there is one at
all... what is the conceptual thread which ties together the 2 themes: one,
the desperate, plaintive cries of Rama about "vAkya-vAriNA" and, two, the
idea of the Vedic "sabdam", the Vedic Word ?

That thread of association is, quite simply, this .... and it is again
essentially Vedic
in nature and conception:

In the vedic tradition it is believed that the "LIFE-BREATH of the
"paramAtman" ...who is an eternal living Reality... His life-breath is in
the Vedas itself. That "paramAtman" too, like us,
CANNOT "live" without breathing, so to say!".

In the BrhadAranyaka Upanishad (2.4.10) there is a wonderful passage which
testifies to the fact that the Vedic Word ("sabda") is verily "the vital
breath" of
"para-brahmham". Conversely, it is said that the breath of "Brahmhan", the
very act of His respiration, constitutes the Vedas:

"sa yathA'rdraidhAgnerrAbhyAhitAtprthagdhUma vinischarantyevam vA are'sys
mahato bhUtasya nihsvasita-metadyadrgvedo yajurvedo sAmavedo tharvAngirasa
itihAsa purAnam vidyopanishadah slokAh sUtrAnyanuvyAkyAnAni
vyAkhyAnAnyasyaivaitAni nihsvasitAni I"

Now, the chief meaning of the Upanishad "vAkya" above is that the Rk, Yajus
the Sama Vedas are the very BREATH of "para-brahmham". The word
"nihsvasitam" is used... and it clearly means "vital breath".

Now, if it were so, and the Upanishad is right ... as we implicitly believe
it is always right...and indeed, too, if Lord Rama cried out to Hanuman to
quickly tell Him what Sita's words were ("vAkya-vAriNA") .... as otherwise,
a minute longer, He would no longer revive to life.... now if all that were
exactly so... then is it not reasonable for us to conclude that Sita's
was verily Rama's "vital breath".... the very elixir of life that would
revive Him like rain-drops enliven a parched tract of earth?

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On a careful consideration of all the above matters, can we not with a
certain amount of assurance, therefore, make bold to say that Sita's words
.... Her
"vAkya" which Sri.Rama-pirAn desperately yearned to hear from Hanuman ....
were Her
words not "veda-sabda".... "vEda-vAkya" in themselves?

And if we do indeed deem Her word, Her "vAkya" to be "veda-sabda" in
itself.... does it not follow  naturally that Her Word, in a deeply
allegorical but essential sense, could be nothing but the Truth .... since
the Vedas
themselves see and speak nothing but the eternal Truth? ("vedAhamEtam
purusham mahAntam...etc!")

And finally, could one such as Sita, whose very word constituted
"vEda-vAkya"... the eternal Verity of the Vedas ... the very "life-breath",
the "nihsvasitam" of Isvara....could one such as She, in Her own person and
morals, ever be un-Truthful ?! 

Impossible....unthinkable... is it not ?

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We will continue in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,