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Musings on sita's "agni-pravesam" #18

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Thu Dec 24 1998 - 22:55:37 PST

Dear members and friends who are following this thread,

"vedavEdyE parE pumsi jatE dasarathAtmajE
   veda: prAcEtasAdAsitsAkshAt-rAmAyanAtmanA II "

The truth of the above Sanskrit stanza is evident nowhere else in the 
Ramayana more strongly than in the "sundara-kAndam". Of the 7
'kAndA-s" of the epic it is the "sundara-kAnda" more than the others that 
has captured the primacy and pride of place in the scriptural traditions of
India and its peoples.

The pre-eminent position of the "sundara-kAnda" in the religious life of
the peoples of India remains unshaken to this day.

In thousands of homesteads in India it is very common to come across
regular recitations being conducted of the 'sundara-kAnda' as even part of
daily worship and sacrament. If there are elders in your family you can be
sure they will constantly keep reminding the rest of the household about
the importance of doing "parAyaNam" of this particular chapter of the epic
as often as
possible. If not daily, one can be sure selected verses from certain
'sargA-s" of this "kAnda" will be recited on special domestic occasions and
events.

The family elders in fact will never tire of urging the rest of the family
to help keep the "sounds" or cadences ("Dhvani") of the "sundara-kAnda"
ringing as long as possible... and to keep them lingering about the house
constantly.... just as constantly as the sacrificial fires in the house of
a devout "agni-hOtri" would be kept ceaselessly aflame. "When the "sounds"
of the verses from the "sundara-kAnda"", you might often come across a
family-elder repeating,"When those "sounds" fill the air and spaces of our
home they create an "air", as it were, of auspiciousness everywhere.... and
they keep everyone's heart filled to the brim with a holy wholesomeness
hard to describe!"

It is not uncommon to find the "sundara-kAndam" also being prescribed in
family-circles as a standard, all-purpose, all-effective panacea for all
sorts of mental or spiritual ailments... a sort of "sarva-rOga-nivAraNi".

When our minds are troubled or unhinged, when the path of life is strewn
(as it often appears to most of us) with seemingly insurmountable
obstacles, when in the dark hour of a nameless despair we grope around for
the directions we must pursue in life..... Or when we encounter situations
(as we inevitably do in the course of life) of bitter separation,
estrangement or bereavement from those who are dear to us.... Or when we
silently suffer (as we again often perforce do in life) the anguish and
pain of some privation or loss ...Or when we have to bear the lonely cross
ourselves of some heavy burden which under compelling circumstance of
personal
state we are able to share with none in the world ...... In all such
situations in which we as frail mortals feel we have reached the end of our
spiritual tether....when we feel there is not a soul in the world to
commiserate with us.... In all such situations a patient and faithful
reading of the
"sundara-kAndam" will be readily recommended to us by the wisdom which the
ancient forefathers bequeathed to posterity through the sage counsel of the
living family-elder in our respective homes.

It is to be noted that of all the hallowed verses of the "sundara-kAnda",
the passages describing the encounter between Hanuman and Sita-pirAtti in
Asokavana and the unique, nocturnel dialogue they privately engaged in
while the rest of Lanka slumbered.... those particular passages, it is
believed,
possess a very special Vedic pungence ("nigama-parimalam") .... a pungence
so strong in muted suggestion of Vedantic/Upanishadic verity that they
simply have no parallel anywhere else in the Ramayana. 

Now, the principal reason why the very sound of the verses of the
"sundara-kAndam" is held to be "auspicious and wholesome" is this:

Of the 7 parts of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, it is in this one that the poet
has
employed almost numberless metaphors, imagery, allegory, suggestions and 
'double-entendres' of Vedic Truth. It is believed that the hallowed
"veda-sabda" 
---- at once sonorous and healing, revelatory and soul-uplifting in its
originally hymnal or incantatory form ---- that very ' veda-sabda'  has
been in many
ways captured and reproduced by Sri.Valmiki in the graces and rhythms of
the poetic "sargA-s" that fill the pages of this wonderful "kAnda". 

The great Masters of the past, our "purvAchAryA-s" like
Sri.Tirumalai-nambi, aver that it is no exaggeration to say the
"sundara-kAndam" is a virtual "vedArtha-samngraham".... an exquisite
epitome of both the Vedic "Word and Spirit"... of Vedic Form and Substance!


The "aggregate of effects" of such verses as remain composed in the
"sundara-kAndam".... I mean the aggregate of tonal, metric, phonetic,
semantic, not to mention the effects on the complex of our physiological,
motor, sensory and nervous systems as well as on the conscious and
subliminal layers of our psychology ... the total impact on mind,
intellect and soul .... the aggregate of all such effects produced by
constant reading or recitation of the "sundara-kAnda", it is believed, is
sufficient to promote in us the same level of heightened consciousness
which long years of relentless "vedAbhyAsa" are said to have induced
amongst the great "rshi-s" of yore and helped them attain the acme of
Vedic insight into Truth.... the same "para-brahmi-c" Truth we saw
described in the celebrated lines of the "purusha-suktam" as :
"veEdahamEtam purusham mahAntam, Adityavarnam tamasas parastAt....".

**********     ***********         **************
If you reflect deeply about it you will not fail to be impressed by the
fact that the philosophical loftiness of the "sundara-kAnda" actually
revolves around a single, almost commonplace event in the larger drama of
the Ramayana. That event, if you were to describe it in a single pithy
line,
is this and this alone: 

  "HanumAn sailed forth to Lanka and returned to deliver the "Word of
Sita" to Sri.Rama!".

In plain words, nothing more and nothing less ....indeed !

And yet .... and yet for having brought Him merely the "Word and Message of
Sita".... "vAkya-vAriNa" ..... we see Sri.Rama crowning Anjaneya with rare
and most glowing encomiums ... the sort which He bestowed on none others in
the entire Ramayana :

"krutam hanumatA kAryam sumahaDhruvi dushkaram I
   manasApi yadanyEna na shakyam DharaNItalE II "     (VI.1.2)

"What another man cannot even begin to think of in his conception, that
this Hanuman has indeed performed for Me !"

"idam tu mama dInasya manO Bhuyaha prakarshati I
  yadihAsya priyAKhyAturna kurmi sadrusham priyam II

"Esha sarva-svaBhutastu parishvangO hanumataha I
  mayA kAlamimam prApya dattash~chAstu mahAtmana-ha II " (VI.I.13-14)

"I cannot think of a fitting reward to give you, O Hanuman, you who have
brought me this heavenly "Word" (the "vAkya-vAriNA" of Sita) ! But I can
give off Myself to you, My dearest One !  Here is my body.... take it !
Here it is! It is all yours! I shall embrace you warmly, tightly with it...
I will hug you to my bosom!!"

Dear members and friends, now what more could Hanuman want in all the 3
worlds?! 

To be gathered into the arms of the Almighty Himself and .... enveloped
into the endless beatitude of "mOksham" on earthly soil.....!!  What an
experience, indeed !!!

**********        **************         ***************

Thus, we see how the Vedic "sabda", the Vedic Word incarnated as it were in
the poetic graces of Valmiki's "sundara-kAnda", was gathered from Asokavana
by Hanuman, from the very "sounds of the sweet speech" of Sita-pirAtti
("maDhurA
maDhurAlApA kimAha mama BhAminI "!), and conveyed to Sri.Rama just in time
to resuscitate Him from a state of grievous debilitation caused by the long
period of separation from Sita .... a period during which He suffered the
deprivation of that Vedic "vital-breath" the "brhadaranyaka
upanishad" describe as "nihsvasitam" of the "parE pumsi".....

It was for the "Word of Sita"... that incarnated form of "Veda-sabdam" that
was restored to Him ...it was for "Her Word" that Lord Rama rewarded
Hanuman with the experience of "mOksham-ic" bliss on earth.

It was the "Word of Sita" ... verily the eternal "vedic pramaNa" --- the
unsullied, unblemished Truth of Her own pristinity ---- it was that "vAkya"
which resuscitated Lord Rama .... in exactly the same manner as we saw it
being explained above, a recitation of the stanzas of the "sundara-kAnda"
resuscitates us from the afflictions of our own earthly condition and
adversity..... 

We will continue in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
sudarsan