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Musings on a Homecoming-3

From: R.Balaji (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Sun May 03 1998 - 01:47:24 PDT

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s" of the Bhakti-Group,

Here are some excerptive gists from a discourse on the Ramayana by
Sri.Mukkur Swamy last week at Triplicane:

a) The Ramayana is a many-splendoured jewel. It can slake your
intellectual thirst; it can whet your literary appetite; it can give you
unfailing comfort of moral counsel; it is a magnificent hand-book of
reference to ethical human behaviour under inimical circumstances in
life (I might add from personal experience that it is also an
entertaining read on a dusty train journey anywhere in India !!).

b)Even if you were to baulk at approaching the Ramayana as "mere
mythology", you cannot miss noticing and appreciating its great treasury
of profoundly allegorical truth.

 For example, in the entire script of the Ramayana, you might, if you so
choose, cease regarding the characters of Rama, Bharatha, Lakshmana and
Shatrughna as dramatic characters. Instead, for a change, try and look
upon them as each personifying the 4 great "chatur-vida-arthA-s" or ENDS
of life. Look at them that way in the unfolding story of the Ramayana
and it will provide you with a different set of insights:

    Thus say,
            Rama         =  "dharma"
            Lakshmana    =  "artha"
            Bharatha     =  "mOksha"
            Shatrughnan  =  "kAma"

With the above equations in mind let's push the analysis along :

"dharma" as we all know is described as "the path of RIGHTFUL conduct in
life" (I deliberately desist from using the expression "righteous
conduct" as it always seems to me to smack of "self-righteousness").

"artha" is, briefly, described to us as the "material means of obtaining
fulfillment in life".

"kAma" is, again very briefly speaking, described to us as the "sum of
all desires that fuels our actions in life". "kAma" is the locomotor
that drives the engine of our journey through life. It is a tribute to
the wisdom of our great sages that they recognized "kAma" or Desire as
an inclusive element in the General Aims of Human Existence. (Most other
religious systems in the world we know are centrally pre-occupied with
the outright rejection of "desire" in the human heart) 

"mOkshA" is a term we are all very familiar with. It denotes eternal
liberation from mortal coils and from the cycle of re-birth. 
   
Now, in the Ramayana, one will certainly notice that in chapter after
chapter, "kAnda" after "kAnda", the respective fates of Rama and
Lakshmana are inseparably bound up with each other. Nothing happens
indeed to the one without affecting the circumstance of the other also,
isn't it ? So much so, we notice that Lakshmana hardly leaves Rama's
side for even as much as a moment right through the dramatic script! 
               
Quite similarly, we know from the story-line that Shatrughnan never left
the side of his brother Bharatha. They were indeed as inseparable and
intimate with each other as the other set of brothers, Rama and
Lakshmana. 

The allegorical moral to be derived from all this is :

    The 4 objectives of life ("chatur-vida-arthA") are in essence TWIN
in character and in alignment with each other i.e. they can be
paired-off as "dharma-ArthA" and "kAma-mOkshA". And so indeed they ought
to be in the life of man. 

    The attainment of "arthA" (the material means of fulfillment in
life) can be realised only through "dharmA" i.e. "rightful conduct".
Obtaining material fulfillment any other way will not be "arthA" but
"un-arthA" (non-fulfillment in life i.e. frustration of the true purpose
of human existence).

    "arthA" and "dharmA" are therefore to be regarded as inseparable and
inter-twined as were Rama and Lakshmana. Impairment of one causes
impairment to the other. Promotion of one accompanies promotion of the
other. There is a relentless, self-perpetuating law operating in all
this. You cannot attain true "arthA" by employing anything other than
"dharmA". And by corrollary, the ends of "arthA" (material fulfillment)
and the ends of "dharmA" (right conduct) ought never to exclude each
other.

    The entire story of the Ramayana, if you analyse it well, is indeed
nothing but a record of how the twin-principles of 'ArthA' and "dharma"
operated in inseparable tandem in the furtherance of the interests of
human society. Thus, as long as Rama and Lakshmana operated together we
saw how Sage Viswamitra realised his great social missions in life, the
sages of DandakAranya completed their lives' work, Ahalya and Sabari
found their fulfillment and how Sugriva and Vibheeshana had their
kingdoms restored to them. 

   We also see from the Ramayana how attempts to separate or divorce the
twin principles of "dharma" and "arthA" i.e. Rama and Lakshmana,
resulted in unfortunate events. The demoness Surpanaka, if you recall
wished to possess and ravish either Rama OR Lakshmana but there is no
record to show she propositioned both together (we must leave it to our
own imaginations to fathom what turn the story of the Ramayana would
have then taken!!). She soon perished. In the "Aranya-kAnda" Maricha too
manipulated the "separation" of Rama and Lakshmana temporarily and met
his fatal end soon thereafter. 

    Thus the message is subtle but very clear : the Pursuit of "ArthA"
or "material fulfillment" divorced from "dhArmi-c" considerations leads
to great un-happiness in the affairs of men in all times.   

      By the same token, "kAma" and "mOkshA" are what Shatrughnana and
Bharata were to each other. According to this life-principle, the only
human "desire" worth desiring is the desire for "mOksha"! All other
desires are inimical to the human condition.
 
  In the story of the Ramayana, references to Shatrughana are indeed
scant. Valmiki it is said has no more than 3 or 4 shlOkA-s earmarked for
this youngest scion of the Raghuvamsa family.

And yet in the few verses devoted to Shatrughna Valmiki extols his
greatness as a loyal and steadfast follower of Bharatha. 

Valmiki is actually extolling the highest and rarest of human
aspirations --- the "kAmA" that afflicts the "mu-mookshu" (the seeker of
liberation).

Bharatha as "mOkshA" and Shatrughna as "kAma" together thus represent
for Valmiki what is the natural and most primal urge of the human
species in its march towards spiritual evolution. 

Together they represent the eternal hankering ('kAma") of the human
spirit after its natural state called "mOkshA".

More on these weighty subjects later.

adiyEn,
sudarshan