On Rama: The Bhakti Mode


No matter how enriching historical and cultural analyses of the Ramayana may be for those who are inclined to such modes, a significant aspect of Hindu culture is that the major personages in the epic: Rama and Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, have acquired an exalted and sanctified status in the heart and soul of millions.  So we bow to their icons reverentially in places of worship and  sing devotional bhajans to them. When we listen to Saint Thyagaraja’s moving music dedicated to Rama or to (hari-katha) narrations of the epic, or when we recite with fellow-Hindus Sant Tulasi Das’s Ramcharitramanas,  we are touched in ways that no literal translation or scholarly exposition of the Ramayana can accomplish. In such contexts one is immersed in the bhakti mode where divine representations are the targets not just of respect and prostrations, but of a love that is expressed and experienced in the spiritual realm. This love can be ecstatic. To the bhakta (devotee of any religion):

God is there in the lepton’s heart

In galactic stretches too.

More ancient than the Cosmic start,

Yet, ever fresh and new.

Some prove a God, some disprove,

With logic as their start.

But no one can or ever will

Move God from the faithful’s heart.

Let mockers mock, and scholars say

Whatever they decide.

The God to whom the devout pray,

Isn’t proved, but felt inside.

And so we celebrate Sri Ramanavami as the birthday of Ramachandra as per Valmiki’s text. In this context, Rama not only stands for the perennial values of truth and justice, of respect for parents, and adherence to the given word, but is also, and more importantly, Divinity Incarnate. This year, the celebration happens to be today: March 24, 2010.

On this auspicious day in the Hindu calendar, I would like to convey my greetings to all who are affiliated to the  spiritual plane of the tradition. Let us reflect on the vision of the ideal state of Ramrâjya as conceived by the sage-poets of India.

RAMRAJYA

It has been said in the distant past

When the great Rama ruled,

No disease there was, nor early death,

Nor persons there unschooled.

No man did die in his productive phase,

Leaving behind a wife.

Nor mothers wailed the loss of babes

That died in early life.

No thieves there were, nor cheats, nor crooks;

All did whate’er they should.

All loved and cared for those who lived

In their neighborhood.

Plants and trees did richly grow,

Yielding fruits and grains,

The earth itself enriched the land

With steady and regular rains.

No lightning, thunder or blazing fire

Did bring to hearts alarm;

No gale or hale or quakes that would

Cause to people harm.

With valleys green and flowing streams

All Nature smiled so well,

Men toiled hard and produced goods,

Traders things did sell.

There was law and order, justice fair

In that ancient realm:

That was the kingdom which had the great

Rama at its helm.

We wish and pray for that ideal world

Of which our sage-poets spake.

We need the goodwill of one and all

Such a world again to make.

In the midst of all the hurt and hate

Will it ever come to be?

Not today, but perhaps some day,

The world may Ramrajya see.

March 24, 2010

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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