Two perspectives are possible with respect to Srimad Ramayana.
veda vedye pare puṃsi jāte daśarathātmaje ।
vedaḥpracetasādāsīd sākṣād rāmāyaṇātmanā ॥
- When the omnipotent, omniscient and the Omnipresent Almighty who can be known only through Veda, took birth as a son of Dasharatha, the most precious Veda has been rendered as Ramayana by the sage Prachetasa.(Valmiki).
- Sri Rama was born as a human and then elevated to become Mahavishnu. Accordingly, the Ramayana authored by Valmiki became akin to the Veda.
The first perspective stems from an expectation of divine blessings. The second perspective is derived from earning qualification.
Both are different perspectives but they are not opposed to each other. Milk and ghee are different but they’re not opposites. Jackfruit and honey are different but they’re not enemies. Both mix with each other.
The chief intent in the first perspective is a desire to expect Prasada, or the fruit of divine blessings. Sri Rama is the living embodiment of the Divine. He is compassionate. The fact that those who seek refuge in Him will have their wishes satisfied is self-evident. Therefore, devotion in Sri Rama is the highest instrument for attaining virtue and auspices. In this realm, there is no scope for questioning and investigation. Duty is unshakeable conviction.
In the second perspective, sturdiness of attempt is the chief intent. Sri Rama is the embodiment of the ideal of the virtue of humanity. Although he is an Avatar of the Bhagavan, it is an Avatar taken for the benefit of guiding humankind. The story of Sri Rama is a fine illustration of this – how a human can attain the Highest State by transcending all the tribulations of worldly life through self-restraint, self-introsection, self-education, self-attempt and self-valour. Sri Rama is a Dharma Guru worthy of emulation by all humans. He is the personification of the Bhagavad Gita’s immortal line, uddhared atmanatmanam.
Of the two, which is the incorrect perspective? The answer: neither. Which is the correct one? The answer: Both. Can’t the Divine be a Guru? Can’t the Guru become the Divine?
yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau ||( Shwetashvatara Upanishad: 6-23)
According to the predilection of the Inner Life of the devotee, Sri Rama who was his Deity in the morning can become his Guru by afternoon if he is in the throes of an ethical or moral dilemma; at night when he is in deep meditation, Sri Rama can become the symbol of the Parabrahma.
ramante yogino 'nante satyananda-cid-atmani |
iti rama-padenasau param brahmabhidhiyate || (Ramapurvatapinnyupanishad)
The Yogis derive unlimited transcendental pleasures from the Absolute Truth, and therefore the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of the Divine, is also known as Rama.
It is my belief that the word “Rama” was originally used to denote the Parabrahman. Perhaps that word was used as the name of human beings even before Dasharatha’s period. Jamadagni’s son Parashurama was much older than Raghurama [i.e. Sri Rama]. Perhaps there existed other people with the name, Rama, as well.
rāmaḥ krātujāteyo vaiyāghrapadyaḥ I|| (Jaimini Upanishad)
Valmiki desired to know about the human from Narada.
maharshe thvam samarthopi gnathumevam vidham naram || (Balakanda: 1-5)
And Narada spoke about the human.
tairyuktaḥ śrūyatāṃ naraḥ || (Balakanda: 1-7)
Sri Ramachandra considered himself as a human being.
ātmānam mānuṣaṃ manye rāmam dasarathāthmajam || (Yuddhakanda: 120-10)
Brahma and the other Deities praised this Sri Rama as Vishnu himself.
Sri Rama himself narrates how he also suffered all the emotional sufferings and tumults just as other human beings. This makes him close to us and shows to us that it is possible for us to emulate him.
Details of Time and Place
There are no concrete evidences to accurately fix the details of Valmiki Maharshi’s period, geography, and various episodes of his life. Sri Rama’s Avatara occurred in the Treta Yuga. From the Ramayana, we learn that Valmiki was a contemporary of Sri Rama.
From the period of Sri Rama’s Avatar, up to the present—that is, 1966, the Vishwavasu Samvatsara—eight lakhs ninety nine thousand and sixty six years have elapsed. This is our traditional calculation, derived as follows:
Remainder of the Treta Yuga = 30,000 years
Dwapara Yuga=8,64,000 years
Total= 8,99,066 years
The westerners do not accept that the Ramayana is so ancient. They simply cannot get themselves to admit that India’s civilization is far more ancient than their own. They have given an estimation saying that the period of the composition of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata is between 500 BCE and 200 CE. According to one guesswork, the Ramayana was composed first in these seven hundred years followed by the Mahabharata. The scholar Winternitz says the following:
It is probable that Ramayana had its present extent and contents as early as towards the close of the second century A.D…It is probable that the original Ramayana was composed in the third century B.C. by Valmiki on the basis of ancient ballads.
This is a half-baked approximation of hypothetical probabilities. There are no unambiguous reasons to accept this. This matter has been quoted here to show how impossible the problem is. Majority of the source evidences of the ancient history of our country have been lost, scattered and buried in the depths of the earth and sea. Of late, some efforts have been ongoing in the direction of excavating them and engaging in their research. The archeological remains at Harappa Mohenjodaro date back much before 2000 BCE. The more such excavations are undertaken, the greater the antiquity of our civilization is established. Let us wait and watch.
The Ashrama of Valmiki Maharshi was located on the banks of the Tamasa River, in the region of the Ganga. We learn of this fact from the Ramayana itself.
Because he was born in the lineage of a Rishi named Prachetas, he was also known as Praachetasa. That Rishi was one of the ten Rishis created by Brahma, the Deity of Creation.
patīn prajānāmasṛjaṃ maharṣīnādito daśa ||
marīciṃ atri āṅgīrasau pulastyaṃ pulahaṃ kratuṃ ||
pracetasaṃ vasisṭham ca bhṛguṃ nāradameva ca || (Manusmriti: 1-35)
There is a very famous story regarding Valmiki created by the exponents of Harikatha—perhaps, largely, Kannadigas. Valmiki somehow fell into the company of bandits and attacked innocent travelers, beat them up and extorted their money. This was how he earned his food. One day when Narada was accosted by him, the latter took pity on him, showed him the error of his ways and got him to repent for his sins. When Valmiki asked him for forgiveness, Narada showed him a tree and advised him, “have faith in it and chant its name.” Accordingly, when he began to chant, “Mara, Mara, Mara,” [Mara=Tree in Kannada], the name, “Rama” occurred to his mind. Thus, as he meditated upon Rama, the latter appeared before him after which he became the poet of the Ramayana. This is the story.
In which language did Valmiki and Narada speak? If it was in Sanskrit, then the word, “Mara” is not a synonym for “tree” in that language. The meaning of the word, “Mara” in both Kannada and Tamil is “a fully grown plant.” However, this is not present in either Telugu or Hindi. So, was Valmiki Maharshi a Kannadiga or a Tamilian?
We can regard this as a mere story and take leave from it at this point.
To be continued