The March Of Rama
Sunday, October 24, 2010
The central theme of the Ramayana is the exploration of the psyche within, the existential choices one makes as seeker — some of which are of a heroic nature and some of which have tragic dimensions. The cardinal theme of the ‘ayana’ or march of Rama, the Ramayana, is focused on challenges arising out of the high and exacting ideals of its characters, providing the material for a tale of duty and dignity, faith and friendship, love and longing; all held together by the quest for dharma or righteousness. Vedanta internalises the epic as a metaphor that is free of categorisations of good and evil. All characters represent various dimensions of our psyche; some dimensions presented as being useful and therefore to be nurtured in the seeker and others as hindrances or unnecessary and therefore to be rejected or moderated.
Sita personifies the inner struggle of the jivatma, the individual soul, which has got distanced from the Self. Even as she gets caught in a web of misfortune and tribulation to extricate herself from which she requires great resoluteness and strength of character, Sita’s story exemplifies the trials of the innocent jivatma, struggling to understand the power-desire matrix of the outside world — but which she must try to understand from a mature perspective to see the world as witness the way Rama does as he lives through his trials.
Rama personifies the more mature and evolved mind that willingly sacrifices personal desires to uphold truth at any cost, remaining balanced and optimistic in the face of severe challenges. Rama finds his own solutions to the daunting ethical dilemmas he faces, knowing that he will be judged severely for the choices he makes. His mature approach is ultimately put to the test as he faces public scorn and censure. Torn between his love and regard for Sita and the public call for her abandonment, Rama is faced with complexities that a seeker faces in the material world, with its pulls and pushes. The trial-by-fire that Sita is subject to is a trial of both Sita and Rama who both personify the seeking of one on the path that is free of dualities. One is an innocent mind which matures through gaining awareness of the manipulative egos of others; the other is a mature mind that makes a choice in a traumatic and tricky situation.
Ravana‘s is the competitive mind, confined by its desires. His ego mind seeks to control and possess everything around him for ego-gratification. He exemplifies the non-discriminating seeker, who, though scholarly and knowledgeable, does not ground that knowledge in a compassionate, universal vision. Blinded by arrogance, Ravana is unable to fulfill his dharma. His is also the spontaneous mind held captive by desire. Ravana personifies a mind that is a storehouse of desire rather than a tool of understanding. An egocentric mind is a threat to other minds and is capable of self-delusion, too. What is required is to unlearn and then relearn to cultivate a non-dualistic perspective.
Hanuman‘s is the alert and agile mind that understands the need to adapt and adjust creatively to difficult situations with the will power of a karma yogi. Devoid of ego, he is able to surrender completely to Divine Will, despite obstacles, with strength and confidence. He is in turn preceptor to Sita and Rama, who turn to him for a different perspective.
The Ramayana is the common man’s Upanishad. It explores the mind in all its dimensions, holding up a mirror to our internal turmoil and evolution.