Kingly Education

[Lord Rama]“He is well trained in royal knowledge and gives honor to the brahmanas. He is full of knowledge, endowed with good conduct, and humble. He is a chastiser of the foe.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.13)

rāja vidyā vinītaḥ ca brāhmaṇānām upāsitā |
śrutavān śīla sampanno vinītaḥ ca param tapaḥ ||

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In one of the verses of the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna mentions the term “raja-vidya”. The translation is “king of education.” He is speaking the highest wisdom to the distressed warrior Arjuna. In order to remove Arjuna’s doubts, Krishna reveals the king of education, the secret of all secrets. The person who assimilates the knowledge will have learned something that far exceeds anything else taught. That knowledge is like a king since it rules over all others.

rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaṁ

pavitram idam uttamam

pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ

su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam

“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the same raja-vidya term is there, but the meaning is slightly different. The reason is the context. Here Shri Hanuman is describing Rama, the husband of Sita. Rama is actually the same Krishna, appearing on earth thousands of years before the son of Devaki did. Rama plays the role of warrior prince, the ideal protector in society. Rama is virtuous; in one sense dharma incarnate.

Raja means “king” or “royal” and vidya means “knowledge” or “education.” Hanuman means to say that Rama is trained in royal knowledge. What exactly is that? Isn’t the king the ruler of the land? What does he have to know? Just as in any other leadership post, the king has to deal with a lot. If you want to be at the top, you must be prepared to handle the most responsibility.

tata enaṁ gurur jñātvā


daityendraṁ darśayām āsa

mātṛ-mṛṣṭam alaṅkṛtam

“After some time, the teachers Shanda and Amarka thought that Prahlada Maharaja was sufficiently educated in the diplomatic affairs of pacifying public leaders, appeasing them by giving them lucrative posts, dividing and ruling over them, and punishing them in cases of disobedience. Then, one day, after Prahlada’s mother had personally washed the boy and dressed him nicely with sufficient ornaments, they presented him before his father.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.19)

The most pressing issue for the king is protection of the citizens. You can bet that there are at least a few people who would like to become king, to depose you. This makes them enemies, and you need a strategy for dealing with them. In Vedic philosophy there are the four principles of diplomacy: sama, dana, bheda, and danda. You can try to pacify someone with kind words. You can try to buy them off with gifts. You can try to divide and conquer, sowing dissension among their ranks. If all else fails, you can apply force, i.e. go to war.

The other qualities mentioned by Hanuman in this verse reveal more of what a royal education involves. He says that Rama honors the brahmanas. This appears contradictory, as the king is supposed to be the top person in the community. In ancient Vedic culture, the brahmanas get the most honor. They are not a threat since they possess very little. They don’t have the fighting spirit either, as they see every living creature as part and parcel of God. The king does well when he has respected and learned brahmanas in the community who get honor and respect themselves. The return for that honor is wisdom for prospering both materially and spiritually.

[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]Rama is also shrutavan. This word means “heard” and it also refers to the shrutis, which is another word for the Vedas. By extension, shrutavan means someone who is knowledgeable of the Vedas. Rama is trained in the military arts, but He also knows the highest truths of life. Of course, as the Supreme Lord He will know everything, but even when playing the role of king He does not lack any knowledge.

Hanuman says that Rama is endowed with shila, or good conduct. With great power comes great responsibility. It is easy to abuse power. Just think of the many wars in history. There have been so many great rulers who lost everything due to greed. In that respect, Rama is also vinita, or humble. Though He is the most knowledgeable, and though His conduct is supreme, He never thinks He is better than anyone else.

That humility doesn’t prevent Him from chastising the enemy, though. Humility is great, but if you’re in charge of protecting someone, you better do whatever you can to prevent foreign attack. You can’t use humility as an excuse to let others violate dharma and torment the innocent.

[Rama and Lakshmana firing arrows]As a chastiser of the foe, Shri Rama would eventually march to Lanka and rescue Sita. The king in Lanka was anything but humble, and though he thought he was educated in the royal science, he had no respect for brahmanas. He and his clan would regularly eat members of the priestly class after killing them. Ravana prospered materially, but since he was not shrutavan, since he did not respect God and His representatives, he would be on the receiving end of the great torment supplied by Rama.

In Closing:

How to properly rule king should know,

Not just following every sense urge to go.

Though highest the brahmanas must respect,

From their favor all prosperity to expect.

Humble and vigilant at the same time,

Rama in every area sublime.

To offender Ravana a real lesson giving,

When delivering just punishment unforgiving.

Categories: hanuman the messenger

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