“Whose knowledge, speech, perception, qualities and mind are beyond illusion, the unborn one, that same Bhagavan, who is like a sach-chid-ananda cloud, out of His kindness performed activities in the form of a man.” (Dohavali, 114)
gyāna girā gotīta aja māyā mana guna pāra |
soi saccidānandaghana kara nara carita udāra ||
The body is a kind of holding cell. The spirit soul is amazing in so many ways. It withstands the changes brought on by the seasons. Through time alone nothing remains the same on the outside. The soul is the exception. Some say it is amazing, some don’t understand it at all, while some are trying their best to wrap their minds around the concept of transcendence and how the soul already possesses that property.
“Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.29)
If it has these amazing properties, why are individuals, who are souls at the core, suffering? Why do they go through birth and death? Why is there pain and distress? These temporary conditions relate to the body only. The knowledge, eternality and bliss, or sach-chid-ananda, get covered up to varying degrees by the type of body, which consists of a specific combination of gunas, which are material qualities.
The Supreme Lord, Bhagavan, is also spirit soul. As Goswami Tulsidas notes in the Dohavali, God is also sach-chid-ananda. The key distinction with Bhagavan is that the body is also spiritual. It is not limiting as is the case for the conditioned souls. Evidence is there in the avatara forms, especially those who appear to be human. Shri Rama is Bhagavan, though giving the visual of a son of a king.
Rama’s knowledge is transcendental. It is beyond maya, which is the illusory energy that helps to keep the properties of the otherwise amazing spirit soul in check. It is because of maya that I erroneously associate with the body. Maya makes me worry over the future, when in fact the sober-minded person already understands that everything is destined for destruction. No person escapes death.
Evidence of Rama’s amazing knowledge is there in the interactions with His brother Lakshmana. Rama is the eldest, and so one of Lakshmana’s names is Ramanuja. The younger brother follows the lead of the elder. Sometimes Lakshmana instructs Rama, but he makes sure to mention that the words were first heard through Rama.
“O hero, many times in the past You had spoken the same words of instruction to me. Of course how can anyone, be they even Brihaspati himself, be capable of instructing You?” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.18)
Another avatar of Bhagavan is Shri Krishna, and He is famously known for delivering the Bhagavad-gita to the bow-warrior Arjuna. This is the song of God, the wisdom of the ages, applicable to any person, during any time period.
Rama’s speech is both appropriate and pleasant to hear. Usually, these qualities are contradictory in general conversation. If I have to tell my friend that they are doing something wrong, they may not take it so well. They will get angry at me, even if what I am telling them is correct.
If I deliver only sweet words, how will others learn anything? A harsh tone is sometimes necessary to get a point across. With Shri Rama the contradiction vanishes. He is the Lord of speech, and anyone who speaks in the same way inherits the ability from Him.
I know what is going on in my life. Mind you, the perception isn’t perfect. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast two weeks ago. I was there. I experienced it. I made the decision. Still, the perception is now a thing of the past. Unless there is a record somewhere else, the observation is gone.
Even with perfect memory, the range is limited. I only know what is going on around me. I can’t tell what you are thinking. The only way I’ll know is if you tell me. The same goes for you. We all have limited ability in this department; hence the oft-asked question of, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make a sound.”
In steps the perception of Shri Rama. He is everywhere through His expansion of the Supersoul. This means that the tree always produces a sound, since at the very least Bhagavan is there for perception. He hears prayers coming from thousands of directions simultaneously.
Rama’s transcendental perception was witnessed directly in His dealings with the Rakshasas. Some of them would fight dirty, in that they would disappear from sight. Rama still defeated them in battle, locating them through sound.
Rama’s mind is not polluted by impure thoughts. He can remember everything and process the information. When asked to leave the kingdom and live like an ascetic in the forest for fourteen years, there was not a moment of hesitation. Rama gladly accepted the sudden reversal without a hitch. He took it as a wonderful opportunity to follow the orders of the father, despite how sad everyone would be at separation from Him. This is because His mind remained steady. Rama is atmarama, or completely satisfied in the self.
Gunas also imply ropes. As ropes are known to bind, gunas keep a conditioned spirit soul tied to the cycle of birth and death. They come in three different modes: goodness, passion and ignorance.
For Bhagavan the gunas refer to transcendental qualities. They are attributes belonging to the attribute-less one. The contradiction is resolved through understanding the supreme standing of Bhagavan. He is above any dichotomy of visible and invisible. His gunas are on display in the material world for our understanding.
Rama does not have any material qualities, and so He can do amazing things like make rocks float on the water. He can defend Himself against 14,000 fighters attacking simultaneously. He can defeat the powerful Ravana, the evil king of Lanka. He can give pleasure to every kind of species simply through the grace of His feet, which are lotus-like. And He can give liberation through something as basic as the sounds that represent Him: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Though in human form appearing,
Transcendental gunas, to bhaktas endearing.
Like mind sober and steady,
To hear all prayers ready.
Lakshmana knowledge to brother dejected,
Who through Him first accepted.
Speech both appropriate and sweet,
Presence alone ignorance to defeat.
Categories: the five