“All of these subjects in the Ramayana seem very pitiable, and they may appear to be very distressing to the reciter, but actually this is not so. Otherwise, why would Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Ramachandra, read daily about the activities of Lord Ramachandra, as described in the Ramayana itself?” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 34)
“I thought devotional service is known as hari-sharanam? This means receiving the shelter of the Supreme Lord, whose many names include Hari, the one who takes away distresses. In studying the life of Shri Rama, as described in the Ramayana, we see that the closer people are to Him, the more distress they suffer. I thought it should be the other way around. I can give you examples.”
He is the birth-father. The janma of the Supreme Lord is a little different. It is Divine in nature, divyam. In fact, one who knows this key truth, which extends to the work [karma], is assured liberation.
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम्
एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर् जन्म
नैति माम् एति सो ’र्जुन
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
Dasharatha is a pious king, head of the Ikshvaku dynasty for a period of time. The sole blemish relates to family life. He has no heir to the throne, and thus no one to keep the tradition of dharma going. At the recommendation of a priest he conducts a sacrifice. The remnants, the prasadam, get divided amongst the queens, who then become pregnant.
Thus the avatara of the Supreme Lord who is the embodiment of dharma gives the external cause of a yajna to bring about His appearance. Rama is the eldest son, and a complete incarnation of the Supreme Lord. The three younger brothers, born to the other queens, are partial incarnations of Bhagavan.
Dasharatha is obviously full of joy, but later on because of the very same Rama there is tremendous distress. The pain is too much to bear. Dasharatha eventually quits his body because he can’t tolerate being separated from his beloved son for the potential of fourteen years.
He is the next in line, the younger brother born to Queen Kaikeyi. Rama is agraja, or the eldest; the one whom others follow. The brothers are anuja; they follow the lead of the eldest. Since the relation is to Rama, the three other brothers can go by the name Ramanuja.
Bharata loves Rama so much and he takes great joy in being so close in association. But he gets the worst news of his life when he learns that Dasharatha has passed on. Making matters worse, the cause is his own mother. Kaikeyi asked that Rama be banished from the kingdom and that Bharata be made the next king.
The son of Kaikeyi suffers so much because of feeling that he is the reason for Rama leaving the kingdom and the father passing away. He tries his best to reverse the situation, to take the punishment himself, but nothing works. In the end he decides to rule in renunciation; to live in a hut conducting austerities until Rama’s return. With His sandals on the throne, Rama still governs, but in absentia.
3. Sita Devi
With so much going on in the kingdom, at least Rama’s wife is level-headed. She is the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. From birth she learned so much of dharma and its principles from the many saintly people visiting her father’s kingdom. After marriage she went to live in a place with three mothers-in-law.
There was no suffering, however, until Rama ran into trouble with the Kaikeyi ordeal. He chose to honor the order of the father and leave the kingdom. Sita then insisted on accompanying. She considered her husband’s punishment to be her own. If Rama had to live in hell, she would dutifully follow.
Abiding by dharma earned her no special favors. Years later she would be taken away from Rama by force by the evil Ravana, the king of Lanka. She then lived in Lanka without any friends, solace, or food. Her only hope was thinking of her husband constantly, staying with Him in separation.
Ravana executed a cowardly scheme to take Sita away. Yet he met some resistance just upon leaving. The vulture named Jatayu tried to halt the aerial path. He was a good friend to King Dasharatha, and so he could not tolerate an injustice against Sita. Though he fought valiantly, he eventually succumbed to the injuries inflicted by Ravana.
The younger brother born of Queen Sumitra insisted on accompanying Rama, also. Though he gave up sleeping in order to protect Sita and Rama in the forest, there wasn’t any suffering until a fierce battle later on. This was for reclaiming Sita and ending Ravana’s reign of terror. Lakshmana felt the force of a powerful arrow released by Ravana. What saved him was the heroic efforts of Rama’s most trusted servant, Shri Hanuman.
Despite so much suffering to such wonderful people, Shri Hanuman to this day takes great pleasure in reliving the events, as told in the Ramayana. This means that if the events were truly tragic, if there was only the side of sadness to consider, then the effort would not be worthwhile.
Rather, the end result was auspicious for everyone, as is always the case with direct association with the Divine in a mood of love. Dasharatha and Jatayu thought of Rama while leaving this world. The brothers and Sita never stop thinking of Him, and Hanuman is so devoted that he chooses to remain in this world for as long as Rama’s glories continue to be told.
So blessed by that choice made,
That in this world he stayed.
For glories of Rama to hear,
Through sound staying near.
Hanuman to saintly hearts dear,
Mountain in hand aerial path to clear.
Memories of Ramayana daily to relive,
Best example to others to give.
Categories: the five