Lord Rama - Born To Teach

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Extraordinary  people do extraordinary things in extraordinary ways. But some of  them are even born in extraordinary ways and teach extraordinary  lessons by the way they are born and by the way they live. One such  an extraordinary incident is the birth of Lord Rama. Let us enter  into the scene in Ayodhya at the pre-birth of Lord Rama.

Dasaratha,  the mighty king of Ayodhya seemed to be a complete man. He had  everything a man could aspire for and probably more. Yet, he was  dissatisfied. The presence of everything in his life was overshadowed  by the absence of a son. Just as a small coin that can cover the eye  to block out the brightness of the majestic sun, the absence of a son  eclipsed the grandeur of Dasaratha’s limitless fortune and  blessings. He thought an ashwamedha  yajna (a horse sacrifice) would please the Lord enough to award him a son.  Under the able guidance of Rshi Shringa and Vasistha, the sacrifice  was carried out.

With  the end of the sacrifice, an effulgent personality clad in black and  red robes emerged. The tall-as-a-mountain red-faced personality with  facial hair as soft as the mane of a lion, wore the most opulent of  ornaments. His powerful arms held a golden vessel with a silver lid.  The vessel dazzled and appeared to be illusionary. He handed over to  Dasaratha the golden pot, receiving which was the peak of the  sacrifice. After instructing Dasaratha to divide the nectarine sweet  rice in the vessel among his principal queens, he disappeared into  the sacrificial fire.

The  vessel of divine dessert gave him a new lease of life and new hope.  The exuberant Dasaratha ran to his queens. Among the many queens he  had, Dasaratha chose the three queens qualified enough to receive the  divine rice dessert.

Dasaratha  divided the nectarine rice dessert into two portions, giving half of  it to Kaushalya, his first wife. Kaushalya also known as Hrilekha was  the one who possessed and spread divine virtues. She had her share of  the dessert as soon as she received it, wishing for a son who would  eventually become the king of the world.

Dasaratha  halved the remaining dessert yet again. This time he gave one half to  Sumitra, his second wife. Sumitra was also known as Srilekha, one  endowed with opulence and who shared this quality with those  connected to her. Sumitra on receiving her share held it in her hands  in a prayerful mood and did not consume the dessert.

Dasaratha  further divided the remaining half into two portions, half of which  he gave Keikeyi, his third wife. Keikeyi was Kirtilekha, one endowed  with glory and fame and she, too, shared this quality with those  around her. As soon as the dessert fell into her outstretched hands,  she consumed it with the eagerness of the nestling feeding off its  mother’s beak, praying that her son becomes glorious.

The  order in which the queens had the divine dessert indicated their mood  and the mood of their children. Kaushalya received and had the  dessert first, clearly indicating that her son would be the supreme  Lord and the heir to the throne of Ayodhya. Keikeyi followed  Kaushalya, eagerly having the dessert, which indicated that her child  would be a follower of Kaushalya’s son.

The  last portion of the divine dessert was still left in the pot. After  deep consideration, Dasaratha gave this last bit to Sumitra who still  held her first portion in her hand.

Having  received two portions of the divine rice dessert, Sumitra was filled  with gratitude. She then consumed the divine dessert, praying for  children who would be instruments of service to the Supreme Lord who  was to be born. Her children epitomized service and cooperation. The  twins set aside their personal desires and focused on serving their  brothers.

Sumitra  did not consume her share, rather she waited until Kaushalya and  Keikeyi had theirs, thus indicating that she would have two sons who  would be the followers of Kaushalya and Keikeyi’s sons. Sumitra  exhibited the quality of non-enviousness while consuming the divine  dessert, qualities that were reflected in her sons.

As  soon as the three queens ate their share of the divine dessert, their  hearts filled with the kind of joy they had never experienced before.  Each could feel a divine presence in their wombs. They became radiant  with the divine mercy of the Lord, and their beauty increased  infinitely. The three queens bore the divine children in their wombs  for 12 months.

The  proof of the presence of God in one’s heart and the proof of  advancement in spiritual life is that the person is filled with  delight within. Such a person becomes beautiful with good qualities.  Thus, the result of the presence of God is transformation of  character.

Toward  the end of the 12 months, on the noon of Navami (ninth day in the bright fortnight or waxing moon) in the month of Chaitra (April–May), under the star Punarvasu,  when all the auspicious planets were in constellation, Kaushalya gave  birth to the first son.

Since  the spring season is associated with blooming flowers and flowering  trees, birth on Navami or the ninth day of the lunar calendar  indicates being forever fresh. The number nine never loses its  individuality and is eternal. If multiplied by any other number, the  sum is nine again. For example, 9 x 7 = 63, 6 + 3 = 9. Lord Rama’s  connection with nine indicates that the Ramayana and the character of  Rama will never lose its freshness with the passing of time.

Birth  in the month of Chaitra (beginning of the spring season and the first  month of the Vedic calendar) hinted that this child would be  eternally fresh; the Punarvasu star ispresided over by Aditi, the  mother of demigods. Diti means the one who divides. Aditi means the  opposite, one who views everyone and everything with equal vision.  This child would go on to become supremely transparent in His  actions, the most important quality for a leader.

The  infant’s charm was beyond what words could express. His face was  like the full moon, radiating effulgence that could put the moon to  shame. He had smooth round cheeks and eyes like red-tinged lotus  petals, His skin shone like green emeralds, soft black hair covered  His head and His entire body was delicate, almost fragile, as if made  up of the softest butter.

Sumitra  and Keikeyi rushed to see the child. When they held the child in  their hands, they could not stop marveling at His beauty. Just then,  both felt sudden movement in their own wombs. The two startled queens  exchanged glances – they felt the children in their wombs trying to  reach out to the child they were holding. They could understand from  the outstretched skin on their stomachs that the delicate hands of  their babies pressed against their womb were trying to reach out to  grab the feet of the newborn. The two queens smiled, realizing that  this newborn was going to unite the family.

At  long last Dasaratha saw the child! What he saw left him spellbound.  The beauty of the child mesmerized him, throwing him into a trance.  All he could do was gaze at the child, hypnotized and transfixed, as  the world around him melted away. When he held his son, he felt as if  the entire universe was in his hands in its most charming form.

As  Dasaratha was immersed in the splendor of his first son, Keikeyi was  taken to the maternity room. Early next morning, she gave birth to a  beautiful son. This was the morning of Dasami (tenth day in the bright fortnight or waxing moon) in the month of Chaitra (April–May), under the Pushyami star. The same day at noon, Sumitra gave birth to twins under the  star Ashlesha,  whose presiding deity was the serpent. The children were born in the  same order their mothers had consumed the dessert.

Vedic  names are given according to the qualities of the personality. If  studied carefully, these four sons exhibited qualities perfectly  befitting their names. In fact, their qualities were similar to the  mood of their mothers when consuming the celestial dessert.

Born  from Kaushalya, Vasistha spontaneously named the first born Rama,  which means the one who gives pleasure. It appeared as if the child  desired that name. Never before was Vasistha so overwhelmed when  naming a child, it seemed as if he did not choose the name but the  name chose itself.

The  word Rama can give unlimited pleasure to the hearts of the listener  and the speaker. This is remarkably contrary to the word Ravana that  strikes terror in the minds of those who hear that name. While eating  the dessert, Kaushalya had desired a perfect boy who would give  pleasure to everyone and be an ideal leader; Rama was just that! Rama  gave much pleasure to His father, mother, step-mothers and all the  citizens of Ayodhya. It was not merely pleasure related to His  exquisite beauty but it was also that of His pleasing personality.  Rama personally knew every citizen. He participated in their joys and  sorrows. He was often found crying in the house of those going  through a sad phase and was found celebrating in the house of those  happy. His is a life of giving joy to others.

Vasistha  named Keikeyi’s child Bharata, which means the one with a big load  on his head. It eventually came true as Bharata had to bear the  burden of the kingdom when Rama left for the forest. The name Bharata  meant that this boy had an infinite capacity to selflessly carry the  heavy burden of responsibilities on his head.

Bharata  was just like what Keikeyi had in mind at the time of eating the  dessert. He was Rama’s follower, adhering to his elder brother’s  instructions to the last letter. When Rama was exiled, Bharata had to  rule the kingdom for fourteen years. The servitude with which he  ruled makes his name apt. For most people ruling a kingdom would be a  pleasure, but for Bharata ruling the kingdom for fourteen years was  like a huge burden on his head. And he carried that burden of love to  please his brother.

Sumitra’s  twins were named Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Lakshmana comes from the  word Lakshmi, which means wealth.

What  wealth is this referring to? The real meaning of Lakshmana is one who  is rich with the wealth of service to Rama. Lakshmana cultivated the  attitude of service to his brother Rama. He became inseparable from  Rama, and always looked for opportunities to serve Him. His very life  is symbolic of his name. He was eager to collect this wealth of  opportunities of service.

Shatrughna  means one who conquers his enemies.

Shatrughna  barely fought any battles. There is record of him killing only a  demon named Lavanasura. Given this fact, it seems very odd to call  him a person who conquers his enemies. Shatrughna lived a life of  servitude to Bharata. For him, his enemy was association with Rama  and the beauty of Rama. Rama was very attractive, but Shatrughna  resisted the temptation of serving Rama and focused on serving  Bharata. He conquered this enemy. Everyone wants to have a direct  connection with God, but here is a person who wanted to serve the  devotee of God. Desire is the most powerful foe. Shatrughna had no  desire of his own, he was happy to dedicate himself to the desires of  Bharata.

Lakshmana  and Shatrughna were just what Sumitra had thought at the time of  eating the divine dessert. The two children imbibed the mood of their  mother, the desire to assist and serve in a spirit of cooperation.  Lakshmana served Rama all his life and Shatrughna served Bharata all  his life.

Assisting  the great is a far superior act of greatness than being great,  because assisting requires the remarkable quality of humility.

The  four brothers’ names signified many things at many levels. At the  devotional level, Rama led by example that whatever the situation,  one should always follow the principles of truthfulness and  instructions of wise superiors. Lakshmana’s exemplified that the  purpose of one’s life must be to serve the Supreme Lord in  totality, with the mind, words and actions. Bharata showed the world  that one should follow the Lord’s commands without questioning. And  Shatrughna exemplified that serving the Lord was important, but it  was just as important to serve His devotees.

At  the societal level, the four brothers represented the four basic aims  of human life – dharma, artha, kaama and moksha,  which are righteousness, duty and morality, wealth and prosperity,  worldly desires and liberation. Rama represented dharma,  Lakshmana represented artha,  Shatrughna represented kaama and Bharata moksha.

Dharma  and moksha represent the spiritual aspects of life, while artha and  kaama represent the material aspects. Most people focus on artha and  kaama, conveniently neglecting and not even feeling the need for  dharma and moksha. The Ramayana suggests that artha be kept close to  dharma and kaama close to moksha, only then life can be fulfilling.  If artha and kaama are kept as the exclusive goals of life, they will  ruin a person. In short, artha and kaama have to be restrained within  the boundary of dharma and moksha. Dharma refers to supreme  religiosity and righteousness, which involves developing our love for  God. Artha refers to wealth of service and kaama to intense desire to  serve God’s devotees. Moksha refers to liberation or freedom from  the burden of worldly attachments.

That  Lakshmana always accompanied Rama indicated that artha or economic pursuit were to be guided by dharma or higher wisdom. Wealth needed to be earned and used in accordance  with Vedic wisdom. While Shatrughna’s always accompanying Bharata  indicated that kaama or desires ought to be directed toward moksha or perfection.42

One  has to dovetail all desires and give wings to only those that help  one achieve the higher purpose of loving God. A good human being  balances material aspirations and spiritual goals. The important  thing to bear in mind is that both these life goals should complement  not contradict each other. A balanced human being is physically,  mentally, intellectually and spiritually developed.

At  the fundamental level, Rama was the Supreme Lord Himself who  descended on earth. Bharata was the sudarshan  chakra or the wheel of the Lord. Lakshmana was the snake bed or ananta  sesa of the Lord and Shatrughna the conch or panjajanya  shankha of the Lord. Rama was thought to be an incarnation of Vasudeva,  Lakshmana of Sankarshana, Bharata of Pradyumna and Shatrughna of  Anirudha, all of who were primary reincarnations of Vishnu in the  spiritual world.

This  article is based on Ramayana  - The Game of Life (Book 1) authored by Motivational Speaker and Spiritual Lifestyle Coach Shubha  Vilas, B.E. (Electronics and Telecommunications), L.L.B (Specializing  in Intellectual Property Law). Shubha Vilas conducts corporate  training programs on Relationship Management, Work Life Balance, etc  for leading companies like Aditya Birla, HUL, Edelweiss, IOCL, MTNL,  Blue Cross Laboratories etc. He can be reached on ramayana.shubhavilas@gmail.com

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1. Ramayana – The Game of Life

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