Ram Nawmi: Carry-home messages
Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
How marvellous is technology! As I am writing this article I am listening to a Ramabhajan (Shri Ramachandra kripaalu bhajamana…) being played from a website in the sweet and melodious voice of Anuradha Paudhwal. It resonates so deeply within that, if the obligations of daily routine did not pull me away, I would gladly leave everything and fly off to forever be in those planes where one melts into celestial music…
But let us come down to earth, passage obligé – but of our own karmic making. Wednesday last ended the nine-day period of Ram Nawmi, the last one being devoted to the celebration of the birth of Bhagavan Sri Rama in Ayodhya unknown hundreds of years ago. In Hinduism, the historicity of the personalities and characters and of the texts is not as important as the ideals that they symbolize and the messages that their lives convey, as these represent the realities of the human condition and that of the world which are grounded in the one eternal truth (Sanatana Dharma) of all that is, Om-Brahman.
The corollary is that failure of proof of historicity will not result in the disappearance of the core tradition. We leave it to scholars to debate endlessly about historical origins, and rather get on with the enjoyment of truth, beauty and love which, in the ultimate analysis, are only what matter, all the rest being baggage which we must shed off gradually as we progress on our journey towards illumination. As, according to what I have heard, Alexander the Great realized, when he asked that when he dies, his arms should be left out of the coffin with the palms turned upwards, to show that despite his extensive conquests he could not take anything with him at death, and was going empty-handed. Zindagi ka safar, hai ye aisa safar… as late Kishore Kumar sang so touchingly.
Popularised by Shri Rajendra Arun for over two decades now, the Ramkatha has become an established custom in Mauritius, and all around the island during this period of Ram Nawmi, Ramayana Mandalis are present on the stage daily to chant Rambhajans. The evening sessions are conducted by the purohits (‘priests’) or their equivalents, who specialise in the narration of the Ramayana and the performance of the rituals for the occasion. Some of them do talk briefly on the messages that the epic seeks to articulate, but basically that’s not their forte. Fortunately, a slot is kept for pravachan or discourse, by someone who is either scholar or a lay person who has some familiarity with the Ramayana, and who takes up a few themes and explains the messages contained therein, in particular their relevance to daily life. This has always been necessary, but is becoming increasingly important in these times because of the degradation of values and morals which translates into a social landscape of family disharmony, civilian violence and crimes of all unimaginable sorts.
One of the most important messages is that we must keep doing good all the time, and I heard these classic lines being rendered very beautifully:
Dusron ka dukhra dur karnewale, tera dukh dur karenge Rama
Kiyeja tu jugme bhalai ka kam, tera dukh dur karenge Rama…
If you remove the pain of another, Rama will remove your pain; keep doing good here on earth, and Rama will remove your pain too.
Such messages are universal, and that is why it is said that the Ramayana doesn’t belong only to the Hindus but is the heritage of all mankind.
Who does not feel good on doing good? It comes automatically, and the person who is genuinely engaged in acts of goodness does not concern himself too much with what’s in it for him. He just goes on doing what he has to do, as a duty or kartavya, and lets others benefit from his acts. In spite of all the wrongs and ills we see around, fortunately there are more kind than bad people around, and hopefully their numbers will increase so that society moves forward in peace. All of us must have come across someone or the other who has realized that there are others who are worse off than him/her, and then stops complaining and tries to see in what way he can be more useful to his fellow human beings.
As the saying goes,
I had the blues
Because I had no shoes
Until I stepped out into the street
And saw someone who had no feet…
It doesn’t matter whether we help out in small ways or in big ways, the important thing is do engage oneself. Some give their time, the most precious resource as we are reminded in many a forum. Others contribute their skills or help with funds. Like drops that go to make the ocean, the individual efforts too add up to create that pool of goodwill and take the cause one is fighting for forward.
The result of an action or its fruit as it were is referred to as phala or consequence, and in general is expected to be positive for a good action performed. It may also be seen by the performer of the action, when it is known as drishta phala, or adrishta phala when it is unseen. This was the case with a senior doctor friend of mine long ago after he had gone to a pharmacy to buy some medicines for himself. When he presented at the counter to pay, the pharmacist refused to take his money not because he was a doctor, but because, as he told my friend, it was owing to the latter’s father (who was no more) that he had been able to pursue his education: the father was a head teacher, and had given him tuition for free because his own parents could not afford to pay for it. He was glad to be able to express in small measure his gratefulness after so many years.
But sometimes the result is not to our expectation, and that is where Rama Bhagavan comes in, because the teaching is that we must accept that as Bhagavan’s kripa or grace, otherwise we will feel disappointed and miserable. We thus learn to accept that we have no control over all the elements that come into producing the outcome of an action done in good faith and after putting in the necessary effort or prayetna. What kripa implies is that instead of crying over our situation, which some call bad fate, we must overcome and rise up again to the challenge. And in so doing we are facing the circumstances with new courage, and slowly but surely we will find that it turns around. Think of a student who does not get the grades he/she was hoping for, and the tragedies that sometimes take place. A proper understanding of the concept of kripa could avoid such unfortunate incidents. And that is why both parents and their children should attend such pravachans and listen carefully to what is being said.
One could multiply several-fold the examples of illustrations of various facets of life that the Ramayana contains, such as the impermanence of the human condition as shown by the story of King Pratapbhanu in the Balakanda part of the Ramayana, the importance of discipline to achieve success in one’s endeavour, the ideals of human relationships that make society harmonious and peaceful – and so on. But we will stop here for the time being; there will be more opportunities to write again about these themes.