Millions of years ago, according to Vedic sources, the Supreme Lord appeared on this planet as the Warrior Rama Chandra, in order to execute His Will and display the Pastimes of the Personality of Godhead. As is stated in The Bhagavad Gita, “From time to time I come, in order to vanquish the demons and rescue the devotees.”
The Pastimes of Lord Rama are revealed in the famous Vedic Scripture called The Ramayana, written by Sri Valmiki. Before being empowered to write The Ramayana, Valmiki had been a plunderer; but, by the grace of the great saint Narada, he became a Vaishnava—that is, a worshipper of the Personality of Godhead. Narada had first asked Valmiki to please chant the Name of the Lord, but Valmiki had replied that he would not. He was a murderer, and so what had he to do with chanting God’s Name? Narada then asked him to meditate on his murders, by saying the name of “Mara,” which means Death. Valmiki agreed to this, and meditated on “Mara.” By rapid repetition of the word—Mara, Mara, Mara—he found himself saying Rama, Rama, Rama, and by the power of reciting the Holy Name of God his heart became purified.
The Ramayana is written down as an historical epic, but it contains all the information of the original Vedas. Vedic literature such as The Ramayana and The Mahabharata (of which the famed Bhagavad Gita is a chapter), are especially recommended for this age, even more so than the highly intricate Vedas, or the philosophical theses of The Vedanta Sutra—all of which are prone to misinterpretation by the fallen mentality of this Age of Quarrel.
So diminished is the capacity for receiving God consciousness in this age that The Bhagavad Gita, which was set down 5000 years ago and was especially intended for the less intelligent, is today not understood by the greatest so-called scholars. These men generally attempt interpretations of The Gita leaving out the importance of the Personality of Godhead, Krishna, Who is the essence, Speaker, and Goal of The Gita.
Lord Rama Chandra appeared on this Earth as a man. This means that he actually walked the Earth. What is written in The Ramayana, we should note here, is best understood as it is. When the Pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are narrated, there can be no question of allusion to a higher principle. Allegory means that there is a truth higher than the literal sense of a given text. But the highest realization of spiritual perfection is that the Absolute Truth is a Person—which precludes any possibility of going beyond Him. God means the Highest Reality. He is the One from Whom everything emanates. Although he appeared as a man out of kindness to His devotees, Rama Chandra is the Supreme Lord. His history is, therefore, very marvellous and filled with wondrous feats, as we’ll see.
Rama Chandra was the son of King Dasarath, in the line of King Ikshaku, the first ruler of Earth, and an early recipient of the Bhakti Yoga system of The Bhagavad Gita. Lord Rama was the darling of His father and mother, Queen Kausalya, as well as the hero and darling of all Ayodha, the capital of what was then the single world kingdom.
Rama had all the admirable qualities of leadership, even from earliest youth. Rama Chandra possessed all physical strength, all beauty, religious wisdom in submission to Truth, fame for prowess with weapons, royal wealth, and complete renunciation. He played the part of a human, and yet His stature as a human was praised by all His contemporaries as being worthy of the gods.
Inseparable from Rama was Lakshman, His younger brother. Lakshman was born of Sumitra, one of the 350 queens of King Dasarath. His position is like that of Rama’s Own Self, and nothing is dearer to Rama than Lakshman. Together, the two Brothers appearedon Earth to vanquish the almost invincible atheist King Ravana and his numberless host of Rakshasa (man-eating) warriors.
Rama Chandra is described as being of greenish hue, His bodily lustre like fresh green grass. And Lakshman is golden-hued. Lakshman is as attractive and as formidable a warrior as Rama Himself. During the course of one of the blood-drenched battles against Ravana’s army, Lakshman was rendered unconscious by Rakshasa magic, and at that time Rama gave vent to a spontaneous expression of love for Lakshman: “If I lose kingdom—that I can bear, but I could not bear the loss of Lakshman! I cannot go on if Lakshman is lost to Me!” Lakshman was likewise dedicated to the service of his Brother, and had no other pleasure than to do the bidding of Rama Chandra.
Rama’s First Campaign
While Rama was still a Boy of 16, the famous yogi, Viswamitra, approached King Dasarath and asked that the Boy be allowed to travel on a military campaign against two Rakshasas who were attacking the hermitages of saintly persons, interrupting the performance of sacrifice. Why did the sage Viswamitra ask for the Boy Rama? Because no one was equal to Him, even though He was as yet untrained in the use of the principal weaponry, bow and arrow. After some hesitance by Dasarath, who was loathe to have his Son part for a dangerous mission, Rama Chandra went forth.
If we take military history as an evolution of progressively more deadly weapons, we may slight the figure of Rama, possessing no more than a bow and arrow. But the enemies of Rama were allowed no such miscalculation as to His ability to destroy. He stood before them like a hill of nuclear missles. He discharged His feathered arrows in sheets which blotted out the blue of the sky and which entered the hearts of the enemy in unlimited numbers at incredible velocity. So we shouldn’t think of Rama the Archer as quaint or dated. His bow, a gift from the demigod Indra, was a supreme Army and Air Force in itself. His arsenal included many varieties of deadly arrows, charmed by the Science of Mantra, or sound vibration. Once released, those arrows could not be turned back, no matter where the adversary fled for shelter.
In the final battle against Ravana, Lord Rama Chandra resorted to a nuclear weapon, the Brahmastra fire weapon, whose released heat is said to frighten the denizens of the uppermost planets of the material universe. And this Brahmastra, too, was a winged arrow affixed to a bowstring. “Among the weapon wielders, I am Rama,” Lord Krishna says in The Gita. God is the greatest Warrior, and He possesses the means to release the ultimate weapon.
On this boyhood military campaign against “the Rovers of the Night,” Rama discharged two wind weapons, killing one Rakshasa and landing the other a few thousand miles away in the ocean.
Viswamitra, being pleased with young Rama and Lakshman, narrated many wonderful things to them, about the Appearance of the Lord as the Dwarf Vamana, about the origin of the sacred River Ganges—and about a worshipable bow kept by King Janaka, the father of Sita. This Janaka is mentioned in The Bhagavad Gita as having attained perfection by carrying out his occupational duties as a Kshatriya King. Once, for his part in ameliorating the anger of Lord Shiva the Destroyer, Janaka was presented with a most formidable bow. The bow was so mighty, in fact, that no one could even bend it in order to string it. Janaka made offerings of flowers and prayers before the bow given him by Lord Shiva, acknowledging that the personality who could string the sacred bow must be an extraordinary power. In view of which, King Janaka offered the hand of his daughter Sita to the man who would come and bend the bow.
Sita, of course, had many suitors, and all failed to win her. Her dowry was valor. Of all chaste and beautiful young women, she was the topmost jewel, and was very dear to Janaka. Viswamitra brought Rama and Lakshman to Janaka’s palace just to show them the bow given by Shiva. A large assembly of people were gathered to see the weapon, as Rama Chandra took it up in His hand, and asked Janaka, “What would you have Me do with it? Shall I string it now?”
“Yes, ” Janaka assented.
At once, Rama easily bent the bow until it cracked in two pieces, making a thundering explosion which rendered all present unconscious, except for Viswamitra, Rama and Lakshman! At that time the gods showered flowers from the sky upon Rama Chandra, and there was cheering in the heavens. King Janaka then agreed, with great pleasure, that his daughter should be married to the mighty Rama Chandra
Sita And Rama
Sita, the wife of Rama, is not considered an ordinary being. It is understood that, as Lord Rama Chandra was Vishnu, the Supreme Lord Himself, so Sita was actually Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune, who serves eternally at the Feet of Vishnu in the spiritual sky. Being the daughter of the royal saint Janaka, she is also sometimes called Janaki. Actually, Janaka found Sita when she was a baby. He had been plowing a field, and he upturned her in a clod of earth. It is stated in The Ramayana that Sita came to Earth for the destruction of Ravana, who was a villifier of married women. As Rama Chandra was the greatest Warrior and Expounder of religion and morality, so Sita was the greatest beauty among women, and the most chaste.
How can the Infinite Lord be sufficiently praised? And who can completely describe the loveliness, in every feature, of His chaste wife, the Goddess of Fortune?
We shouldn’t think that, as we desire a woman, so Rama Chandra desired a woman, and thus married one with the desires of an ordinary husband. Sita is Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune, and Rama is Lord Vishnu, the Personality of Godhead, and we cannot understand His transcendental position by judging Him on the plane of inebriated sex desire. Sex desire, lust, is the characteristic condition of the ordinary mortal who is at the mercy of the laws of Nature. He is put under these stringent laws out of his wish to enjoy as a lord rather than render service to the Supreme Enjoyer.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, however, is transcendental to the material laws. What we have here in the material world as sex desire is indeed a reflection of the Lord’s desire to enjoy loving affairs. But His loving affairs have no taint of contamination, no limitations of cheating, of old age, or of death. Here, sex pleasure is false in that it is merely a counteraction to the usual condition of misery, and it is temporary. But when the Lord enjoys loving affairs it is in a state of continual bliss in mutual service, and this expands unendingly into greater and greater bliss, each party exhibiting selfless devotion to the other. It is understood that by the process of purification in devotional service, we too can reciprocate transcendental love with God, and that is the perfection of human life.
The impersonalist philosophers whose propaganda is so rampant in this age cannot appreciate the Divine Couple or the Lord’s loving affairs. These are displayed in the Persons of Radha and Krishna, Lakshmi and Narayana, and in Sita and Rama. The position of the impersonalist is necessarily loveless. Love means persons. No one can love the Void or a non-person. Therefore, impersonal philosophy is merely the negative side of reality, the denial of material inebriety. The impersonalists accept neither sex as being absolute, but the Vaishnava or Personalist has two sexes, Radha and Krishna, or Sita and Rama. Without understanding the real situation of the Supreme Person and His Transcendental Nature—His Activities and His devotees—such an impersonalist yogi or philosopher is forced to come down from his temporary suspension in the impersonal Void, and again he may enter into entanglement with the material inebrieties which he only theoretically declares to be false.
Valmiki compares the sight of Rama and Sita together to the moon and the brightest star. The Rama Chandra worshipper, therefore, never makes the mistake of thinking Sita an ordinary wife. Throughout The Ramayana, the poetry again and again turns to images of the various moods of natural beauty in the jungle, in the sky, and in the night with its wonderful galaxies for comparisons to the loveliness of Sita. And always the worshipper addresses first Sita, and then Rama—Sita-Rama.
Growing old, King Dasarath decided to confer the kingdom on his eldest son, Rama. On the release of this news, the Kingdom of Ayodha turned to joyous preparation for the coronation of the beloved prince. The Ramayana (Ayodha Kandam) states:
The streets were crowded with men. People were going in mobs and there were constant shouts of joy, like the roar of the sea. All the places were filled to their utmost capacities. All the highways were swept and watered, garlands hung on every gate, and flags streamed from every house. The whole city was anxiously waiting for the morning of the coronation ceremony.
The night before, Janaki and Rama Chandra were initiated into the observance of a fast, and were given mantras to recite. They worshipped Narayana, and lay down on a bed of grass within Vishnu’s shrine.
The Banishment Of Rama
The Ramayana goes on to relate fateful events: “Queen Kaikeyi had brought up an orphan girl named Manthara, who served Kaikeyi as a maidservant. “Kaikeyi was one of King Dasarath’s wives, and Manthara was her hunch-backed maidservant. It was she who sowed the evil seed of the great personal ordeals related in The Ramayana. Amidst universal joy, Manthara alone heard the news of Rama’s coronation with a feeling of rage. With malicious intent she entered the room of Queen Kaikeyi and proposed to her that the coronation of Rama Chandra was a calamity to the Queen. Kaikeyi was the mother of Dasarath’s next oldest son, noble Bharat. Manthara cunningly outlined how Dasarath had recently sent Bharat away on a visit to his uncle, in order to install Rama Chandra. And, after installation, Rama Chandra would surely see that Bharat was killed. With crooked logic, Manthara predicted all the grief ahead for Kaikeyi, and in this way implanted evil wrath into the Queen’s heart.
Queen Kaikeyi was now convinced that Rama Chandra must be eliminated. She was very dear to Dasarath, and she was able to strike tellingly by binding him to a promise. Once Dasarath had fallen badly wounded on a battlefield, in a clash between Indra and some Asuras (demons), and Queen Kaikeyi had nursed him as he lay unconscious. At that time he had promised her two boons, but she had said she would ask for them at a later time. By that service rendered by her, and by the oath of Dasarath, Kaikeyi wrought long and bitter grief upon Ayodha.
Lying down in a room in her palace called “the chamber of wrath,” Kaikeyi awaited Dasarath, and when he came and found her there, she infected the coronation day, like a snake biting a calf, by demanding the following two boons: 1. Let Rama Chandra be banished to the forest for 14 years, and 2. Let Bharat be installed as king. Dasarath fell unconscious at her words. He soon regained his senses, understood what she was saying, and again fainted away.
Awakening a second time, he cried out in torment: “Oh how sad! How painful! I suffer from your words, being oath-bound to you! I suffer now as a man does for misdeeds committed in a previous birth!”
We may think, what is this “truth,” what is this “promise,” if it wreaks such evil? Why didn’t Dasarath simply say, “No! Never! I will not banish Rama. Rama is dearer than truth!” But he did not. He had made a promise, and as a Kshatriya (warrior) he must stand by it. His religion was truth. Because he had promised Kaikeyi a boon at a time when she had saved his life, therefore he must now grant her promise, whatever it might be—in this case a fate worse than death.
There are other examples in the Vedic literature of extreme sacrifices to truth, and Kaikeyi mercilessly cited them for Dasarath: A King named Saivya once promised a pigeon who had flown into his arms that he would protect him from a pursuing hawk. The hawk, who was actually a demigod in the form of the predator, demanded flesh from the king’s body as substitute for the pigeon, and King Saivya agreed, cutting the flesh from his own body.
But was that the same as banishing Rama Chandra? How could Dasarath banish the rightful heir to the throne? For what offense? Rama was the absolute darling of every living entity in Ayodha. He was the outright Destroyer of the demons. He and His wife were comparable to the moon and the brightest star! When the people came to say, “Where is Rama Chandra?”—what then? In short, Dasarath was ruined, and the Kingdom of Ayodha with him. Dasarath lamented bitterly, and prepared himself to be condemned by his peers and by the future. Still, he was bound to the truth of his promise.
Rama Chandra was called to court by Dasarath. Rama was about 26 years old, and it was His Coronation Day. He rode in His chariot to answer His father’s call. The Ramayana states that Rama Chandra came out from His palace surrounded with an effulgence of glory, just as the moon emerges from behind the dark blue clouds. Lakshman stood by Him with a chowri fan. Elephants and horses followed His chariot; and music, shouts and cheers were continually heard. As He passed the windows of beautiful women, they rained flowers on His Head. Some of them praised Kausalya, the mother of Rama Chandra, and others said that Sita was the gem of all women, and must have practiced great penances in former births or she would not have had such a husband as this king-to-be.
But on entering His father’s presence, Rama found the old King looking miserable and sad, seated on a sofa with His Queen Kaikeyi. She personally delivered the cruel message to Rama Chandra. Dasarath fainted away in grief at hearing again the wish of Kaikeyi, but he could not deny it.
Magnanimous Rama Chandra, however, was not a bit pained to hear her shameful words. He only replied: “Very well. I shall go from here and proceed to the Dananka Forest for 14 years with an unwavering mind.”
Rama Chandra proceeded to inform all those gaily preparing for His Coronation that He was at once leaving for a mendicant’s life in the forest. His natural cheerfulness did not leave Him, but He was troubled to have to tell His mother, and He thought both parents might die at His separation from them.
The fateful news soon spread. It spread to the women in Rama’s palace, and they began to cry bitterly. The queens and other royal ladies wailed, for He Who used to serve them and Who looked on them as His mothers, and Who never grew angry with them but had sweet words for all—that Rama was going to the forest!
“No! Dasarath should never have forsaken Him!”
When He approached His mother Kausalya, she was still informed only of the Coronation, and she fell at His Feet and offered Him a seat and some refreshment.
Rama Chandra, with clasped hands, said to her, “Mother, you don’t know what a great calamity is descending upon you and Janaki and Lakshman. I don’t require a seat anymore, for I am now bound for the forest, and shall live there for 14 years on fruits and herbs. Father has ordered My exile, and Bharat’s installation.”
Kausalya fainted on the ground like a tree felled by an axe. Valmiki describes how, with difficulty, she told Rama that He must fight to win the crown. But Rama Chandra told His mother that it was beyond His power to disobey His father’s orders. He could not follow any desire which went beyond righteousness. Similarly, Lord Jesus Christ once taught: “If you gain the whole world, but lose your immortal soul, what have you gained?”
Rama Chandra said to Kausalya: “Father is our preceptor. Who, having any regard for righteousness, will disobey his orders, even though they may be given from anger, joy, or lust? I cannot act against My father’s vows. This life is not everlasting, and so I would not wish to acquire even the world by an unjust means.”
Lakshman was not consoled. He was brooding and overwhelmed with grief at this turn of events. Lakshman argued that Rama Chandra must not submit; he suspected, in fact, that the whole story of promised boons was just a plea by the King in order to install Bharat, and thus satisfy the lust of his Queen Kaikeyi. Lakshman was prepared to hack to pieces with his sword the King and his whole army. He was ready to bring the whole world under the sway of Rama Chandra. Rama replied that he thought the best course for Himself was to obey His father’s orders. Rama’s mother gradually, with great sorrow, offered her blessings and prayed that she would someday see Him coming back.
Rama Chandra then took leave of His mother and went to Janaki’s quarters.
She also knew nothing of Rama Chandra’s exile. She was in a state of joyfulness over His installation as King. She was worshipping the deities when He entered with His head hanging down in shame. On telling Sita of His exile, Rama Chandra said that she must stay behind and live under the rule of Bharat. Janaki, who was always sweet in speech, replied to Him with an offended air. How could He say such infamous unworthy things, especially as He was a hero versed in Vedic science?
“If You repair to the forest, I shall go in front of You and make smooth the path by crushing the thorns under my feet. I shall not leave Your company, nor will You be able to dissuade me. I shall feel no sorrow in passing a long time with You.”
But Rama Chandra, thinking of the factual hardships of forest life told her about the reality of the situation: Prowling animals, sharks, crocodiles in muddy rivers, sometimes no drinking water, no bed, hunger appeased by fruits fallen on the ground, matted locks, bark for clothes, observance of the rules of asceticism, three baths daily, flowers offered on the sacred altar by picking them with your own hand, blasts of wind, reptiles roaming free, great pythons, scorpions, mosquitos, penance, the necessity for bold action—this is the business of forest life.
Rama Chandra said it was too dangerous, but Sita entreated Him that, as a devoted wife, she was happy in His happiness, and sorry only in His sorrow. With Rama, she assured Him, she would find the hardships heavenly. Rama Chandra finally relented and admitted that He was by no means unable to protect her in the forest. And, formerly, many royal saints had repaired to the forest with their wives. So He would follow their example. He advised her to at once give away her beautiful clothes and valuables, and to be ready to leave.
Lakshman, who had been there while Rama Chandra spoke with Sita, caught hold of his Brother’s Feet, as it was unbearable for him to be separated from Rama. Rama tried to dissuade him from joining Him. He asked him to stay in the kingdom and keep an eye on the court. But nothing could turn Lakshman. He replied that Bharat would maintain the kingdom, but he must be given leave to join Rama Chandra. He would go before Sita and Rama Chandra as Their guide, and would procure Their foods; and They could enjoy while he would do everything else required, whether Rama was asleep or awake. Rama was pleased, and ordered Lakshman to prepare for departure at once.
Unfortunately, the whole kingdom could not join Rama Chandra in exile. But the people were sorely distressed. Indeed, they proposed to join Him by the thousands, but Kaikeyi would not allow if: If everyone went with Him, it would be no exile at all. No, Rama Chandra must go with only Sita and Lakshman. But the people lamented that the city would become deserted without Him, all religious institutions would be destroyed and dirt and filth would cover the yards, and rats would roam free. Rama Chandra. hearing them carry on, was not moved.
Shortly after Rama Chandra’s departure his father died of grief. He could not live with Rama in exile, and with his last breath he cried the Names of Rama, Lakshman and Sita. Young Bharat was at once called back from his uncle’s house by special messengers, who told him no more than to come at once. Bharat arrived before his mother, Queen Kaikeyi, and learned first that his father was dead, and then that his Brother was exiled on the wish of his mother. Bharat was shaken with remorse, and called Kaikeyi a murderess. To Bharat there was no question of assuming the throne without Rama Chandra and Lakshman. After performing the funeral rites for his father, he set out without delay, with an army behind him, to bring Rama back and himself take the place of the Exile in the forest. Only in that way could he hope to remove the stain of his mother’s action.
Sita And Rama In The Jungle
Forest life for a royal prince was supposed to be an abominable insult, but Rama Chandra managed to cheer Sita by pointing out to her the beauty of the natural setting. A jungle is generally supposed to be a place in the mode of goodness, just suitable for the cultivation of spiritual life.
The Shastras, or Scriptures, describe life in the liquor shop as being in the mode of ignorance; residence in the city is said to be in the mode of passion; and residence in the forest is in goodness. But even the so-called mode of goodness is not transcendental to material consciousness. Only a temple of God is specifically helpful for the purpose of transcendental consciousness, or linking with the Personality of Godhead. The forest is actually suitable for material habitation, and for the exploitation of raw resources such as trees and plants. Of course, when the Personality of Godhead was in the forest, it was the most perfect temple and shrine. Picking a leaf, or roaming with Janaki, Rama is in perfection, as He is the Supreme Lord, even though acting as a human.
We are cautioned not to think that if we repair to the jungle we will be like Rama Chandra, or that we will become renounced and saintly by such an act. The forest, in other words, is in itself not conducive to thoughts of the transcendental Lord. It is a place of monkeys and trees and good areas for making material habitation. Spiritual life, however, does not mean to become neatly situated in natural surroundings which may or may not be more pleasant than the shops and streets of the city. Spiritual life means to serve and please the will of the Supreme Lord. To be thinking of the activities of the Supreme Lord, and to hear authorized information like The Ramayana and The Bhagavad Gita—about His inconceivable greatness andHis loving intentions toward the living entities—is not attained by automatically putting on rough clothing and plying through the jungles with difficult steps.
Even to sit alone in a yogic posture in the jungle, with forced concentration on the spirit soul, may not be successful if the heart is still impure and the mind roaming to objects of the senses. Lord Krishna has said that He is not to be found in the jungle or in the hearts of the yogis in meditation, but there where His devotees are chanting His Name: Hare Krishna, Hare Rama—”I am there.”
So-called holy men who go to the forests to become sannyasis, renouncers, and do not actually follow the authoritative paths for becoming God conscious are therefore called “monkey sannyasis.” Simply living like a monkey in a tree is not holiness.
Rama Chandra was actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Anything He did was perfect, because He is the Person Who is the Source of all perfection. We simply have to offer a submissive hearing of His activities, and we will ourselves be situated in transcendental meditation. He is the Lord, as Rama Chandra the Ideal King, and His life is an example of the rigid morality by which we can find the way back to home, back to our original loving relationship with God. Rama Chandra is Himself full spirit, portraying activities on Earth for the vanquishment of Ravana, and we have only to fully comprehend any Pastime of His in order to contact the honey of God consciousness.
Once Sita and Rama were resting on rocky ledge after straying through the hills, and a bold crow came at Sita and threatened to strike her with its claws. She chased him but he came again and again, tearing at her until, Valmiki describes, “her cheeks were glowing with rage and her lips quivering in anger. Frowns darkened her lovely brow.” Rama Chandra tried chasing the bird but it paid no heed and flew at Sita even more. Then He fixed an arrow with mantras, and aimed it at the crow. The bird sprang up and flew, but the arrow followed wherever the bird went. The crow then flew back to Rama and pleaded for its life. Rama Chandra was always prepared to protect the surrendered entity, but since He had already released his fatal weapon, the crow was asked to give up some part of its life so that the weapon would not go in vain. The crow gave up an eye and the arrow struck at once.
After some time, Bharat and his army arrived in the vacinity. One soldier climbed a tree and saw smoke issuing from a cottage. Bharat and a few others then went forward on foot, and Bharat beheld Rama’s cottage. Valmiki describes it:
He found there the formidable bow plated with gold. The quiver was full of sharp arrows flaming like the sun. There were swords in golden sheathes, and gloves spangled with gold. There stood a spacious altar, and fire was burning at its northeast. Bharat found there Lotus-eyed, Fire-like, Effulgent Rama, seated on a hide with bark and a black deerskin, and with matted locks on His head.
The brothers embraced. Bharat told of Dasarath’s death and pleaded for Rama Chandra to return and take the kingdom. Rama Chandra replied to His younger brother that none of us have an independent existence, just to do as we please. We are subject to death, all of us. Rama told him to note how people are pleased to see the seasons change, though they do not realize it means their life duration is shortening. And on any walk a person takes, and when he returns, death is with him, and walks with him and rests with him. So in all circumstances, intelligent people subdue grief. He told Bharat to return and take charge, because that was the wish of their father.
Rama Chandra said, “Let me pursue My duties here.”
Bharat pleaded that he was only a boy, and Rama must rule over him. But Rama was firm in keeping His father’s pledge. He cited to His brother a Vedic proverb: He who saves his father from the hell named “Put,” and he who saves his father from all sorts of difficulties, is “Putra,” or the true son. Bharat relented, but took back with him Rama Chandra’s sandals, promising to dedicate the kingdom to the sandals of Rama, and to wait in ascetic observance for the expiration of the 14-year exile.
The War With Ravana
The first clash with Ravana took place through his sister, Surpanakha. She was a hideous monster who wandered across the cottage of Rama, and was struck with lust on seeing the Lord. She delivered some low insults to Sita, and for that Lakshman cut off her ears and nose. Running back to the camp of Ravana, she howled for revenge, and the death-struggle thus commenced.
Ravana had almost everything. Through long performance of austere penances he had gained great power; he had received specific boons from Lord Brahma, the topmost demigod, so that he would never be vanquished by any race of demigods, or any power or personality except man. But, of course, no mere man could stand against his onslaught. For the sake of war-mongering he had conquered the demigods Kuvera and Indra. He reigned in a vast island kingdom called Lanka, and possessed all material opulence. He and his “Rovers of the Night” roamed about killing and eating the flesh of solitary hermits engaged in spiritual practices in the forest.
Ravana made a career of violating beautiful women wherever he found them, and had a large harem of hundreds who had surrendered to his material effulgence of wealth and strength.
Ravana believed himself unvanquishable. He did not care for God. Perfect materialist that he was, he challenged even the existence of God. He had a plan where he wanted to deport men to the heavenly planets by means of a staircase structure reaching to Indra’s Paradise, so that people could go there without qualifying themselves by performing pious works. He challenged anything and everything good, and listened to no cautious counsel about the bad reaction which follows sinful activities. Valmiki says that Ravana’s mentality was such that he was living for death. In challenging Rama by the abduction of His wife Sita, Ravana surely chose death, and raced headlong towards his inevitable meeting with it. Therefore, there was no fear of sin in Ravana: until such time as he was actually cut down by a superior power, he would violate the authority of the Lord as far as possible.
We can understand, therefore, that for all his highly developed intelligence, Ravana was ignorant of the soul. By such ignorance one thinks that this one lifetime is all, and that death is the finish of everything. And so one may beg, borrow, or steal if one wishes. And if someone tells him that there will be a reaction in the next life, based on his present behavior, he will disregard that. This is the ignorance by which the conditioned living entity is covered over, and by which he cannot realize his original situation of Sat-chit-ananda—transcendental eternal bliss, and full knowledge in the loving service of the Lord.
As soon as anyone, from the tiny ant up to the conqueror Ravana, takes the attitude that he is the lord and the center, then the material Nature awards him this bodily covering, by which he can go on acting in illusion, ignorant of his real dependence on the Soul of souls, God. Under the illusion that he is independent, he then engages in a futile struggle to conquer the material Nature. Ravana’s case is extraordinary because, in defiance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he actually did conquer a significant part of the universe. But, as we shall see, his victory, like that of all the worldly conquerors of history, was fleeting, and his every step was actually a step on the path towards his ultimate destruction.
From Ravana’s kingdom, 14,000 Rakshasa warriors poured forth to slay Rama and Lakshman. En route, Ravana’s troops experienced a downpour of evil omens from Nature. Blood showered upon them with dreadful noise. The beautiful horses pulling their chariots suddenly tumbled. Vultures attacked their royal flags. Birds, beasts and jackals howled.
The demigods situated in the sky prayed amongst themselves: “May victory attend the cows, Brahmins and those who are held in high regard by Him. Let Rama conquer just like Vishnu with His disc.”
Valmiki writes that, “As the planets move towards the sun and the moon, so the fierce Rakshasa army rushed towards Rama and Lakshman, in lust of battle.” Rama was informed of their coming. While doom was presaged to the Rakshasas by dark clouds and raining blood, the shafts of Rama Chandra were flaming in war-delight, and His gold-plated bow throbbed with ruthless energy.
The 14,000 warriors were demolished by Rama Chandra, alone and on foot. His arrows, resembling fire with smoke, covered the whole sky, and He discharged them and fired more with a speed that the enemy could not follow. One man-eater survived, and ran back to Ravana with the news that Rama Chandra had devoured them with shafts like a five-mouthed serpent. He said that, wherever they had fled, they had found Rama Chandra stationed before them.
Ravana was outraged, and reminded the lone survivor of 14,000 that Vishnu Himself couldn’t be safe by doing injury to Ravana. But the survivor who had been through the hell of slaughter pleaded that his Lord Ravana just listen to him with attention regarding Rama Chandra’s valor as he had experienced it. He humbly submitted to his chief that Rama Chandra could bring down the stars and planets and raise the submerged Earth by His arrows, and could destroy all creatures and create them anew. Rama Chandra was simply unslayable.
The survivor also offered to Ravana that he had seen the beautiful wife of Rama, called Sita. He said that no woman could be equal to her in beauty. She was in the bloom of youth, and most graceful. Her beauty struck one with such deep wonder, the Rakshasa concluded, that if Ravana could somehow enchant Rama into the forest and take her away, it would be the one way to vanquish Him, for He surely could not survive separation from His wife.
The Kidnapping Of Sita
To implement the abduction of Sita, Ravana called on his warlord, Maricha. This Maricha was the same Rakshasa who had been carried 1000 miles through the air and thrown into the ocean by the wind arrow of the inexperienced 16-year-old Rama on His first military expedition. Ravana asked Maricha to take the form of a golden deer, to frisk in front of Sita. When Sita should wish to have the deer for her own, Rama and Lakshman could be induced to follow it and, at that time, Sita might be carried off.
Maricha was filled with alarm on hearing such talk from Lord Ravana. He reported to his chief that the proposal was impossible. For one thing, “as Indra is the king of the gods, so Rama Chandra is King of all.” Nobody should dare to take Sita away, as she was protected by chastity and devotion. Maricha knew that Rama Chandra was death-like, and he advised Ravana to desist from his thoughts of crossing the Lord. The King of the Rakshasas, irritated that his subordinate had even attempted to dissuade him, told Maricha that he must perform this service or be killed.
Then Maricha, in the form of a wonderful deer with silver spots and the sheen of jewels, appeared before Sita in the forest. His hoofs were made of blue stones, and he had a little tail that shone like the rainbow. He walked this way and that, browsing on creepers end sometimes galloping. In so many ways, he drew the mind of Sita, who asked Rama Chandra to catch him for her. Rama Chandra was, of course, cognizant that this might be the Rakshasa magic of Maricha, but He decided to go after the deer, and if it was actually Maricha, He would kill him. Rama firmly ordered Lakshman to stay behind with Sita. Then He pursued the deer. It became elusive, and even invisible. Rama resolved to kill it. He shot one deadly shaft which entered Maricha’s heart like a flaming snake.
His counterfeit guise gone, Maricha, in the hideous form of a huge Rakshasa bathed in blood now rolled upon the ground. But with his last breath, he remembered the advice of Ravana, and cried out loudly, “Alas Sita! Alas Lakshman!”
Waiting with Lakshman in their cottage, Sita heard the cries and believed it was Rama, and that He was in some danger. She told Lakshman to go at once and help Him. Lakshman dismissed the idea that Rama Chandra could be in danger. Besides, he knew his duty was to remain and protect Sita. But Sita, in great anxiety over Rama, began to speak very strangely. She told Lakshman that she knew he was not going to help Rama out of lust for her, and that in fact he had long been waiting to be separated from Rama so that he could fulfill his own desire for enjoying Sita. Lakshman could not bear to hear such unfair words, and he took his leave of Sita to seek out Rama Chandra. In that way, Ravana was able to find Sita alone, and he carried her off by force.
It may be asked, how could two invincible heroes be tricked by the magic of illusion into leaving Sita alone? How could Sita, with the purity of her chaste insight, accuse Lakshman of being lustful? And, as Rama Chandra is God Himself, how could it come to pass that Ravana carried off Sita by force in his chariot, and was able to cause bitter lamentation for Sita and Rama? These are not very easy questions, it would seem. The aggregate is: how can someone under the direct protection of the Supreme Lord come under any illusion, or fare badly?
If we take it from The Bhagavad Gita, we can know that the pure devotee is never under the power of illusion. The Lord promises that one who surrenders to Him is straightway delivered from illusion. Maya, the illusory energy, cannot act upon one who is surrendered to the Person of the Absolute Truth. This Maya is the external energy of the Lord, intended as a reformatory measure for those souls still desirous of lording it. As its source is divine, this Maya cannot be overcome by any amount of scholarship, technology, or material intelligence. But, as stated in the Seventh Chapter of The Gita, he alone who surrenders to the Lord is released.
A pure devotee is attached to service of the Supreme Person, and is therefore no longer falsely identifying his perishable body as his self, or claiming material possessions as his own. The devotee is under the internal, spiritual energy of the Lord, called Yogamaya. This means that he is being personally cared for by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, due to his constant association by word, thought and deed with the Yogamaya energy This is just like sunshine. The sunshine is there for everyone, but it cannot benefit one who stays hidden indoors. One who partakes of the sunshine experiences no darkness, because darkness cannot exist where the sun is.
So, if the devotee is freed from all contamination and darkness, why was Rama Chandra banished from His kingdom? Why was Sita, who is Lakshmi the Goddess of Fortune, kidnapped by Ravana? Why was Lord Jesus Christ crucified? Why was the pure saint Thakur Haridas beaten? Why was Lord Krishna shot in the foot by a hunter? And why did Krishna’s devotees, the Pandavas, have to undergo so many ordeals? These things, the devotee understands, are working according to some plan of the Lord’s Will, to facilitate His mission in this world.
This example was given by Rama Chandra when He responded with even mind to His banishment: “I must obey My father in this. Who are We to try to get control for self interest over what is being sent to Us by the law of God? We must accept what is sent by God.”
Surrender means that the Lord can do with us as He likes. The surrendered soul is waiting for the Lord’s Will. He will go back to Godhead at the time when the Lord is pleased to take him. He knows that there must be some plan of the Lord behind what is happening and, as far as he’s concerned, the devotee will never be removed from his position of unconditional loving service unto the Personality of Godhead. In this case of Rama’s banishment and Sita’s abduction, we can understand that these activities had to be carried out in order to fulfill the mission of Lord Rama in coming to Earth—the slaying of the demon Ravana for the relief of the faithful demigods.
Similar occurrences of a devotee in a position of mundane frustration are explained by Goswami A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami as the basis for the presentation of great transcendental literatures like Srimad Bhagwatam and The Bhagavad Gita. In the case of Srimad Bhagwatam, the Emperor Parikshit, who was usually a man of irreproachable behavior, delivered an insult to a brahmin, and was sentenced to death within 7 days. This death curse brought about his revival of God consciousness, and made possible his meeting with the sage Sukadeva Goswami, who narrated the entire Srimad Bhagwatam to him, filled as it is with the Pastimes of Lord Krishna. In this way all humanity was benefitted.
Again, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami writes, “By placing Arjuna and the Pandavas in a position of frustration through the intrigues of their cousins, the Battle of Kurukshetra was engineered by the Lord in order to incarnate the sound representative of the Lord, The Bhagavad Gita.”
In short, we should understand that these unusual circumstances of the apparent distress of Rama and Sita are ordained and serve the Lord’s purposes.
On a chariot pulled by asses, Ravana of ten heads and twenty arms flew through the sky with his arm around Sita. Sita was protected from gross sexual violation by her power of chastity. Also, Ravana had at one time in his career received a fell curse from the yogi father of a girl he had violated: if Ravana ever attempted to again enjoy a woman by physical force, his head would split into pieces.
By this act of abduction Ravana completely sealed his doom beyond a doubt. Not only would he die for capturing another’s wife, but he would not even be able to enjoy her in the meantime, not for a moment. Goswami A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami nicely explains the relationship between Sita and Ravana: “The Goddess of Fortune is called Chanchala. Chanchala means that she is not steady. Ravana took away Lakshmi, Sitaji, to his place and instead of being happy by the grace of Lakshmi, his family and his kingdom were vanquished. So Lakshmi in the house of Ravana is Chanchala, or not steady. The Ravana class of men want Lakshmi only, without her husband, Narayana [or Rama Chandra]. Therefore they become unsteady by Lakshmiji. And so materialistic persons find fault on the part of Fortune. Of course, in the spiritual sky Lakshmi is fixed in the service of the Lord, and in spite of her being the Goddess of Fortune, she cannot be happy without the grace of the Lord.” From this we can also understand that Sita’s essential beauty is that she is associated with the Personality of Godhead.
Unable to forcibly have his lust satisfied, Ravana gave Sita a tour of opulent Lanka. He showed her the swans and ponds, and his harem. He showed her how thousands of mighty Rakshasas awaited his word. And he described Rama Chandra as a weak outcaste who would never be able to come to Lanka. He asked Sita to rule over Lanka, and he would become her slave. Though she was weighted down with sorrow and deeply absorbed in anxious thoughts, Sita seared Ravana by telling him that for this reckless outrage he would be destroyed by Rama and Lakshman.
In the face of his lion-like ferocity, she told him, “How can the consort of a swan, one who sports with her mate amidst lotuses, favor with her glance a water crow, who is straying amongst weeds and bushes? This body is now useless to me. You may chain it or destroy it. I shall not preserve it any more, nor will I ever bear the stigma of unchastity. I am the devoted wife of Rama, and you will never be able to touch me.”
Ravana could only threaten Sita that if after twelve months she did not favorably turn to him, he would cut her into pieces and have his cooks serve her to him for a feast.
Alliance With The Monkeys
In the absence of Sita, Rama Chandra was plunged into unalloyed grief. He was crazed, and His understanding appeared clouded. He was going through the forest asking the flowers and trees if they had seen His love. He feared she had been eaten by the Rakshasas. He and Lakshman searched everywhere. Rama questioned the sun: “Where has My darling gone?” He asked the wind if she were dead or alive or stolen, or had he seen her on any path?
Lakshman attempted to draw off Rama Chandra’s despair by sensible words, but he was paid no attention. Finally the brothers found signs of Sita, pieces of clothing torn while resisting Ravana, and ornaments which had fallen from her as she rose up in his chariot. They also found the bloodied dying body of Jayatu, the ancient King of Birds, who had made a valiant attempt to stop Ravana’s night. Frothing in his last blood, Jayatu informed Rama Chandra that it was Ravana, the King of the Rakshasas, who had taken Sita. The brothers got further information that they could obtain the help needed to find Ravana’s kingdom by making alliance with Sugriva, the King of the Vanaras, a monkey race who lived in the Pampas region of rivers and lakes.
This chief of the monkeys, Sugriva, beholding Rama Chandra and Lakshman within his province, was at once fearful. The Vanaras were taking refuge from their enemy Vali, who was the chief’s brother, and Sugriva thought that Rama and Lakshman had come to do some harm, as they appeared so formidable with their weapons. The monkeys ranged from peak to peak, and joined their leader for a conference on what to do about the two mighty young men who were walking amongst the trees and lakes. The chief counsellor to the King, named Hanuman, assured Sugriva that their enemy Vali had no access to the Pampa region. Therefore, why should they fear these two godlike warriors?
Hanuman approached Rama and Lakshman on behalf of the king, and with eloquent words invited them to meet with the monkey chieftain. Rama was at once delighted with the eloquent speech and appearance of Hanuman, and a meeting was arranged. Seated on giant Sala leaves, Rama, Hanuman, Lakshman and Sugriva spoke out their hearts and concluded a pact of honorable friendship.
Sugriva narrated how he had become confined to this region of the Pampas in fear of his life, having been deprived of his kingdom by his brother Vali. Rama Chandra acknowledged that the expression of friendship is good service, and He agreed to kill Vali, who had also abducted the wife of Sugriva. Rama accepted the hand of Sugriva in embrace, and the monkey chief promised to aid Rama in His search for Sita by employing his vast, worldwide army of Vanaras.
Sugriva, however, had some doubts that Rama could actually subdue Vali. In order to assure him, Rama Chandra shot one arrow which traversed through seven palm trees, a rock, through the innermost region of the Earth and in a minute returned to Rama Chandra’s quiver! He then set out, and soon met Vali, and slew him.
After some delay, while Sugriva tasted the sensual pleasures of his regained kingdom, he mobilized his forces and sent them out to all quarters in search of Lanka, where Sita was imprisoned. But after months of futile searching, the armies began to lose hope. Some returned, and some dispersed in foreign lands. It was Hanuman alone who received information that the Kingdom of Lanka was an island far across the Indian ocean.
Hanuman is eulogized by all sages and scholars of the Vedic Science of God, for Hanuman is the ideal servitor. He simply wanted to carry out the order of Rama Chandra effectively. His career in finding Sita and battling the Rakshasas on behalf of Rama Chandra sets the highest spiritual standard, surpassing all mechanical yogic practitioners and speculative philosophers and scholars in search of the Absolute Truth.
It is clearly stated in the Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, that at the last stage the highest spiritual perfection is favorable service unto the Personality of Godhead. The exact example of Hanuman is not to be imitated, but his service attitude is to be followed. That is, each of us has some capacity. Hanuman had the capacity of enormous physical strength and agility. He used every ounce of that strength, not in pursuit of sense gratification or for conquering some land or women, but in humble devotional service to the Lord of the Senses, Whom he worshipped exclusively as Lord Rama Chandra. We should do likewise.
There cannot be any exaggeration in praising the stature and exploits of this formidable monkey warrior. He is not great because he was wonderfully powerful, but because he used all his strength even his anger—in discharging service unto the Personality of Godhead in the matter of vanquishing Ravana.
Hanuman resolved to travel through the air in search of Janaki. He was the son of the wind god, Vayu, and thus had the facility for flight. Passage across the ocean is arduous, even for one who can fly like the wind, but Hanuman made it in one leap. His monkey brothers had gathered to watch him off. With a great contraction of strength, Hanuman stood at the edge of the sea and grasped a mountain in his arms. He held his breath and tightened all his limbs. He then spoke these words to his brothers: “I shall reach Lanka with the velocity of the wind, just like an arrow shot by Rama, and if I do not find Janaki there I shall at the same speed go to the region of the gods. And if I do not meet with success even there, then I shall uproot Lanka itself and bring Ravana here in bondage.”
With these words he sprang up with ease. Like Garuda, the Eagle of Vishnu, Hanuman flew over the water, raising great waves by his speed, and exposing the aquatics below, who fled in fear. At times Rakshasas rose from the sea for his destruction, but he was not deterred in his mission. Sri Valmiki says that when Hanuman landed in Lanka and went over the city wall, it appeared as if he had planted his left foot on the crown of Ravana.
The perfection of Hanuman in action is open to anyone who will use to the full his own personal capacities in serving the Lord. There is a nice story that occured at the time Rama Chandra and the monkeys were building a bridge across the ocean to reach Lanka. Hanuman and the other Vanaras were hefting huge boulders and throwing them into the sea. In the course of such tremendous labor, Hanuman spied an insignificant spider, who appeared to be brushing some specks of dust into the water with its back legs. “What are you doing, worthless?” Hanuman asked of the spider. “I am helping Rama Chandra build His bridge,” the spider replied.
Hanuman was about to move the spider out of the way of his own serious work, when Rama Chandra interposed, saying, “What are you doing, Hanuman? This spider is worth as much as you are by doing his utmost for Me.”
The gist of this is that the topmost position of loving service unto God is made manifest by directly applying whatever you have in the way of words, thoughts and energy. And that will be accepted by the Lord as first class devotion.
Hanuman In Lanka
Hanuman was delighted to observe the City of Lanka. For protection, he reduced himself to the size of a cat, and then proceeded to walk into the city, taking careful note of how everything was situated. As a servitor, he was very concerned at every moment, lest he be caught and ruin the project. Hanuman reflected that, “Emissaries proud of their education or intelligence sometimes become the cause of failure.” The taking of the city of Lanka and the vanquishing of Ravana appeared to be nearing success, but it could be marred by such an agent as himself.
“If I lose my life,” thought Hanuman, while walking down the populated way amidst the nightlife of Lanka, “great obstacles will crop up for the fulfillment of my Master’s object.”
Still no more than the size of a cat, he walked along the roof of a seven-storied building and saw at a short distance the palace of Ravana, surrounded by a glittering wall. The palace was guarded by armed Rakshasas, whom Valmiki describes as “never shrinking from anything on account of moral principles.” Treading past noisy drinking parties and quiet gatherings, past big mansions with spacious halls, Hanuman gained access at last to the inner chamber of Ravana.
The time was past midnight, and the monkey warrior observed a virtual sea of beautiful women, sleeping under the influence of drink. Hanuman was looking for the one woman described to him as Sita, and there was no question of his being moved by a harem full of disheveled beauties. Hanuman’s agitation was, rather, that time was passing, and he had not yet found Sita. In the center of the chamber, on a crystal dais, he saw an elaborately decorated bedstead, and upon the bed lay Lord Ravana himself. Ravana was spread out in intoxication, “like an elephant in sleep.” Lying like that, his body smeared with red sandal, and wearing bright cloth, he presented the perfect spectacle of a sensualist in royal power.
But where was Sita?
Hanuman paced up and down the city wall. He began to think that his leap across the ocean had been in vain. This is the frustration of the transcendental servant. He does not see all indifferently as One, as the impersonalist philosophers would have it. When engaged in the transcendental service of the Lord, any obstacle unfavorable to the discharge of that service is a source of frustration and even anger, until it is removed. Hanuman was proceeding with the work of Rama Chandra. He was prepared to go to any lengths, and in Hanuman’s case the wish of his heart was not mere bravado. He had been blessed with the most intense individual yearning for actual service of the Lord. Actually, there is no impediment in serving the Lord, and once we decide that we belong to God we cannot be stopped from serving Him. We can always chant His Holy Name. God, being omnipotent, is truly in no need of our services, but He is most pleased by the individual who makes an effort on His behalf.
Finally the noble monkey found Sita in the heart of the dense Asoka forest, seated under a tree. Wracked with grief, but still radiantly beautiful, with tears flowing down her face, she is described as “Lakshmi without the Lotus.” She was seated on the ground like an ascetic, wane, and sad for the absence of Rama Chandra. She was undergoing a continual, harrowing nightmare of separation from Rama. Hideous Rakshasa monsters of misshapen form danced in a ring around her, telling her rumors of Rama’s weakness and death.
Hanuman’s first step was to communicate with Sita and assure her. He was certain this was her because of the information he had received about her appearance. He had to approach her, gain her confidence that he was not another Rakshasa, and convey to her that Rama and the Vanaras would soon be on their way to her rescue, so that she must not give up her life.
Hanuman began to speak to her from his place, concealed within the branches of the tree. Janaki was delighted to hear him. She had some doubt, but Hanuman was very sweet of speech, assuming a large form, reddish and clothed in white. And he recited to her the history of King Dasarath and Rama Chandra and Lakshman and Sita.
Listening to this being who so cheerfully pronounced the Name of Rama, Sita began to shake off her ascetic firmness. She was becoming convinced that she was beholding Rama Chandra’s messenger, and that was as good as seeing Rama Himself! She thought for a time that Hanuman might be another mirage, but the monkey told her things too treasured to be Rakshasa deceit. Rama Chandra had given to him the utmost confidence.
With folded palms, Hanuman approached Sita and gave her a ring from Rama. In blissful exchange, Sita offered that Hanuman should ask Rama, “Do you remember the time We were wandering in the Dananka Forest and a crow was disturbing me, and You shot him with an arrow?” Sita then received all of Hanuman’s speech like honey. When: however, he related Rama Chandra’s grief at her separation, she received it like poison. Assuring her that she would soon be re-united with Lord Rama, Hanuman finally left. In parting, Sita told him that she could only live one more month like this, and then she would give up her life.
Before heading back with his message, Hanuman decided to gauge the enemy’s power. He understood that he had been given no direct order to do this, but he reflected in his mind that there is no guilt if the servant, while accomplishing the main objective, does something else in addition. Thereupon, in a miraculous display of prowess, Hanuman broke down all of the trees in the Asoka forest except the one under which Sita was seated.
He then sat upon the main gate of Lanka and, uprooting a bolt, shouted out that he was Hanuman, a Vanara, and the servant of Rama Chandra! Frightened Rakshasas rushed out to see him expanding himself to gigantic size, ranging the sky, determined to fight. Hanuman single-handedly destroyed thousands of Rakshasa warriors and top military personalities, and set fire to every house in the city, declaring again and again: “None of you will survive when you make an enemy of Rama Chandra!” Then he flew back across the ocean, and landed with a great noise upon a mountain peak.
The Siege Of Lanka
Without delay, the Vanaras under Sugriva mobilized, and built the miraculous bridge of stones across the ocean. In this connection, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami has written that, as the Supreme Lord floats countless planets in space as though they were no more than little cotton swabs, certainly He can float one bridge of stones upon an ocean.
In millions, with all military equipage, the army marched across the ocean and into Lanka under the very nose of the Lord of the Rakshasas. Even up to the last moment Ravana was oblivious to the warning that he didn’t have a chance in his plan to keep Sita and oppose the wish of Rama Chandra.
In hand-to-hand combat, great heroes from both sides fought to the death day after day, with thousands of fatalities among the troops. Finally, one by one, the great Rakshasa chieftains, such as Kumbhkrana, Narantaka and Indrajit, the son of Ravana, fell before the unlimited powers of heroes likeHanuman, Lakshman, Sugriva and Rama Chandra. At the last, Rama Chandra slew Ravana with a Brahmastra released from His bow.
Valmiki tells of the origin of this weapon: It was handed down by Lord Brahma, and passed from sage to sage. The Brahmastra was smeared with fat and blood, and smoked like doomsday fire. It was hard and deep sounding, and when shot by Rama Chandra it cleft Ravana’s heart in two, depriving him of life.
The Trial Of Sita
Immediately after the victory, with Lanka under the control of Rama’s party, Sita was brought before Him for a joyful reunion. Before the thousands of people gathered, however, Rama Chandra said that He could not take her back because she had lived with Ravana in his house, and had been touched by him. Janaki was mortally ashamed of her own existence, hearing Lord Rama make such an accusation before the multitude. Speaking in defense of her chastity, Sita asked Lakshman to prepare a funeral pyre. As the flames leaped up to a great height, she approached the pyre and bowed down, praying to the fire god, Agni, that if she was actually devoted to Rama the fire might protect her. Then she leaped into the blaze.
At once, Lord Brahma himself, foremost of all the demigods, descended from the sky and demanded of Rama, “Why have You done this to Sita?” And Brahma addressed Rama Chandra as Vishnu Himself, the Omnipresent and Omniscient, Who had descended for the destruction of Ravana.
Agni then appeared from the fire, carrying Sita, who was completely unharmed, even her garland and dress being unburnt due to her purity. And thus all those present could be satisfied that Sita had retained her sanctity even though long in subjection to Ravana.
Years later, however, after the happy end of the ordeal, when Rama Chandra was ruling over a joyous Ayodha, He chose to banish His wife again. His subjects had begun speaking against Sita—of the time she had spent with Ravana. And so Rama sent her away in order to prove Himself an ideal king, Who wanted to make His subjects always happy.
Lord Rama Chandra’s whole program was based on the concept of the ideal king, and it is in that light that we can best understand Him. As the perfect ruler, Rama Chandra followed the principles of morality and ethics just as they should be followed by the perfect human king or ruler. Rama Chandra submitted Himself to those principles, though He was actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and not subject to any moral code. And in this instance He showed that a good leader must think only of the welfare of his people, setting aside his entire life for that purpose, with no private pleasures withheld.
Goswami A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami explains the mood of the Lord in His Appearance as Rama Chandra thusly: “The comparative studies on the life of Krishna and Rama Chandra are very intricate, but the basic principle is that Rama Chandra appeared as an ideal king, and Krishna appeared as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although there is actually no difference between the Two. A similar example is that of Lord Chaitanya. He appeared as a devotee and not as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although He is Krishna Himself. So we should accept the Lord’s mood in His particular Appearance, and we should worship Him in that mood. Our service should be compatible with the attitude of the Lord. Therefore, in the Shastras, there are specific injunctions, such as: To worship Lord Chaitanya, the method is chanting Hare Krishna.”
Sri Valmiki declares that he who always listens to this epic becomes absolved from sins. He who listens with due respect meets with no obstacles in life. He will live happily with his near and dear ones, and get his desired boons from RamaChandra, the eternal Vishnu, the Personality of Godhead.