Monday, April 7, 2014

WHY DO WE REVERE RAMAYANA PARAYANA OR PATH?

Why do we revere Ramayana or Sunderkand  Paaraayan  or Paath?  

(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, April, 2014)


Ramayana is the most ancient literary piece hailed as Adikavya. Even today it is the most thrilling and popular scripture read by all humanity translated into may languages. “The inner voice of Valmiki, the voice of the Creator, prompted him to use the sloka metrical form to put into 24000 verses, the whole story of Srirama which he heard from Sage Narada. If he should do so, the Voice assured him that as long as hills stand, and the rivers flow on this earth, so long would the story of Ramayana will be current to the world” say D. S. Sharma introducing Ramayana. Its proof is in Ramayana Parayana or Path which is ceremoniously and religiously read and heard by millions all over India year after year during  Ramanavami and Navratri  or Dussera  which is a special religious event more than other  Hindu Religious Festivals.

Ramayan Path is the act of reading (Pathanam) and listening (Sravanam) Ramayana on specific days devoted to Sri Rama the seventh Incarnation of Vishnu. Both these holy reading and listening are themselves considered to be Aaraadhana or act of worship of the Supreme. Rama-japa is recommended by none other than Lord Siva in Vishnu Sahsranaama. 

Lord Siva suggests to Parvati that one easy method to achieve the whole effect of chanting Vishnu Sahasra Naama (VSN) is by chanting  Raama thrice-“Raama  raameti raameti rame raaame manorame| sahasranaama tattulyam Sri Raamanaama varaanane ||”.

Ma is the seed letter (beejaakshara) in the Panchaksharee (five syllables) Vedic mantra “Namah Sivaayaa”. Raa is the seed letter in the Ashtaaksharee mantra (eight syllables) “Om Namoe Naaraayanaaya”. In combination it became a powerful mantra of Siva-Vishnu by chanting which over thousands of years once the greatest sinner became later the holiest and wisest sage in the world who is credited with the first literary master piece of 24000 Slokas of the great epic Srimad Ramayana.

In Kalisantaranopanishat Brahma (Hiranyagarbha) reveals the following Shodashaksharee Mantra to Narada for effective meditation:

Sa hoevaacha Hiranyagarbhah  (Brahma said to the  inquiring  sage Naarada):
Hare Raama Hare Raama Raama  Raama Hare Hare |

Ramayana Paraayana during nine days preceding Ramanavami or during nine days of Navaratri is as effective as constant meditation on Rama mantra stated above.  If it is not possible to whole Ramayana during these festive days  at least Sundarakanda should be read or heard during these nine days festivals.

Canto CXI of Valmiki Ramayana elaborates the consequences of listening to and reading of the Ramayana;

Etaavadetadaakhyaanam sottaram brahmapoojitam | ramayanamiti khyaatam mukhyam Valmikina  kritam || 1 || Tatah pratishthitaa vishnuhsvargaloke yathaa pura | Yena vyaaptamidam sarvam trailokyam  sacharaacharam ||2|| Tatoe devah sagandharvaah siddhaascha paramrshayah | Nityam srinvanti samhrishtaah kaavyam Raamaayanm divin ||3|| Idamaakhyaanam-aayushyam saubhaagyam paapanaasanam Ramayanam vedasamam sraaddhesahu sraavayed budhah ||4|| Aputro labhate putrm-adhano  labhate dhanam | sarvapaapaih  pramuchyeta paadamapyasya yah pathet ||5|| Paapaanyapi ch yah kuryaad-ahanyahani maanavah | pathyat-ekam-api slokam paapaat sa parimuchyate ||6||            

Thus conclude Ramayana.    Then Vishnu who pervades all sentient and non- sentient beings in this world went back to  His abode Vaikuntha. This Ramayana chiefly composed by Valmiki   is worshiped by all sages and those that meditate on Brahman. Therefore the Gods with the Gandharvas, the Siddhas and great sages listen to the Epic Ramayana in heaven constantly with pleasure.   Listening as well as reading Ramayana gives longevity, makes one rich, and enables one to absolve all sins. It has the same status as Vedas and the wise should make it to be heard in the funeral rites. [Hindus resort to    the chanting “Rama naam satya hai, Satya bolo mukti hai” as funeral procession proceeds to the cremation or burial grounds] Those who are sonless obtain a son and the poor gets wealth by hearing it. Those who read even a quarter  verse of this Ramayana is freed from all sins. The person who is compelled to commit sins every day (like a hunter) is also freed from sins even if he reads one sloka of this Ramayana.

Chintayed raaghavam nityam sreyah praaptum ya ichchati | Sravayed-idam-aakhyaanam braahmanebhyo dine dine ||20|| yastvidam raghunaathasya charitam sakalam pathet |soasukshaye vishnulokam gacchatyeva na samsayah ||21|| pitaa pitaamahastasya tathaiva prpitaamahah | tatpitaa tatpitaa caiva Vishnu yanti na samsayah ||22||Chatur-vargapadam nityam charitam raaghavasya tu |Tasmaad yatnavataa nityam srotavyam parmam padaa ||23|| Srinvan raamaayanam  bhaktyaa yah paadam padameva  yaa | sa vaati braahmanah sthaanam brahmanaa poojyate sadaa ||24|| Evametat puraavrittam-aakhyaanam bhadramastu yah | Pravyaaharata visrabdham balam vishnoh pravardhataam ||25||

He who wants to secure bliss should contemplate on Sri Rama and should narrate the story before the assembly of Brahamins (Learned class). He who reads this whole Ramayana of Sri Rama undoubtedly shall attain the World of Vishnu after the end of this life. His father, grand- father and even fathers of sub-ancestors attain the abode of Vishnu. The exploration of Sri Rama   bestows four objects—Kama, the gratification of desire ; Artha,   acquisition of wealth; Dharma, discharge of duty and Moksha, emancipation. So, one should listen carefully and diligently. Listening even one syllable or a   quarter of the verse of the Ramayana with reverence one attains the world of Brahman and is regarded as respected there by Him. Thus runs this historical narrative. May all be well with the readers and audiences! Utter it not inaccurately and repeat it confidently. May the spell of power of Lord Vishnu pervade   immensely thereby on all!

Ramanavami is celebrated on bright fortnight Navami in the Hindu Month of Chaitra in April  every year. For all Hindus the Ramayana is an important religious text. Among the Seven Kaandas (Cantos) of Ramayana,  Sunderakaanda is considered the most important.  Why did Valmiki titled other  Kaandas   describing the event or Status (Baala Kaanda, Yuddhakaanda etc.),  while he did not call this “Hanumad_vijaya-Kaanda”, for this  entirely deals with  Hanuman’s  adventure. But that would not have gone well with Hanuman’s liking with his humble nature  and dedicated  service to Rama.  It would not have pleased Hanuman stealing the show from Rama while his name is glorified. Hanuman throughout Ramayana presents himself as a humble servant and devotee of Rama. The Key sloka of Sunderkaanda is in chapter 13:60.

Namostu raammaya salakshmanaaya devyai cha tasmai jankatmajaayai |
Namostu rude rendra yama-anilebhyo namostu chandraarka marudganebhyaha || 60 ||

Obeisance to Rama! Obeisance to Lakshmana! Obeisance to the daughter of Janaka! obeisance to Rudra, Indra, Yama, Vaayu, Chandra, Soorya and Maruts”.

Thus  in  the above sloka devotees join Hanuman in paying their obeisance to the Supreme Lord,  Sita Devi and his brother Lakshmana,  avatars of Vishnu and Adisesha).

Tulsidas was no less a devotee of Sri Rama. Sunderkaand of his  Ramachrait Manas ends with the   verse:Sakal sumangal daayak raghunayak gun gaan | saadar sunarhi te tarahim bhava sindhu bina jalajaal  [Sunderkaand sings the praises of Sri Rama. It helps to achieve all that is good and auspicious, both worldly and spiritual. Whoever hears it with devotion shall without any means be able to cross the ocean of life. Thus devotees here also join Tulsidas to worship Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and the then known Vedic Gods. We have now gone up to 33 crores latest being Saibaba.

The  seven parts of Tulsidas Ramayan are equated with seven great pilgrim centers in India that lead to salvation –Ayodhya, Mathura, Gaya, Kashi, Kanchai, Avantika Puri (Ujjain) and Dvarvatin (Dwaraka). Sunderkand is equated with Kanchi known for its Shiva Kanchi and Vishnu Kanchi. So it is appealing to all; both Siva followers and Vishnu followers. Also Rama and Siva are closely associated. It is strange Rameswaram is not in the list!

Beauty and inspiration of the verse of Sunderkand of Tulasidas Ramayan directs one towards attaining spiritual knowledge and is attractive to all from the worldly and spiritual point of view.

Hanuman is Chiranjeevi (immortal) and will become the next Brahma when the present tenure of Brahma ends.  Devotees chant the Sunderkand as an unfailing ritual and seek the blessings of Hanuman.  He is the one living God for all times, simple and easily accessible.  Avatars come and go but hanuman lives forever with us! Faith and devotion are the key virtues he builds in us.  “Do you seek god? Then see him in Man. His divinity is manifested more than in any other object. Man is the greatest manifestation of God” says Ramakrishna Paramhamsa. Then you see how hard it is to explain the manifestation of Hanuman who has chosen to live with us when Rama left for his Vaikuntha to help and guide us forever!
My grand-father used to read Ramayana every day after bath before even consuming his morning coffee. He always used to keep a plank before his Ramayana paaraayana Peetham ( Vyaaspeeth or divine bookstand). I was curious to know whom it was for? He told me that  the seat was for Hanuman to take his seat while Ramayana is recited;he comes every day to listen to him and he is visible only to a true devotee and I too should concentrate and listen with Sraddha (faith). Immature as I was then, not that I am anything better now, I was always fascinated with his monkey pranks and values. I always felt there was lot of time for liberation and it is time for me to enjoy life like Hanuman in his childhood. I now know how wrong I am as I advance in age!

Ramayana Parayana or Path worship is observed as any other festival worship. It includes normal purifactory rituals, sankalpa or religious resolution, Invocation reading and listening of the main text, aarati (waving of Lamps), naivedyam (offering food), Mantrapushpam (floral offering of Veda mantras) and concluding prayer. The function concludes with offering food to Vedic scholars, feeding the poor and enjoying the blessed food with all participants and listeners.

Ram is your soul. Sita is your heart. Ravan is your mind that steals your heart from your soul. Lakshman is your consciousness, always with you and active on your behalf. Hanuman is your intuition and courage that help retrieve your heart to re-animate your soul.......... !!! (Excellent interpretation of Ramayan!!!)

The invocation prayer should include the verses besides the regular verses:

Aapadaamapahartaaram daataaram sarva sampadaam |
lokabhiraamam sriramam bhooyo bhooyo namamyaham ||

I salute again and again Sri Rama the delight of the whole world, the reliever of sufferings and the one who bestows on us all riches.

Koojantam Rama Rameti madhuram madhuraaksharam |
Aaruhya kavitaasaakhaam vande Vaalmiki –kokilam ||
I salute sage Valmiki conceived as a    cuckoo bird melodiously singing the sweet syllables Rama, Rama.

The concluding prayer should include the verse besides the customary verses and Shanti path:

Mangalam kosalendraaya mahaneeya gunaatmane |
Chakravarti tanoojaaya saarvabhaumaaya mangalam ||

May I offer all auspiciousness to the ruler of the territory of Kosala, an ocean of laudable virtues, son of a universal monarch! May I offer all auspiciousness to the ruler of the entire globe!

Parabrahman the absolute is the Alpha and the Omega. The Pranava or the Word of Power Om  tries to convey to the Universe the Triple Mystery, the Three in One and the One in Three. Gayathri Mantra is   an amplification of that Word. It is the quintessence of Vedas, the germ out of which they evolved. Every thousand stanzas in the Ramayana begin with one of the letters of Gayathri.   Hence Ramayana is considered something more than an Epic poem and a work of art unlike Mahabharata and considered Holy for a sacred reading (pathanam) and listening (sravanam) like Bhagavadgeetaa.

Gayathri  Ramayana  is a collection of 24 verses corresponding to the 24 beejaaksharaas (seed letters) of  Gayathri Mantra and taken from the 24000 verses of Sri Valmiki Ramayana. Every thousandth verse begins with a   Gayathri syllable.  Reciting this is believed to bring in the combined efficacy of Sri Ramayanaparayana and Gayathri Japam.  Please go through Gayathree Ramayana as given in the Appendix kindly provided by Sri BRG Iyengar, a religious scholar from Bengaluru.

Rama is your soul. Sita is your heart. Ravana is your mind that steals your heart from your soul. 
Lakshmna  is your consciousness, always with you and active on your behalf.  Hanuman is your intuition and courage that help retrieve your heart to re-animate your soul!

REFERENCES:

1. Gita Press,  Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, Gorakhpur, India

2.  Sarma, D.S., Srimad Ramayana, Ramkrishna Math, Chennai, India.

3. Prem Bhalla,  Hindu Rituals, Rites, Customs and Traditions, Pustak Mahal, Delhi, India.

4. K. Sreenivas Ayyyanga, The Ramyana of Valmiki, LIFCO Publishers, Chennai, India.


 [This is a prepared lecture compiled from above references and others for a discourse at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville and to benefit those who are not able to attend the same in person. You are free to download and use it for your reading and reference as well as circulate to others to spread the wisdom of Vedas and Hindu values which good act will be appreciated.]



APPENDIX 

Gayathri Ramayanam
(Rendered by  Sri  BRG  Iyengar of Bengaluru)



Ragamaalikaa                              Thriputa Thala 
Kalyani : 

Tapassvaadhyaaya niratham tapasvee vaagvidhaam varam
Naaradham paripaprachcha Vaalmeekirmunipungavam
                          
                                                                                                                      1 (Tat)
                                                                1-1-1 
Sa hathvaa raakshasaan sarvaan yajnaghnaan Raghunandana:
Rushibhi: poojitha: thathra yathendro vijayee puraa                                   2 (sa)
     1-30-24/25 
Dhanyaasi : 

Vishvaamitrasthu  dharmaatmaa shrutvaa Janakabhaashitham
Vatsa Raama dhanu: pashya ithi Raaghavam abraveeth                               3 (vi)
    1-67-12 
Thushtaavaasya tadhaa vamsham pravishya sa vishaam pathe:
Shayaneeyam narendrasya thadhaasaadhya vyathishtatha      
    2-15-20/21               4  (tur)
Kambodi : 
Vanavaasam hi sankhyaaya vaasamsyaabharanaani cha
Bhartaaram anugachchantyai  Seethaayai shwashuro dadau                         5  (va)
     2-40-14 
Raajaa satyam cha dharmashcha raajaa kulavathaam kulam
Raajaa maataa pithaa chaiva raajaa hithakaro nrunaam                                  6(rae)
      2-67-34   
Bhairavi : 
Nireekshya sa muhoortham thu dadarsha Bharatho gurum
Utaje Raamamaaseenam jataamandaladhaarinam                                           7 (n)
       2-99-25 
Yadhi buddhi: krutaam drashtum Agastyam tham mahaamunim
Adyaiva gamane buddhim rochayasva mahaayasha:                                       8 (yam)
       3-11-44/45 
Kedaragowla : 
Bharatasyaaryaputrasya shwashroonaam mama cha prabho
Mrugaroopamidam vyaktham vismayam janayishyathi                                  9 (bhar)
        3-43-17 
        
Gachcha sheeghramitho Rama Sugreevam tham mahaabalam
Vayasyam tham kuru kshipram itho gathvaadya Raaghava                              10 (goe)
         3-72-17 

Thodi : 
Deshakaalau bhajaswaadhya kshamamaana: priyaa priye
Sukhaduhkha sahakaale Sugreevavashago bhava                                           11 (de)
 4-22-20 
Vandhyaasthe thu thapassidhaa: thapasaaveethakalmashaa:
Prashtavyaschaapi Seetaayaa: pravrutthim vinayaanvitai:                             12 (va)
4-43-34 
Mohana : 
Sa nirjithya pureem shreshtaam Lankaam thaam kaamaroopineem
Vikramena mahaatejaa Hanumaan Hariyoothapa:                                          13 (sya)
5-4-1 
Dhanyaa devaassa gandharvaa: siddhaashcha paramarshaya:
Mama pashyanthi Ye naatham Raamam raajeevalochanam                           14(dhee)
5-26-41/42 


Kamavardhini : 
Mangaalaabhimukhee thasya saa thadhaaseenmahaakape:
Upathasthe vishaalaakshee prayaataa havyavaahanam                                   15(ma)
5-53-27/28 
Hitham mahaartham mrudhupoorvasamhitham
Vyatheetha kaalaayathi samprathikshamam
Nishamya thadhvaakyam upasthitha jvara: 
Prasangavaan-uttharam-ethad-abraveeth   
 
6-10-27                   16    (hi)

 Arabhi : 
Dharmaatmaa rakshasaashreshtassampraapthoyam Vibheeshana:
Lankaishvaryam dhruvam shreemaanayam praapnothyasamshayam                                      
         6-41-69                    17 (dhee)
Yo vajrapaathaashani sannipaathaanna
Chukshubhe naapi chachaala raajaa
Sa Raamabaanaabhihatho bhrushaartha:
Chachaala chaapam cha mumocha veera:                                                          18  (yoe)
6-59-139 
Kanada : 
Yasya vikramamaasaadya raakshasaa: nidhanam gathaa:
Tam manye Raaghavam veeram Naaraayanam anaamayam                           19 (yoe)
6-72-11 
Na  hi thay dadrushu: Veeram dahantam arivaahineem
Mohitaa: paramaasthrena gaandharvena mahaathmanaa                                20 (nahi)
6-94-26 
 Behag : 
Pranamya devathaabhyashcha braahmanebhyashcha Mythilee
Baddhaanjaliputaa chhainam uvaachaagnisameepatha:                                    21 (pra)
6-119-23 
Chalanaat parvathendrasya ganaa devaashchakampire
Chachaala Paarvathee chaapi thadhaashlishtaa Maheshvaram                         22 (choe)
7-16-26/27 
Kapi : 
Daaraa: puthraa: puram raashtram bhogaachchaadanasamyutham
Sarvamevaa vibhaktam nu bhavishyathi hareeshvara                                      23 (da)
7-34-41 
Yaameva raathrim Shatrughna: parnashaalaamupaavishath
Thaameva raathrim Seethaapi prasoothaa dhaarakadvayam                           24 (yat)
7-66-1 

Khamach : 
Sakrudeva prapannaaya thavaasmeethi cha yaachathe  Abhayam Sarvabhoothebhyo dadhhamyethad vratham mama   (Charama Sloka)   
6-18-33/34                   

Madhyamavathi : 
Idam Raamaayanam kruthsnam Gaayathreebeejasamyutham
Ya:pateth shrunuyaadvaapi sarva paapai: pramuchyathe  (Phalashruthi)      
Repeat :         


Kalyani : 
Tapassvaadhyaaya niratham tapasvee vaagvidhaam varam
Naaradam paripaprachcha Vaalmeekirmunipungavam        
1-1-1          



 Meanings of the slokas 

1 .Sage Valmiki, ever engaged in austerities and reading of scriptures, asked Narada, foremost amongMunisand a Master in the art of word craft 
2. Having killed the demons obstructing the sacrifice, Sri Rama was felicitated by the sages as Indra was felicitated long ago on his victory 
3. Hearing Janaka’s words, the righteous Viswamitra said to  Sri Rama “O my boy Rama, take a look at this bow” 
4. Then, Sumantra approached Rama’s abode and standing at the entrance of Rama’s bedroom praised Rama and his forebears in the dynasty.  
5. Dasaratha gave Sita, who was following her husband (into the forest), enough clothes and ornaments reckoning the number of days to be spent in the forest, 
6. It is the king who   is the upholder of Truth andDharma, it is he who protects those of good genealogy (kula) and he is the father, mother and well-wisher of his subjects. 
7 .Bharata (after sighting the hermitage of Rama), spent a few minutes looking at it and then saw   Rama , hisGuru, sitting inside with his matted locks. 
8.  Sutikshna Rishi(in whose hermitage Rama was staying) said to Rama “O Rama of great fame, if you intend visiting Agastya, the great sage, then make up your mind to go there today itself”. 
9. Sita  says to Rama “  This deer (of golden colour) will be an object of wonder for AryaputraBharata, my in-laws and for myself” 
10.  O  Rama  ! Leave this place without delay and go to the powerful Sugreeva. Make friends with him quickly after going there today alone.“ 
11. Wait for the appropriate place and time,   taking with equanimity both likes and dislikes and pleasure and pain which occur over a period of time and put yourself under the control of Sugriva
12 . Those Rishis,   who by their austerities,  have attained the highest goal of life and have been purified by their tapas, are to be revered and respected.  You should enquire of them about Sita and her present situation with modesty  
13. Having conquered  by his valour the guarding deity ofLankapuri,  who was capable of taking any form she desired, Hanuman, son of Vayu and very powerful (scaled the ramparts of Lanka) 

14. :“Devas,Gandharvas,SiddhasandRishiswhosoever see my Lord Rama, who has eyes beautiful as lotus petals, will have their lives fulfilled.” 

15.The wide-eyed (Sita), with the intention of blessing Hanuman and preventing any hurt to him, prayed to the Fire God with a pure heart. 

16.Hearing the Advice of Vibhishana which was well-meaning, having a superior purpose, mild, reasoned, relevant equally in the past, the present and the future, Ravana was infuriated and being passionately attached gave the following reply. 

17. This Vibhishana, the embodiment of dharma and foremost amongrakshasashas arrived (to surrender himself to Rama) and he will surely inherit the whole of the riches of Lanka free of all enemies. 

18. The valiant Ravana, struck by thevajrayudhaof Indra or by thunder-bolt, was never agitated or moved but struck by the arrows of Rama he became extremely hurt, and the bow slipped from his hand. 

19.“On the strength of whose valor manyrakshasaslost their lives that valiant Rama, Ithink, is the eternal Narayana Himself.” 

20 .The large-hearted Rama was scorching to death the army of the enemy but therakshasas could not see him, deluded as they were by the Gandharvastra 

21. Offering her salutations to thedevasand thebrahmanas  Sita, with folded hands went near Agni and spoke thus 

22. When the mountain was shaking, theganasanddevaswere tossed about. Parvati also felt the tremor and embraced her consort Maheshwara (Siva) 

23. O Chief ofVanaras, henceforth wives, sons, city,  country, objects of enjoyment, clothes and food would be undivided between us, that is, we will partake of them as common assets. 

24. The night during which Shatrughna entered the hermitage of Valmiki, the same night Sita was delivered of twin male children. 

Charama Sloka 

If any being surrenders just once and says “I am yours” I shall grant Abhayam to all such beings. This is my Vratha. 

Phalasruthi
Those who recite this, the whole of the story of Rama, composed of the bijaksharas (seed letters) of Gayatri Mantra, in the morning (Pratah Sandhya), midday (Madhyahneeka Sandhya) and evening   twilight period ( Saayam Sandhya), will  be saved from all sins.