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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

This I learned from the Ramayana

Today is Sri Rama Navami – the day we celebrate the birth of Lord Rama. This occasion means a lot of things to me and I’ve written about it previously here.

When I was a child and listened to the Geet Ramayan being sung, one of my most favourite songs was the one that went “Setu bandhaa re…” and depicted the spirit with which the vaanaraas worked enthusiastically to build the bridge to Lanka.

Later in life, I heard two stories that again revolved around this same Setu-bandhan activity. Time and again, these stories have served to inspire me.

The first one of these is the story of a tiny squirrel.

All the vaanaraas were rushing about uprooting trees and lifting huge boulders and carrying them to throw into the sea. A squirrel who saw all this also felt enthused to contribute to this task. Although it could not uproot trees or carry boulders like the vaanaraas, it did what little it could. It carried a few small pebbles in its mouth; it also rolled its body in the sand on the seashore and then shook off the sand grains and pebbles on the bridge that was taking shape.

Some monkeys laughed at the efforts of the tiny squirrel. Rama Himself reprimanded them by pointing to how the pebbles and sand crept into the crevices between the stones, helping to bind together the whole bridge structure and give it strength!

The story continues to say that Lord Rama lovingly stroked the squirrel’s back, giving it the famous stripes we see till today. The more relevant part of this story for me has always been that spirit of “seek to do whatever you can to help – no matter how small it may appear in the overall scheme of things.” 

The second story narrates how Lord Rama was watching the vaanaraas uprooting, carrying and throwing the boulders into the sea. Throughout the activity, and especially while dropping the rocks, they kept chanting “Jai Shree Rama” and each stone they threw into the water, unfailingly floated to the surface, to form a chain of rocks, giving shape to the bridge. 

Watching this, Lord Rama himself picked up a boulder and threw it into the sea but surprisingly, for all His divine prowess, it sank without a trace. The difference between His action and that of the monkeys – He didn’t echo their chant. 

This story is what gave rise to the famous tenet “Raam se badaa Raam kaa naam” that says the Name of the Lord is greater than His Form. Every time I recollect this anecdote, I’m reminded that when I do things to the accompaniment of chanting the Lord’s Name (whether loudly or mentally), they turn out far more successful than I ever imagined possible.

We must all aspire to abide by Dharma as conscientiously as Rama; but to be able to do that effectively, it is important to first cultivate the spirit of Hanumaan. With every single breath, like the Pavanaputraa, let us ask for His unstinting faith and devotion to the Lotus feet of Lord Rama!

Jai Shree Ram ! 




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