The Appearance Day of Lord Ramachandra (Ram navami)

Karnamrita Das

Friday April 3rd is the appearance day of Lord Rama (in the USA, please check your local Temple for other parts of the world). Such a day for any incarnation of God is not called a “birth” day since God is ever-existing and primeval. Their “birth” in the material world is only a superficial ruse, as much as an actor exists before going on stage. Queen Kunti in her prayers in the 1st Canto of the Bhagavatam explains this: ”Being beyond the range of limited sense perception, You are the eternally irreproachable factor covered by the curtain of deluding energy. You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognized.”

”In the eighteenth incarnation, the Lord appeared as King Rama. In order to perform some pleasing work for the demigods, He exhibited superhuman powers by controlling the Indian Ocean and then killing the atheist King Ravana, who was on the other side of the sea.” Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.3.22

Unlike conditioned souls such as ourselves who must take birth out of karmic force and necessity, incarnations of God manifest themselves upon the earth to execute many special purposes or “lilas” (divine activities). His lila is fully recounted in the great epic, Ramayana as well as briefer accounts in other Vedic texts such as the Srimad Bhagavatam. These lilas are not myths or just stories as the mundane, faithless scholars would have us believe. They are spiritually powerful pastimes of God, meant for our welfare and the benefit of the entire universe and great devotees never tire of hearing them.

” O wise Suta, please narrate to us the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme Godhead's multi-incarnations. Such auspicious adventures and pastimes of the Lord, the supreme controller, are performed by His internal powers. We never tire of hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Personality of Godhead, who is glorified by hymns and prayers. Those who have developed a taste for transcendental relationships with Him relish hearing of His pastimes at every moment.” SB 1.1.18-19

” Thus learned men describe the births and activities of the unborn and inactive, which is undiscoverable even in the Vedic literatures. He is the Lord of the heart. The Lord, whose activities are always spotless, is the master of the six senses and is fully omnipotent with six opulences. He creates the manifested universes, maintains them and annihilates them without being in the least affected. He is within every living being and is always independent.” SB 1.3.35-36

Often on such days the Bhagavad-gita is consulted as it teaches us the general reasons why any incarnation of God appears on Earth. Verses 7-9 of the 4th chapter give us concise information concerning the appearance of the “Avatar” or incarnation of God. In verse 7 we are told when he comes: when religious practices wane and irreligion increases. However we should not think that irreligion attracts the Lord to come. No. He really comes to protect the faithful, and only secondarily to annihilate the miscreants. Then he reestablishes religious principles and teaches how to follow them by his example.

Although his life is exemplary, he performs superhuman acts that no human can accomplish. Even so he appears to act on the human level which is more easily comprehended then his inconceivable acts of Universal creation, maintenance and annihilation. He could serve his purpose on Earth just by his will alone without appearing here, yet by his mercy he comes to give his association to the saints who are pining in separation due to his absence.

In addition he displays divine activities that give us a sample of what living in the spiritual world is like. Such lilas are recorded in scriptures as Ramayana. By hearing them we become purified of material attractions and our dormant love for God is gradually awakened. The extraordinary power of understanding why such incarnations of God like Lord Rama manifest is explained in verse 9:

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”

Our material disease is our conditioned selfish interest where we think life revolves around us and that we are the center of the world (however large or small we conceive of it). We stay in the material world birth after birth on account of our attachment for enjoying and exploiting worldly resource with no knowledge of God who is actually the Supreme proprietor, enjoyer and dear-most friend of all.

We are defined materially according to our faith and attachments. Whatever we take shelter of and thus remember at death we return to in the next life. Our artificial material faith can be dissolved by associating with saints and in their company hearing the holy narrations about the incarnations of God. When we are absorbed in the loving service of God, then the things of the world are of no interest to us. Thus we will go to a plane that facilitate our spiritual desires to serve and be with the supreme object of our love and affection--Shri Rama or Shri Krishna etc.

In the divine lila of Lord Rama we find the classic “good overcoming evil” so often imitated in mundane movies, books and stories. We are reminded about the power of spirituality, religious piety, determination in the face of great adversity and obstacles, and many other qualities which we can model in order to be successful in our spiritual and material life.

Every type of human and divine character is revealed in some person in this spiritually uplifting story. Therefore we should not only hear and learn Lord Ramachandra’s activities, we should also be inspired by and want to develop the pious and spiritual qualities of the Lord and his associates. Lord Rama is the perfect son, husband, friend and king. His kingdom was so pious and the people so happy under his rule that even today people hanker after "Ram raja" or the a land ruled by Ram or someone of his caliber. Sitadevi is the perfect chaste and devotee wife. Lakshmana and Bharata are the ideal devoted brothers and servants of Shri Rama.

Hanuman is the ideal devotee servant of the Lord who to this day inspires millions with his standard of surrender and bhakti. Though from one perspective a "lowly monkey" his bhakti makes him better then millions of animal like humans. God is interested in one's consciousness, not our outer body--we can be inspired that! There is no material impediment for serving the Lord. Whether extremely blessed or cursed or a mixture of both, whether animal or human, we can still serve the Lord.

We can also study the defects of different personalities such as Ravana whose lust for Rama’s wife Sita brought his downfall. We all have a bit of Ravana within us, and we should be aware of this and pray to have such materialistic tendencies removed. Every character in scripture and in fact in life has something to teach us—either positive or negative--if we are open and awake. For a devotee the Lord is always making arrangements to help us advance.

We have to always remember that the activities of the Lord described in Ramayana and other lilas in scripture are special pastimes to accomplish many purposes. Shri Rama and Sita are the perfect Supreme Couple, yet to facilitate their purpose and teach us they also exhibit tendencies to teach us. In Sita's case she exemplifies not only devotion to Rama but also the effect of material attachment, as when she had to have Rama capture the golden deer for her. Sita berated the devoted Lakshman with cruel language forcing him to leave her so Ravana could carry her to Lanka. That was necessary to occur to facilitate the Lord's purpose. While immersing ourself in the story we have to also step back from time to time and consider the purpose of the lila as given by great acharyas.

For instance, Kaikeyi's attachment for "her" son that set up the banishment of Rama. This was similar to the Mahabharata's Dhritarastha, who because of his excessive attachment to his son, forced the battle of Kurushetra to occur in order to facilitate the Lord's purpose. Kaikeyi's maidservant Manthara spoiled her intelligence and fanned her material perspective of what was the proper course of action. Manthara can represent bad council in general, and our own materialist mind, that often will mislead us if we haven't developed spiritual intelligence.

Every person is a complex mix of many qualities. We can study the characters in the pastimes of Rama and learn our highest spiritual ideals and those qualities that could cause our downfall.

I will leave it to you to read Lord Rama’s divine lila in the Ramayana or Shrimad Bhagavatam. I just wanted to wet your appetite.


Combined comments from old site

Fri, 04/03/2009 - 05:29 — Karnamrita.das
Rama lila Summary

I have been getting some comments that my blogs are too long. Thus I have just taken the last part of the above blog and put it here. It is important that I get feedback from you about what I can do to improve my writing and gear it toward your spiritual needs and questions. Although I enjoy writing for my own sake--it helps me do deep into many spiritual topics and think about the philosophy in different ways--I am still basically writing for you, the reader. I have also noticed that over the last month readership has fallen off significantly from blog and I am trying to address that by taking responsibility and trying to adapt to your needs.

I will end with a four paragraph summary of Rama lila given by Prabhupada in one of his Bhagavatam purports.

“Lord Rama: The Supreme Personality of Godhead incarnated Himself as Sri Rama, accepting the sonhood of His pure devotee Maharaja Dasaratha, the King of Ayodhya. Lord Rama descended along with His plenary portions, and all of them appeared as His younger brothers. In the month of Caitra on the ninth day of the growing moon in the Treta-yuga, the Lord appeared, as usual, to establish the principles of religion and to annihilate the disturbing elements. When He was just a young boy, He helped the great sage Visvamitra by killing Subahu and striking Marica, the she-demon, who was disturbing the sages in their daily discharge of duties.

"The brahmanas and ksatriyas are meant to cooperate for the welfare of the mass of people. The brahmana sages endeavor to enlighten the people by perfect knowledge, and the ksatriyas are meant for their protection. Lord Ramacandra is the ideal king for maintaining and protecting the highest culture of humanity, known as brahmanya-dharma. The Lord is specifically the protector of the cows and the brahmanas, and hence He enhances the prosperity of the world. He rewarded the administrative demigods by effective weapons to conquer the demons through the agency of Visvamitra. He was present in the bow sacrifice of King Janaka, and by breaking the invincible bow of Siva, He married Sitadevi, daughter of Maharaja Janaka.

"After His marriage He accepted exile in the forest for fourteen years by the order of His father, Maharaja Dasaratha. To help the administration of the demigods, He killed fourteen thousand demons, and by the intrigues of the demons, His wife, Sitadevi, was kidnapped by Ravana. He made friendship with Sugriva, who was helped by the Lord to kill Vali, brother of Sugriva. By the help of Lord Rama, Sugriva became the king of the Vanaras (a race of gorillas).

"The Lord built a floating bridge of stones on the Indian Ocean and reached Lanka, the kingdom of Ravana, who had kidnapped Sita. Later on Ravana was killed by Him, and Ravana's brother Vibhisana was installed on the throne of Lanka. Vibhisana was one of the brothers of Ravana, a demon, but Lord Rama made him immortal by His blessings. On the expiry of fourteen years, after settling the affairs at Lanka, the Lord came back to His kingdom, Ayodhya, by flower plane. He instructed His brother Satrughna to attack Lavnasura, who reigned at Mathura, and the demon was killed. He performed ten Asvamedha sacrifices, and later on He disappeared while taking a bath in the Sarayu River. The great epic Ramayana is the history of Lord Rama's activities in the world, and the authoritative Ramayana was written by the great poet Valmiki.” SB 1.12.19 purport

Your friend in Krishna,