Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Importance of the Ramayana in Human Civilization

Br. Anantbodh Chaitanya,
Shri Yantra Madir,
Kankhal Road, Haridwar. (India)

I feel proud and glorified to talk about Ramayana, the oldest epic in the world history of literature. According to the Indian system of counting time is divided into four ages - the Satyuga , Tretayauga , Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga . Kali Yuga consists of 432 000 years, Dwapara 864 000 years, Treta Yuga 1.296 million years and Satyuga has 1.728 million. The calculation time of the Ramayana, is minimum 870 000 years (5250 to the present Kali Yuga Dwapara by gone era year 864 000 years) is proven. Some scholars interpret Ramayana was written 8000 BC, which means it, is baseless. Other scholars believe even older.

The great kind hearted saint vividly described all aspects of Human civilizations. This knowledge is bound to be enriched by its philosophical, intellectual values.  Adi Kavi (the first poet laureate) Valmiki wrote Ramayana not only to sing the melodious glory and story of Sri Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya, but to present to the posterity a practical philosophy of life, a vision of Truth, by telling how to lead a pious life, within the prevailing conditions of one’s existential conditions.  It has a pragmatic message for a busy man how to go about his daily life so that he would not only acquire his needs here, but also get what he deserves hereafter.

The essence of an individual is manifested through his action. The character exhibits itself in action – mental, verbal and physical. Therefore, the Dharma of an individual operates through every action of an individual. It is that basis from which springs every deed of a person. Hence, the word Dharma is a very comprehensive one. It cannot be delineated in one word or in a few sentences. It is neither religion nor philosophy, though they stem from it. It is the very foundation for both of them and for many more things of life. It encompasses the duties, responsibilities, rights, religious observances, social obligations, secular laws, conventions, nay, the very fabric of one’s own life in such a way that one cannot live without it. Everyone acts one’s own Dharma through and through.

A society or a community is called decent or civilized on its outer aspect such as its outer behavior. Our civilized manner is displayed by lifestyle, eating habits, physical development, family behavior etc. . . Whereas culture determines our internal thinking, knowledge, science etc.   Simply speaking, our culture dictates our behavior. Ramayana was a deciding factor to develop human civilization and will continue to be the deciding factor of human morality and ethical life.
It has been said about Ramayana that यावत् स्थास्यन्ति गिरयः सरितश्च महीतले तावत् रामायणकथा लोकेषु प्रचरिष्यति ।। means’ till there is hill /mountain on earth Ramayana will be there’.

Social view during Ramayana era:
 Now let us discuss a few aspects from Ramayana to understand its implications:
सर्वे वेदविदः शूराःसर्वे लोकहिते रताः सर्वे ज्ञानोपसम्पन्नाःसमुदिता गुणैः( बालकाण्ड,बाल्मिकीय रामायण 18/25)
Every citizen of the Ayodhya, in society lead a harmonious life without any sort of discrimination, hatred or ill will among themselves.

Ramayana visualizes us of such a society where under a pious judicious king everyone is happy on all aspects and had no grievance whatsoever.
The so called development we are hearing about nowadays is nothing but approaching towards destruction.  So much pollution is being created in the name of development that question started arises about the future of our mother earth. During Ramayana era cow was being referred as Gou-Mata and was the basis of all sorts of well-being.

In Vedas also said “धेनुः सदनं रयीणाम्” i.e. Gou-Mata is the source of all sorts of wealth.
By preserving and taking proper care to the Goumata we can have a healthy and wealthy life. We should discourage pollution creating fuels and rather would search for no-polluting fuel as we heard about Pushpak –Yanam in Ramayana.

We find description in Ramayana about a very progressive happy and wealthy kingdom where everyone is happy, no treason, robbery, theft took place.  All these were due to their high culture and values they used to follow. On the contrary, due to degradation of our values we are suffering of all possible vices.
For a developed man vis-à-vis a developed society as well as a developed world we have to follow the sixteen important Sanskaras right from birth to death. Sanskar (culture) is nothing but some to do’s and some not to do’s which can transform us to acquire a noble life of high values and ethics.
The following is from the Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kanda, 9-30, 31.
"Wealth comes out of Dharma. Happiness comes out of Dharma. Everything is obtainable from Dharma. Dharma is the essence of this universe. The adept attain Dharma by disciplining themselves by the conditions of Dharma, with great effort; one cannot get happiness from happiness."
The Ramayana follows the tradition of civilization had five Yagna(sacrifice) ,Bramha Yagna  in Vedic Civilization , Deva Yajna (altar), Pitri yagna and the oblation, Atithi or guest yagna (sacrifice) and Bali vaisya yagna is known by the name of five Mahayagna. These yagnas are the uniting factor to tie the whole universe together and cause of all out progress and prosperity.
Guest sacrifice: ---
In the Ramayana, Atithi (guest) has been given highest regards.  Guest is like deity equal to God. When Ram, Laxmana and Sita arrived in the forest monks also gave him due respect.
In addition humanity, Atithi yagna practiced only in the self-help philosophy is to provide our identification with the all-pervasive power installs.
Father's sacrifice -
Ramayana teaches respect parents as a god. Rama obeyed Dashratha the Father and mother Kaikeyi’s will and left the state and went to exile. On the contrary nowadays for financial gain children do not hesitate to kill parents. 
Ideal Family –
Today’s society of indulgence has caused families to disintegrate.  We are able to observe the effect in the Western world.  Ramayana demonstrates the highest level of family values, with which we are familiar.  Lord Ram went into exile as he obeyed his father.  Sita gave up the luxury of a palace to follow her husband.  And Lakshmana abandoned the comfort of his family to serve his big brother and sister-in-law.  When Ravan abducted Sita, Ram and Lakshmana found some ornaments in the forest that belonged to Sita.  Lakshmana stated that he only recognized Sita’s toe ring as he had never seen anything but her feet.  Nobody can destroy a family that has a brother like Lakshmana.  On the other hand, brother Bharat always considered himself incomplete without his brothers even when he was crowned.  Sumitra is an ideal mother.  She gave Bharat all the love as her own son despite Kaikeyi’s ill-treatment of her own son.  Hanumana is an ideal devotee, who is ever present to serve the needs of Ram.

शक्तिबाण से मूर्छित  लक्ष्मण को उनकी सेवा के कारण ही प्राणदान प्राप्त होता है इनके पावन चरित्र का स्मरण ही क्षुद्र स्वार्थो के कारण टूटते हमारे दाम्पत्य जीवन एवं परिवारों को बचा सकता है Ramayana gives us the message on the right path to take. This brilliantly teaches us that the mother - father, husband - wife , brother - brothers and King - What are the duties of subjects.
Status of Women -
There is much to be learned from the characters of Kausalya, Sita, and Anusuya described in the Ramayana. Women of today are able to dress well, and present themselves as civilized.  However, the lack of integrity, honor and sacrifice results in happiness and peace of families.  Even an old bird Jatayu could not tolerate the sight of a woman being mistreated and fought with his life to protect her. This indicates that we should respect and protect women.

Environmental ----
Today's blind development of our modern tradition is engaged in destroying our environment. In the Ramayana people worshipped  river, lake, forest, trees, air and holistic nature.  Relationship with animals is like relationship with friends.  On the demise of a deer, Maharishi Valmiki produced the entire Ramayana at the bank of river Ganges.  We should respect and preserve nature.

Vastu and Science ---
Ramayan depicts a culture of sacrifice as well as different aspects of human civilization.  The city of Ayodhya shows excellent city planning and construction, roads, unique palaces, gem towers, safe and beautiful homes, arms, and engine-free flower aircraft.  Vishwakarma built Lanka, Alka Puri, and Ramsetu.  All of these architectures serve as examples for today’s society.

Ramayana literary importance -----
Ramayana is considered to be the original source of Indian culture. This is a subject on which people have been writing books for hundreds of years.  It is written in several Indian as well as other languages of the world.   By merely pursuing Ramayana , love, devotion, and reverence arises.  Conscience is purified. So this is a unique and long lived treatise. In literary terms, it is a precious creation of world literature.  Several serials and films have also been constructed based on the legendary story of Ramayana.  Ramayana rituals in contemporary society and governance method is described. Eternal values ​​of Ramayana in development is as important today as it was in ancient times. Ramayana creation of human life and overall development of the eternal life values ​​- the purpose is to inspire.

Ramayana The World - prevalence -----
Ramayana has been universal since 19th Century.  Numerous poor Indians came from Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad, Suriname, Jamaica traveled to India in search of jobs.  They took Tulsidas Ramayana with them that helped them through crisis.

In the second phase during 20th Century, especially before the partition of India in 1947, Ramayana had spread to many countries in the East and West, in any of the forms – Ramcharitmanasa, Valmiki Ramayana, or Kamban Ramayana.

The third and most powerful phase brought Ramayan to East and Southeastern parts of the world where Ramayan is incorporated as part of the culture. The poets of these countries wrote about Rayamana and filled in gaps.  Local names of cities and people were used to depict characters, to the point that it seems that Ramayana took place in their country.  However, the essence of Ramayan is still based on Valmiki Ramayana. 

In Thailand, Lord Ram is intertwined in their cultural as well as religious practices.  Ram and Buddha co-exist and are integrated.  The biggest example is the Royal Palace in Thailand, in which the Emerald Buddha resides.  The is the most famous landmark and is visited by people from all over the world.  The story of Ramayana is painted along the walls of this temple.  They have their own version of Ramayana, called “Ramakien” which was written by King Rama the First.  The current King is the King Rama Nine.

You can also view grand presence of Lord Ram in the national museum.  On entrance, you can see a statue of  Ram with his bow and arrow. The most surprising thing is the cities name Ayodhya and Lopburi in Thailand.  Thais believe that Ramayan took place in their country.

Angkor Wat of Cambodia is the biggest symbol of Indian Culture the presence of Lord Ram in SouthEast Asia .  You will find statues of Shiva, Vishnu, Ram and other Indian Gods.  This was constructed in the 11th Century by Suryavarman Dwitiya..  The different parts are Angkor Wat, Angkor Tham, Bayon.  The walls of Angkor Wat depict different episodes of Ramayan, like Hanuman’s arrival in Ashok Vatika, the war between Ram and Ravan in Lanka, the war between Bali and Sugreev.   Ramayan is called Ramker, which is similar to Thai Ramayan.  Similarly, in other Buddhist countries like Laos and Burma, the story of Ram is prevalent and is seen in their stage plays and dances. 

And here, in Indonesia – regardless one is a Hindu from Bali, or Muslim from Java Sumatra, everybody thinks of Ram as national hero  and considers Ram as an important historical and cultural heritage.  The temple called Prambanan is 15 miles from Yogyagarta is the proof of this, whereby the entire story of Ram is engraved on stone walls.

In Bali, the popularity of Ram Lila or dance is increasing everyday.  The famous Ramayana epic is called Kakvin.  In Malaysia,  leather puppets by night are shown in the context of Ramayana. Their version of Ramayan is called Hikayat Seri Rama, in which they believe Ram to be incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  Islamic influence is apparent.  In sixth Century, Sinhalese poet named Naresh Kumar composed a poetry based on the kidnapping of Janki.  Later, it was translated John D Silva made adaptations to the Ramayan.

Because Sanskrit achieved its place in the Western universities, Valmiki Ramayan has been introduced to the world centuries ago.  However, Ramcharitmanas (by Tulsi Das ji) only got introduced to the Western world in the last century.  It has been translated into many of the world’s important languages, and is still continuing to be so.  In 1839, French scholar “Gasan Tdasi” translated Sunder Kand of Ramcharitmanas. Mr. Wadi Vilan of Paris University took it forward and translated the rest.

The Ramayana of Tulsidas was translated in English by Rev. A.G. Atkins, which is very popular.  Devdas Gandhi of Times of India got it published.  Similar translations have been made in Germany and Soviet Union.  Alexei Warinikov established a powerful cultural bond between Russia and India by translating the Manas.  The Manas is placed on his memorial in his hometown village Kaporov, which is in the north of St. Peters berg.  In China, both Valmiki and Ramcharit Manas have been translated.  Also in Dutch, Spanish, Japanese and other languages.

The flow moved forward in the Western world through research dissertations.  Dr. Tisotori of Italy, who studied Hindi literature, was awarded a doctorate from Florence University in 1910, based on his thesis titled “Valmiki and Ramcharitmanas – a comparative study”.  Another thesis was written in London University in 1918 by J.N. Carpenter.  The title was “Theology of Tulsidas.”

It is a matter of satisfaction that Ramayana has received global recognition.  It has an important place in cultural, spiritual as well as part of International Ramayana Conference.  There have been more than 17 conventions in 12 countries, which started in India and have spread worldwide.

Ramayana democracy, the ideal format ----

In the past few centuries, the imbalance in democracy has been of rising concern.  In the age of Ramayana, life was more about being a good social person, now power is more important.  Despite being a King, Lord Ram followed rules of democracy, public expression, being cognizant, as well as fusing with other people.  If we were to follow the same rules today, we could have a more prosperous and complete thriving democracy.

Epilogue -----
There is no doubt that at least two thirds of the world is influenced by Ramayana in different forms.   From Egypt and Rome to Vietnam Cambodia and here in Indonesia, you can see the pervasive influence of the Ramayana.  This indicates that Ramayana is a pillar for the way of life in our civilization.  Just the way all the characters in the Ramayana follow the principles of their roles, we should learn our role and follow it sincerely.  This is the only way to have a good life, and be free from all the problems.


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