Effective Communication – A Hindu Perspective

Om Namo Narayanaya, this seems like a mere greeting but it is not. How often do we see friends or family members and go “hello, how are you”, or “howsit”, “whatsup”, “good morning/afternoon/evening. While we may verbally inquire as to their well-being how often do we really want to pay attention to the response? In the same token how often does the respondent actually answer consciously as opposed to the knee-jerk reaction that these greetings develop into? In putting our palms together and pronouncing the greeting “Om Namo Narayanaya” we do far more than offer a mere greeting via lip service. It is the acknowledgment of the divinity that resides in all of us, that untainted atman. With this in mind once the initial greeting is done the atman does not suddenly disappear or become defunct, it is present always and thus communication needs to be respectful at all times. Our ability to communicate in varied and colourful ways is a gift from the divine that sets us apart from mere animals.

There is a game that many children have played at some point or another. It is a simple game that requires very little to play. Basically one child whispers a message into the ear of the next and the message is carried from one child to the next in a circle until it once again reaches the point of origin. The last child must announce the message received. The game is called broken telephone and the fun of the game lies in the various contortions that the message goes through along the way. This is a simple game but much truth is expressed in it. Communication is something that most of us take for granted. We learn to speak, read and write and thus are able to communicate. Like the game, communication is not a simple matter of spreading words and thoughts. Take the following story. It was Friday night and Raj and his wife, Nalini, had just had their third argument of the day. This resulted in neither of them speaking to the other. When it was time for bed however, Raj realized that he would need his wife’s help. The next day he was to meet his friends early in the morning for a game of golf. Nalini was in the habit of waking up at 4:30 am so he would ask her to wake him at 5:00am.    Not wanting to be the first to break the silence, Raj wrote on a piece of paper, “Nalini, please wake me at 5:00am.”
The next morning, Raj woke and discovered to his horror that it was after 9:00am, and he had missed the game with his friends. Furious, he was about to get out of bed and confront his wife when he noticed a piece of paper on his bedside table that read: “Raj, it’s 5:00am. Wake up.”

Effective communication requires that the message be delivered clearly and understood. This is a truth that was recognised millenia ago by the great Hindu sages. The Ramayana by sage Valmki clearly expresses the aspects of effective communication in the Kishkinda Kaand.

After Ravan abducted Mother Sita, Sri Rama and Lakshmana went in search of her and or any news of her. While searching they entered the territory of the Vanaras. Sri Hanumanji, being a trusted advisor of the Vanara King Sugriva, was sent to investigate the identity of the strangers, to ascertain whether they were friend or foe sent by the Sugriva’s brother, Vali, to spy on them.

Sri Hanumanji disguised himself as a mendicant and approached the exiled brothers. He questioned their identity and their motives before revealing his own.

In the Ramayana Sage Valmiki describes this episode in beautiful pros. It reads:

The son of Raghu joyed to hear

The envoy’s speech, and bright of cheer

He turned to Lakshmaṇ by his side,

And thus in words of transport cried:

“The counselor we now behold

Of King Sugríva righteous-souled.

His face I long have yearned to see,

And now his envoy comes to me

With sweetest words in courteous phrase

Answer this mighty lord who slays

His foemen, by Sugríva sent,

This Vánar chief most eloquent.

For one whose words so sweetly flow

The whole Rig-veda(547) needs must know,

And in his well-trained memory store

The Yajush and the Sáman’s lore.

He must have bent his faithful ear

All grammar’s varied rules to hear.

For his long speech how well he spoke!

In all its length no rule he broke.

In eye, on brow, in all his face

The keenest look no guile could trace.

No change of hue, no pose of limb

Gave sign that aught was false in him.

Concise, unfaltering, sweet and clear,

Without a word to pain the ear.

From chest to throat, nor high nor low,

His accents came in measured flow.

How well he spoke with perfect art

That wondrous speech that charmed the heart,

With finest skill and order graced

In words that knew nor pause nor haste!

That speech, with consonants that spring

From the three seats of uttering,(548)

Would charm the spirit of a foe

Whose sword is raised for mortal blow.

How may a ruler’s plan succeed

Who lacks such envoy good at need?

How fail, if one whose mind is stored

With gifts so rare assist his lord?

What plans can fail, with wisest speech

Of envoy’s lips to further each?”

When addressing the students of a Business Communication course in Chennai, Mr B S Raghavan, a bureaucrat who served under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, elaborated on the above mentioned episode. He spoke of seven aspects of skilled communication displayed by Hanumanji.  In the Ramayan Lord Rama turns to Lakshman, following Hanumaji’s speech and explains the important aspects of communication skills as displayed by Hanumanji:

1.      Hanumanji spoke very briefly.  Not too long or too short.

He spoke only for the required level;

2.      He also spoke with clarity and without ambiguity;

3.      He spoke without any grammatical errors;

4.      He used only appropriate words, that cannot be replaced with any other word;

5.      He spoke in a medium voice that is audible to the other person.
Not too loud or too feeble;

6.      His pronunciation of words was correct.  The way he was pronouncing the words was like a music and it was pleasant

7.      All the words spoken by him, went straight to the heart.

After this initial meeting Hanumanji takes Sri Rama and Lakshmana to meet his King Sugriva and an alliance is struck. Sugriva offered the services of himself and his court in searching for Mother Sita. Touched Sri Rama then asked Sugriva why he resided in the forest.

The recounting of Sugriva’s tale is an indication of how the lack of proper communication could lead to difficulties and suffering.

Once a demon threatened their kingdom so Sugriva’s brother, Vali, went off to fight it. Sugriva was instructed to wait a fortnight and if there was no sign of Vali… to consider him dead. A month after leaving to fight the demon Vali had not returned but a stream of blood was noticed escaping the cave in which the battle took place. To protect himself and the people Sugriva closed the cave and returned home, where at the bequest of the ministers he assumed the throne. Vali however defeated the demon and returned to discover Sugriva ruling the land. Seeing it as a betrayal and without adequate communication, Vali violently beat Sugriva and claimed everything, including Sugriva’s wife, for himself. Afraid, for his life, Sugriva was forced to leave home and wander the forrest in constant fear of his brother’s wrath.

On hearing this Sri Rama proclaims that he shall aid Sugriva and will himself kill Vali for his misdeeds. He declares that one should always regard the need of a friend to be greater than one’s own worries and concerns. He also states that those who cannot do this should not attempt friendship. A friend must serve as one’s conscience, advising friends on the right path and dissuading them from that which is wrong. The Vedas declare these to be the qualities of a noble friend. The Lord says, “He, however, who contrives to speak bland words to your face and harms you behind your back and harbours some evil design in his heart, and whose mind is as tortuous as the movements of a snake is an unworthy friend and one had better bid good-bye to such a friend. A stupid servant, a stingy monarch, a bad wife and a false friend these four are tormenting like a pike. Relying on my strength, dear friend, grieve no more.”

When later Vali and Sugriva confronted each other in battle, Sri Rama was true to his word and killed Vali. As he lay dying in the Lord’s arms Vali asked Sri Rama for a reason for shooting at him.

Once again the importance of communication is highlighted in the Ramayan. Very easily Sri Rama could have ignored Vali and left him to die. Instead he explains how Vali sinned and brought destruction on himself putting Vali’s mind at ease.

“Listen, O wretch: a younger brother’s wife, a sister, a daughter-in-law and one’s own daughter. These four are alike. One would incur no sin by killing him who looks upon these with an evil eye. Fool, in your extravagant pride you paid no heed to your wife’s warning. You knew that your brother had taken refuge under the might of my arm; and yet in your vile arrogance you sought to kill him!”

In the end Vali was most blessed to have died at the hands of Sri Rama.

As Sri Rama mentioned Vali ignored the council of his wife and thus entered a battle he was bound to lose. Mandodari too counseled Ravan against imprisoning Mother Sita and challenging Sri Rama but he too ignored her. I guess there is some truth to, and a possible lesson in a   t-shirt I saw that read: I do not need google search… my wife knows everything.

In the pages of the Ramayan there are many episodes that express the importance of good communication, even Vibhishana offered sage advice which fell on pride deafened ears.

Today we have a plethora of communication means but are we communicating successfully? Ask this of the children who struggle to string words together to form a sentence but who can spend hours messaging each other on mobile phones. Ask this of the families who only speak to each other via electronic devices. Ask this of the friends at a restaurant all texting on their phones. With so much on offer the need to communicate effectively is all that more important lest the broken telephone becomes reality and the message is incorrectly received.

In the Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna declared “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendent of Bharta, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend myself To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re establish the principles of religion, I myself appear millennium after millennium “.

In this age God manifested as Master, Holy Mother and Swamiji. And among their many lessons they taught us how to communicate, each displaying a different manner to do so depending on one’s temperament.

The Master communicated with each person he came across differently based on the individual’s character and understanding. This is an important aspect of effective communication as communication is a two way process between speaker and listener and vice versa. Master also regarded others with due respect. For example Master never referred to Holy Mother as “tui” which is a term usually used in reference to a junior. Master revered the Holy Mother as the embodiment of Shakti. Mother in return always referred to the Master as “Thakur”, like all his devotees did. Holy Mother, although Masters wife, never allowed that fact to negate her attitude of being Master’s disciple. They were filled with mutual respect.

Communication is not all about the transfer of words as Sri Ram noted in Hanumanji’s speech, for a lot is inferred by one’s expression, posture and actions. The Holy Mother by all accounts was generally quiet and unseen yet her quiet, veiled figure commanded the respect of a force that revolutionised the world. That very force, Swami Vivekananda, who mesmerised and captured the West with the simple, humble yet powerful greeting, “Sisters and Brothers of America. Like Hanumanji, every word spoken by Swami Vivekananda went straight to the heart.

In all three aspects of divinity, effective communication is evident and one factor resonates in all their lives, respect. Respect for the divinity in each creature and truth. Their ability to win the hearts and respect of all they interacted with was based on the sincerity with which they communicated remembering always the divinity that exists in all beings. Nothing was advised to others if they themselves had not practiced or experienced it first-hand.

When we imbibe the meaning of Om Namo Narayanaya and communicate with respect for all we ultimately allow for the divinity within to manifest. Om Namo Narayanaya

 

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The Relevance of the Bhagavad Gita Today

(I am aware that there may be errors in this post. Will edit when I get a chance.)

OM

Mukam karoti vaacaalam pang gum lang ghayate girim

Yat kripaa tam aham vande paramaananda maadhavam

I salute Lord Krishna, the source of Supreme Bliss,

whose grace makes the dumb eloquent and the criple cross mountains.

Revered Pravrajika Ishtaprana Mataji, respected elders, sisters, brothers and dear children, ONN… my apologies, Om Namo Narayanaya

The Relevance of the Bhagavad Gita Today

LOL, WUD, BTW, HUD, BRB, LTM, G2G, XOXO, OMG.

The language of today.Electronic shorthand. There meaning for this talk is irrelevant but there is no denying it and no hiding from it. It is part of the evolution of Humanity.The word “google” is an actual verb recognised by the English dictionary along with the term “poke”  not the Indian thug way of saying, “Ay don’t mess with me ‘cos I’ll poke you.” but rather a means of electronically nudging your friend and saying, “Hello, how are you, I am thinking of you.” All this with the click of one button.   Technology makes life easier, faster, instantaneously gratifying. Information on practically any subject , in any language of your choice is available on the internet, available on new smart phones. The world at our fingertips… A virtual pandora’s box. For those unfamiliar with the story of Pandora’s box allow me to swap the analogy with a Hindu one. During the churning of the ocean, there emerged several good items and divine nectar while also allowing for the creation of several negative things including a deadly poison. All of creations was rescued when Lord Shiva drank the poison. Technology is the mountain, the use of technology and it’s various platforms is the churning and indeed nectar and poison of progress and atrocities are the respective resultants.     Our saviour is the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, wisdom given to us by God himself.

I once read a statement that read: if it was not for technology I would not be able to communicate with my family halfway across the world . The counter argument to that was if it was not for technology, one’s family would never be halfway across the world to begin with. We cannot deem technology bad or dangerous because it brings about change that we fear. To the caveman, cooking and eating using utensils, was new technology. Had he never embraced that technology perhaps humankind would still be mere animals walking on two legs. Thankfully we are not, and we are rich with art, literature, education and spirituality.

 

Millenia ago Saint Ved Vyas  gave us The Mahabharat. An epic that depicts the battle of dharma against adharma, of good against evil. All set as a huge family drama. If the characters of the Mahabharat were around today, we would probably have some very interesting posts on Facebook, for example:

Draupad added the event, Draupadi’s swayamvar.

Arjun, Duryodhan and several others are attending.

Arjun added a life event, married to Draupadi.

Kunti like this.

Draupadi changed her relationship status to, “it’s complicated”.

Duryodhan added event – family get together.

Sakuni Maamaa likes this.

Yudhishtira and 120 people are attending.

Draupadi added a new album – sarees by Sri Krishna.

Yudhistira updated his status to “is in exile”.

Duryodhan, Sakuni Maamaa and 99 others like this.

Sri Hanumanji and Bhima are now friends.

Ved Vyas added new event – Kurukshetra.

Duryodhan, Yudhishtira, Bhishma, Bhima, and thousands others are attending.

Sri Krishna and Arjuna are now friends.

Sri Krishna is attending the event – Kurukshetra.

Sri Hanumanji is attending the event – Kurukshetra.

And upon entering the battlefield of Kurukshetra

Arjun would probably have tweeted: I am not ready for a family feud.

To which Sri Krishna would reply:

Yeild not to cowardice. It is beneath you. Shake of this weakness, O Arjun. Stand up and engage in the fight for life. (2:3).

And thus would begin the Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

Facebook and Twitter anecdotes aside the Srimad Bhagavad Gita and the messages imparted therein are as relevant  today as it was when Sri Krishna breathed life into it. The reason for my modern spin is not just a light-hearted grab for attention, but to reaffirm the fact that whatever the situation and time… the answer, advice and guidance exists in the words of Sri Krishna.

When the printed word became mass produced and litracy of the masses spread, I am sure old school, orthodox folks huddled together and said, “This is bad, reckless times. The reckless youth.”

To quoted an Eglish song “it’s the end of the world as we know it”.

Little has changed save the playing field and the platform. What new technologies provide beyond progress and opportunities is the blurred and grey area of the associated pitfalls. Many people are quick to embrace new technologies and many of those people often do so whilst not being completely prepared or mentally equiped. But what does all of this have to do with the Sri Bhagavad Gita?

With new technologies come new challenges, new troubles. It is inevitable. The Holy Mother says: Troubles come but they do not last. They pass like water under a bridge. Should we hide away from technology and the new challenges they pose? No. When faced with the daunting task of warring against his family, Arjun put down his bow, turned to Sri Krishna and expressed his despondency.

The Lord replied: This despair and self-pity in a time of crisis is mean and unworthy of you, Arjuna. How have you fallen into a state so far from the happiness of heaven?

Let us replace the name Arjun with another, Sita, Gita, Priscilla, Ram, Sham, Jack, or your own. Swamiji echoes the words of Sri Krishna when he says: Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal.

Yes things are changing; it is a sign of progress, a reminder that with the rise and fall of every day human kind is innovating, creating and adapting. Fools may hide themselves away and pretend that it will not affect them but pretence is just a lie, worse so when done to one’s self.

The reason I focus on technology is because it is the great symbol of our time, of our age, of today. Everything is going digital, high definition, faster.  Swamiji and Sri Krishna both advise us to face challenges head-on. From the greatest trials and difficulties emerge the greatest gems. Coal remains coal if undisturbed. With sufficient pressure the coal becomes a diamond. A caterpillar must struggle out of its cocoon to celebrate its beauty as a butterfly. Help it and it never develops the strength to fly and breathe and dies soon after emerging. Had it not been for the Kurukshetra the Bhagavad Gita may never have been gifted to humankind.

This does not mean that we are to ignore everything and just move on, quite the opposite. We should embrace the new technologies and new challenges knowing that with the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita we are empowered to be victorious.

It was scary to read an article about a Chatsworth youth who may never walk again because bullies injured him. Two boys decided to   enact a move they saw on a wrestling entertainment show and drove the boy head first into the pavement, snapping his vertebrae. The immediate reaction is: well TV is bad. Ban TV, children should never watch TV and so on. So quick we are to blame something else, someone else. TV and in fact all media is but a reflection of society. It is society that needs guidance. Had the children inflicting the damage been better prepared as human beings with the correct amount of love and attention this tragedy could have been avoided. Often the bully is the one crying for attention, acting out because he or she feels lost and frustrated. Sri Krishna says: A man should reshape himself through the power of his will. He should never let himself be degraded by his lower self-will: the positive will is the only friend of the Self, and the negative will is the only enemy of reaching the Self.

The Lord also says: Those who possess this wisdom of yoga have equal love for all. They see the same Self in a spiritual aspirant endowed with learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcast.

I cannot believe other than had the bullies been taught this from a young age, this tragedy could have been avoided. Not the tragedy that is the boy in hospital but the greater tragedy that is the corruption and misguidance of the spirits of the bullies. If I acknowledge that the same energy resides in you, and me the same God, how can I do anything but love you as a manifestation of the divine. When one acknowledges that they are a divine entity and so is every other individual… how then can there be room for conflict.

Once upon a time, TV was the greatest concern for parents and teachers. It distracts the children and corrupts their minds. But those days are long gone with the advent of social networks, cellular phones and chat rooms. I have often been called an old fogey and I suppose that is fitting when you consider the fact that I believe that no child under the age of sixteen should have a cellular phone or social network presence. But when you look around and realise that the children today have multifarious activities to schedule then the necessity for cellular phone becomes apparent. But these still need to be monitored lest these practical tools become gateways into trouble. Little boys and girls claiming romantic relationships when they do not even fathom who they themselves are. Yes it may seem cute at first but when children start rushing to become adults, what happens to the joy, wonder and beauty of childhood, what type of underdeveloped adults do they become? Equip children with the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita so they are empowered to make the right decisions.  Social networking and chat rooms do not pose a threat to children alone. More and more people are communicating via electronic media and forgetting how to interact face to face. The greater threat is that when one is on these platforms, one can be whomever one wishes to be to get the attention they seek. Sometime last year an adult male went missing only to have some of his body found a day later in a shallow grave at the cemetery. How did this happen. The man met a woman via the Internet in a chartroom. Having chatted for a bit she then asked the man to meet her one night after work for a late night picnic. Believing that this was a budding relationship the man agreed. Sadly when he met her one evening for a picnic in a graveyard she and her real boyfriend attacked and killed the man.  Later it was discover that while the couple seemed normal at face value they were both sad, angry individuals who wanted to kill someone to express themselves and feel alive. The poor victim was misguided into believing he had found love online.

Lust, anger and greed this is the triple gateway to hell, destructive of one’s life; they should be abandoned. If a man is free from these three he can work out his own good and reach the highest goal. So it is written in the Bhagavad Gita.

It is not technology that is good or bad, but how we use it that makes it one or the other. For every negative aspect of technology there is a positive aspect as well. TV and the Internet provide education for those unable to get to classrooms. Information is available from experts online. Communication is made easier. Knowledge is available.

We are bombarded with news headlines that speak of wars, bombings, murder, rape, accidents, corruption etc. When I was little my grandparents would respond to such news saying: Oh this is truly Kalyug. It is only going to get worse. God only knows what is going to happen. Yes this is kalyug according to our great sages who explained time in a scriptural context, but this does not mean that it is hopeless and that we are doomed. In the Gita Mahatmayam it reads: Where the Gita is read, there help comes quickly; where the Gita is inquired into, chanted, taught or listened to, O Earth, there undoubtedly and unfailingly do I Myself (meaning God) reside. Sri Krishna says: If a man worships Me and meditates upon Me with an undistracted mind, devoting every moment to Me, I shall supply all his needs and protect his possessions from loss. Amidst all the murky water the lotus does bloom. Sri Krishna promises in the Gita that He is born again and again whenever the need is greatest to offer mankind salvation. He who came as Sri Ram and He who came as Sri Krishna came in Kalyug as Sri Ramakrishna to show mankind a way to happiness and divine bliss. The message of the Bhagavad Gita is echoed in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Both advising man to embrace life and live the best life you can. Performing your duties with one hand while holding on to the feet of God with the other.

Master, Mother and Swamiji all gave us the following message but in their own way, that the easiest way to God in this Kalyug is the sincere, heartfelt reptition of Gods name. Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare.

 

Om Hari Om Tat Sat.

Shiva in the Ramayana

Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati never learnt how to use a computer properly. Why you may ask? Why could these great divine beings not learn to use a computer? Because their son Ganesha kept running away with the mouse.

Many of the great stories start with once upon a time… and we all get captured by the hero of the tales, the trials and tribulations, the distressed damsels and the evil villains. Rarely is any thought given to the author or narrators. Today I would like to do just that… pay homage to a great narrator, a storyteller, a poet. Renowned as the great lord of austerities, the supreme meditator, the Lord of Dance, the liberator of souls and the destructive aspect of the Hindu trinity, Shankara Shiva is a multifaceted aspect of the divine. Bholanath, Gangadhara, Hara, Kailashnath, Chandrashekara, Lingeshwara, Mahadev, and Umapati are some of the many names associated with Lord Shiva. The Mahabharat contains the Shivasahasranama or the thousand names of Lord Shiva each denoting a different aspect of the Lord.

Lord Shiva is the primary narrator of the Ramayana. The Lord may not use a computer, He may not be blogging or tweeting but the words imparted millennia ago are still with us and are still relevant unlike my facebook status. In the Mahabharata, Sri Krishna spoke to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra and gave us the Bhagavad Gita.

Their dialogue provides guidelines to human existence and the various ways to attain God. In the Sri Ramcharitmanas, Shivji narrates the glories of Sri Rama to Mother Parvati. While the Bhagavad Gita serves as a “how to manual”, The Sri Ramacharitmanas offers us examples of dharmic life so that we have role models to emulate.  To quote from the Sri Ramcharitmanas:

It contains the gracious name of the Lord of Raghus, which is exceedingly holy and the very cream of the Purnas and the Vedas. It is the abode of blessings and the remover of evils, and is uttered by Lord Shiva, the enemy of the demon Tripura, along with his consort, Uma.”

 In narrating the story of Sri Rama to Mother Parvati, The Lord of Kailash expresses his devotion and love for Sri Rama. In turn Sri Rama is a bhakt of Lord Shiva. Many may ask how this relationship is possible. How can Shiva, God, be the devotee of one who is a devotee of His? In fact even Mother Parvati is stumped at Shankara’s attitude towards Sri Rama. The relationship between Mahadev and Sri Ramachandra is a beautiful one. While observing the leela of Sri Ram, Shivji smiled. Sri Rama with Mother Sita and his brother Lakshmana were wandering the forest. It so passed that on one occasion while Sri Ram and his brother Lakshmana were away from their dwellings, an evil demon approached. Ravan in deceitful ways abducted Mother Sita. When Sri Rama realised that Mother Sita was missing he searched the forest with desperation and a heavy heart, enacting his role as a mere mortal. Lord Shiva saw him thus and He was filled with joy to see Lord Hari act as a man and proclaimed:

Glory to the Redeemer of the universe, who is all Truth, Consciousness and Bliss!

Not having knowledge of the situation Mother Parvati was concerned with Lord Shiva’s reaction and demeanour.

Sankara is a Lord of the universe Himself, and deserves universal adoration; gods, men and sages all bow their heads to Him. Yet He made obeisance to this prince, referring to him as the Supreme Being. He was enraptured to behold his beauty and felt an upsurge of emotion in His heart, which He is unable to control even to this moment! 

Mother Sati confronted Lord Shiva: My Lord you are Mahadev yet you honour this Prince who cries for his wife? Tell me Lord how can this distraught man be the Great Lord you say he is?

Shankara replied: Devi this prince is Hari Himself, incarnated on Earth to help mankind. He plays the role of a man but I assure you He is Lord Hari.

Unconvinced Sati decided to see for herself if Sri Rama truly is the mighty Lord Narayana. Devi Sati in the guise of Mother Sita went to the forest and waited for Sri Rama. She thought: This Prince being a simple man will take me for his wife and rejoice, proving that he is but a man and not Hari. The disguised Mother Parvati saw the Prince approach and readied herself. Sri Rama saw Sita lookalike and his mood was lifted. Gone was his heartache and his desperation. He approached the Mother and offered obeisances to Her. His then immediately asked, “Mother, why are you alone in the forest? Where is my Lord, Mahadev? Sati was taken aback and realised that this is no ordinary prince.

This act alone proved to Mother Parvati that this prince was indeed Lord Hari incarnated. When she returned to Lord Shiva, after knowing the truth, she confessed her actions to Shankara. Lord Bholanath chanted Sri Rama’s name and voices issued forth from the heavens:

Glory to the great Lord Shiva, You are a devotee of Sri Rama and the all-powerful Lord at the same time.

The Rudrakshakam is a beautiful hymn to Lord Shiva in the Sri Ramacharitmanas. The hymn is chanted by a Brahmin to appease Lord Shiva. A few lines read:

I worship Lord Shiva, who is without desire. I worship the all-pervading consciousness, the One who shines in His own glory.  I bow to the supreme Lord, who is terrible yet gracious, the seed of the mystic syllable OM, the Ruler of Kailash, I adore the all-merciful Shankara, the universal Lord, who is loved by all.

In the Gospel of Sri Ramakrisna – the Master says: The sound OM is Brahman. The rishis and sages practiced austerity to realize that Sound-Brahman. After attaining perfection one hears the sound of this eternal Word rising spontaneously from the navel. “‘What will you gain’, some sages ask, ‘by merely hearing this sound?’ You hear the roar of the ocean from a distance. By following the roar you can reach the ocean. As long as there is the roar, there must also be the ocean. By following the trail of OM you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol. That Brahman has been described by the Vedas as the ultimate goal.”

Sri Rama was also a great devotee of Mahadev. Before entering into battle with Ravan, Sri Rama settled at the shores of Rameshwaram. Here he constructed a Shiva linga and made oblations to Umapati Shambhu. It reads in the Sri Ramcharitmanas:

The monkeys brought huge mountains, which were received like playballs by Nala and Nila. When the All-merciful saw the exceedingly beautiful construction of the bridge, He smiled and observed thus:

This is a most delightful and excellent spot; its glory is immeasurable and cannot be described in words. I will install an emblem of Lord Shambhu here: it is the crowning ambition of My heart. Hearing this the lord of the monkeys despatched a number of messengers, who invited and fetched all the great sages. Having installed an emblem of Lord Shiva and worshipped It with due solemnity, He said, No one else is so dear to Me as Shiva. An enemy of Shiva although he calls himself a devotee of Mine, cannot attain to Me.

Shiva represents the Paramatma the supreme soul, while Sri Rama represents the Jivaatma or individual soul. Both are directly connected to each other; both equally devoted and loving the other.  Similarly the soul that exists in all of us is but a manifestation of that same divinity and when it is realised it will yearn for God. God too never abandons the individual soul for it is a part of God – each aspect moving towards each other in Love and devotion.

Sri Rama was not the only devotee of Lord Shankara. Ravan too was a great devotee of Chandrashekara. Filled with pride and arrogance Ravan was once flying in his aerial car. However his journey was halted when he neared Mount Kailash. For some odd reason he was not able to pass the mountain. Arrogant as he was the King of Lanka endeavoured to lift the mountain and displace it thus clearing his path. He lifted the mountain and disturbed Lord Shiva who resides atop the mountain. To steady the mountain and prevent it’s displacement the lord of austerities simply placed his large toe on the mountain. Ravan was trapped under the pressure of the mountain. Try as he did, Ravan could not free himself. In an attempt to release himself Ravan praised lord Shiva In verse. The Shiva Tandava stotram is a hymn composed by Ravan in honour of Lord Shiva, the destroyer of all, even death. In this hymn we get the inkling that Ravan sought liberation and freedom from his mortal coil. The following explains the concluding lines of the Shiva Tandava stotram.

Lord Siva, whose dance of Tandava is in tune with the series of loud sounds of drum making Dhimid Dhimid sounds. Lord Shiva who has the fire on His great forehead. When will I worship Lord Sadasiva, the eternally auspicious God. Shiva who sees all with equal vision towards the people and an emperor, and a blade of grass and lotus, towards both friends and enemies, towards the valuable gem and some lump of dirt.

When will I be happy, living in the hollow place near the celestial river, Ganga, with folded hands on my head all the time, with negative thoughts, and uttering the mantra of Lord Siva and devoted to Him.

Shiva, pleased by Ravan’s devotion granted him greater strength and in turn Ravan became a great devotee of Shiva.

Now it is widely accepted that Rama and Ravan were polar opposites. Rama represents all that is good and Ravan all that is evil. Both were great devotees of Shiva and both were blessed by Maheshwara. God’s love is infinite and not exclusive. This sentiment is echoed more recently by our Holy Mother. “I am the Mother of the wicked as I am the mother of the virtuous. Do not fear, whenever you are in distress my child just say to yourself. I have a mother.”

 The Ramayan is in essence the story of Sri Rama and his exploits.

The Ramayana of both Saint Valmiki and Goswami Tulsidasji also relate many a tale of Lord Shiva.

The story of Mother Ganga is one of my favourites. As the story goes the world was in drought for years. Mother Ganga was the only hope. For generations mankind prayed to the Mother to descend and quench the parched earth. Mother Ganga was afraid however. She heard the cries of the world and wanted to help but feared that once leashed her power could be uncontrollable on earth. Having prayed to the Mother and heard her concerns Bhagirath an ancient ancestor of King Dasaratha turned to Lord Brahma for advice.

Lord Brahma answered: Dear Bhagirath, your prayer is sincere but the solution to your problem lies with the Lord of Kailash. Go to Him. Seek his assistance for He alone can assist.

Having received Lord Brahma’s counsel. Bhagirath performed austerities for a year in honour of Lord Shiva. Pleased with his offerings, Uma’s lord replied: Sincere Bhagirath I have heard your prayers and shall answer your plea. Call upon Mother Ganga and bid she come down from the skies. None need fear for I shall contain the waters. Mother Ganga thus descended from the heavens and settled upon Lord Shankara’s head Her holy waves washing upon the world down from Kailash where Shankara resides. Mother Ganga thus resides on Shiva’s head, and so Shankara is known as Gangadhara. In this story much like the story of the churning of the ocean we see that Lord Shiva is compassionate and strives to prevent hardships and sufferings and fulfils the earnest prayers of devotees.

Shivji may not be the Hero of the Ramayan but is a pivotal part of it. From its pages we see that Lord Shiva is the Lord of all, despite one’s disposition. Whosoever turns to him sincerely receives his grace. He is the Almighty Lord. To reiterate the words of Sri Rama:

No one else is so dear to Me as Shiva. An enemy of Shiva although he calls himself a devotee of Mine, cannot attain to Me.

Thus whether we chant Hara or Hari in our hearts may our longing for His grace grow ever stronger.

 Hari Om Hari Om Narayana

Hara Om Hara Om Sadashiva

 

The Glories of Sri Krishna

Awake, Krishna

Awake the Lotus-petals

Open the water lilies droop

The bumblebees have left the creepers

The cock crows and the birds chirp on the trees

The cows are in the byre lowing, they run after their calves

The moon fades before the sun

Men and women arise and joyfully sing their songs

Krishna of hands lotus-like awake

The day is about to dawn.

As children trying to learn the alphabet and numbers, we are taught in tune.  In other words, we are taught rhymes and songs.  A, b, c, d, e, f, g.  Or 1, 2, buckle my shoe.  3, 4, knock on my door…

It is believed that as human beings we find it easier to grasp information if we can put it to a tune.  Make a song of it, make it rhyme, make it fun and we will learn from it.  I work in an open plan office and share space with very different people.  All of us so-called creatives, each with his or her personal taste in music.  One of my colleagues happens to be a major fan of Hip Hop and R&B. Genres of music I do not appreciate and would never willing play myself yet thanks to my colleague I know most of the words to many of the songs he plays.  The point I am trying to make is that even when you do not set forth to learn something willingly when you listen to it musically your mind somehow just absorbs it with or without your permission.  This being the case, isn’t it fitting that Sri Krishna gave us the truth in verse.  He did not lecture us on commandments.  He gave us the Gita.

I have often heard it said that for every reading of the Bhagavad Gita a new meaning is unearthed.  The Bhagavad-Gita, the song of God, the Song of Sri Krishna, is truly immortal.  It lives and breathes, and grows with the people.  It evolves and communicates directly with the heart for this is the song of God.  Lyrics sent down from above to touch the heart and soul of all who read it, sing it, or listen to it.  Sri Krishna himself delivered this great song to us.  Sri Krishna was truly a beautiful form of God.  The Sri Krishna Chalisa offers a vivid image of Sri Krishna.  The sweet sounding flute embellishes your hands; your body dark of hue is like the blue lotus.  Your crimson lips are like bibma fruit and your eyes are like the pleasing lotuses.  Your face is like a fresh blossoming lotus and shines like the full moon.  You are beautifully attired in your yellow silken costume.

Gopala, Nandalala, Kanhaiya, Govinda, Murilidhara, Kaanha, Muraliwala, Sham, Madhusudhana, Sri Krishna.  The stories associated with Sri Krishna are numerous and mix together courage, conviction, love, justice, and truth in each of them.  To capture the stories of Sri Krishna and retell them will take far too long.  To grasp the true meaning of the stories, these plays that he performed, is sometimes beyond the expectations of one lifetime.  Sri Krishna was a musical incarnation of the Lord.  To honour Sri Krishna and his love for music and gaiety I have chosen to look closer into a few of the many Bhajans and Kirtans dedicated to this eternal musician.  We sing these songs and cry tears of joy.  We clap; we dance and experience the presence of God wherever and whenever these songs are sung.  These songs cover the stories and glories of Sri Krishna in his every aspect and in a manner more eloquent than I can hope to muster.

Sri Krishna according to legend was dark, shyam, the colour of night.

There is a beautiful song from the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram that goes as follows:

Yashomathi Maiya se bole nandalala, Radha Kyu Gori Mein kyu Kala

In the first verse the child Sri Krishna, ask his Mother Yashoda.

Why is Radha fair and I dark?

Yashoda Maiya answers lovingly that he, Sri Krishna, is dark because he was born at midnight.  In the second verse Yashoda Maiya says, Listen my love Fair Radha with her black kajal and dark eyes has cast a spell of love on you and that is the why you are dark.

This explanation is sweet an innocent.  However, there is more to Sri Krishna and his complexion then perhaps Maya Yashoda was willing to offer in this song but for which Sri Ramakrishna provides and answer.

Master, when referring to Mother Kali’s dark complexion said that from afar even the ocean looks dark but when you actually take the water in your hands you see that it is clear.  God has no colour but merely reflects that which is in our sight.  When we get closer, we realise that God is beyond colour and form and is all that is real.

Another popular theme in songs dedicated to Sri Krishna is that of the Curd Thief.  Makhan Chor, Nanda Kishore

I have come across several songs with the line, Maiya Mori, Mein Nahi Makhan khayo.

Sant Surdas writes,

O mother mine, I did not eat the butter

Come dawn, with the herds,

You send me to the jungle,

O, Mother mine, I did not eat the butter.

All day long with my flute in the jungles

At dusk do I return home.

But a child, younger than my friends

How could I reach up to the butter?

All the gopas are against me

On my face they wipe the butter,

You mother, are much too innocent,

You believe all their chatter.

There is a flaw in your behaviour,

You consider me not yours,

Take your herd-stick and the blanket

I’ll dance to your tune no longer.

Mother Yashoda then laughed and took the boy in her arms.

Mother mine I did not eat the butter.

In these songs, the child Sri Krishna tells his mother that he was not the one who ate the makhan or curd.  The story goes that, as a child Sri Krishna loved eating curd.  In addition, would often raid the storehouse and eat the curd.  Despite his actions, he was so adorable that none could help but love him.  This behaviour earned him the name Makhan Chor.  Is this a promotion of bad behaviour among children?  When children misbehave should we say, aw never mind, it’s okay if they so cute.  No.  The lesson behind the tale of the curd thief is that everything comes from God and everything must go to God, whether we will it or not, and that which God loves he has every right to take when he pleases.  When we learn to love God and make him our own then we will not deny him.

The famous Indian poet Surdas, wrote many songs and poems in praise of the divine Sri Krishna.  The bhajan Sabse Unchi Prem Sagai is associated with Surdasji. This bhajan celebrates the glories of Sri Krishna.  It sings of how Lord Krishna renounced the delicacies offered by Duryodhana and ate the vegetables of Vidhura’s house.  How as Ramachandra he ate the love-filled fruit offered by Shabari Bai.  Surdasji says Love is indeed the best way to serve the lord.  He recounts how Sri Krishna served the Brahmanas at the yajna of Yudhistra.  He lovingly guided the chariot of Arjuna. He danced with the gopis in Vrindavan.

The Poet asks, “in what way can I worship this merciful and magnanimous Lord”?

The Sri Krishna Chalisa accounts the many glories of Sri Krishna.

Sri Krishna the one who saved the people by lifting the Govardhan Mountain with the strength of his baby fingernail.  This story tells of a Puja, which the people of Vraj performed for Indra, King of Gods, and Heaven.  Sri Krishna interrupted the puja.  Enraged Indra sent down showers destroying the land to punish the people of Vraj.  To protect the people of Vraj, Sri Krishna uprooted the Govardhan Mountain and held it aloft for one week sheltering the people from the heavy rains.  Indra realised his defeat and error.  Humbled he prostrated to Sri Krishna and stopped the rains.  From this we learn that despite ones position, wealth and power know, that pride has no place before God and people.  Pride stands in the path of service and obscures your way to the Lord.

The Chalisa speaks of the story of the Putana the demoness sent to kill baby Gopala with poisoned milk.  The Baby Krishna suckled but fell not to the poison.  He instead drew out the poison and the very life out of the demoness.  By this, we learn that there is nothing that can stand in the way of God.  No harm can befall him and he has the power to draw forth the vice and the evils if we turn to him.

Another story that speaks of the love of Sri Krishna is that of the Great Krishna bhakt Mira Bai.  When Mira Bai was four she witnessed a marriage and innocently asked her mother, “who will I marry?”  In jest her mother turned to a statue of Sri Krishna and said that he, the beautiful fellow, Sri Krishna shall be her bridegroom.  From that moment, Mira longed for her beloved Krishna.  Mira was beautiful and innocent and news of her spread.  The King of Mewer approached Mira’s Family to request Mira marry his son.  In due course Mira was married to Rana Khumba of Mewar.  Despite being married, Mira Bai loved only Sri Krishna.  She would visit the temple and in ecstasy, she sang and danced in the presence of her beloved Sri Krishna.  Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, clearly age-old instigators of ill will, never cared much for Mira Bai and tried many means of harming her.  She once received a basket, containing a cobra.  She was told it contained a garland.  Mira Bai meditated on her Lord.  So pure was Mira’s love for Sri Krishna that when she opened the basket the snake did not strike her for in its place was a Murti of Sri Krishna wearing a garland of flowers.  The Rana’s family later sent Mira a cup of poison disguised as nectar.  Offering everything to Sri Krishna first, when Mira drank the poison, the Prasad, what she consumed was truly nectar.  When one offers everything to God, what is there for one to fear?  He loves his devotees.

Mira Bai was not the only devotee to experience ecstasy on listening to the glories of Sri Krishna.  Once at a devotees home Sri Ramakrishna asked the musicians, “Please sing something about Gauranga.”

One of the songs is as follows:

The beauty of Gauranga’s face, filled with divine love, is brighter than the brightest gold. 

His smile, which illumines the whole world, surpasses even the charm of a million moons shining in the autumn sky.

The musician adds:  Friend did you see the full moon?

It illumines the devotee’s heart.  It does not wane, it does not stain.  It illumines the devotee’s heart.

As the musician continued the song, the Master went into Samadhi and after a while, he gained outward consciousness.  He stood up and, filled with an intoxicating pure love; he joined the musicians and said:

Friend, is it his beauty or because of some fault of my own?

 In the three worlds, I see nothing but Krishna!

 The song went on then the Master took his seat.  He remained in ecstasy while a song about the meeting of Radha and Krishna was sung.  When the song ended, the Master uttered:

Bhagavata – Bhakta – Bhagavan

The Lord, the devotees, and his Word are one.

Swami Vivekananda wrote a poem entitled to Sri Krishna that reads:

O Krishna, my friend, let me go to the water,

O let me go today.

Why play tricks with one who is already thy slave?

O friend, let me go today, let me go.

I have to fill my pitcher in the waters of the Yamuna.

I pray with folded hands, friend let me go today.

A simple enough poem at face value but in it Swamiji encompasses aspects of the divine incarnation so beautifully.  He refers to Sri Krishna as friend.  The very same Krishna spoke to Arjuna and gave him divine knowledge, to which we are all privy.  Sri Krishna the Friend of Man.  Swamji talks of the play of Sri Krishna.  The are so many tales of the games and pranks that Sri Krishna played on his friends and loved ones.  This also refers to the divine play, the Maya that we are all entangled in and which He is the master a wielder of.

Yamuna refers to the Holy river and to devotion and love for God.

He prays to be free from the bonds of Maya.

The Glories of Sri Krishna?  All the glory of Sri Krishna can be summed in one word, LOVE.  Every act of Sri Krishna was done in the fulfilment of love.  Love for his devotees love for humanity, love for all creation.  However one chooses to approach God, as friend, child, parent, sibling, partner let it be filled with love.  It is Gods love for us that makes him come to us through out the ages as Sri Rama, Sri Krishna and Sri Ramakrishna to set us on the path that will ultimately lead us back to him.

We sing a bhajan at Ashram, Acyutam, Keshavam, Krishna Damoharam Rama, Narayanam Janaki Vallabham

This song is dedicated to Sri Ram and Sri Krishna and asks

Who says God does not eat, sleep, dance, laugh, and come when called?  Be like devotees such as Meera Bai, Yashoda Maiya, Shaabri Bai and you will find all of this to be true.

Shakespeare wrote in one of his plays

If music be, the food of Love play on.

A friend approached me the other day with a book containing a collection of trivia on a wide range of topics.  Under the section of Hindu Gods is stated that Sri Krishna is the God of Love. Clearly, if we take into account the stories of Sri Krishna it validates such association.

Thus if music be the food of Sri Krishna let us play on.

The Devotion of Bharata to Sri Rama

Twameva mata ca pita twameva
Twameva bandhush ca sakha twameva
Twameva vidya dravinam twameva
Twameva sarvam mama deva deva

Thou art my mother and thou art my father.  Thou art my brother and Thou art my friend.  Thou art my knowledge and thou art my wealth. Thou art my all in all, O God of Gods.

Om Namo Narayanaya

The Devotion of Bharata to Sri Rama

Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz had Ruby slippers, which when tapped together took her home.  Hermes or Mercury the Roman/Greek Messenger of the gods had winged slippers that allowed him to fly to his required destinations.  Cinderella had glass slippers that proclaimed her as the love of the prince and thus the future princess changing her life from rags to riches.
All of these are fantastic stories but there were a pair of wooden sandals that, although simple, ruled over a grand kingdom.
On the Throne of Ayodhya, following the death of King Dasaratha, Sri Rama’s wooden sandals were set upon the throne to remind the people of what the kingdom stood for, the ideals that were to be remembered and as a reminder of the true ruler of the kingdom.  In the Arthurian tales, the round table of Camelot represented the ideals of the kingdom, so to did the wooden sandals of Sri Rama rule Ayodhya.

Goswami Tulsidasji describes the wooden sandals of Sri Rama as follows.
“The Sandals of the all merciful Lord were like two watchmen entrusted with the duty of guarding the people’s life or they might be compared to a pair of caskets to enshrine the jewel of Bharata’s love or to the two syllables constituting the word Rama intended for the spiritual practice of the human soul.  Or they may be likened to a pair of doors to guard the race of the Raghu, or a pair of hands to assist in the performance of good deeds or again to a pair of eyes to show the noble path of service.”

So we have established that Sri Rama’s sandals ruled over the kingdom, keeping it in trust until Sri Rama returned.  But there must be more to the tale.  A story is not a story without the plots and sub-plots, the twists and turns and of course, the one question that perhaps everyone wants answered is why, oh why, was the kingdom left under the rule of a pair of sandals?  Were the no kings, princes or at least a distant cousin to rule the kingdom?

Let us start at the beginning.  Not the beginning of the story of the Ramayana but a different story a story of a pair of wooden sandals.  Sandals that achieved acclaim and respect because it adorned the feet of Sri Rama.  Once there was a great Kingdom Ayodhya.  There ruled king Dasaratha with his three wives and fours sons.  All was well and love pervaded the kingdom.  Then the Eldest and beloved Son Sri Rama was exiled from the Kingdom and with him went his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana.  The King dies out of shear heartache at exiling his beloved son.  The second born, Bharata returns to discover the horrors that have occurred at the hands of his mother Keikeyi, and more troubling is the fact that it was all done in his name, for his benefit.  He just returned home and discovered that besides all the tragedies he is to be King.  Well isn’t that convenient.  The King is dead, the rightful heir exiled and the throne is his and he had to do nothing to get it.  His hands were totally clean.  The usual reaction would probably be one of utter joy and gratitude for one’s good fortune.  Bharata however was distraught and refused the throne.  He chastised his mother for her actions and then set out to find Sri Rama.

How does one explain the actions of Bharata?  He was getting everything, served on a platter, as to say.  Power, wealth and no opposition yet he chose to deny these offerings.  Today if one was given a higher position in their profession, with the promise of ever-increasing pay cheques and every luxury desired it would be close to impossible to refuse such an offer.  Bharata did not even think of the option to him it was final that he shall accept nothing but the well-being and return of his brother Sri Rama.  Would we be so quick to deny such pleasures for God?

In the Sri Ramacharitmanasa Mother Kausalya says:
“By the grace of God and through your blessing my sons and daughters-in-law are all pure as the water of the celestial stream (Ganga). Although I have never sworn by Rama, I now swear by him and tell you in good faith, my friend, that in extolling Bharata’s
amiability, goodness, modesty, loftiness of character, brotherly affection, devotion, faith and nobility the wit of even Sharada. (The goddess of speech) falters. Can the ocean be ladled out by means of an oyster-shell? I have always known Bharata to be the glory of
his house and the king repeatedly told me so. Gold is tested by rubbing on the touchstone and a precious stone on reaching the hands of an expert jeweler; while men are tested in times of emergency by their innate disposition”.

Bharata left Ayodhya to find Sri Rama.  With him were the Three Queens, and a whole retinue from the kingdom.  Sri Rama in the meantime passed through the forest dressed in simple attire.  Upon his feet, he wore wooden sandals or Karrow.
I can tell you that these are by no means comfortable trust me I have worn wooden sandals of this particular ancient style.
Sri Rama, Mother Sita and Lakshmana none the less wore these sandals and travelled through the forest and wherever Sri Rama
went he blessed those he passed including the very land he tread.
At first when people saw Bharata in the forest, they suspected his motive was to kill Sri Rama once and for all.  On meeting Bharata however they discovered the Great love he carried for his brother and all negative assumptions were dispelled.  They thus assisted him in reaching Sri Rama.

On finding Sri Rama there was much joy shared amongst the brothers and the other members of both parties. Bharata offered several options to Sri Rama including the Return of Sri Rama and Mother Sita to the throne of Ayodhya.  Bharata however realized that his request was selfish in that he sought his own happiness in the options given to Sri Rama.  To see Sri Rama comfortable and upon the throne or to be by Sri Rama’s side would have given Bharat immense joy. Bharata realised that all of the suggestions were against the dharmic character of Sri Rama.  Bharata thus installed Sri Rama’s sandals on the throne while he himself went into exile in wait of Sri Rama’s return.
And that brothers and sisters, is why a pair of wooden sandals ruled over Avodhya.  There is a lesson, a truth revealed to us, in this story, if we were to follow the actions of Bharata. He prostrated at the feet of Sri Rama, removed the Sandals of Sri Rama’s feet and set it upon the throne.  We, every man and woman  must renounce the material pleasures of the world and prostrate at the feet of the lord knowing that there is only one power that rules supreme above all else the power of Sri Rama. God is the absolute King of kings the ruler of all.

What makes Bharata’s story so unique.  The Ramayana is full of stories about brothers.  This is true. Sugriva and Vali were brothers but where Sri Rama and Bharata had a relationship based on love Sugriva and Vali were enemies who fought over kingdom and pleasures until one killed the other.  There were the brothers Jatayu and Sampati who loved each other but saw each other rarely.  Then there are the many brothers of Ravana and the relationship they had was also one of love but there was also a sense of duty and fear of Ravana’s strength.  Bharata’s love for Sri Rama was pure, there was no fear that drove him to cower at Sri Rama’s feet subserviently, there was clearly no animosity towards his brother and so great was his love for Sri Rama that separation from his brother and seeing his brother having to, “rough it out”, was unbearable for him.  One may argue that this is against the teaching of Hinduism. That which states that one should not be attached to other people, be it your parents, brother, sister, spouse or children. A valid teaching but let us acknowledge the fact that this was no ordinary love.  This was the love for God. The love that we should all try to cultivate for the LORD.

Sri Rama himself said in the Sri Ramacharitmanas,
“… the Earth may abandon its natural forbearance and Mount Meru be blown away by a puff of wind discharged from the mouth of a mosquito; but Bharata will never be intoxicated by kingly power, o brother.
Lakshamana, I swear on you as well as by our father that there is no brother so good and innocent as Bharata.
God, dear brother creates the world by mixing the milk of goodness with the water of evil; while Bharata is a swan, born in the lake of the solar race that has sifted the goodness from the evil.  Choosing the milk of goodness and discarding the water of evil he has illumined the world by his glory.”

It is indeed difficult to describe the brotherly affection that the brothers of the Ramayana shared.  The reason for this is that there is no modern example that is available for fair comparison. I thought about this point, how do I describe the relationship the brothers had.
Unfortunately we live in a world that is Hollywood pervaded and dictated and in this world there seems little place for the stories of the Ramayana.  The basics of the tale may be known but the subtle messages that exist are like fossils hidden from many.  It occurred to me that a fairly recent (when compared to the Ramayana) piece of literature was released by JRR Tolkein and one of the central themes of the story offers a glimpse into the kind of relationship that Sri Rama and his brothers had.  I am not naïve enough to believe that everyone has read, “The Lord of the Rings”, but I am positive that a large majority of us present has watched Peter Jackson’s screen adaptation by the same name.   In the story we are introduced to four friends, Frodo, Sam, Pipin and Merry.  All these characters have their own role in the great story.  If we were to reflect on the relationship that occurred between Frodo and Sam it was very much like that of Sri Rama and Bharata. A relationship of mutual love and respect.  There are other parallels between our great epic the Ramayana and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings but that is another story all on its own.  The purpose behind introducing this parallel is so that those familiar with the story of Frodo and Sam can bring it to memory.  Now multiply that a hundred fold and you have a glimpse of the love that Bharata held for Sri Rama.

What makes Bharata such a great character?  He was not a King, he was not a fierce warrior, and he was not a great seer or sage.  Considering this why is he so highly recognized and remembered from the multitude of characters within the Ramayan.
The answer is that he was able to be any of the above; he was as pure as Sri Rama himself and in many ways was the mirror of Sri Rama, yet in his life his only purpose and aim was to serve his Brother, his Master and his king – Sri Rama. This is why Bharata is such a bright light in the archives of Hindu history and literature.  Despite all the material benefits, and all the name and fame that he could have acquired his mind had one purpose, serving his beloved Sri Rama.

Swami Vivekanada said:
“Wealth goes, beauty vanishes, life flies, powers fly – but the Lord abideth forever, love abideth forever…Stick to God.  Who cares what comes, in the body or anywhere?
Through the terrors of evil, say, ‘My God, My Love!’ through the pangs of death, say ‘My God, My Love!’ Do not go for glass beads, leaving the mine of diamonds.  This life is a great chance.  What? Seekest thou the pleasures of this world?  He is a fountain of all bliss.  Seek the highest, aim for the highest, and you shall reach the highest.”

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.