How Modern Critical Theory Misunderstands Sri Rama

Sri Rama

Over time, I have come across criticism of Rama from various angles and by various groups. The feminists unleash their hatred on Ramachandra quite often because they feel he was unjust to Sita. Likewise, other critical theory proponents hurl sarcasm and mockery at the idea of Ramarajya. So, I decided to share my journey with Rama and how I went from being an ardent devotee to an agnostic skeptic to finally understanding that Rama is within, and that he is not a just person or a son or a king or a husband. Ramachandra is a quality that remains unwavered in the most testing circumstances. To that principle of control that can remain steadfast with integrity when all around him is chaos, when his life falls into a pile of disasters …all of creation bows!

Ramachandra was my favourite deity i.e., Ishta devata as I was growing up. I would go to the Old Ramalayam in Hyderabad built by my ancestors, diligently every evening for many years throughout my childhood. As a child, I thought Rama was brave to have gone all the way to Lanka walking to find his wife. I appreciated Rama’s piety towards his father and how effortlessly he kept his father’s word. Then came the onset of adolescence, and I started questioning Rama’s methods and ways. How could someone who left his wife in the forest be considered an icon? How could someone who made his wife walk through fire be considered a god? Endless questions traversed through my juvenile mind and I would go to the temple and pose the questions to Ramachandra himself. Then one day I decided, Rama’s way is not of dharma; at least not my understanding of dharma. It is during this struggle that I drifted towards the Buddha. Buddha’s way was of compassion, of dharma; very soon the same question plagued me again. Buddha too left his wife but why is he considered an embodiment of dharma. Then, for the longest time all through my adult life, I decided to just engage in shakti and leave Rama and Buddha aside.

But, neither Rama nor Buddha left my unconscious awareness. After several years of agnostic existence and having gone through extenuating circumstances in life I started my inward journey understanding Shaiva Tantragama while traveling all across India. Then an understanding of who Rama is set into place; along with it developed the understanding of Buddha too. Neither of them is god by birth; they were princes, they were here just like the rest of us but their innate quality was supreme and that is what makes them god like. My learning curve enabled me to understand that one cannot understand dharma or Rama without understanding how Sanatana dharma celebrates and includes evolution of consciousness from gross to subtle as described in the Dashavatara.

Dashavatara: The evolution of consciousness

Nature has in its schema a fundamental principle of control which is introduced after each critical stage or shift; this is how evolution of consciousness is interpreted in Dashavatara. For example, when water changes its states from liquid to solid ice or vice versa there is a rearrangement of the structure of molecules. Likewise, there is a shift in the consciousness when matsya(fish) turns into kurma(turtle) avatara and then into Varaha (boar). After Varaha comes Narasimha, an amalgamation of lion and man indicating a shift from beastly nature towards pure consciousness. These points of shifts are the principles of control and it appears each time a physical disposition of power allows the transformation of old into new. Then arrives Vamana, represented as a mendicant brahmin who is very conscious; physicality did not become dominant yet. The next avatara, Parashurama arrives with a strong physicality but with uncontrolled emotions and ego.

Then arrives Ramachandra, who is emotionally stable no matter what happens around him, no matter what is done to him he remains steadfast. It is this quality of his that is revered because Rama as a principle of control is also a shift at the emotional level from all the other shifts in consciousness until then. Rama arrives and creates an example of a centered being for all the later space-time constructs. However solidly Rama is steadfast in dharma and emotion, love is amiss in his life. Krishna, after him is a bundle of love, his life is full of love but there is a lack of peace. Buddha comes and finds peace but peace is his trap, he cannot go beyond it. We humans are awaiting the possible arrival of an avatara that can transcend peace. Hence, the dashavataras also represent evolution of consciousness and establishment of devathas in the spiritual dimension of ether.

Behind every stable form in nature, a special principle of control is found. A principle of control awards and maintains a special form (Rupa) and name denoted by sound (Nama) in the Spiritual dimension of the Ether(akasa) which is in itself without Rupa and Nama and can be only experienced through sound, silence or can be witnessed in the flame of a lamp. In the Vedas, each definite principle of control (in the sense of a form of Chit Shakti or universal consciousness) is called a Devatha or deity.

Rama Hridayam and Consciousness

Rama is a devatha of great importance because he sets a precedence for all humans to follow at various levels. If the arrival of Parshurama established dominance of physicality; Rama brought an evolution in consciousness. In fact, when the Rama Hridayam refers to universal consciousness as Paramatma it also allows for the reflection of conscious in intellect i.e., ignorance as Anatma and our own consciousness as Atma. This understanding can only set in if you engage with the various possibilities of Rama and how he upheld Dharma in the context of the space-time he was in.

Rama to Hanuman:
ततो रामः स्वयं प्राह हनूमन्तमुपस्थितम् ।
श‍ृणु तत्त्वं प्रवक्ष्यामि ह्यात्मानात्मपरात्मनाम् ॥ ४४॥
आकाशस्य यथा भेदस्त्रिविधो दृश्यते महान् ।
जलाशये महाकाशस्तदवच्छिन्न एव हि ।
प्रतिबिम्बाख्यमपरं दृश्यते त्रिविधं नभः ॥ ४५॥
बुद्ध्यवच्छिन्नचैतन्यमेकं पूर्णमथापरम् ।
आभासस्त्वपरं बिम्बभूतमेवं त्रिधा चितिः ॥ ४६॥

Oh! Hanuman,
I will reveal to you the true nature
of Atma (self), anatmA (non-self) and paramatma (Transcendent-Self).

Oh! Hanuman, consider the Akasha the space
Now consider Akasha (space / ether) on a waterbody,
It can be perceived in three ways;
One, the mahakasha (Total all- pervading Akasha);
Second, the Akasha that is delimited by waterbody;
Third, the reflection of the Akasha in the waterbody.

In a similar manner, Oh Hanuman,
Is Absolute Consciousness. That too is seen as three;
First is the All-pervading universal Consciousness
beyond which there is nothing; Then the Consciousness delimited by buddhi (intellect) exists;
thirdly, Is the reflection of Consciousness in buddhi.

इदं रहस्यं हृदयं ममात्मनो
मयैव साक्षात्कथितं तवानघ ।
मद्भक्तिहीनाय शठाय न त्वया
दातव्यमैन्द्रादपि राज्यतोऽधिकम् ॥

This “Rama Hrudayam” is the secret of my heart
That relates to the Self Imparted to you personally by me,
Is Supreme,Indeed superior even to the King- ship of Indra.

If one can understand what Rama is telling Hanuman as above in the Rama Hridayam, one can understand Rama’s intellect and his understanding of all-pervading consciousness. Such a king must have ruled with great clarity establishing prosperity for all. But to understand Rama beyond his piety, valour, strength, and courage as a king one must be willing to dive into the Yoga Vashishta.

Yoga Vashishta and interpretation of consciousness

The Yoga Vashishta is structured as a complicated conversation between Rama and sage Vashishta. The much-revered text consists of six parts with a young adolescent Rama questioning Vashishta about human suffering, nature of life, cosmology, consciousness and liberation. The first part presents Rama’s frustration with the nature of life, the futility of human suffering and disinterest in the world. The second describes Rama’s desire for liberation and what makes those who seek liberation, seek it. The third and fourth books assert that liberation comes through a spiritual life, one that requires self-effort and inner resolution. They also present cosmology and metaphysical theories of existence in a story emphasizing the idea of free will and human creative power. The fifth book discusses meditation and its role in liberating the individual, while the last book describes Rama as an enlightened prince free of emotional residues and in a blissful state.

It is the Yoga Vashishta that provides a context for Rama’s nonchalant demeanor, his rise from a prince into an enlightened being who sets a new benchmark for Dharma. Dharma itself is to be understood in a different context as ‘that what is appropriate ‘and ‘that what is needed to be done based on context’. In the current yuga, dharma is misrepresented as duty and not contextual action. You have to understand your own possibilities to understand Ramachandra. You have to understand your body, mind, emotion and energy in several dimensions to be able to decipher Rama’s integrity. When you take the scale of a space-time construct that lacks in alignment of word, action and deed and thereby a lack of Trikarana suddhi and superimpose it on a space-time construct that was aligned, there is bound to be distortion in perception.

Rama is to be realized within in alignment of freedom from accumulation of unresolved emotions. Rama was not a heartless man who left his wife to her fate, he was universal consciousness manifesting on earthly plane to establish the principle of control as dharma. I often wonder if I, who is a mere particle of dust on earth can understand Rama and his dharma…why wouldn’t Sita who was his life partner and his better half in fulfilling dharma understand it. It is that understanding of dharma that makes Sita also an incarnation of the divine principle herself. Rama and Sita are not characters set in a novel or a book, they are divine principles of control that took birth on earth to set a benchmark for emotional resolution. This is to be understood and it would bode well if people looked within and emulated Rama and Sita in resolving their emotional debris instead of unnecessary projection of anger, shame and guilt on to deities through modern fragmented ideologies.

Rama and Sita understood the limitations and impermanence of human relationships and completed what was required to be done to fulfill dharma. Their alignment with life and with their own consciousness is the example for all human civilization to practice and attain in a world that is conditioned to mislead us constantly. The choice is always available, those who constantly attack Rama can choose to continue to remain in an adolescent emotional phase and continue their juvenile psychological projections or take the opportunity to identify the Rama within themselves and evolve into higher consciousness.

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