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Sri Rama at Panchavati


Rama is para brahman, took the form of a human to protect those who follow dharma, and to destroy those who take up adharma. It is the dharma that propels the wheel of action and results, sets it in motion with the beginning of the creation cycle. Rama means the one in whom everyone revels since he is sat chit ananda swaruupa, the ultimate goal of every being. Rama also means the one who revels in everyone, as the very consciousness that enlivens every body, mind, and intellect. Rama says there is no Rama without Sita, and there is no Sita without Rama. This Sita-Ram is one expressed as two as the prakruti and purusha or as Lakshmi-Narayana, and as Krishna says, the lower prakruti and higher prakruti.  Sita stands for the emotional personality of the mind that always dwells in Rama. She is the embodiment of Bhakti while Rama stands for the intellect that discriminates the right from wrong, dharma from adharma. ramo vigrahavaan dharmaH, Rama is the embodiment of dharma, says Maaricha Rakshasa. As Valmiike says, Rama is maryada purushottama – free from all faults – nirdhosham hi param brahma, says Gita about parabrahma, as it is infinite Braham cannot have faults. Thus, faultless Rama stands for jnana swaruupam. Thus Sita-Rama stand together as inseparable Bhakti and Knowledge.

Shankara defines Bhakti as– swaswaruupaanusandhaanam or swaatma  tatva anusandhanam – Bhakti is the contemplation on one’s own real nature or constant inquiry into one’s own real nature, as one’s own real nature being jnanaa swaruupam. Thus Sita, standing for bhakti is devoted to pure knowledge, Rama.

In Vaishnava tradition, it has been said only through Shree or Lakshmi one can reach Narayana, and hence the philosophy is called Shreevaishnavism. Thus, Sita standing for Bhakti indicates that Bhakti is the essential means to reach parabrahma, as Shankara echoes – moksha kaarana samaagryaam bhakti reva gariiyasi – of all the paths for liberation Bhakti is the supreme.  From the Advaita point, Sita stands for the mind, and only through the mind, one must recognize the pure consciousness that illumines the mind.

Rama left Ayodhya when conflicts arose in the city to go to aranyam, where there were no conflicts, and which is the abode of santa purushas. Aranyam means ranyam na vidyate – where is no inner battle taking place, where there is always the victory of good over bad.  Rama meets many sages, including sage Atri and Anasuya. Anasuuya means where there is no asuuya that normally involves guna dosha darshanam, which is seeing bad even in good people. Anasuuya is the one who can see goodness in everything or being the highest good being the vision of the supreme in everyone’s essence.

Sita-Ram slowly moved to Pancavati at the recommendation of Sage Agastya to live there. Vati means a banyan tree.  The banyan tree symbolizes the shraddha or faith as an essential ingredient to gain any knowledge, more so for adhyaatmika vidya. Lakshmana, who has purified his mind by karma yoga by serving the Lord, gains the supreme knowledge at the feet of Rama in the Pacavati only. Vata vruksham is glorified in our teachings. Young Dakshinamurthy teaches the old sages sitting under the Vata vRiksham only. Vatavitapi samiipe bhuumibhaage nishannam … and chitram vataror mule vruddhaas shishyaas gururyuvaa.. says DakshiNamurthy slokas.

Pacha Vati involves the full faith in five aspects required for knowledge to take place.

  1. Faith in the existence of God.
  2. Faith in the validity of the scriptures as the means of knowledge or pramana
  3. Faith in the Guru, the knower of the truth, and what he reveals is the truth expounded in the scriptures.
  4. Faith in oneself – aatma viswaasam – that I can realize in this life itself.
  5. Faith in the efficacy of sadhana, sadhana at karma yoga level and sadhana at jnaana yoga level, the later involving shravana, manana and nidhidhyaasana.

Once surrendered, Rama takes care of bhakta even if there are fourteen thousand of obstacles that come in the form of Rakshasas led by Khara and DuushaNa, disturbing the peaceful mind.

There are two types of surrender as per Vaishnava tradition – 1. Maarjaala nyaaya 2. Markataka nyaaya- roughly translated as kitten philosophy and the baby-monkey philosophy. In the case of a kitten, once surrendered, it becomes the responsibility of the mother cat to take care of its kitten. A devotee once surrendered, there is full faith that Lord will take care of him. In such surrender, it becomes Lord’s responsibility to take care of his devotee, and that is the promise Krishna also makes in Geeta.

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तो माम् ये जनाः पर्युपासते

तेषाम् नित्याभियुक्तानाम् योगक्षेमम् वहाम्यहम्|

ananyaaschintayanto maam ye janaaH parypaasate|

teshaam nityaabhiyuktaanaam yogakshemam vahaamyaham| B.G.9-22

In the case of a baby monkey, it is the responsibility of the baby monkey to hold on firmly to the mother’s stomach, and the mother just allows the baby to hold on to her while she jumps from one branch to the other in search of food. These two philosophical positions led to Vadahalai and Tengalai sects, respectively, in Shreevaishnavism.

Swami Tejomayanandaj beautifully describes the surrender of a devotee – a devotee should have one hand under the feet of the Lord and the other hand holding the feet of the Lord, so that devotee cannot run away from the Lord neither Lord can run away from the devotee. However, it is the Lord assurance which is commonly referred to as the final teaching or charama sloka – that says:

सर्व धर्मान् परित्यज्य माम् एकम् शरणम् वृज|

अहम् त्वा सर्व पापेभ्यः मोक्ष इष्यामि मासुचः|

sarva dharmaan parityajya, maam ekam sharaNam vRija|

aham tvaa sarva paapebhyaH moksha ishyaami maasucaH||

Giving up all dharmaas completely surrender to me alone, and I will give liberation, removing all the sins committed in the past. This sloka forms the basis for Shranaagati in Ramanuja’s philosophy.  Most importantly, for Sharanaagati requires complete faith – shraddhaa by establishing oneself in Pancavati. From the Advaita point, Sharanaagati involves the complete surrender of one’s ego or ahankaara at the alter of the Supreme.

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(This article is from Self and the Supreme by Dr. K Sadananda, published by Indic Academy)

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