The following post is one from the Ramacharitmanas series by Hanuman Dass. Every week we move forward in our journey through the Ramayana of Love, as spoken by the great Saint Tulasidas. The Ramacharitmanas has been described by the Acharya Vinoba Bhave as being similar to a cross between the Bible and Shakespeare. The Ramacharitmanas is like an ocean of love and bliss, and the hope is that these posts will provide a sense of the bhava and how one can benefit by way of immersion in its waters. Above all else, the Ramacharitmanas is a journey in love, and as Neem Karoli Baba has said, ‘Love is stronger than electricity’.
Lakshmana speaking to Shri Rama said,
“Let us go to the Swayamvar and see how Sita will choose her husband. The person of your choosing will surely be victorious.”
All of the forest hermits who had accompanied them were delighted by his words. Vishvamitra, Shri Rama, and Lakshmana together with the forest hermits left for the arena where the bow-sacrifice was scheduled to take place. Men and women from all over the kingdom had gathered there eagerly awaiting the prestigious event where their princess was to be united with a worthy suitor. When the citizens of Mithiala heard that Shri Rama and Lakshmana were also going to be in attendance they became even more enthralled. Janaka made sure that everyone in attendance was graciously greeted with sweet words regardless of their background and given proper seating.
All the citizens looked on in amazement as the two lions, Shri Rama and Lakshmana, entered the arena. Beauty beyond description, an endless ocean of kindness, one fair the other dark, like two full moons they shined brightly amongst a galaxy of princes in attendance. Everybody saw Shri Rama in their own unique way. Warriors who had spent much of their lives on the battlefield looked upon him with the feeling of heroic sentiment. The wicked minded princes looked upon Shri Rama as a source of great fear. There were even demons disguised as princes who beheld Shri Rama as none other than death personified. The citizens of Mithiala saw the brothers for their unending humanity and service to all. With joy in their heart all beings saw Shri Rama’s magnificence in their own unique way.
The wise saw in Shri Rama his cosmic, universal form, with many faces, arms, hands, legs, feet, and eyes; he was all beings in all places. The Janaka family saw in Shri Rama the perfect son-in-law. To the queen, he was a perfect match for her daughter. Even the enlightened yogis saw in Shri Rama the universal divine truth upon which the entire universe rests. To them Shri Rama was Brahman: the Ultimate Reality in the universe; the pervasive, infinite, eternal truth and bliss. The devotees of Shri Hari saw him as their beloved deity, the fountain of all joy, their lives rendered meaningless unless they were gazing upon his feet.
To Sita, Shri Rama invoked feelings of love and joy. Her heart was pounding but could not speak the words to explain those feelings. Then what chance do we have of explaining her love? In this way, each and every person saw the divine Rama in their own way, according to their own minds and individual karma.
Each and everyone of us views the world through our own lens. The same is true of the spiritual path. The ancient Rig Veda proclaims that the truth is one but is seen in many ways. This can be viewed as the foundational truth of the Hindu way of thinking.
When following Sanatana Dharma, we take a step back and can see that there is beauty, truth and essence expressed in many ways. The way that different people saw Shri Rama in the above passage is a clear expression of this truth and an example for us to heed. When we see a person from a different religion or different culture, we should not try to change them but as Maharajji says, “We should just love them. For the underlying essence is the same. Sub Ek.”
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches this truth to Arjuna many times. When he reveals his cosmic, universal form he says:
“Behold, Arjuna, a million divine forms, with an infinite variety of color and shape. Behold the gods of the natural world, and many more wonders never revealed before. Behold the entire cosmos turning within my body, and the other things you desire to see.”
At another point, when discussing the various inclinations of different people on the spiritual path he says:
“As they approach me, so I receive them. All paths, Arjuna, lead to me.”
The spiritual path is not a one size fits all, dogmatic system. It is personal to you. Your own spiritual journey will be influenced by your past, presence and future. You may be pulled towards a being who exhibits spiritual qualities such as a guru, you may find solace in devotional love to Rama, or find sanctity in the path of physical yoga practise. All of these paths lead to the same destination. This is the message: we should love each other regardless of where we are, or what book we choose to read.