Writing about the Ramayana, one would assume that I would jump right out there in praise of Rama himself. “Jai Ram, Jai Ram!” But let’s not sing praises of things we do not understand. A single piece of a puzzle is only a piece, unintelligible and meaningless until it is plunked into the context of the whole pretty picture of furry kittens in a basket or dogs playing poker.
Rama is a piece of a grander picture we should view first to know all of it’s yogic meaning.
In the Ramayana we are first introduced to the divine sage Narada, who is constantly singing the praises of Vishnu, so much so that his being tends to expand in bhakti or loving devotion, breaking the string of his mala beads. He is said to have no rote knowledge, but constantly concentrates on the Absolute to know the essence for himself.
“tapah svaadhyaaya nirataam tapasvii vaagvidaam varam
naaradam paripapraccha vaalmiikih muni pu.mgavam”
The line above is paramount, it is the first line in the story and speaks of our Narada. The writer is telling us how to read the book.
“Naara” means wisdom and “da” means giver. Narada is the gift of wisdom from the Absolute.
“Tapah” means both thoughtful meditation and that which is meditated on. It is the seen and the seer. Through meditation we become one with what we meditate on, our individual/Atma piece is reunited with the universal/Atman puzzle, and we view it all through the eyes of Brahman.
Atma is the individual self with ego and ignorance, unable to discriminate unreal from the really, really, real. Atman is the universal Self and your true essence which is eternal. Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and absolute reality. The Brahman within the individual is called the Atman.
“Svadhyaya” means both knowledge of the spiritual and the knowledge of self study. There is an an old adage that goes, “As above, so below.” By studying universal laws we can better know ourselves, by looking within we can better see the universe.
That precious first line refers to attaining knowledge, not from believing the words of someone else, ‘because they say so,’ or from books, not even this book, the Ramayana.
This is the largest dilemma. Anyone who says they are quoting the word of God from a book is either consciously or unconsciously lying, for they cannot translate the flow of consciousness, nor do they know what God is. When we profess our love we are lying. Ask fourteen people what love is and you will get at least fourteen answers. We do not know what love is. What we think are our intellectual insights and moments of honesty are not, for we don’t know of what we are haranguing on about until we can see it through the eyes of Brahma, devoid of ego and ignorance, able to discriminate unreal from the really, really, real, eternal and never changing absolute; from a state of pure consciousness.
Everyone must live the whole lesson for themselves. There are no shortcuts, we must walk the whole path, for what we do not experience and live, we will never truly know.
But how can we know?
Our remedial formative years are spent building our personality with prejudices, inclinations and pretense. All these habits act as filters between us and our world view, clouding and coloring our ideals and ideas. Once we lives even a moment of absolute consciousness, we will see everything through one less filter.
In those moments of meditative conscious union we can see, or better feel, a much different, more harmonious, uniting, universal truth that encompasses, but is far beyond, the sphere of our ordinary elucidations, convictions and intellect.
Years ago my teacher would ask for feedback on our hours of meditation. With any real conscious experience I shared he would intervene and remind me that, for ever after, my life would never be the same. Once we consciously experience something, we know something new, and we can never return to the previous state of ignorance.
This is what we are called to do by Narada, step forever out of our sleep and become conscious, so that we may understand the meaning behind the words of the Ramayana, by experiencing them.
Over the millinnea seers, saints and sages have written down their experiences and published them in D.I.Y. how-to books brimming with characters from Osiris, Bacchus, Dionysus, Jesus, Baal, Dorothy, Han Solo, and Rama.
“But why” I asked as a child, “don’t they just come out and say what they mean, instead of confusing everyone with cartoon-like analogies.” I was a precocious child.
Have you ever misinterpreted someones words in a conversation, even when speaking about simple things.
Sitting in Starbucks, sipping a tall half-caf soy caramel macchiato, a woman looks at me and smiles, “Elet, I really like you.” I can take that so many ways. I could believe she loves me and is embarrassed or not yet comfortable enough to avow her love, but she may just be gently kicking my romantic ladder away from her moonlit window, hinting that I’m a swell guy, but she’s not that into me. It can be tricky, so imagine trying to impart the meaning of life to someone you’ve never met.
G.I. Gurdjieff said that subjective words lose their meanings when translated for another culture, another time, even another person. Not even our mother will ever really understand what we are trying to share.
The ancient sects and schools developed their own objective language so that everyone could interpret the meaning of instructions or written text the exact same way. My teacher would never use the word meditation because of all the modern miscontortions and misconceptions of the word itself. He would say, “Let us sit”, and we all know exactly what he meant. It was decided before hand what it meant and because we were all in the same cult, we all knew the purposed meaning of the word used. All holy texts were written exclusively for those already initiated in an objective language, written for those already on a certain level of conscious understanding. They utilized characters to stand for certain aspects of our human experience. Rama represents self/soul. Sita is pure energy or shakti. Hunaman is prana. Just as with all the other instructional spiritual texts, wherein the stage is spread out within us for us to watch, the Ramayana is the play we catch glimpses of every day.
So “rama” is our soul and “yana” means it’s path. The Ramayana is the eternal struggle on the path between the harmonious flow of consciousness and the blockages of egoism that are sense-created. This all happens with in us.
This disruption is symbolised by the egoistic demon Ravana and his ten heads that represent our ten senses. (Five cognitive sensory organs of ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose which perceive cognitive sensations and five executive organs like anus, penis or vagina, tongue, hands and legs.)
All is perfect on the cosmic level and through the universal laws of nature everything finds balance. Vishnu the sustainer of the all, seeks this equipoise by balancing out the distracting negative influences with a few perks of positive stuff.
In the Ramayana, Ravana’s shenanigans are a constant nuisance to the divine. Thanks to some universally lawful boon, there is nothing in the universe that can control or change negative influences. Not even the gods can beat three aces with a pair of twos, for they cannot change the rules. If you change the rules of the game, you are not playing the same game. Yet Ravana finally pisses Vishnu off. Something must be done.
Vishnu, as well as Brahma the creator and Shiva the destroyer, all reside within ourselves. All are aspects of our divinity. Vishnu flows on the human plane as Rama. Sri Rama again represents our soul, who’s true-nature or pure conscious energy, represented by lovely Sita, is stolen or distracted by Ravana.
This too can be read on varying levels. For conscious work on ourselves we can use it as a metaphor, if you know what a metaphor is. It can also be used in chakra yoga, harnessing (yog) our energies sources (chakras).