The Sweet Story of Lord Rama!
Rama Navami is celebrated in many countries and cultures to mark the birth of Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was born on the ninth day (Navami) in the bright half of the month (towards full month) during the first month of Spring—Chaitra, name of the month in Hindu calendar. The birth day of Lord Rama is observed in many different ways—worshipping at home or in a temple, rituals, devotional singing, reading the story of Lord Rama (Ramayana or Rama-Katha), re-enacting the life story of Him as a drama and performing charitable acts. Among these, perhaps the simplest and most valuable is to read and imbibe the values and ideals from the life of Lord Rama.
Inspiring Stories of Deep Devotion to the Lord from Ramakatha Rasa Vahini
Beginning in late 1969 till August 1977, Sathya Sai Baba wrote every month a chapter or two on the life of Lord Rama with intricate details and insights. This was later compiled as the Ramakatha Rasa Vahini (Part 1, Part 2). Sathya Sai Baba wrote, “God, when appearing with form for the sake of upholding dharma, behaves in a human way. He must! For, He has to hold forth the ideal life before people and confer the experience of joy and peace on people. His movements and playful activities (leelas) might appear ordinary and commonplace to some eyes. But each will be an expression of beauty, truth, goodness, joy, and exaltation. Each will captivate the world with its charm and purify the heart that contemplates it. Each will overcome and overwhelm all the agitations of the mind, tear the veil of illusion (maya), and fill the consciousness with sweetness. There can be nothing ordinary and commonplace in the careers of Avatars. Whatever is seen and taken as of that nature is really super-human, super-natural, deserving high reverence! The story of Rama is not the story of an individual; it is the story of the universe! Rama is the personification of the basic Universal in all beings.”
Today, Sabari gave him the fruits that had dropped ripe from the trees. She used to dust them and clean them and keep them for him every day, and when Rama did not arrive, she ate them herself as sacramental food, given to her by Rama himself! Day after day, she roamed the forest in search of sweet ones to be placed before Rama. Thus, daily the fruits were saturated with her love and devotion and the fruits became doubly desirable.
Lakshmana noticed that this was why Rama was eating them with joy. He was filled with delight, and he admired Sabari’s devotion, which was so richly rewarded. He appreciated the divine joy with which she had filled herself as a result of her long years of spiritual study and practice.
Sabari stood with folded hands before Rama and said, “Lord! I am of low caste; I am of untutored intellect, dull and stupid. I am not learned in any sacred art or text. I am lower than the lowest. How can I extol you or describe your glory? I have no skill in the use of words. I haven’t cultivated my reason. Nor have I practised austerities prescribed to gain insight into Divinity. I am on the lowest step in spiritual exercises. My only strength is my love for God. I have no other support or sustenance.” She spoke of Rama’s compassion, in accepting her offering. “Your grace is boundless.” she said.
Rama listened to her words intensely. He lifted her chin and looked right into her eyes. “Mother! Devotion is the thing I need; the rest are subsidiary. Other things like scholarship, intelligence, status, social prestige, caste I don’t pay any attention to them. They are of no value in my eyes. More than all the powers gained by spiritual disciplines and austerities, I relish the sweetness of devotion saturated with love. I seek only that. A man who has no love in him is as barren as a cloud with no moisture, a tree with no fruits, or a cow yielding no milk; he is ever far from God and can never earn grace.
Sabari! Of the nine ways of evincing and cultivating devotion, I desire only that anyone be followed consistently by a person. But I find you have followed all nine ways to the very end. So, I do not see anyone higher than you in spiritual attainment. I am indeed elated in all manner of ways, for you have offered me devotion that is pure, steady, and selfless and that is love springing from the heart and surging from it in all directions, toward all directions and toward all beings. You have not cast aspersions on anyone, even while dreaming! That is what makes your mind so pure. Your mind doesn’t blossom when ‘good’ comes and doesn’t wither when ‘bad’ comes. You are blessed in all ways.”
Jatayu- Chief of Birds
Rama and Lakshmana forsook the hermitage, armed with weapons; they examined every tank and looked over every hill in the region. They could not find any sign. While proceeding thus, they saw lying across the track before them branches of trees that had been pulled asunder. There were other evidences of a combat that had taken place, like broken arrows and patches of blood. Rama drew his brother’s attention to these. “A fight seems to have taken place here,” he said. He looked around for signs about who had engaged whom. He found an eagle of truly regal mien lying on the ground, gasping for breath, but still repeating reverentially with eyes closed the name it adored, “Rama, Rama.”
The brothers walked straight to the bird and lovingly stroked its head and body. When Rama’s hand blessed it with the tender touch, the bird recovered a little strength. It opened its eyes and looked around. It saw the beautiful form of Rama, which could captivate all the worlds. Suddenly it was overpowered by a flood of both joy and sorrow. The incapacitated bird could not move its limbs, nor could it turn on its side, so it crawled forward a little and, raising its head, placed it at Rama’s feet. Rama placed the head on his lap and gently fondled it into awareness and activity.
Jatayu said in feeble accents, “Lord! The wicked Ravana, yielding to maleficent motives, forsaking justice and uprightness, casting away powers acquired by years of asceticism, carried mother Sita away in a chariot through this forest, as a dog goes in stealth and a fox goes cunningly. Sita, mother of all the worlds, the daughter of Janaka, wailed aloud, ‘Rama, Rama,’ covering the entire forest in gloom.
“I heard the wail but didn’t know who raised the sad cry. I flew near and discovered to my great surprise and sorrow that mother Sita was in distress! I couldn’t remain quiet. Though old and decrepit, I pronounced your name and derived strength thereby and courage to give him battle. I pecked at him so furiously that his body streamed with blood all over. He put Sita in the shade of a tree and then fought ferociously. He drew his wheel-weapon and slashed my wings into shambles. I could not do anything to stop his onward journey with Sita, so I lay here, weeping over my defeat and waiting for your arrival. I am most unlucky, for though I saw mother being taken away by that ruffian, I couldn’t save her.” Jatayu shed tears of despair as he spoke those words.
Rama displayed great interest and anxiety. “O chief of birds! I shall never forget your help. The good deed you have performed will give you bliss in the next world. Do not feel sad.” Thus saying, Rama dusted its wings with his own matted hair, while Lakshmana hurried to bring some water to slake its thirst and refresh it. Rama poured the water drop by drop into the bird’s mouth.
Jatayu was delighted at his good fortune, and his face glowed with ecstasy. Jatayu said, “Rama! I am luckier than even your father, for he didn’t have this chance to drink water from your hands when he left this world. I got my last sip from your golden hand! I rested on your lap. I drank nectar from your fingers. And, while drawing my last breath, I filled my eyes with the picture of your charming lotus face. I am certain I will be merging in you. O, I am indeed blessed.”
Hanuman and the Dazzling Necklace
“Vibhishana came forward with a dazzling necklace of gems, which the lord of the sea had offered to Ravana. Sita accepted it. Its brilliance shone all over the vast hall and struck every one as a unique string of gems. But with the necklace in her hand, she cast a questioning glance at Rama.
Rama knew what was passing in her mind. He said, “Sita! You can grant it as a gift to anyone among those here who deserves your grace.” Sita thought just for a second and looked at Hanuman. Becoming aware of the compassion in the look, Hanuman approached Sita in great humility and stood before her with bowed head. Sita gave the necklace to Hanuman.
Hanuman turned it around many times in his hand, its dazzle enrapturing everyone in that vast assembly. He was struggling to discover its uniqueness with deep curiosity. He plucked every gem, put it between his teeth, and placed it adjacent to his ear, and with a face indicating disappointment, he threw the gem away in disgust! All eyes were watching this peculiar behaviour with increasing amazement. They were stunned into silence and inactivity. Until he treated the last gem in the same cavalier manner, no one dared interrupt or condemn. They could only protest in whispers among themselves! “Who is this monkey that so badly treats the diamond necklace that was so lovingly and so compassionately presented to him by Sita?” was the question on most lips.
Even Vibhishana was sad that Hanuman had so brazenly insulted the priceless jewel that he had brought. “He pulled it to pieces and cast the gems aside,” he told himself. Everyone in the hall surmised the reason for the strange behaviour in his own way. At last, one vassal ruler could not restrain himself. He rose and gave vent to his resentment: “Peerless hero! Why did you break that necklace into so many bits? Was it right to do so? Tell us why. Give us some explanation and remove our doubts.”
Hanuman listened to him patiently and replied. “O King! I examined each gem in order to discover whether each had in it the sacred name of Rama. I could not find it in any gem. Without Rama’s name, they are but stones and pebbles, so I cast them on the ground.” The ruler was not silenced by this. He asked, “Hanuman! If you want Rama’s name in every article and particle, aren’t you asking for something impossible?”
Hanuman replied. “Of what good, of what profit, is anything that doesn’t have Rama’s name in it? I don’t need such.” The valiant hero, Hanuman, dismissed the argument of the ruler thus. The ruler, however, continued his objections. He said, “You wouldn’t wear anything that doesn’t have Rama’s name in it. Well. You are wearing your body. You are carrying it about with you. Prove to us that you have the name in it.”
Hanuman laughed aloud; he said, “I’ll prove, see!” He pulled a single hair from off his forearm and held it very near to the ruler’s ear. He could hear the name, Rama, Rama, Rama uttered by the single hair! The ruler was overcome with a sense of wonder; he fell at Hanuman’s feet and prayed for pardon.”