Our everyday life is mired in various forms of conflict on many different levels. We chase thoughts of pleasure, validation, comfort, security and success amongst others. Our mental landscape is fraught with worries around the future, or sorrows of the past, with increasingly less time to dwell on the present moment. The mind seeks answers all the time, rarely sitting at rest or in contemplation. It is as if there’s an inner war raging within us, seeking solutions to everyday problems or answers to incompatible behaviors of others. If it’s not within our world, this yuddha, or battle dominates our outer world as disharmony in society or as the cacophony of war amidst political differences. Although we inherently seek tranquility, we tend to lose ourselves on the path to tranquility, investing our energy in tactical methods to conquer the other, eventually losing sight of the eternal and common goal of mankind – peace.
The Rāmāyaṇa within us
We desire happiness, yet our life is full of struggles and weariness. So then how do we strive for this goal, and what can lead us to it? Answers to these deep queries have been unfolded in the core essence of Rāmāyaṇa and its relevance to the spiritual life in a way that we can comprehend and apply it to our day-to-day life. Both devotional and intellectual aspects are woven as a myriad of jewels in the tapestry of this profoundly moving and philosophical story. The epic of Rāmāyaṇa has its origin in Ayodhya, which is the unique kingdom of King Daśaratha. The interpretation of his name translates to the body being ratha, or the chariot, which has the ten daśa, or the ‘sense organs’, which are compared to horses. Amongst these, the five organs of perception are the eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin. The hands, legs, speech and two organs of excretion, are the five organs of action. In totality, these ten horses collectively carry the chariot of our body forward.
Ayodhya – the birthplace of peace
The great kingdom of Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Rama. The word Ayodhya itself is made up of the syllables a-yudh, where yudh means battle or conflict and ‘a’ is a prefix that means ‘without’. In our lives too, we can equate our aspiration of existence with Ayodhya, where we strive for no conflict. And as the king who has mastery over himself, we too can strive to keep the chariot of our collective senses in a state of control, following the path of dharma. In such a state, the king is concentrated on the welfare of his people, and bears an attitude of friendship and compassion, and his kingdom naturally enjoys peace and prosperity. Similarly, when our mind becomes a Daśa-ratha – a master of the ten senses – and the intellect develops goodwill and kindness with the goal of helping others, our heart becomes a place free of all conflicts, like Ayodhya. Only in such an exalted and exemplary state of a personality, Truth dawns and the birth of the Lord takes place.
The marriage of devotion and intellect
We have spoken about the intellect and now we come to the other key element, that is devotion. The vitalising essence, because of which we see, hear, smell and taste and because of which we are alive is the Ātman or Ātmārāma. It is present within us, and yet we cannot perceive Him. But when the mind, like King Daśaratha, is full of devotion, and also wedded to Kausalyā who represents a keen intellect free of all selfishness and negativities, both can be focused on the Lord. We call out to Him by His name, Śrī Rāma and it is only then that He reveals Himself. Rāma is experienced as a mass of inexplicable, unlimited happiness and bliss within Antaḥkaraṇa, the inner equipment, the inner city, and the inner space where we can experience the infinite, all-pervasive Lord within ourselves.
With the blessings of our Guru and by sitting in deep meditation while remembering His name, we can attain the bliss we are looking for. But what happens when we face the outside world again? We assume that the world will behave according to our thought process, hence our expectation from our relationships and situations can become rather unrealistic. And that is so because the outside condition is not in our control. In such a predicament, we can chant the name of the Lord, and repeat His name with devotion resulting in bliss and peace. The right knowledge removes these false expectations and delusions, and leads to the birth of Śrī Rāma in our heart. By continuing on this path of devotion in His name and carrying our intellect like the chariot, we can achieve inner liberation and experience bliss within the kingdom of our existence.