Bhakti Stories – Part V

NALA AND DAMAYANTI

The story of Nala and Damayanti is told as an episode in the Mahabharata.  In essence, Nala and Damayanti lived happily together as husband and wife for some time, a son and daughter being born to them.  However, Nala was enticed into gambling with Pushkara, who used loaded dice.  Nala lost his kingdom as well as his wife and children and he wandered off as a pauper.  After various adventures he and Damayanti were reunited. He set about learning how to play properly with the dice and then challenged Pushkara to a return match, in which he recovered all he had lost.

 This is a moral tale about what happens when one does not give due consideration to one’s primary duty of protecting one’s wife and children.  However, it also tells us how it was his wife’s virtue and persistence, which in the end led to a happy reunion.  The story demonstrates the importance of the role of a householder.  Here is the story in more detail.

 The land of the Nishadhas was ruled by the handsome and strong King Nala.  This young king possessed uncommon skills as a warrior, was a masterful horseman and loved the game of dice.  He outshone all other kings in his generosity to holy men and in the way he upheld the religious traditions of his ancestors.  He was endowed with all the good qualities of manhood.  No man alive could match the wisdom, might and goodness of King Nala.

 In the nearby kingdom of Vidarbha there lived a young princess named Damayanti.  Her qualities of beauty and virtue matched those of Nala, and when the time came for Damayanti to choose her husband, even the gods of heaven came, hoping to be chosen by this pretty maiden.  In spite of the divine competition, Nala was chosen by Damayanti to be her husband.  It seemed the perfect marriage had been sealed.

 As the gods returned home from Nala and Damayanti’s wedding they encountered the evil god, Kali, who was on the way to Damayanti’s husband-choosing ceremony, hoping to gain her hand in marriage.  When he heard the ceremony had already taken place and that King Nala had been chosen, the evil Kali vowed to disrupt this perfect marriage.  Though the other celestial beings told Kali that Nala would prevail in the end, the angry god vowed revenge.

 For twelve years Nala and Damayanti lived in perfect harmony and love in accordance with their virtuous qualities.  Then one morning Nala gave the evil Kali the opening he’d been looking for.  Forgetting to wash his feet before beginning his morning prayers (a breach in ritual preparations), Nala was immediately possessed by the spirit of Kali.

 In a weakened moral and intellectual stage Nala accepted the greedy King Pushkara’s challenge to gamble.  Aided by Kali, Pushkara sought to debase and dethrone Nala through a fateful game of dice. 

 The widely publicised game began, even though Damayanti and citizens of Nishadha tried to dissuade Nala from playing with the infamous Pushkara.  Nala insisted that he could not refuse a public challenger; especially as it had been witnessed by his own wife. 

 As the game of dice began behind the closed doors of Nala’s palace, the influence of Kali was immediately apparent.  Nala lost on one fateful roll of the dice after another.  First, his gold and silver were lost, then one by one all his material possessions.  Nala’s chariots and horses, his cows, his granaries, and finally, even his royal robes were all lost to Pushkara.  Though Damayanti, the court ministers and the citizens and his kingdom all pleaded with him to stop the game, Nala persisted until he had gambled away his entire kingdom.  Then Pushkara insisted Nala offer Damayanti as a final prize but Nala refused.  Since Nala had nothing left to wager, Pushkara threw him out of the palace and banished him from his former realm.

Wandering in the forest with only one piece of cloth to wear and with his wife dutifully at his side, Nala looked for roots and berries on which he and his wife could survive.  Days passed, and the former king and queen both grew lean from hunger.  One day Nala happened to come upon a small flock of birds that were unaware of his presence and he saw a chance for a meat dinner.  He removed his single piece of cloth and threw if over the birds as a makeshift fowler’s net.  The frightened birds took flight with Nala’s only garment in tow.  The debasement of the virtuous former king was now complete, as he stood naked in the forest.

Later, Nala and Damayanti collapsed from fatigue and hunger in an abandoned hut.  During the night, Nala awoke, cut off part of Damayanti’s garment to cover himself and, leaving his devoted wife asleep in the hut, set out alone through the forest.  Twice he returned to her and twice he departed again, convincing himself that his beautiful wife would be better off without him.  He reasoned that a maiden of her virtue would be protected from any danger of the forest or its inhabitants.  He said to himself, “Should I desert my wife?  Truly she is devoted to me and would suffer much distress on account of my actions.  However, freed of me, she may return to her relatives and enjoy once again the royal circumstances she deserves.  If I do not leave her, Damayanti’s devotion to me will only cause her further pain and suffering”.  So Nala abandoned Damayanti who continued her exhausted sleep.

 As morning approached, Damayanti awoke to find Nala gone.  Crying out in anguish, Damayanti sobbed, “Oh, my lord!  Oh, my dearest husband, why have you deserted me?  Illustrious prince, if you are truthful and virtuous, how then can you desert me while I’m asleep in this fearful forest?  I have been faithful to you and have done you no wrong.  Why then have you abandoned your husbandly duty of protection?  I am so afraid!  Please cease your terrible game and show yourself to me!”  With these words Damayanti fell down sobbing at her predicament.  After it became clear that Nala was not going to return, Damayanti set out in search of her husband.

 While searching for Nala, Damayanti ventured even deeper into the forest and encountered a huge serpent which coiled itself around her.  Once again Damayanti called out to Nala for protection.  A passing hunter heard her cries and came to her rescue.  After killing the snake, he learnt of Damayanti’s plight.  Tempted by her beauty and her defencelessness, the hunter attempted to force himself on her.  Calling upon her accumulated virtue, Damayanti cursed the hunter and he fell dead from the power of her words.  As Damayanti wandered further into the dark woods, she encountered one frightening situation after another until she finally came upon a travelling caravan.  Joining the caravan in the hope of getting out of the forest, Damayanti was welcomed by the merchants who pitied the near-starved woman.

 The caravan leaders decided to stop for the night by a serene lake.  As they set up camp along the shoreline, they were unaware that they were bedding down on the only route of access by which animals could approach the lake to drink and bathe.  During the night a large elephant herd charged the sleeping caravan, enraged at this obstacles in their path.  Many deaths and injuries were the result of the elephants’ charge through the sleeping camp.  As the caravan leaders regrouped their remaining people and animals, they blamed their misfortune on their new travelling companion, Damayanti.  Accused of being a witch or female demon in disguise, Damayanti was again abandoned in the forest and left to find her own way.

 After months of travelling alone, surviving only on the berries and roots she could find, Damayanti emerged from the forest, a mere skeleton.  Coming upon a great city, Damayanti was taken in by the queen of that city and nursed back to health.  Search parties of soldiers and priest were dispatched to seek Damayanti’s possessed husband.  Through one of the priests who had recently returned from a distant city Damayanti learned that her husband had also encountered many hardships and had been deformed by snakebite. 

 Using the strategy of a second husband-choosing ceremony, Damayanti enticed Nala to come to the city in which she now lived.  She asked Nala (now in the guise of Vahuka, a charioteer) what she had done to deserve being abandoned in the forest.  Nala replied, “Oh frail one, neither the loss of my kingdom nor my abandonment of you were my acts.  Both were due to Kali.  I was possessed by that evil one and forced by him to perform all those evil deeds which led to your suffering.  That evil one has now left me and I am here to reclaim your hand.”  Damayanti reaffirmed her original choice of Nala and, and as Nala put on royal robes again, his disfigurement disappeared.

Let us reflect on the spiritual significance of the story.  Nala and Damayanti lived happily together for some time, and a son and daughter were born to them.  This signifies that they were originally Golden-aged souls who lived with prosperity, health and happiness.  However, Nala was lured into gambling by Pushkara, who cheated by using loaded dice.  Nala lost his kingdom, wife and children and he wandered off, a pauper.  Being forced to wander in the forest signifies coming down from the sovereignty of heaven into hell, which exists from the Copper Age onwards.  Even there he lost the only material wealth he had left.  This signifies that one loses everything and reaches degradation by performing sins, that is, by falling under the influence of the five vices in the Iron Age. 

The queen who helped Damayanti represents God Shiva and the priest who helped to restore her husband’s health symbolises God’s messenger.  After various adventures Nala and Damayanti were reunited.  He then learnt how to play effectively with dice and challenged Pushkara, from whom he recovered all he lost.  This signifies that, after having found God, we know how to handle Maya, the five vices, and how not to allow ourselves to be deceived.

NARAD

Narad was a famous sage, a rishi.  He was said to have been born from Brahma’s forehead.  Known in India as a player of the tambura, he taught the Gandharvas to play music. This character appears in many bhakti stories, quite humorously at times.  Being the son of Brahma, he could travel to any of the three worlds at any time.  Narad had great love for God and would encourage souls to speak about God at every opportunity.  However, he developed a bad habit of gossiping.  The following story tells of Narad wanting to marry Lakshmi.

Narad once decided to do austere penances in order to control all his emotions and desires.  Upon seating himself in the conducive setting of a great hermitage, Narad began his yogi practice.  He sat for days in silence, keeping his mind free of impure thoughts.  The very throne of Indra, Lord of the Gods, became agitated by the heat generated by Narad’s austerities.  Indra sent some beautiful maidens to tempt Narad but Narad remained unmoved. 

Considering his penance to be complete and thinking he had thoroughly overcome all desires, Narad ceased his penances and left the hermitage.  Puffed up by pride in his ascetic achievements, Narad set off to the abode of Shiva in heaven, then to Brahma’s and to Vishnu’s abodes to brag of his newly acquired holiness.  Concerned at Narad’s arrogance, thinking himself to be above such desires and emotions, the gods planned a test of Narad’s ascetic achievement.  (Spiritually speaking, the abode of Shiva in heaven refers to the soul world and the other abodes refer to the subtle region, the abode of Brahma, Vishnu and Shankar).

As he made his way back to earth from heaven, a city more beautiful than heaven itself was placed in Narad’s path.  The king who lived in this city was preparing to hold a husband-choosing ceremony for his daughter, Shrimati, (Lakshmi) in which she could select her own husband.  As Narad approached the palace of the king, the king’s daughter herself came to wait upon the venerable sage. 

Narad was struck dumb by the princess’s beauty.  He ran to Vishnu’s heavenly abode and begged Vishnu, the handsome god, to bestow his godly form upon Narad to secure his chances of being chosen by the pretty maiden.  Vishnu told him to go to the palace and said that he would do what was beneficial for him, just as a physician does what is good for his patients.  Thereupon, Vishnu blessed the sage with his godly form and the face of Hari.  (Hari is another name for Vishnu and means both ‘charming’ and ‘monkey’.)  Thus, according to this play on words, the sage, Narad, set off to the huband-choosing ceremony with the body of a god and the face of a monkey.

Narad hurried to the palace where the ceremony was to take place.  Already assembled were scores of princes, all anxious to be chosen by the beautiful Lakshmi.  Being unaware of how he appeared to others.  Narad thought, “She will choose me since I am in Vishnu’s form.”  Several of those attending the ceremony mocked Narad’s appearance and laughed at this delusive pride.  When Lakshmi came to Narad, she did not choose him, telling him to look at himself in the mirror.  When he did so, he saw the face of a monkey.  Feeling affronted by Narad’s arrogance, Lakshmi ran from the ceremony hall without choosing a husband.

In this story Narad is shown as a person who, even though he had love for God, also had excessive pride in himself, thinking that he had conquered all desires.  When he was asked to look in the mirror, he saw the monkey face, representing the vices, namely, ego, lust, attachment, anger and greed.  The mirror also reflected the image of an ascetic who had not conquered desires.  Baba often refers to Narad as one who should become worthy to go to Golden Age by removing the monkey-like vices and imbibing divine virtues.

In another story, God, who is Dharamraj, King of Righteousness, told Narad there was one seat vacant in heaven.  He asked Narad to go to hell, meaning the earth, the old world, and enquire if anyone would like to come to heaven.  Narad was certain that everyone would like to go to heaven.  Confidently he went to earth. 

He told various different people of the vacancy in heaven.  A student replied, “One seat where?  One seat in the theatre?”  A businessman said he would go to heaven if he could open a shop between heaven and hell so that every soul could become his customer.  An officer enquired if he could still take bribes if he were to go there.  A dying mother who had been praying to God for salvation, said that she hadn’t really meant it because she still had many obligations to fulfil to her family.  Narad even asked some insects who lived in the filth if they were interested in going to heaven but was told that they could only survive in the filth. 

So Narad reported to Dharamraj that no one in hell wanted to go to heaven. All of them were attached to the things of hell.  However, it was only when Dharamraj finally called the residents of hell to settle their karmic accounts that they realised that it was too late and so they repented.

 THE PUNDIT WHO COULD NOT SWIM

In India it is a custom that, whenever something good happens, stories from the scriptures are read continuously for seven days. The stories are read both morning and night and people take leave from their work during that period.  Once there was a pundit who narrated stories of Rama and Krishna to his audience.  A pundit is a scholar of the religious scriptures, a well-read and learned person who is a brahmin by birth but not by practice.

Once the pundit narrated a story about a person who was able to cross the river because of his love-link with God.  This story was much appreciated by the audience.  Every day the pundit would be invited for lunch or dinner at someone’s home.  One day some women invited the pundit for dinner at their home and he agreed to go the following day after his talk.  However, the next day it was raining heavily and the river was flooding.  The women managed to get across the river by chanting the name given to them by the pundit.  He had told them to chant “Ram, Ram, Ram”. 

However, not daring to go across himself, the pundit remained standing, shivering under a tree.  The women encourage the pundit again and again to cross the river but he said, “No!  Oh God, I can’t go.  If I go, I’ll die.  I’ll be drowned.”  The women answered, “Oh, punditji, you told us the other day that if you have a love-link with God, you can go across the river.  See!  We did it”.

Baba has said in the murlis that those who just speak knowledge theoretically but don’t put anything in to practise are like pundits.  Those who practise what they preach, having inculcated knowledge into their lives, are able to face any difficulties in life.  Therefore, we need to know how to put the knowledge into practise in our everyday lives.  The following is another story about such a pundit. 

Once upon a time there were several men travelling in a boat on the Ganges.  One of them was a pundit who was making a great show of his higher learning.  He said that he had studied various books – among them the Vedas, the Vedanta and the six systems of philosophy.  He asked a person sitting next to him, “Do you know the Vedanta?”  “No, respected sir, I don’t know about this,” answered the passenger.  Again the pundit asked, “Do you know the Sankhya and yoga?”  “No, reverend sir, I don’t.”  While the pundit was talking to him in this manner, the passenger sitting next to him kept silent.  Suddenly a storm broke out and the boat began to sink.  The passenger then said, “I don’t know the Sankhya or yoga, sir, but I do know how to swim.”  The pundit did not know how to swim and so he was drowned.

This story likewise signifies that we have to be able to apply the spiritual knowledge in a practical way.  This is why the passenger replied that, even though he did not know the Sankhya or yoga, he did know how to swim.

THE RAMAYANA

The Ramayana is considered one of the greatest epic poems in the world and is attributed to the sage, Valmiki.  It is the story of Rama.  King Dasharath, Rama’s father, had three wives.  He divided a big pot of nectar among them – one portion to Sumitra, who gave birth to Lakshman; one portion to Kaushalya, who gave birth to Rama; and two portions to Kaikeyee, who gave birth to Bharata and Shatrughna.  (In the scriptures Bharat’s pure birth, that is, birth through yoga power, is quite often mentioned.)

One day Dasharath went hunting in a forest where a young boy called Shravankumar was travelling on a pilgrimage with his blind parents.  (Baba gives the title “Shravankumar” to those who bring both their parents on the pilgrimage to Madhuban.)  It was dusk and Dasharath shot at what he thought was a deer drinking at a pond.  In fact, it was Shravankumar that he had killed and, when he informed the parents of the boy’s fate, they cursed him for killing their son.  They said that he would suffer and die in the same way as they would, in great sorrow.   (Spiritually, the ‘curse’ signifies the role of the law of karma.)

When Dasharath reached the age of retirement, his eldest son, Rama was to take the throne.  However, Kaikeyee’s maidservent, who came from a clan of devils and had a jealous nature, persuaded Kaikeyee that Bharata should take the throne.  To achieve this she suggest that Kaikeyee demand of Dasharath the fulfilment of two wishes he had once promised her.  So Kaikeye reminded the King of her two wishes: that Bharata should sit on the throne and that Rama should go into exile for fourteen years. 

Dasharath was shocked and remembered the curse given by Shravankumar’s parents years before.  At first he would not grant his wife’s wishes but Rama’s sense of honour and duty obliged him to uphold his promise.  Rama went into the forest with his wife, Sita, and his devoted half-brother, Lakshman, (‘Laksh’ means ‘aim’, and Lakshman had single-minded devotion to Rama, who actually signifies God Shiva.)

Everyone in the kingdom was surprised at the announcement of Bharata’s rise to the throne.  Bharata himself was visiting relatives at the time and, when he returned to hear this news, he asked Rama to come back.  Rama said he was bound to honour his father’s promise and so Bharata asked Rama for his wooden sandals to place on the throne so he could pay homage to Rama in his absence. 

Spiritually, this signifies that Rama is actually ruling.  In our spiritual life also all our activities are based on what God Shiva wants and, even though He is not physically present, His presence is felt as the main actor.  

Ravan, the demon king of Lanka, had great occult powers.  He was so powerful that he had total control over the elements of nature, including the vices.  The four bedposts of his bed were earth, water, air and fire.  Ravan had two lifelong wishes, which were to remain unfulfilled: to put fragrance into gold and to build a ladder to heaven.  (Baba says that scientists today are trying to reverse the laws of nature, and that eventually the elements will take revenge.)  Ravan’s kingdom glittered with gold and was very beautiful but the people who lived there were devils and ugly, unhappy drunkards.  This image symbolises the Iron Age.

Ravan had three brothers, Kumbhakarna, Meghnad and Vhibhishan.  ‘Kumbh’ means ‘pitcher’; ‘Karna’ means ‘ears’; thus ‘Kumbhakarna’ refers to those who listen to knowledge through one ear and let it out through the other – that is, they don’t imbibe it.  Kumbhakarana would sleep for six months of the year and in that time nothing could wake him – not even a herd of elephants walking over him!  Meghnad means ‘the thundering of clouds’ and refers to how he would shout a lot but never do anything.  Hence the saying, “Clouds that thunder do not rain”.  Meghnad was innocent but he was a devil nevertheless, because of his anger.  Vhibhishan was a great devotee of Rama.  He had great love for Rama’s valour, and he defected to Rama’s army during the rescue of Sita. 

This signifies spiritually that God Shiva’s knowledge was given to many souls in the Iron Age world and that they all responded in different ways. 

Supnaka, Ravan’s sister, saw Lakshman in the forest one day and fell in love with him.  She came and asked him to marry her.  Lakshman, seeing through her beautiful disguise, became angry at her lack of manners and chopped of her nose.  She ran to Ravan and showed him what Lakshman had done to her, demanding that he take revenge.  It is said that the whole Ramayana started as a result of this. 

Supnaka is an example of those who take knowledge, benefit from it and then get angry over something and leave Baba.  Later they defame Baba and his service. 

Ravan saw this as an opportunity to provoke an encounter with Rama.  (Ravan was a strong devotee of Shiva, who had told him that he would receive salvation through Rama at a later time.  A sage had come to Ravan and told him that to interfere in God’s work would lead to his salvation.)  Ravan decided to kidnap Sita, believing that Rama would come to him in search of her, and then through Rama he would find salvation.  (This was a ‘plus point’ for Ravan – he only kidnapped Sita in order to attract Rama’s attention; he didn’t touch or harm Sita while holding her as a hostage.)

Ravan had to devise a plan to kidnap Sita whereby Rama and Lakshman would leave Sita alone in the forest.  The devil, Mareecha, owed him a favour, so Ravan asked him to manifest himself in the form of a golden deer and attract Sita’s attention.  (The deer represents illusion, the desire of the physical senses, that is, Maya).  When Sita caught sight of the golden deer, she was so enthralled that she begged Rama to capture it so that she could play with it.  This was her first weakness – a childish, stubborn nature.  Even though Rama told her that it was Maya, she insisted that he go into the forest to find the deer for her.  So Rama left Sita with Lakshman and went in search of the deer. 

This signifies how souls become body conscious and leave God as a result.

Then Ravan called out in a voice that sounded like Rama in distress and Sita’s second weakness was revealed – she couldn’t discriminate between the voice of Rama and the voice of Ravan.  She told Lakshman to go and help Rama, even though he pointed out to her that, as Rama was God, he could never get into trouble.  Sita told Lakshman that if he didn’t go, it meant that he lusted after her.  This was her third weakness – ego and lack of faith in Rama.  She lacked insight into the true nature of both of them.  This also signifies a reduction in spirituality in the soul.

Reluctantly, Lakshman went in search of Rama but, before leaving, he drew a circle around the cottage in the forest where Sita was staying and forbade her to step outside this line of protection.  (The line represents the code of conduct by which Baba gives protection to his children.)  Seeing her alone, Ravan came by in the form of a beggar, seeking alms.  Sita told him that she could not leave the circled area but she took pity on him and asked him to come inside.  However, when the beggar tried to cross the line, flames ignited around the protective circle, preventing him from entering. 

Eventually, Sita felt so sorry for him that she brought the food he had requested.  As soon as her foot crossed the line (Baba speaks about the foot of the intellect), Ravan enchanted her and she began to fly.  He summoned his flying donkey-chariot and they flew back to his kingdom of Lanka.

On the way to Lanka, an eagle-king passed Ravan and Sita and would not allow them to go any further.  Ravan fought with the eagle, chopping off its wings and legs, leaving it to die.  As Sita was borne through the air, she dropped her ornaments, one by one, as clues of her flight, leaving her with nothing but her ring.  (This symbolises that, when the soul crosses the line of the Copper Age, it loses all its virtues.) 

When they arrived in Lanka, Ravan imprisoned Sita in the beautiful “ashok vatika”, ‘the cottage without sorrow’.  (In the murli Baba tell us that it is really “shok vatika”, ‘the cottage of sorrow’, and that Ravan’s kingdom extends over the entire world.)  Although Ravan provided Sita with all earthly comforts and luxuries, nothing could please her and she kept crying out for Rama.

When Rama and Lakshman returned, Sita was nowhere to be found.  Rama and Lakshman were walking in the forest, wondering how to find her, when Sugriva, an exiled monkey-king saw them.  He sent a general from his army, Hanuman, to approach them in the guise of a brahmin sage and find out their business.  As soon as Hanuman saw that it was Rama, he immediately resumed his monkey form, knowing that he couldn’t present himself in a false manner to God.  From that moment on he remain totally honest and faithful to Rama. 

Hanuman took Rama and Lakshman to Sugriva and a pledge of mutual help was made.  In return for helping the exiled monkey-king to conquer his evil brother, Vali, Sugriva promised Rama the help of his huge monkey army to find and rescue Sita.  In the ensuing battle Vali was killed and the monkey kingdom was united when Angad, Vali’s son, pledged to support Sugriva. 

Monkey armies were sent out in all four directions to search for the missing Sita.  Before dying, the eagle-king, who had tried to stop Ravan, told them what had happened.  Hanuman found the ornaments that Sita had dropped, and the vulture-king, a friend of the eagle, used his sharp eyesight to locate where Sita was imprisoned.  Hanuman was the strongest of all the monkeys and so he had chosen to leap from India across to Lanka and bring back some proof for Rama that Sita was indeed held hostage there.

Hanuman’s speciality was that he could make himself larger or smaller in a second.  He sat on the shore and, as he chanted “Ram, Ram”, he grew bigger and bigger.  Taking a huge leap, Hanuman began to fly.  (As the son of the wind, Hanuman is always shown in bhakti pictures, flying in great intoxication.  This signifies how we can do service in a subtle form.)

As he flew, a sea monster emerged from the ocean saying, “You cannot go any further unless you enter my mouth.”  Hanuman responded by making his form larger and larger so that the sea monster had to open his mouth wider and wider.  The instant Hanuman entered the monster’s mouth he reduced his size to a pinpoint and flew right out.  The monster was pleased with his cleverness and acknowledged that he had passed the test. (The significance of this is that we have to become very small, a point, to conquer Maya.  The point refers to the form of the soul and of Baba, and to putting a full stop to the past and incidents that have taken place in the drama).

Intoxicated in Rama’s remembrance, Hanuman landed in Ravan’s kingdom and assumed his small form again.  A guard who saw him was startled because it was said that a monkey on the island of Lanka was a sign of the end of the kingdom.  Hanuman, the monkey-general, then searched the whole kingdom, paying attention to its design and layout, and even spying on Ravan as he lay at rest.  Despite his wickedness, Ravan was splendid to see, with his strong body and ten heads in recline, and Hanuman thought, “What a shame that Rama has to kill him.” (Even the false old world of Kaliyug has a pomp and beauty that is attractive.)  Hanuman found Sita in the cottage and took her ring as proof of her safety and devotion to Rama.

Before departing, Hanuman decided to leave some sign of his visit.  He destroyed much of Ravan’s palace and army but was eventually captured.  Ravan was surprised to see that a small monkey had caused so much damage and that he had brought the message: “Rama is coming to destroy you.”  He ordered that the monkey’s tail be wrapped in cloth and oil and set alight.  Hanuman made his tail grow longer and longer until finally Ravan’s soldiers ran out of oil and cloth.  They lit the oily rags and, as the tail caught fire, Hanuman grew large again and, bursting free, set fire to the whole kingdom with his burning tail.  (Baba refers to the tail of body consciousness being set alight with the fire of yoga.)  Hanuman then leapt back to India, taking with him Sita’s ring as well as a map of Lanka.

Upon Hanuman’s return, the whole of Sugriva’s army gathered on the shore.  Each monkey took a piece of rock and chanting “Ram, Ram”, threw the pieces into the sea, forming a floating bridge to the island of Lanka.  (Hence the saying that if you have faith in God, you can cross the ocean.)

The battle began.  Ravan’s army was very well equipped and, as the battled turned against them, the monkeys began to lose enthusiasm.  There are many stories of how Rama, Lakshman, Hanuman and Angad inspired them to go on.  At one point, as the monkeys were retreating, Angad charged onto the battlefield and, putting his foot down firmly, challenged any devil to move it.  No matter what method was employed, Angad remained unshakeable and immovable, and the whole army was inspired to continue the battle. 

On another occasion, Lakshman was shot unconscious by Ravan’s son, Indrajit, and the only thing that would revive him was the life-giving herb, sanjeevan butte, which grew on the slopes of only one mountain in the world.  Hanuman assumed his huge, flying form to reach the mountain quickly but, when he arrived there, he could not find the herb.  Lakshman’s need was urgent, so Hanuman ripped up the whole mountain and brought it to Rama in one hand.  Lakshman was revived and the whole army was again inspired to wage battle against Ravan. 

This story illustrates how it takes a lot of effort, bravery and cleverness to find the method to remove a vice.  Hanuman didn’t simply do what was necessary, but actually did extra.  This also shows how Hanuman did service in the subtle form and, doing service in that form, he could even lift a mountain by himself.

Eventually, all of Ravan’s family was killed in battle, except Kumbhakarna, who was still asleep.  Ravan ordered that he be awakened: elephants were sent to trample on him; boiling oil was poured in his ear; and bands played loud music.  However, Kumbakarna could only be awakened by the smell of food.  The war nearing its end and Ravan asked Kumbhakarana to kill Rama. 

Kumbhakarana was a giant and he stomped on everyone in his way.      Rama first shot off the giant’s legs but Kumbhakarana could only be killed when he toppled.  (This symbolises surrender of the intellect.)  When he was killed, the giant fell on his own troops.

Ravan, now the only survivor in his kingdom, was forced to come onto the battlefield.  He had ten times the strength of other warriors and was master of all weapons, some of which were invisible.  Every time one of his heads was cut off a new one grew in its place.  (Baba says that to kill Maya you have to destroy the cause, not the symptoms.)  The destruction Ravan caused was terrible.  However, Rama managed to counter all of Ravan’s tricks.  Finally, Ravan’s own brother, Vhibhishan, told Rama the secret of Ravan’s weakness.  Rama aimed his arrow and shot Ravan dead through the navel.  (This refers to the birthplace, the source, that is, thought.)  In this way Ravan received his salvation through Rama.

Sita was so thankful to Hanuman that she gave him a beautiful pearl necklace in appreciation of her rescue.  Hanuman went off and began to chew quietly on the precious pearls, cracking them open like worthless shells.  Lakshman thought he was stupid and Rama told him to satisfy his curiosity by asking the monkey what he was doing.  Hanuman told him, that he was checking their worth, that they would only have value if Rama was inside.  Laughing at his stupidity, Lakshman commented, “I suppose you have Rama inside you!”  Hanuman turned to him and, ripping his chest apart, revealed Rama in his heart. 

In reality we are also like Hanuman in this respect because our families feel that we do not appreciate or value wealth, as we use it for godly service.  As far as we are concerned, pearls and diamonds have no value at all, compared to God.  He is always in our hearts.

Rama returned to his kingdom to rule with Sita.  A laundryman in Rama’s kingdom began to gossip about Sita’s purity, as she had been separated from Rama for so long.  To put the people’s mind at rest and to allay his own doubts, Rama decided to test her.  He made her sit on a huge, burning pyre, declaring that if she emerged from the flamed untouched, it was proof of her purity.  Sita passed the test and sat on the throne again with Rama.  It was Ramraj, the kingdom of Rama, once again.

 Having gone into Ravan’s kingdom, Sita had to sit on the pyre of yoga in order to be purified again.  This is the spiritual significance of Sita walking across the flame.

THE RUDRA GYAN YAGYA

 The Sanskrit name ‘Rudra’ is another name for Shiva.  In bhakti they say that Rudra is the bead that has five faces.  It is Rudra (Shiva) who awakens realisations in us.  Self-realisation also includes realisation of all our wrong actions.  In this spiritual life it is Rudra (Shiva) who gives us the knowledge of the five phases of the cycle, the Golden, the Silver, the Copper, the Iron and the Confluence Ages, and of the deity, warrior, merchant, shudra and Brahmin clans.  Through this knowledge we are given the realisation of how to become the beads of the rosary of Rudra.

 Physically, ‘yagya’ means ‘a sacrificial fire’ but symbolically, in the case of the Brahma Kumaris, it means ‘institution’.  It is the Benevolent Father who establishes this Rudra Gyan Yagya, a symbolic sacrificial fire, for the benefit of all His children.  On the path of bhakti a big sacrificial fire is physically created, into which people sacrifice all the five elements of matter in the form of sesame seeds, ghee and varieties of grains.  In our spiritual life we sacrifice our desire in the form of the five vices into the symbolic fire, this institution.

 Caste brahmins choose a particular brahmin to be in charge of their yagyas and give him the name ‘Brahma’.  In this spiritual yagya, Shiv Baba also appointed a particular individual and called him ‘Brahma Baba’.  God Shiva, the incorporeal Father, gives us this knowledge through Brahma, our spiritual father.  Through this knowledge we have realisation and become seeds, beads of the rosary, that is, spiritual beings of light. 

 We dedicate ourselves to God and become His children, sacrificing all our vices, our old sanskars, all material things and our old life style.  We take on a new godly spiritual birth and become God’s children and His instrument, dedicated to His task.  In return we claim the reward of happiness for half a kalpa.

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