Rāmcharitmānas: Verses 1 – 100

Reference: Rāmcharitmānas: Introduction

This paper comments on Verses 1 – 100, from the translation of Śrī Rāmacaritamānasa. This translation is printed and published by Gita Press, Gorakhpur—273005 (INDIA) (a unit of Gobind Bhavan-Karyalaya, Kolkata).

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Verses 1-10

Tulsidas starts his epic by talking about this dualistic world that consists of both pious and wicked souls. The world is an intermixture of good and evil. All have to play their part. Blessed are those who delight with compassion at the sight of others regardless of who or what they are. 

Contact with pious souls is the root of joy and blessings; it constitutes the very fruit and fulfillment of all endeavors. The wicked burn with jealousy and they give agonizing torment during their meeting; but they are born from this same universe as are the pious souls. Knowing this, you make loving entreaties to them with joined palms that they too must not fail to do their part. This is a remarkable sentiment—you view and accept the world as it is. 

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Verses 11-20

According to Tulsidas, the story of Sri Rama teaches the deepest philosophy of the Vedas, and provides the ultimate support. He wants to bring the elevating story of Sri Rama to the common folks who are not part of the cultured class. He prays that he is up to the task.

Tulsidas is against discrimination by caste of those who are good. He sees asceticism as a path to spiritual attainments. Rama as a mantra brings one to the understanding of the essence of the Vedas. Here we see the charm of Bhakti as it uses stories and illustrations to explain difficult spiritual concepts. The names and forms are many, but the object itself can be grasped only with good intelligence.

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Verses 21-30

Tulsidas describes unqualified and qualified divinity, both of which are without beginning and without parallel. The unqualified divinity is like the fire that is latent in the wood; while the qualified divinity is like the fire that is externally visible. This divinity is one, all-pervading and imperishable. It is the truth, consciousness and bliss. It is revealed through correct knowledge (complete assimilation of mental matrix). This can be attained by chanting the name of Sri Rama with total devotion and sincerity.

Jnana yoga brings swiftest results but it is the most difficult yoga. Other yogas are less difficult but take longer in terms of results. But the easiest of all is the chanting the name ‘Rāma’. When chanting the name ‘Rama’ proceed to recount the virtues of Sri Rāma. One should be fully cognizant of one’s own merits and demerits without holding anything back, while continuing to uphold the highest ideals in one’s mind. This dispels all doubts, errors and delusions and serves as a boat for crossing the stream of mundane existence. It shatters the fear of birth and death and puts an end to hell.

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Verses 31-40

Tulsidas proceeds to tell the story of Sri Rāma as it was conceived by Siva and told to Parvati. Rāma represents the infinite universe. His virtues represent the unblemished laws of nature. The story is centered on a guileless heart and pure love. It helps one overcome the evil ways, fallacious reasoning, mischievous practices, deceit, hypocrisy and heresy prevailing in Kali Yuga. The impulses of lust, arrogance and hypocrisy positively disappear from the mind of those who hear this story. It is named Råmacaritamånasa because it is the character of Rama to be treasured in one’s mind. 

Tulsidas invokes Siva and Parvati before narrating Råmacaritamånasa. Råmacaritamånasa consists of seven books that describe spiritual enlightenment, dispassion and reason; the four ends of human existence; the reasoned exposition of Jnåna and vijnåna; the nine sentiments of poetry; Japa, austerity, Yoga and detachment from the world; and much more. It does talk about pleasure of the senses. It does not mention various occupations and entanglements of domestic life. It does not encourage infatuation, arrogance and pride. It does not deal with sophism. Those who keep bad company cannot obtain the thrill of joy that this narrative provides.

One should have piety and must enjoy the company of saints.  If not, then one would suffer from drowsiness and stupor, and not benefit from the study of Rāmacaritamānasa. He would just become critical, and suffers agony of the fiercest kind.

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Verses 41-50

Tulsidas explains how the Divine took the mortal form of Sri Rama with the purpose to kill Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. In truth, Sri Rama is no other than the Supreme Eternal who is all-pervading and ever free, who is the Ruler of all the worlds and the Lord of Måyå. The formula for grasping this Supreme Eternal is “neti neti” (neither this, nor that).

Various events in Sri  Rama’s story are associated with the seasons of the year. The story teaches that gratification lies in pursuit of spiritual freedom, and not in pursuit of sensuous pleasure. 

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Verses 51-60

Tulsidas narrates the story when a lesser divinity doubted the ultimate divinity of Sri Rama. She used charmed deception to test Rama, but Rama not only could readily see through that deception, but he could create wonderful and bewildering Maya of his own. The divinity testing Rama was totally ashamed. The lesson is that devotion must be total, or it is not devotion. There must not be any pretensions or self-deception to suppress one’s doubts. Any feelings of guilt and regret can be overcome through deep meditation.

The characters of such stories live for many thousands of years indicating that they represent natural principals and the relationships among them. For example, spearheading bold initiatives is represented by male energy, and the organization that follows is represented by female energy.

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Verses 61-70

Tulsidas narrates the story of Sati whose parents didn’t like her consort Shiva. Sati gave her life by jumping into fire in protest against her parents. The story seems to express the cry of spiritualism against materialism because Shiva represents detached wisdom (Jnana Yoga) to which materialism is opposed. Sati was reborn as Parvati. Parvati took the difficult path Jnana yoga, which was rare among the women of her time. Her parents, though anxious, cooperated with her wishes to follow such a path of austerity. The rebirth of Sati as Parvati seems to represent the resurgence of spirituality in ancient India.

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Verses 71-80

Austerities are both mental and physical. They involve concentration and constant practice for long, long time. Actions responsible for creation, sustenance and dissolution require strict discipline. Such discipline comes from completely willing practice of austerities. Such practice becomes easier when one has support. With austerities one’s body may become emaciated, but that does not cause any difficulty to the person or bother him in some way.

A person knows when he has attained the ultimate freedom through Samadhi. Doubts may be there but he mostly knows the right thing to do next. You must have faith in the words of your guru; then you can easily attain happiness or success. The universe is completely devoted to its nature. All that is natural is that way because that is the only way it can be. 

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Verses 81-90

Lust or the passion of love is so strong that when it is triggered no discrimination is left. When it takes hold of the mind the sense of discrimination is swept away even in sages and the yogis. Under the thrall of lust nobody can remain self-possessed except those protected by the ultimate absorption of Yoga. Shiva represents the highest attainment of Yoga, and it was Parvati’s aim to attain it. Parvati and Siva together present the dichotomy of the presence of Maya and the contemplation and overcoming of it.

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Verses 91-100

Tulsidas narrates the story of Shiva’s wedding with Parvati. The third eye of Shiva represents the ability to see things as they are, because when you do that, the maya (illusion) disappears and you are confronted with the actual reality. Shiva’s procession full of attendants of strange shapes and forms seems to represent the actual reality that must be confronted. Gods disappeared from Shiva’s procession, may be because they provide a pleasant outward appearance. On Parvati’s parents city everything was pleasant and perfect as you would expect in a King and Queen’s wedding.

It is maya (illusion) that makes reality bearable. As one approaches the ultimate reality through yoga it take much courage to confront it. The ultimate reality could be so unexpected and horrifying that the yogi may go into doubt even about his aspirations. The attachment to the universe hides the reality and directs blame elsewhere. The highest truth lies in the attainment of the ultimate reality. 

Tulsidas uses the the utopia of the ancient Indian culture to describe Shiva and Parvati’s wedding. This beautiful appearance of the universe is Maya. But within that Maya is the deep aspiration to see things as they are. This is the meaning of the wedding of Parvati to Shiva.

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