Rāmcharitamānas

[From Wikipedia]

Ramcharitmanas (Devanagari: श्रीरामचरितमानस Rāmacaritamānasa), is an epic poem in the Awadhi language, composed by the 16th-century Indian bhakti poet Tulsidas (c. 1532–1623). (This work is also called, in popular parlance, Tulasi Ramayana.) The word Ramcharitmanas literally means “Lake of the deeds of Rama”. It is considered one of the greatest works of Hindu literature. The work has variously been acclaimed as “the living sum of Indian culture”, “the tallest tree in the magic garden of medieval Indian poetry”, “the greatest book of all devotional literature” and “the best and most trustworthy guide to the popular living faith of the Indian people”.

Tulsidas was a great scholar of Sanskrit. However, he wanted the story of Rama to be accessible to the general public, as many Apabhramsa languages had evolved from Sanskrit and at that time few people could understand Sanskrit. In order to make the story of Rama as accessible to the layman as to the scholar, Tulsidas chose to write in Awadhi. Tradition has it that Tulsidas had to face a lot of criticism from the Sanskrit scholars of Varanasi for being a bhasha (vernacular) poet. However, Tulsidas remained steadfast in his resolve to simplify the knowledge contained in the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Puranas to the common people. Subsequently, his work was widely accepted.

Ramcharitmanas, made available the story of Rama to the common man to sing, meditate and perform on. The writing of Ramcharitmanas also heralded many a cultural tradition, most significantly that of the tradition of Ramlila, the dramatic enactment of the text. Ramcharitmanas is considered by many as a work belonging to the Saguna school of the Bhakti movement in Hindi literature.

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Comments on the Introduction by Tulsidas

Tulsidas paints a picture of the universe and its key attributes using the concrete figures from the story of Rama and the Hindu pantheon of Gods. Lord Hari represents the source of all the laws of nature. Illusion resides in how we perceive these laws and their manifestations. Such manifestation comprise of both gods and demons. The only reality comes from the intuitive understanding of these laws of nature and their source (Lord Hari).

Tulsidas is describing the gods and demons in terms of the nature existing inside and outside of human beingness. It is this nature when understood and followed can restore all abilities, even when it sounds impossible. Tulsidas prays for the understanding to arise within his bosom, so he can be one with the nature. This is Bhakti Yoga.

Devotion starts with the veneration of the Guru whose instructions about the story of Sri Rama have opened the eyes of Tulsidas to wondrous realizations. You cannot learn from a Guru unless you trust him fully and revere him. Tulsidas uses the analogy of healing with the realizations from learning. The story of Rama somehow helped to dispel all his doubts. He finally understood what a pious soul is.

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  1. Rāmcharitmānas Verses: 1 – 100
  2. Rāmcharitmānas Verses: 101 – 200
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