Advaita Thought in Ramayana

I spoke on the eternal appeal of Ramayana some time back. A very valuable comment came Rajender Krishan who pointed out Advaita thought in Ramayana by quoting following lines.

(God is one, indestructible, formless, nameless. Such supreme joy has come to earth. The divine force has manifested itself in various forms in this world. That force has new taken a form. He does various earthly acts.)

The lines are so beautiful. The lines rain nectar on the dry soul of the listener or the reader. Speaking these lines is an experience in itself. These lines set me thinking.

Ramayana’ is celebrated as a ‘Sagun granth’ (book, about God in human form). All of us read, listen, sing and think about ‘ Ramayana’ as the play (leela) of the divine force on earth. God, the supreme truth, the ultimate reality is embodied in the form of Sita, Rama and Hanuman. We worship God in the form of Sita, Rama and Hanuman.

Advaita thought is something for away from this. ‘Advaita’ in simple terms, means that the supreme reality is not two; it is one. The word meaning of ‘Advaita’ is ‘not two’ or non-dual. Advaita thought invariably leads to conceptualizing God as a formless force. It is different from ‘Sagun Brahma’ the idea on which Ramayana is written. Does Ramayana also contain ideas of ‘Advaita’, ‘Niryuna Brahma’? ‘Niryuna’ thought asks us to worship God as an invisible, formless force.

Indian seers realized centuries back that for concentrating on the supreme reality, for meditating on God, for thinking on the supreme soul, we need a form. That is the reason why we have infinite forms that signify infinite attributes of the supreme reality. But the truth remains that God is one, indivisible, formless and indestructible. Valmiki, Tulsi, Kamban and all the seers of the great Ramayana tradition knew the true nature of the ultimate force. That is why even through a story soaked in ‘rasas’ and ‘sagun Brahma’, we have glimpses of Advaita thought.

The couplet from ‘Bala kanda’ quoted above comes as a definition of Advaita stream of thought. God is one. God is indestructible. God has no form. God has no name. Such God has come to earth. In all forms, God shows and manifests himself/herself. God has taken a form (Rama) and does different acts. Such a perfect definition of ‘Advaita’!

I picked up ‘Sri Rama Charita Manas’ and tried to see suggestions of Advaita philosophy in it. Tulsi is very clear on the nature of reality.

(Lord Rama appeared in innumerable forms and met everyone. Meeting Rama all men and women became happy.)

The lines suggest manifestation of God in many forms. Basic substance is the same. The individual soul is a part of the super soul, namely God. Just one phrase

(I hail your form and your formless form) tells that Tulsidas is very clear on nature of reality. He knows that the form is an expression of the formless. The limitations of the human mind compel us to conceptualize the super soul in a concrete shape.

Another ‘Chhand’ (verse) from Tulsi is simply a definition, an explanation of the philosophy of Advaita :

(Vedas say that the one whose nature cannot be expressed, whose flow is uninterrupted, the one who manifests himself/herself in trees, creepers, sweet bitter fruits and ever growing leaves, I prostrate before that One.)

What more proof do we need that Ramayana has ample Advaita thought? The basic nature of the supreme reality is beyond expression. God is something to be experienced, to be felt, to be realized. Words cannot capture God. The flow of that supreme energy is uninterrupted. It’s something which simply goes on and on. That reality shows itself in different things, be it trees or flower, or fruits. Continuing from the preceding verse Tulsi goes on :

(“Brahm” (the Supreme element) is beyond birth; “Brahm” is ‘Advaita’ (one). Brahm can only be known through experience; it is beyond mind. But those who are after Brahm may go for the abstract; I pray day and night to Lord Rama.)

Tulsi says that these are two different methods to approach God. The Advaita is the pursuit of the abstract. Tulsi himself very much adores the form. He says that he is not bothered about the nature of the supreme reality. All that he knows is to worship Lord Rama day and night. The undercurrent is in favor of the rustic, the simple minded with whom Tulsi identified himself.

Tulsi’s concept of God is very clear. He knows the ‘Advaita’ (one) reality very well. He is not confused even for a moment about the true nature of the supreme truth and its infinite manifestations. Lines after lines clarify his stand:

(Shri Rama is the cluster real joy. He is beyond birth. He is all science, and all power. He cannot be divided. He cannot be stopped. He is present in all things. His power can never be wasted. Such is God, full of all glory.)

He is ‘nirgun’ (without attributes). He is great. He is beyond senses and speech. He sees everything; knows everything. He is beyond affection or attachment. He is undefeatable. He is beyond shape. The ever-flowing. Flow of joy, beyond Nature, Omnipotent, living within all creatures, desire less, flow less, indestructible “Brahma”; he is Rama. Rama can never fall a pray to attachment. Can darkness stand the Sun? The flow of divine joy is ever flowing. God is always there, everywhere. There is no beginning, middle or end to the existence of God. God cannot be divided. Tulsi clearly says that God is ‘nirgun’, which means formless and attribute-less. God cannot be limited to one shape. God has no desire. God cannot feel attached to anything just as darkness has no chance of staying before the mighty sun. For me, all this leads to Advaita philosophy. The thought is simple − God is one, not two.

At one point, one of the narrators of ‘' Ramayana’, Saint Kakbhusund Says.

(In different galaxies, in various universes, I saw myself.)

The self is the epitome; the self contains everything. Everything lies within the self. That is why the highest form of knowledge is called self-realization. Realizing the self is realizing God. By whatever name we may call it, God, Nature Truth, self, that original fountain of all life is one.


More by :  Prof. Shubha Tiwari

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