Sri Rama Gita
by Swami Sivananda
Once when Lord Rama was alone and at ease, Lakshmana approached Him in all humility and reverence and asked this question:
O Bhagavan (Lord), I desire to know from You the sure path to final liberation 'Moksha'. O Lotus-eyed, please instruct me about it briefly.
Notes: Lakshmana is Rama's brother. He wants the way of getting Moksha. Lakshmana is very free with Rama. Even then, he did not ask this question hurriedly and irreverentially. He treated Sri Rama as Lord (Bhagavan) and asked the question when Rama was not otherwise engaged. Lakshmana is no other than Adisesha. There is nothing for him to know about. Rama and himself are one. But still to guide the people of the world, Lakshmana addressed Rama as Bhagavan and asked the way to Moksha.
Guru is God. A disciple should approach the Guru at a proper time, suitable to Guru, with devotion and faith, just as Lakshmana did, if he wants to be freed from the round of births and deaths.
The Sloka also indicates that it is not possible to know the science about the Self by mere reading of books. One has to approach a Guru and hear the teachings of the Guru with faith and devotion. Arjuna surrendered to Lord Krishna and requested Him to take him as His disciple:
Tell me for certain which is better. I am Thy pupil. Teach me; I am seeking refuge in Thee. Also in the Chhandogya Upanishad, we find Uddalaka asking his son Svetaketu to approach a Guru and learn the Sastras. Svetaketu went to a Guru and learnt all the Sastras and returned home puffed up with pride. Uddalaka, finding his son puffed up with pride asked him: Tell me, my son, that one by knowing which there is nothing else to be known. Svetaketu did not know the answer and said arrogantly If there is anything like that my teacher should have told me. Very soon Svetaketu knowing his fault, fell at the feet of his father, and prayed for mercy and finally learnt the truth.
O Rama! Tell me about Jnana and Vijnana which are to be attained through intense devotion and dispassion. There is no other teacher in the world than Your Holiness who can teach me this.
Jnana: Knowledge obtained through study of scriptures and hearing of Srutis.
Vijnana: Knowledge obtained through intense Nididhyasana, practical knowledge.
Notes: One seeking for liberation should approach a Guru just as Lakshmana did. One should completely surrender oneself to the Guru and pray for his mercy and grace for bestowing on him Jnana and Vijnana. One should glorify the Guru. Guru is no other than God; God puts on the garb of a Guru and appears before a disciple seeking liberation.
Lord Rama replied:
My dear, I will disclose to you the greatest secret, namely, Paramatman, by knowing which the illusion of the world immediately disappears.
Notes: Brahma-vidya, according to Sastras, should not be given to each and every one. When a disciple approaches a Guru for instruction, the Guru tests the disciple in a variety of ways, before imparting knowledge of Self. Indra had to do penance for 101 years to know that thing by knowing which there is nothing else to be known. It is only after a series of tests that Lord Yama taught 'Atma Vidya' to Nachiketas. It is only when the Guru is satisfied with the disciple, that the 'Brahma Jnana' will be imparted to the disciple. But here strangely enough we find, on mere asking, Lord Rama imparting knowledge of Self to Lakshmana. Rama is no other than God, the Creator of Universe. He can do anything. He can give 'Moksha' to sinners, if He so desires. We find in the Bible how Lord Jesus made many sinners pure. Jesus is none other than God. Even a sinner gets Moksha or final emancipation by getting Darshan of the Lord. So the necessity for testing Lakshmana before imparting knowledge of Self did not arise for Rama. Whereas other realised souls from Brahma onwards who carry out the behests of the Lord, have to be careful, before imparting Atma Jnana and it is they that test the aspirants before imparting knowledge of Self to them.
First, I will give you the description of Maya; after that I will explain to you the detailed process of acquiring Jnana, then I will tell you about Vijnana and afterwards about Paramatman, by knowing which one does not fear for anything.
The mistaking of the body (which is not Self) for the Self is called Maya. This Maya is responsible for the creation of Samsara.
Notes: The body is different from the Self; the five organs of knowledge, the five organs of action should not be mistaken for the Self. Even if these Indriyas are destroyed the person exists. This body is a mass of flesh, blood, bones, etc. The Self is different from this body. It is the director of the senses. The eyes see, the ears hear, the mind thinks, the Prana moves and the intellect decides through the Self. The Self is pure and eternal. But the ignorant man identifies himself with the body and gives more consideration to his body by enjoying the objects of senses. This is called Maya. Maya is responsible for the creation of Samsara.
O giver of joy to the race! Maya has got two forms, Vikshepa and Avarana. by the former, Vikshepa, Maya is creating the whole world from Mahat-tattva down to Brahma and gross and subtle bodies. by the other form, Avarana, Maya is screening the knowledge of the Atman.
Notes: The gross body consists of earth, water, fire, air and ether. The subtle body consists of five Tanmatras (sound, touch, form, taste and smell), Ahankara, intelligence and the ten Indriyas. Maya is creating the gross and subtle universe. Really they are nonexistent. Brahman is the only Reality. Maya is screening the knowledge of Self so that we mistake one for the other.
On account of false imagination, just as a rope is mistaken for a snake, so also the pure supreme Self is mistaken for this universe due to the power of Maya. If we think deeply, the universe disappears and Brahman alone remains.
Notes: In the dark, we mistake a rope for a snake. If we examine it carefully with the help of a lamp and when the qualities of a snake such as movement, raising its head, etc. , are not found, the false imagination disappears. So if we study the qualities of Brahman and realise It through meditation, the universe disappears.
Whatever the man always hears, sees or thinks is non-real just as the things seen in the dream and the castles in the air built by the mind are not real.
Notes: 'Sat' is that which exists in all the periods of time. It is always existent. Whatever we hear or see in a dream they are not real as they are not seen in the waking state. The thoughts of our mind are unreal as they change. So also as the whole world is seen, heard and thought of, it is unreal.
This body is said to be the root of the tree of Samsara. Through this body the Self came into contact with sons and other relatives. If the body is nonexistent, how can there be relations for the Self which is unattached (Asanga) with sons and relatives?
Notes: The root is the support for the tree. Without the root the tree does not exist. So also this body is the root of the tree of Samsara. If there is no body, there is no Samsara. The branches, leaves and fruits are the parts of the tree. Samsara contains sons and other relations. Just as, even if the branches, leaves, or fruits of a tree are cut off the tree survives, so also this body persists even if the sons and other relatives die. But if the root of the tree is destroyed, the tree will not exist. So also this Samsara will not exist if there is no body which is possible only when Avidya or ignorance is destroyed. Hence this body is spoken of as the tree of Samsara.
This body is composed of five gross elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), five Tanmatras or rudimentary elements (sound, touch, form, taste and smell), self-sense or Ahankara, intelligence, five organs of knowledge and five organs of action.
Notes: The five gross elements compose the gross universe. The other seventeen items constitute the subtle universe.
Those that have no Self-illumination10 Indriyas, 5 Pranas, 5 gross elements, self-sense or Ahankara, intelligence and mindare termed by the name Mula Prakriti or Kshetra or body.
Notes: Chidabhasa those that have no self-illumination. In Gita we find Idam sariram kaunteya kshetramitybhidhiyate, This body is called the field, O Kaunteya!
The five gross elements, self-sense, understanding as also the unmanifest, 10 senses, mind, five objects of senses, desire, hatred, pleasure, pain, the aggregate, intelligence and steadfastness, this is the field alone with modifications (Gita XIII, 6, 7).
One different from all these is Jiva. That Jiva, In reality, is the indestructible Supreme Soul. Jiva and Supreme Soul are one. They should not be distinguished as separate from each other.
I will tell you now the methods by which one knows the Jiva. Listen to the same.
Notes: Lord Rama is now describing the methods of knowing Jiva, by knowing which one attains Immortality. If Jiva is known, Brahman is known, in as much as there is no difference between Jivatman and Paramatman. Likewise if one knows Brahman, Jivatman is known. In Gita we find Lord Krishna telling Arjuna the methods of knowing Brahman, so that if Brahman is known Jiva is known.
One striving for perfection should develop absence of pride, absence from ostentation, and nonviolence, should bear insult, should be upright and do service of Guru with devotion in thought, word and deed, should have internal and external purity, should stick to prescribed duties, engage his mind and body in good actions, be free from desires and egoism, constantly contemplate on birth, old age and death, have non-attachment to son, wife, wealth and others, should have constant even-mindedness on the attainment of desirable and undesirable, steady devotion to Methe Self of all, should resort to pure solitary places, avoid the company of wicked people, strive to get knowledge of Self and always contemplate on the meaning of Sastras.
by the above methods one attains knowledge of Self. by following other methods one will not be free from Samsara.
I am different from the intelligence, Prana, mind, body, self-sense. I am Chitsvarupi; Nitya (Eternal), Suddha (Pure) Knowledge-Svarupi. The knowledge by which one feels the above facts is real knowledge.
When one actually experiences the above facts (say by Nididhyasana), it is termed Vijnana.
Notes: In the above two Slokas Lord Rama tells Lakshmana about Jnana and Vijnana. Jnana is the theoretical knowledge obtained from study of scriptures. Vijnana is practical knowledge of Self, experiencing the Truth of the scriptures.
The Self is different from the body, Prana, mind, Ahankara and intelligence. In Kenopanishad we find the declaration that by which the Prana functions but which the Prana does not know, that by which the mind is made to think but which cannot be thought of by the mind, that by which the eye is made to see but which the eye sees not, is the Self seated in the hearts of all.
The Self is all-pervading, infinite, Satchidananda and eternal. It does not possess the qualities of Budddhi and others.
It does not possess also transformation and other Sadbhava Vikaras or sixfold change. It is by the Self-illumination of Atman, that the whole universe starting from the deities is illumined. It is one without a second. It has got attributes of truth and wisdom. It is unattached. It is the Supreme Lord, unseen. This Atman can be known by intuition.
Notes: In this Lord Rama gave the characteristics of Atman and said that It can be realised by profound meditation.
When one realises the truth of unity between Jivatman and Paramatman, either by instruction from Guru or from texts, in that very moment the source of ignorance along with the cause and effect will mingle with Paramatman.
The situation mentioned above is called Moksha. The Self is ever-free.
Notes: In the above Sloka, Lord Rama tells Lakshmana what Moksha is. It is destruction of ignorance. Ignorance will be destroyed in toto when one constantly meditates on the statements from the scriptures or on the instruction of a Guru.
O Lakshmana! What I have told you so far is Jnana, Vijnana and Vairagya Sadhana. This is My Svarupa or real Self.
Even then the above things are not available to those who have no devotion towards Me.
Just as even people possessing eyes cannot see the things etc. , clearly in the night, but they can see their steps well when a light is brought, so also in those having devotion towards Me, the Self becomes Self-effulgent.
Notes: Lord Rama compares light with devotion, to make Lakshmana understand very clearly the necessity of devotion. Lord Rama tells that by Bhakti Yoga also, one gets knowledge of Self. In the previous Slokas, Rama told that by Jnana Yoga one gets knowledge of Self. But it is not possible for all people to adapt to it. Bhakti Yoga is a very simple method.
In Gita we find Lord Krishna telling Arjuna to follow either Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga or Bhakti Yoga.
I will tell you the methods of getting devotion, listen.
To be in company of My devotees, always serving Me and My Bhaktas, fasting on Ekadasi, celebrating the festivals connected with Me, hearing, reading and exposition of My stories, worshipping Me with continuous devotion, and singing of My glories.
If one follows these precepts daily one gets pure devotion. What else remains?
Now those that have devotion towards Me will get Jnana and Vairagya; then they will attain liberation from the round of births and deaths.
I have answered duly all your questions. Whoever stands firm on these principles will verily attain Moksha.
Do not tell this to those who have no devotion towards Me. You should take efforts to call My devotees aside and tell these things.
Whoever reads this regularly with faith and devotion, will get rid of ignorance.
Lord Vishnu incarnated Himself as Sri Rama, son of Dasaratha, for the destruction of Ravana and other Rakshasas who were afflicting the gods and the Rishis alike. When Dasaratha grew old, he desired to crown Rama as king. But Rama's stepmother Kaikeyi came in the way of His coronation. Dasaratha had long ago granted her a couple of boons for some very important service rendered by her. But she kept them in reserve. Incited by Manthara, her maid servant, she now demanded the king to grant her the boons. One was to banish Rama into the forest for 14 years and the other was to enthrone Bharata, her son, in His place. Unable to break his word, Dasaratha gave his silent consent to Rama's exile. Thereupon, Rama's younger brother Lakshmana grew wild with rage. He threatened to imprison Dasaratha and put to the sword not only Bharata but all those who came in the way of Rama's coronation.
Rama pacified Lakshmana and counselled him to abandon anger which is the arch enemy of man and the greatest stumbling block in the way of spiritual aspirants. Our section begins here.
1. Sense-enjoyments are momentary like the flashes of lightning among the clouds on the sky. Life is as evanescent as drops of water on heated iron. (Drop of water sprinkled on a heated iron piece produces a hissing sound and is immediately vapourised. A man makes a little noise during the short period called his life and disappears in a moment. Hence life is compared to a drop of water on a heated iron plate.)
2. A frog, even while it is caught in a serpent's mouth, tries to catch insects. Likewise, though a person is in the very jaws of the serpent of death, he still longs for the fleeting pleasures of the senses.
3. For the happiness of body, man resorts to all kinds of painful activities day and night. How can one, who perceives that he is distinct from the body, indulge in sense-enjoyments?
4. People assemble and disperse at a water catering centre. Logs of wood come close together and separate out in a river. Exactly similar is the association with father, mother, sons, brothers, wife, relatives and others. That is to say, the association is short-lived and is inevitably followed by separation.
5. It is quite evident that fortune is fleeting like a shadow. Youth is unsteady like a wave. Sex-enjoyment is brief and illusory like a dream. Life is short. Even then, man is frantically attached to the body.
6. Samsara resembles a dream. It is replete with diseases and the like. It is like a castle in the air. Only a fool resorts to it. (Samsara is an interminable series of births and deaths; some times in our dream, we experience our own death and birth. On waking we realise that these births and deaths are mere illusions. Likewise, one who has awakened from this long dream of life realises that Samsara is as illusory as a dream. For a man who is attached to the body, Samsara is real. But for a wise man who realises that he is the Self, Samsara is shadowy like a dream.)
7. Day in and day out, man's life gets shorter and shorter. He witnesses old age and death of others. In spite of it all he does not awaken.
8. Unable to distinguish between one day and night and its succeeding ones, i.e., failing to perceive that each day is a distinct portion of his life and that as days and nights pass away his longevity is rapidly reduced, the fool indulges in sense-enjoyments day and night. He does not realise that time flies and with it his life as well.
9. Life wastes away like water in a leaky vessel. A stream of diseases, like enemies, afflict the body. Alas!
10. Old age stares us in the face like a tigress. Death closely follows the individual waiting for the proper time.
11. Identifying himself with the body which is compendium of living organisms, dust and ashes, man thinks 'I am a king, world famous.'
12. O Lakshmana! This body is composed of skin, bones, pus, urine, blood and other tissues and is subject to change and transformation. Tell me, how such a body, by attachment to which you intend to destroy the world, can be the Atman?
13. All evils spring up for him who identifies himself with the body.
14. That intellect which regards the body as the Self is regarded as Avidya (ignorance) while the intellect which recognises itself to be the pure Consciousness and not the body is spoken of as Vidya (knowledge).
15. Ignorance is the cause of Samsara (cycle of births and deaths). Knowledge puts an end to it. Therefore, spiritual aspirants should strive ceaselessly for the acquisition of knowledge. O slayer of foes! Lust, anger and the like are enemies in the path.
16. Of these, anger alone is sufficient to hinder the attainment of liberation. Possessed by wrath, one may even go to the length of killing one's father, brothers, relatives and friends.
17. Anger is the source of worry. Anger binds one to Samsara. Anger destroys righteousness, hence leave anger.
18. Anger is our arch enemy. Greed (covetousness) is the Vaitarani river. Contentment is the garden of Eden. Peace is celestial cow, the fulfiller of desires. (Vaitarani Nadi is a river through which sinners will be marched into hell. Its waters are said to consist of boiling blood and pus.)
19. Hence attain peace. Then you will have no enemies.
20. Atman is distinct from body, senses, mind, life-breath, intellect etc. The Atman is pure, self-effulgent, immutable (changeless) and formless.
21. As long as men do not realise that the Self is other than the body, senses and Prana, they are overwhelmed by a ceaseless flow of sorrows and sufferings of Samsara and are subject to mortality.
22. Therefore, constantly regard yourself to be the Self different from the intellect etc. , and discharge all your worldly duties. Do not feel worried.
23. While working out your Prarabdha (fruits of past actions) both pleasurable and painful, carry out all actions that offer themselves as a matter of course. You will incur no sin.
24. O Raghava, though externally you take up on yourself the agency of your actions, if your inner nature is pure, you will not be bound by your actions.
25. Always meditate upon all that I have said. You will never be afflicted by the ills of Samsara.
Once when Lord Rama was seated alone in solitude. His brother Lakshmana approached Him in all humility and spoke thus: O Lord! All my ignorance and doubts are dispelled by the words of wisdom which You had been pleased to speak to me earlier. Now I am desirous of hearing from You the proper form of material worship by which men and women of all castes can attain liberation. Great sages like Narada and Vyasa, nay the creator Brahma himself, spoke highly even of material worship as a potent means of attaining salvation. May I, therefore, request You to enlighten me on the subject? I am Your humble devotee and brother. As such, I take this liberty of approaching You with such a prayer. To the words of Lakshmana, Rama replied thus:
1. Lakshmana! There is no limit to the countless methods of My worship. Yet, I shall explain to you the process right from the very beginning.
2. Having attained the state of a twice-born. through the Upanayana ceremony as prescribed in the particular Sutra (clan or tribe) to which one belongs, one should get initiation into My Mantra from a Satguru, with full devotion for Me.
3. The wise man should then receive from the Satguru the proper form of My worship and then worship Me in the prescribed way. He should diligently carry on My worship picturing My presence either in his own heart-centre or in the fire or in an image or a photo or in the sphere of the Sun or in a Salagrama stone. (Salagrama is a kind of stone found in the river Gandaki. It is regarded as an embodiment of Lord Vishnu and is, therefore, an object of daily worship in several households. )
4. To begin with, one should take early in the morning a bath, for the purification of the body, reciting suitable hymns from the Vedas or Tantras and besmearing oneself with mud etc.
5. The wise one should then go through his daily routine of prayers like Sandhyavandana as laid down in the scriptures.
6. He should at the outset make a Sankalpa or resolve for the proper completion of h s activities. My worshipper should then worship his Guru with devotion and with the faith that he is in no way different from Me.
7. Abhisheka (a prolonged ceremonial bath) should be done in the case of the Salagrama, while in the case of images there should be simple sprinkling of water. My worship will be fruitful when carried on with the offering of sandal paste, flowers etc. , which have been sanctioned by the scriptures and handed down by tradition.
8. He should worship Me without vanity or hypocrisy, leading a regulated life as per Guru's directions. O Lakshmana! the joy of your race, I shall he pleased with legitimate decorations of My images.
9. When one worships Me in the fire, he should propitiate Me by offering oblations of Havish, in the fire; if one worships Me in the sphere of the Sun, he should carry on the worship on sanctified or holy ground. I shall be gratified with anything that My worshipper offers with faith and devotion even if it be a little water.
10. What then need be said of the offerings of sandal paste, flowers, Akshatas, Naivedya consisting of various delicious dishes etc. ? After arranging all necessary articles of worship, worship should be commenced.
Notes: The commonest and simplest form of worship of any deity consists mainly of 16 items:
1. (a) Dhyana or meditation on the form of the deity as per descriptions given by men of experience.
(b) Avahana or invocation to the God to come and receive the ceremonial worship offered.
2. Asana or a proper seat for the God to sit upon.
3. 4 & 5. Padya, Arghya, Achamanawater to wash the feet, hands and face and a few flowers etc.
4. Madhuparkalight dress for bath.
5. Snanam or a bath consisting of Abhisheka, bath in Panchamrita (a mixture of milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey), coconut water etc. , and finally pure water.
6. Vastra Yugmama pair of new clothes.
7. Yajnopavitama sacred thread.
8. (a) Sandal paste, Akshatas, Vibhuti, Vermilion etc.
(b) Puja with flowers, leaves etc.
9. Dhupam or incense.
10. Dipam or illumination.
11. Naivedyam, offering of food.
12. Tambulamoffering of betel leaves.
13. Mantra Pushpam, offering of holy hymns in praise and prostration.
14. Karpura Nirajanam, waving of camphor lights.
11. A comfortable seat should be carefully arranged by spreading one over the other Kusa grass, a deer skin and a cloth. The worshipper should then seat himself with a pure mind on that seat directly facing the object of his worship.
12. He should duly carry out first inner and outer Nyasa; next Nyasa with the 24 names, beginning with Kesava, and lastly Tattva Nyasa.
13. These should be followed up with the Panjara Nyasa of the deity and then Mantra Nyasa. Similarly Nyasas have to be resorted to in the case of images every day with diligence.
14. The Kalasa (the sacred vessel containing water) should be kept a little to the left in front of the worshipper, while the flowers and other articles of worship should be kept a little to the right.
15. Vessels should be kept ready for offering Arghya, Padya, Madhuparka and Achamana.
16. In the Lotus of the heart, resplendent like the Sun, he should meditate on the Jiva, who is but a ray of Myself. O Lakshmana! destroyer of foes! he should imagine that his whole body is pervaded by that ray. He who resorts to the worship of images should always make it a point to invoke My ray into the images and the like.
17. Then he should worship Me with Padya, Arghya, Achamana, bath, clothing, adornments, etc. , as means permit, but with a pure and sincere heart free from vanity and hypocrisy.
18. If he can afford, he should worship on a grand scale, offering camphor, Kumkum (vermilion), sandal paste, beautiful and fragrant flowers etc., reciting the proper Mantras.
19. He may also undergo Dasavarana Puja as prescribed in Agastya Samhita and arrange for elaborate offerings of Nirajana, Dhupa, Dipa and Naivedya.
20. One should always worship with faith and devotion, for, I, the Supreme Lord am pleased to accept whatever is offered with faith and devotion. One well versed in the science of Mantras should offer oblations in the fire as per rules and regulations.
21. One who is well versed in the Agamas should strictly follow the directions prescribed by Agastya and offer oblations in the fire either in a pit specially prepared for the purpose chanting the original Mantra or Purusha Sukta, or in the household fire used for daily worship using Charu (rice cooked in milk and ghee) for the oblations.
22. The wise one should in the course of the Homa, imagine Me to be present in the midst of the fire with a body shining like finished gold and adorned with celestial ornaments.
23. The Havan should be duly completed after offering Bali (special food offerings) to the Parshadas or immediate followers.
24. He should carry on mental Japa observing vocal silence and meditating on My form. Betel leaves coupled with saffron and other spices should next be offered with love and devotion.
25. This should be followed by entertainments like music, dancing, etc. , and rounded off with offering of praises.
26. In conclusion, he should fall prostrate on the ground riveting his heart on Me. Then he should mentally feel that My grace is bestowed on him and receive it humbly (on his head) in the form of flowers.
27. In utter devotion, he should take both My feet in his hands placing them devoutly on his head, and prostrating himself, pray O Lord! save me from this dreadful Samsara. Finally he should send back the Jivakala to its original place i.e. feel that the Jiva which is but a ray of Isvara has returned to its Source and become one with It.
28. If a devotee worships Me in due form, as detailed above, he will, by My grace, obtain his cherished objective, here and hereafter.
29. If My devotee worships Me daily in this fashion, he will doubtless attain My Sarupyam (a state of liberation in which the devotee assumes the same form as the object of his worship).
30. Whosoever constantly recites or listens to this supreme, sacred, eternal secret lore divulged by Me in person will doubtless derive the full benefit of all forms of worship.