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Chapter 34
The Râma Incarnation


"If these ten characteristics of Purânas have to be described in a few words it will be hard, for, each has to be indicated clearly, as when the processes of butter-making have to be described, each item from the milking to the churning has to be touched upon. Each step is important. The ten names relate to the attributes as marked out by their meaning. But the purpose of all is the gaining of the 'butter', 'liberation'. It is for the attainment of that liberation that the ten characteristics are assumed. The Purânas are all designed to confer the eager and earnest listener the support and sustenance necessary for the pilgrim proceeding to Liberation. What the Vedas (Sruthi) indicate by means of a statement here or an axiom there, or by an implied suggestion in another context, or even by a direct description of the actual experience in some other section, is elaborated by the Purânas for better clarification and inspiration," said Suka.

A question arose in Parîkchit's mind as he listened to these words. He gave utterance to it thus: "Master! You said that you will be relating a Purâna to me. Therefore, I would like to hear more of these characteristics. That will make the listening happier and more beneficial."

The Bhagavatha Purâna

Suka made ready to answer this question, starting the description of the ten marks of the Purânas. He said, "Listen, O King! I have decided to relate to you the Bhagavatha-Purâna. It is saturated with answers for all the doubts that arise in your mind, and all your questions. There is no Purâna, higher than this.

Of its characteristics, the first one, namely, is Sarga. I shall tell you what it means. When the three Gunas or attributes - Sathwa, Raja and Thamas - are in equilibrium, it is called Prakrithi, the Primeval Substance, Moola. By the disturbances in the equilibrium, the dis-balance, the five elements are produced: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Sky. Also, the subtle attributes of these five: Smell, Taste, Form, Touch, and Sound, creating also as the subtle senses that can cognise each, the nose, the tongue, the eye, the skin and the ear. The mind and the ego too arise from the same principle. This process of creation is what is meant by the expression: Sarga. (See also Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1, Creation)

The second mark of a Purâna is Visarga, that is to say, Sarga or Creation in a special sense. The proliferation into manifold varieties of beings through the interaction of various oddities and peculiarities in activity is what is described as Visarga. It is intimately associated with the All embracing Super-Person in whom the Universe is immanent.

Sthanam is the third chief content of a Purâna. Everything that is originated in the Universe must have some bounds, so that it may serve some purpose. The fixation of these limits, and the processes by which the limits are honoured are all described in the section entitled Sthanam, or State. A machine, for example has a key by which alone it can be started. It has also devices by which its work is regulated and stopped. Or else, it will be a source of danger to itself and its users. The establishment of such regulatory devices is the subject, comprised under Sthanam.

The next distinguishing mark of a Purâna is the inclusion in it of a section on Poshana: Fostering, Guarding, Preservation from Harm. To put the matter simply, all fostering, guidance, and preservation are included in the one comprehensive subject of Divine Grace. The sapling that is planted has to be fostered with love and care, all creation is thus fostered by the Grace of the Creator.

The next is Manvanthara, the Chronology of Manu, which every Purâna contains. [see also Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 3, Chapter 11, Calculation of Time, from the Atom] The day is composed of 8 yamas; 30 such days make a month; 12 months are called a year. One year for this world is just a day for the gods. 360 such days, form a year, for them. The Kali yuga or the Kali Age is composed of 1000 such years. The previous Dwapara yuga had 2000 such years, while the Thretha yuga, which preceded, it had 3000 and the Kritha, which was the first of the four had 4000 such years. Each yuga has 200, 400, 600, or 800 contact periods or Sandhya periods. 12.000 such years comprise a Maha-yuga, 1000 such Maha-yugas form a single Day for Brahma! Every day of Brahma sees 14 Manus, lording the Universe. So, each Manu is master for more than 70 Maha-yugas. The story of these Manus and their lineage is named Manvanthara.

Oothi is the next sign of the Purâna. Oothi means, the consequence of the activity, its impact on one's nature and career. The nature of each life is determined by the impact of the activities of the entity in previous lives. It is not assigned by a wayward God. God treats all alike; men forge their fates differently, through their own waywardness and willfulness. Oothi deals with this aspect.

Isanukatha is another subject dealt with in the Purânas. It means, the glories of Isa or God and the manifold ways in which men have experienced the might and majesty, the sweetness and light, that the Glory represents.

Then, we find in the Purânas, the Lakshana or aspect dealing with Nirodha, or, Absorption. The Lord absorbs within Himself all the Glory that He makes manifest; He then goes into the 'sleep of Yoga', until the Divine Impulse to manifest again, disturbs the Divine Equipoise.

Mukthi is another subject all Purânas dilate upon. It means the liberation of man, from the bonds of Ignorance, Ajnana, which keep him encased. That is to say, man has to be liberated from the awareness that he is the body in which he is encased; he must be made aware that he is the Atma, the Soul which is the Reality thus encased.

Asraya is the final aspect dealt with in Purânas. It means, the Help, the Support, the Prop. Without help, Liberation cannot be attained. The Absolute is the Prop for the Universe. The Absolute (PaRâmatma) from which all this has emanated, in which all this exists, into which all this merges is the prop for achieving Liberation. He who knows the Adhibhow-thik, the Adhi-daivik and the Adhi-atma by that very knowledge, knows the Asraya or the PaRâmatma too." Parîkchit Parîkchit interrupted the sage here, and pleaded, "Master! Tell me then, what the Adhi-bhowthik, the Adhi-daivik and the Adhi-atma are."

Suka was happy that the question was put; he prepared himself for answering it. "0 King! I see a thing. That thing is Adhi-bhowthik. But, what exactly is seeing it? You may say, the eye sees it. Wherefrom does the eye get the capacity to see things? Think of that! The Deity presiding over the eye is the Sun (Surya). He gives the eye the power of vision. Without the Sun, in the dark, the eye cannot see, isn't it? The Sun therefore is Adhi-daivik. But, there is one more basic factor in this process the Jivi, the individual behind all the senses, behind the eye and the ear and the rest. That individual is the Atma, the Adhi-atma. The Atma, the Deity, the senses that bring knowledge of things, without these the process cannot continue. The Atma is the witness.

Now, I have told you of the ten characteristics of the Bhagavatha and other Purânas. Tell me what else you desire to know from me and I shall gladly relate to you the same. I am ever ready," said the sage.

The Râma Incarnation. 

At this, Parîkchit said, "Master! I could understand the ten marks of the Purâna; I came to know that the Param-atma who is in every one as Atma is the witness, of Time, Space and Causation. That Eternal Witness has assumed many forms for the sake of the world and upheld morality and righteousness. I wish to listen to the divine narratives of these incarnations, of Râma, Krishna and other manifestations, and of the deeper mysteries of these appearances. Do not feel that time is short. Let me sanctify every moment that is available, intently listening to the inspiring narration of these incidents. I pray that my thirst may thus be quenched and my heart be gifted with contentment, by your grace."

Suka replied, "0 King! I was also entering upon that narrative. So, listen! Every concrete manifestation of God is significant; there can be no higher or lower. The story of each one of them is elevating. Each is a full manifestation. Listening to these stories may make you feel that one manifestation is grander and more sublime than another. It would appear as if you get more inspiration from one Avathar than another. But, all are equally Divine and mysterious. The manifestation is suited to the time, the task, the circumstance and the need; its form is in accordance with the purpose.

Among these, the incarnations, Râma and Krishna, are most meaningful to mankind, since man can grasp their example, follow their solutions to problems, and derive Ananda through the contemplation of their excellences and teachings. These two have installed themselves in the hearts of mankind and are receiving the adoration of men. I shall narrate to you the more noteworthy among the incidents in the careers of these two Incarnations. Listen. (See also the Râmakatha Rasavahini, the Râma Story by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba)

First, I shall describe the Soumya quality of Sri Râma. By "Soumya" I mean his gentle, soft and mild nature. He wore a leaf-green gown and had yellow cloth round his waist; he had on a golden diadem; but, he walked along with his eyes on the ground, as if he was ashamed to look up; the scene melted the hearts of all who saw. No one caught him in the act of casting his look on others. He had always the inner, not the outer, vision. Whenever any one offered anything to him, He did not accept it entirely; He used to break off a bit or take out just a portion, in order to please them; or, he just touched the offering with his fingers and gave it back to the person who brought it. 

He moved with his father-in-law and mother-in-law, not as a son-in-law, but as a son. He seldom opened his mouth to speak to his sisters-in-law or their maids. He never lifted his face and cast his eyes on them.

All women older than himself, he revered as he revered his mother, Kausalya. He considered all who were younger to him as his younger sisters; all of his own age, He treated as if they were his step-mothers.

He stuck severely to Truth. He surmised that if his father broke his word, the dynasty will earn great dishonour; so, in order to uphold the plighted word of his father and to maintain his reputation, He exiled himself into the forests for 14 years. His father did not ask him to do so; but, he learnt it from his step-mother, Kaikeyi. He never argued or gave a reply. He gave up the kingdom and started straight to the jungle. He acted correctly according to the words spoken by him, and suited the action strictly to the word.

Râma had a heart filled with compassion; He gave refuge to any one who took shelter in him and surrendered to him. When the Vanaras ('Monkey hordes') and the Rakshasas (Ogres) were engaged in deadly combat during the battle in Lanka with the wicked Ravana, some Rakshasas changed themselves into Vanaras (Monkeys) and penetrated behind the lines; they were promptly caught by the Vanara scouts and brought before him, for drastic punishment. But, Râma stopped the Vanaras from torturing them. He told them that they had come to take refuge in him and declared that it was his vow to pardon all those who surrender to him, whatever their wrongs. He had thus given refuge to the brother of Ravana and treated him as his own brother Lakshmana. "If he says once, I am yours, He is mine for ever", Râma announced. Râma lived Dharma and taught Dharma through his every act. He established Dharma by practice and precept. He fostered and guarded good men (Sadhus). He removed the sufferings of the godly; he drew them near himself; their lives were fulfilled through his grace. He recognized no distinctions of high and low. He was a master of all the Sastras; he knew the meaning of all the Vedas.


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