Rama and the Srimad Bhagavatam

February 15, 2008 Link Amma's Grace

Dearest Friends and Family,

One of the things that Link, Anni and I used to do as they were growing up, was to read stories and books together in the hours before bed. I am sure that I have memorized Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Suess, if someone somewhere just starts me off on the first line, it will probably all come spilling out. “Ir should be, it should be, it should be like that, for Horton was Faithful, he sat and he sat!” As they got older, we worked out way through the exhaustive epic of the Mahabharat by Kamala Subramanium. This remarkable author has also faithfully translated from Sanskrit into English in narrative style the Srimad Bhagavatam, and her last work, the Ramayana. She has managed to capture various meanings of the Sanskrit mantras while avoiding the ornamentation and decoration of them. Hers is a great gift to the English speaking world, in the field of literature and promoting awareness of the values of Sanatana Dharma. We highly recommend her versions of these works. we have seen many others in English, but none passes muster in our eyes compared to hers.

When we came to India, our night time snuggle downs and reading patterns were abruptly changed. Amma was up and out, tours were going on, etc, etc. For several years, we didn’t read at night together. Then, after I had the heart attack in 2005 (which doctor’s now say they see no trace of as the heart is functioning very normally now so- no worries on that score, really, I know it is Her grace), Link or Anni began reading to me in the night as a way of comforting and soothing the mind. From then, we began reading together at night, and worked out way through some wonderful books: I recall some of Mark Twain, John Muir, the Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Amma’s books, Gandhi’s Self Indulgence vs. Self restraint, George Durell’s My family and other animals – very funny – and many, many others. When Anni was sick we worked out way through the biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, Abdul Kalam, and others…
Since Anni left, Link and I have gone through Mr. God this is Anna, twice, Gandhi’s “India of my Dreams”, Nehru’s Glimpses of World History – very great book, haven’t finished it all, while in Poustinia we also looked into “The Tibetan Book of living and dying, and have now started on the Ramayana by Kamala Subramaniam.
The Ramayana is one of the 4 great epics, part of the ocean of Hindu literature known as itihasa. The other three are the Mahabharat, the Harivamsa and the Yoga Vaishista. I do not have any familiarity with the Harivamsa or the Yoga Vaishista…If anyone knows where I can find good English versions of these works, we would appreciate the recommendation. We have really just started the Ramayana, as the habit of reading flat on the back, as a soother, often puts me and Link sound asleep in no time….Anyhow, we are at the part where Bharat goes back to Ayodhya, dressed in Tree bark, worshipping Rama’s chappals on the throne, instead of himself. Before this part, there was a very interesting passage that Rama says to Bharat, during the time that Bharat is pleading with him to return to Ayodhya, to become the king, etc. I felt that it really hits the nail on the head so to speak, and wanted to share it with all of you. At one point in the
arguments of dharma, Rama says to Bharat:
“He said: ‘Bharata, do not think that I have no sympathy for you in this your predicament. I understand it fully. But then, my child, no man is allowed to do as he pleases. Man has no freedom. Fate tosses him about in all directions. The game which Fate plays is unpredictable. Nothing lasts in this world. What has been gathered is scattered about. What was once at the top soon reaches the lowest position. Meetings only end in separations and, as for life, it only ends in death. Ripe fruits have but one fear, that of falling down. And even so, man has no fear other than death. Think of a house built sturdily with strong pillars. Even that, in the course of time, becomes weak and ancient. Men too become old, lose their power of thinking and death claims them. The night which passes will never come back
and the waters of the Yamuna which flow fast, when in flood, towards the sea, will never return. In this world., Bharata, just as the waters on the surface of the earth get less and less, dried constantly by the rays of the sun, man’s life also gets lessened day by day. Your life and mine are fast ebbing away. Think on the Lord, my child. Do not spend your time in the contemplation of another’s life. Death walks with us and he accompanies us on the longest journey we undertake. The skin gets wrinkled. Hair grows white. Old age makes man weak and helpless. Man delights at the sight of the sun rising and again, the setting sun is pleasing to the eye. But man forgets that every sunrise and every sunset has lessened one’s life on earth by another day. The seasons come and go and each season has a charm of its own. But they come and
when they go, they take with them large slices of our lives every time.
On the large expanse of the sea two pieces of wood come together. They float together for a while and then they are parted. Even so it is with man and his relationship with life, child, kinsmen, wealth and other possessions. Meetings end only in separation. It is the law of nature. No one is capable of altering the course of Fate. Weeping for one who is dead will not bring him back to life. Like a flood which will never return to the spot it came from, the part of one’s life which has gone by, will not come back. Man should take heed of this and set his mind on the attainment of the next world. He should perform his duties and fit himself for the heavens which he will surely inherit then….” P. 345 Subramaniam, K. (2007) Ramayana. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai.

Amma has said that the 12th Chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam contains the essentials of necessary life understanding. The Srimad Bhagavatam is a Purana, that gives stories of Krishna suitable for secular or popular understanding. It is often called a Mahapurana, or Great Purana. There are many other works which are also puranas. We have used again, Kamala Subramaniam’s erudite exposition of this work. Here is the 12th Chapter.
“Vidura, after spending a reasonable number of days in Hastina, realized that time was running short and that he should not waste any more time. He had to do what he had come there to do. He spoke to Dhritarashtra one day. He said: ‘My beloved brother, you have never listened to the words of advice I was wont to speak in those days. But this once you must listen to me. Leave this city and go to the forest, my lord. Please abandon all these comforts and go far away from the city, to the forest.’
Dhritarashtra turned his unseeing eyes [he was blind- allegorically, the blind mind] on his brother and said: ‘I do not understand what you are saying. Tell me why I should go to the forest at this old age, helpless as I am with this infirmity. Explain to me why I should go. I know there must be a reason behind this suggestion of yours, Vidura. Why do you ask me to go away?’
Vidura spoke in a gentle and persuasive voice. He said; ‘Dread Kala, is coming fast toward us. There is noting that can withstand its power. No word can coax it to go back. Death is very near. When the Hand of Kala is touching you, you have to renounce this life which is very dear to you; what then can one say about the other things which are dear to us! Wealth? Kinsmen? Power? What can all these do when death draws near? Let me speak candidly some home-truths. You have no one who you can call yours. Your father, your brother, your friends, your sons are all gone; buried in the depth of oblivion. As for your body, old age has swallowed almost all of it. Think of the house you live in, even that does not belong to you. Your sons were killed by Bhima and it is food given by that Bhima which you are eating. Surely life is very dear
to you if you are prepared to undergo such humiliation. This life of yours, my dear brother, is allowed to you out of sufferance.
‘You tried to kill the Pandavas in the house of lac; you tried to kill Bhima by mixing poison with his food; you insulted them and their queen in the court; you stole from them their wealth and their kingdom. And yet, they have granted you this life. What is the use of living in such ignominy, my brother? Even if you are unwilling to relinquish this life and these comforts, death is not going to spare you. Whether you like it or not, this body of yours is growing old and sere with age like a garment which has been used constantly. Ponder on these truths for a moment. Be brave, for a change. A brave man is one, who, having abandoned his wealth, his kith and kin, his sons and his family goes away in secret to the forest and sheds this human body. This Vairagya may come to him of its own accord or he may adopt it after being told about it. But a man who has the strength of mind to take to this course
and spends the rest of his life in the forest thinking on the Lord all the while, is, indeed, a prince among men. It is easy enough to be brave when one is young. But the really brave man is one who feels the approach of death and is prepared to shed this body without any regret. Forget this city of pain, brother. Get up and to towards the North, the path to heaven.’
Dhritarashtra was silent for a long time. For the first time in his life, he considered the advice of Vidura without protesting.
The night had passed the second yama.
Dhritarashtra got up from his bed and told what he had decided to do to his queen, that great lady who had tied up her eyes with a silken scarf on the day she was married since she did not want to see the world which he could not see. She spoke not a word. Quietly she came and stood by his side. Accompanied by Vidura the old couple left the palace without anyone knowing about it.” Pps. 23-24. Subramaniam, Kamala (1979). Srimad Bhabavatam. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay

Hope you enjoy. These are things we think on. Anni, for sure, faced her passing very bravely, and without the least fear. This is always in our minds.
Loving you,Kamala, Anni and Link


[1] K.S. gives this definition of Kala: TIME. The Supreme Sprit regarded as the destroyer of the Universe, being a personification of the principle of destruction.


[2] K. S. give the following definitions for Yama. 1. Control, restraint, self-control. 2.The god of death personified. 3. one-eight part of a day: three hours. – this refers to the older system of time in indigenous India based upon the mood and harmony of the different 24 hours. In the ashram, there is stress on the ‘brahma muhurta, which is the period between 3 and 6 AM as being positive for prayers and contemplation., as the atmosphere is least polluted with the thoughts of errant man then, making concentration easier.

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