The following is a transcription of a discourse delivered by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja in Bangkok, Thailand on April 11, 2003


[Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja was on his way to Hawaii in 2003, and he happened to be in Thailand for a two-day stopover when the auspicious occasion of Śrī Rāma-navamī (Lord Rāma’s appearance day) arrived. A small group of devotees had gathered in the condominium, where he was hosted by Āśutoṣa dāsa and his Russian devotees. He summarized the Rāmāyaṇa for them, and a transcription of that talk is presented herein:]

Do you know the history of Rāmāyaṇa? Mahārāja Dāsaratha had three hundred sixty queens but no sons. One day, he went hunting, and in the evening, he met a friend of his who was also a king. That king had a very beautiful daughter named Kaikeyī, and he engaged her in serving Mahārāja Dāsaratha, who was very pleased with both her services and beauty.

Mahārāja Dāsaratha requested his friend, “Please give me your daughter in marriage.” The king replied, “My daughter is very precious to me. Only if you promise that the son born from her womb will become king after you will I give her to you in marriage.” Mahārāja Dāsaratha began to laugh and said, “I have so many queens but no sons. Therefore, I would be very happy if the son born by her becomes the next king.” The king then arranged for their marriage, after which they returned to Ayodhyā.

Many years passed, and still no son was born from any queen. The sage Vasiṣṭha told Mahārāja Dāsaratha, “There is no son in your destiny. However, a son may come if you perform a sacrifice called putreṣṭhi-yajña.” A fire sacrifice for begetting a son was then performed by a very great sage named Śṛṅga Ṛṣi. Agnideva, the demigod of fire, soon appeared from that fire with some very delicious sweet rice in his hand. He told the king, “If you give this to any of your principal queens, she will at once become pregnant and soon have a son.”

King Dāsaratha became very happy and gave half of the sweet rice to Kauśalyā and half to Kaikeyī. The two queens saw that Sumitrā had nothing, so they each divided their parts in half and gave that half to Sumitrā. Kaikeyī, Kauśalyā and Sumitrā thus gave birth to four beautiful sons – Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, Bharata and Śatrughna.

What is the deep meaning of this sacrifice, wherein the demigod of fire came and gave sweet rice to them? It means that when the Supreme Lord or His manifestations come down to Earth, they don’t come through ordinary, mortal persons. Agnideva brought the power of Kṛṣṇa in the form of Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, Bharata and Śatrughna via the sweet rice, and thus They descended. Rāma appeared four-handed, not two-handed, holding a conch shell, disc, lotus and club, and everyone present began to pray to Him at that time.

Later, when the boys were about five, they were sent to the Gurukula of Vasiṣṭha Muni. After a few years in Gurukula, they became experts in all subjects and returned home. After some time, a saint named Viśvāmitra Muni came to the palace and requested Mahārāja Dāsaratha, “Please give me Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa. I want to take them to my āśrama because there are many demons disturbing me and the other sages in our performances of sacrifices for the world’s welfare.”

Mahārāja Dāsaratha replied, “They cannot go with you. I will go instead, with all my soldiers. Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa are just young boys. How will it be possible for Them to guard your sacrifices?”

Viśvāmitra replied, “You will not be able to help in the matter, but your sons, Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa, are qualified to guard and kill all the demons.”

Mahārāja Dāsaratha was still not ready to give Them, but his guru, Vasiṣṭha Ṛṣi, told him, “You should give your sons to Viśvāmitra at once. This will benefit you, Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa. They are very fortunate to have the opportunity to be with Viśvāmitra; later on, you will realize this.

Following the order of his guru, the king sent his two sons. Later, when the sage began his sacrifices, a lady demon and her two sons named Mārīca and Bahu came and began creating great disturbances. Lord Rāma took hold of his bow and arrow and shot them. The mother and one of her sons were killed, but the other son escaped and fled to the island of Laṅkā in the ocean. After killing several demons, Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa crossed the Ganges River with Viśvāmitra Ṛṣi and went to Janakapura, the kingdom of King Janaka.

King Janaka was a very learned and advanced spiritualist; He realized God’s impersonal aspect and the Supreme Lord Himself. He had a very beautiful daughter named Sītā. He vowed and announced, “I will marry my daughter to anyone who can lift the bow of Lord Śiva, which is in my possession, and shoot an arrow from that bow.”

Many princes and kings came from various parts of the world and tried to lift the bow – but they could not do so. That bow was so heavy that even thousands upon thousands of soldiers could not lift it. Even Rāvaṇa, the powerful king of Laṅkā, came and tried; and even demigods could not lift the bow. Viśvāmitra brought Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa to that place, and Rāma very easily lifted the bow. He wanted to shoot an arrow from that bow, but the bow broke into pieces as He tried to do so.

Rāma was now victorious, and he thus won the hand of Sītā-devī, the daughter of Janaka Mahārāja. She put a garland on the neck of Rāma, Rāma also garlanded her, and their marriage was performed. Mahārāja Dāsaratha came from his kingdom in Ayodhyā with his other sons to attend the function, and his three sons also got married there. After that, the newly married couples returned to Ayodhyā and they all looked very beautiful.

Mahārāja Dāsaratha had long before given two boons to his wife, Kaikeyī, and she had said at that time that she would ask for them at a later date. Now, after it was announced that Rāma would be crowned as the next king, she ordered by the will of God, “My son Bharata should be king, and Rāmacandra should be sent to the forest in exile.” Hearing this, Mahārāja Dāsaratha became very afflicted by the anticipated separation, and soon after Rāma’s departure from the palace, he left the world.

Now in exile, Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, and Sītā went to Citrakūṭa and other places. Śatrughna and Bharata had not been present in Ayodyhā at the time of the exile. They were at their maternal uncle’s house. When they returned to Ayodhyā and found out what had happened, they went to Citrakūṭa and Bharata told Rāma, “Please return home. I will not be king. I am your younger brother.” All the inhabitants of Ayodhyā had also gone there to appeal to Rāma to return, but He refused. He said that He wanted to follow His father’s orders. Bharata replied, “Then please give me Your sandals. They will act as Your representative. You will be the king, and until Your return, I will be like a minister and manage everything for You.”

Lord Rāmacandra, Lakṣmaṇa, and Sītā then traveled to Daṇḍakāraṇya forest. Rāvaṇa later went there and kidnapped Sītā-devī. Rāma became maddened in separation from Her, calling out, “Where are you, where are you?” Rāvaṇa took Her to Laṅkā, a very secret place, and practically nobody knew where he had taken Her.

Rāma then made friends with the monkeys headed by Sugrīva. Sugrīva assured him, “I will discover Sītā-devī’s whereabouts.” He sent his messenger, Hanumān, to find Her. Hanumān went to Laṅkā by jumping over the ocean – about 100 miles. He discovered Sītā and returned to Rāma with the news. The monkey soldiers then came to the ocean but did not know how to cross it. The presiding deity of the ocean told Rāma, “In your army, there are two monkeys, Nala and Nīla, who know how to build bridges.” These monkeys were very expert. They wrote Rāma’s names on the innumerable stones, mountains and trees and threw them into the ocean.

A very long bridge was soon constructed without pillars, and that bridge can still be seen today. It is still seen about a million years later, though it is lying under the water. It has been discovered by American scientists. (An article about this has been written by Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja in “The Rays of the Harmonist” magazine.)

By the order of Rāma, the monkeys led by Nala and Nīla made a bridge to Śrī Laṅkā. They brought mountains and large stones. They wrote Rāma’s name on them, threw them in the water, and the stones floated. When half the bridge was completed Rāma began to think, “What a powerful name this is! The monkeys are writing My name on the stones and throwing them in the water – and the stones are floating! I will also take a stone and throw it in the water and see if it floats or sinks.”

Hanumān began searching for Śrī Rāma. Finally, he saw Him from a distance and thought, “Rāma is hiding in a grove.” He went there and asked, “Why are You here?”

Rāma replied, “I took a stone and threw it in the ocean, but it sank. When the monkeys write “Rāma, Rāma” on these stones and throw them in the water they float. Why is that?”

Hanumān said, “There is a secret. The monkeys utter Your name and then the stones float, but whose name will You call?”

What was used in the service of the Lord floated, and what the Lord threw away became deadweight or useless.

The holy name is more powerful than Lord Rāma or Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself. Chanting of the name will do everything. Nothing else can save you. If you want to be happy in your life, chant Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare. This is more powerful than Rāma. Rāma is very powerful, but these names are more powerful.

Lord Rāma then crossed the ocean with His monkey army and killed all the demons under Rāvaṇa’s leadership. He only spared Vibhīṣaṇa because Vibhīṣaṇa was a devotee and favourable to Rāma. Rāvaṇa and all his sons were killed.

When Sītā was presented to Rāma, He said, “I will not take Sītā with Me. I am a kṣatriya king. I did not come here to take Sītā back. I came to destroy all of Laṅkā because Rāvaṇa kidnapped Her, but because She was in the house of Rāvaṇa I cannot accept Her.”

He ordered Lakṣmaṇa to build a fire to test her chastity. Sītā prayed, “O Agnideva, O demigod of fire, I will enter the fire, and if I am pure, I’ll not be burned.” She entered the fire, and Agnideva came out with her and said, “She is pure.”

The Air-god, the demigod of air, then appeared and said, “I am everywhere. I know Sītā is pure.” Rāma then took Sītā and returned to Ayodhyā with His new associates like Vibhīṣaṇa and Hanumān. He was given the kingdom on that day, Rāma-navamī, which happened to be the day He was exiled and also happened to be the anniversary of His birth. The residents of Ayodhyā performed an abhiṣeka ceremony to install Him as king.

Sītā had a desire to see the ṛṣis and mahaṛṣis – to give Her merciful darśana. In the meantime, some of the inhabitants of Ayodhyā began to say that although She was not pure, Rāma still took Her back. They concluded, “This is a very bad thing.”

Rāma then sent Sītā into exile, although She was pregnant at that time. She went to the āśrama of Vālmīki, where She gave birth to two sons named Lava and Kuśa. Her sons were very strong and powerful. Vālmīki was very expert in archery, and under his tutelage, the boys became even more expert than Śrī Rāma. Vālmīki also trained them in singing the Rāmāyaṇa, which he had written in his mystic trance before the pastimes of Rāma were manifest in this world.

In the meantime, Rāma was very distressed in separation from Sītā. He was always lamenting and there was no one to console Him. Like Sītā, He ate only fruits and did not sleep on a bed. Śrī Rāma told Vasiṣṭha Muni, “I want to perform an aśvamedha-yajña (horse sacrifice).” Vasiṣṭha said, “You cannot do this because You have no wife. The wife must be present in order to perform this ceremony. You should bring Sītā here.” Rāma said, “I cannot, but I still want to perform this sacrifice.” Vasiṣṭha said, “Then you should marry another lady.” Rāma replied, “I cannot do this – Sītā will be My only queen.” A golden statue* of Sītā was then made and installed, seated on Rāma’s left, and Rāma began to perform the sacrifice. In the morning, He arranged for the performance of the fire sacrifice, and at midday, there was hari-kathā and recitation of scriptures like the Purāṇas.

In the meantime, Vālmīki told Lava and Kuśa, “You should sing my Rāmāyaṇa there.” The boys were about nine or ten years old, very beautiful and strong, and, as previously mentioned, expert at archery. It has been said that they defeated Hanumān and many other powerful personalities in archery, and even Rāma once came, and they defeated Him. The boys knew that Rāma was a king, and they knew that His wife was Sītā, but they did not know that Sītā was their mother. They only knew of their mother as “Vana-devī”.

When they arrived at the sacrifice, they began to sing in such a sweet and melodious way that everyone present in the assembly was attracted. All began to weep by hearing that Rāmāyaṇa. Rāma told Lakṣmaṇa to find out their father’s name and to give them nice gifts of cloth and golden ornaments.

Lakṣmaṇa told them, “Mahārāja Rāma wants to know the name of your father and mother.” Lava and Kuśa replied, “We cannot tell. You are supposed to be learned. You should know that brahmacārīs do not tell the name of their mother and father; they should only tell the name of their guru. Vālmīki is our guru.”

Lakṣmaṇa became very ashamed and said, “I want to present you these gifts from Rāma.” They said, “What will we do with these? Please keep them. In the āśrama, we eat fruits and wear the bark of trees made into cloth. Return these and tell Rāma we don’t want them.” This made Rāma still more impressed.

Rāma later learned that Sītā was in the āśrama of Vālmīki and the boys were His sons. He called Vālmīki and said, “It seems that they are my sons and that my wife, Sītā, is there with you. Please bring Her. I want to accept Her again. The demigods confirmed it in Laṅkā, and my father also confirmed it, but She will also personally have to give some evidence that She is pure.”

Sītā came the next day with Her two sons. All were weeping and lamenting for Sītā when they saw Her, and they were discussing amongst themselves that Lava and Kuśa were the sons of Rāma. They said, “The boys are just as beautiful as Rāma. The only difference between them and their father is that they are younger.”

Rāma told Sītā, “I know that You are pure; I realized it in Laṅkā. But I want You to give personal evidence that You are pure.” Sītā said, “Still, You want evidence? All right, I will quickly give You evidence.” She prayed to Mother Earth, “I’ve come from your womb. Please open up and take Me on your lap. If I have not touched anyone in this world by mind except Rāma, come and take Me.” After She said this three times, the Earth at once divided, a beautiful golden throne came out, and upon that throne was Pṛthivī-devī, Mother Earth. She took Sītā on Her lap and they both went back into the ground.

Weeping loudly, Rāma called out, “O Sītā, where are You? I cannot survive without You.” He took out His bow and arrow and said to Mother Earth, “You are the mother of Sītā and you are also my mother. But if you do not return My wife, I will shoot and destroy you.”

Vālmīki told Rāma, “I have written up to this point and not after that. Sītā has gone to Your abode. Go there and see that She is waiting for You. This is only Your pastime. The entire world will hear it, weep, and remember it. Now the time has come. Please go at once, taking all those with whom You came. All of them proceeded to the river bank, where they bathed and assumed four-armed Viṣṇu forms. All the inhabitants went to Ayodhyā with the four brothers, in the realm beyond this world.

* There is yet another reason for Kṛṣṇa’s descent. When Rāma went to Janaka Purī, the rājā-kumārīs, princesses, became charmed to see Him. When they saw that Sītā was married to Him, they developed a very strong desire: “Oh, if Rāma would also marry us, it would be so good. We want Rāma to become our husband; we will not marry anyone else.” With this determination they never married.

Rāma was pleased and told them, “You will take birth in Dvāpara-yuga from the womb of a gopī.”

Many years later, Rāmacandra ordered Sītā to leave His palace. She left and lived alone in Vālmīki’s āśrama, where she gave birth to Rāma’s twin sons. Rāma stayed in His palace and Sītā stayed in the forest. For certain reasons the king had left His queen, but Rāma never left His dear Sītā [Rāma in His capacity as a king left His queen, but really, Rāma never actually left Sītā]. Although He remained in His palace, He always remembered her. His days passed with great difficulty. Rāma felt so much separation that sometimes He would speak with His guru and priest, Vasiṣṭha.

Once Rāma requested Vasiṣṭha, “I want to perform a fire sacrifice, an aśvamedha-yajṅa or any other yajña. Please allow Me to do this.”

Vasiṣṭha replied, “Because You have left Your wife, You cannot perform any type of sacrifice. You should bring her back and sit beside her. Only then can You do it.”

“That cannot be,” Rāma told him. “Please make another arrangement so that I can perform the sacrifice.”

 “Your father married three hundred and sixty wives, so You can also marry again. I think that there are many beautiful ladies in the world who would want to marry You. They would readily marry You.”

“No,” said Rāma, “I cannot marry anyone else.”

“Then You cannot perform the sacrifice.” “Please, somehow arrange it,” Rāma insisted.

Vasiṣṭha then said, “You can make a golden statue of Sītā. With that Sītā, You can sit and perform the sacrifice.”

Each following year, Rāma had one mūrti of Sītā made. These Deities were installed by mantra, by both Vasiṣṭha and Rāma Himself. By their invocation these Deities actually became alive. In Rāma’s last days, just before His pastimes in this world came to a close and He was about to go to aprakaṭa Ayodhyā (His spiritual abode), all those Deity forms of Sītā came and told Him, “We want to go with You and be with You forever.”

Rāma replied, “In this incarnation I can only accept one Sītā; only one Sītā will remain with Me. You are now so many. You should go to Vṛndāvana and take birth from the wombs of gopīs.

There I will manage everything and will fulfill all your desires.” Kṛṣṇa also came for that reason. (Excerpt from Secret Truths of the Bhāgavatam, Śrī Bhāgavata-rahasya, lecture series given in New Vraja (Badger), California, June, 1999, 2nd edition, by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja)


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