Learning from the epics

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are actually immense repositories of learning. Subtle intelligence is required to uncover them.

Consider for instance the notion of exile. Lord Rama had to undergo an exile of fourteen years, while the Panadava brothers had to undergo a period of exile of twelve years.

Suffering and privation was common to both cases. Sita Devi, consort of Lord Rama, was unused to the rigours of a hard life but she cheerfully accepted the challenge and chose to be by the side of her husband.

The same applied to Draupadi. The Pandavas had to face one challenge after the other from the Kauravas, their jealous cousins but with the guidance of Sri Krishna who was their Gurudeva, they were able to successfully meet every one of them.
Exile is central in both epics. It is not to be understood in merely physical terms. It is deeply symbolic of what Joseph Campbell calls “the stages in a hero’s journey” from ignorance to self-revelation.

It is a journey of inner transformation. The exile is a process of a catharsis, a time of tests and tribulations and represents a necessary cleansing before emerging from the wilderness.

World literature across the spiritual traditions reveals a similar pattern. Lord Jesus had to undergo a test for forty days in the desert where Satan tempts him, a test that he successfully passes before his return to Jerusalem.

Lord Buddha underwent severe privation involving long fasts and exacting penance for a period of six years until he was all but wasted away before achieving nirvana.
 Moses had to undergo a similar period of testing lasting forty days before receiving the ten commandments.

Every human being therefore has the potential of becoming a hero or a heroine by realizing the inner Self present in all.

The battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, Lord Rama and Ravana, Lord Krishna and Kamsa is once again symbolic.

As Swami Rama points out, “the armies represent the positive and negative forces functioning with the human heart and mind. The battle is waged to decide whether positive or the negative forces govern the city of life within the human being. There is a constant battle going on within each person to regain the the lost kingdom of peace, happiness and bliss.”

Sadguru Sri Sharavana Baba in a discourse once said that the mind comes even before God because without the mind there is no God!

Nothing can be accomplished without it. It is therefore critical to train, tame and achieve control over the mind.

The Gita teaches us various paths of freeing the mind from its complexes and honing it to focus on the task of self-revelation.

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