Episodes from the Ramayana – Chapter 6

The Guru and the Pupils

The brothers lived in the guru’s house and served him with devotion. They renounced the comforts of the palace and gladly underwent the hardships. They carried out the wishes of the master in humility and with loyalty. They finished their studies in a very short period and mastered the subjects they were taught. One day Emperor Dasaratha proceeded with his Minister to the home of their teacher. He was beside himself with joy when he saw them reciting Vedic hymns and heard the sacred formulae rolling out of their tongues, clear and fast, like a cascade of bright pearls. He was happy that his sons had learnt so much.

Rama rose and fell at the feet of his father. Seeing this, the three brothers too came forward and prostrated before him. The teacher invited the Emperor and the Minister to seat themselves on raised seats covered with deerskin. Dasaratha began conversing with the teacher in order to find out how far the children had advanced in studies. Rama signed to his brothers that they should not overhear their talk; he left the room with the permission of the guru, carrying his books with him and calling on the others to follow him. The brothers took the cue from Rama in all matters and so they silently obeyed his merest gesture.

Vasishta and Dasaratha noted this incident; they appreciated the upright conduct of Rama, his understanding of the trend of the teacher’s conversation and the immediate reaction of humility and the way in which he was an example and ideal for the three brothers. They were glad that they had learnt so much discipline.

Vasishta could not contain himself. He said, “Maharaja: Your sons have mastered all the arts. Rama has mastered all the Sastras. He is no ordinary mortal. As soon as I began teaching him to recite the Vedas, he used to repeat them as if he knew them already. Only He who has inspired the hymns can repeat them so, not any other. The Vedas are not ‘books’, which he could have perused while at leisure! They have come down from guru and disciple, through recitation and listening only. They are not available anywhere, except from the guru! That is the reason why it is referred to as Sruthi (That which is heard). It is the Divine breath of God that has shaped itself into these manthras. I have not seen so far any one who has mastered them as Rama has done. Why should I say, ‘seen’? I have not even ‘heard’ of any one who has accomplished this remarkable feat!

“I can tell you of many more superhuman achievements of your son. Maharaja! When I think of my good fortune in securing these boys as my pupils, I feel it is the reward for the asceticism I practiced so long. They need learn nothing further. They have now to be trained in bowmanship and archery, and similar skills appropriate for royal princes. They have completed their studies under me and become efficient in all that I can teach. The day too is very auspicious. Take them back with you to the Palace”.

At this, Dasaratha, who was afflicted for months with the pain of separation, shed tears of joy. He could not contain his delight. He turned towards the Minister by his side, and directed him to convey the good news to the Queens and ask them to come over to the hermitage with the offerings that the pupils have to present to the guru while leaving his custody. Sumanthra proceeded very fast to the Palace, and communicated the news. He got ready the gifts and returned quicker than anticipated.

Meanwhile the boys had their belongings packed at the suggestion of Vasishta and the articles were loaded into the chariot. As directed by their father, the children worshipped the Guru according to prescribed ceremonial, gave him the gifts, and fell at his feet, asking his permission to leave for home.

Vasishta drew the boys to his side, pressed their hands and patted them on their heads. He blessed them and most unwillingly allowed them to leave. The pang of separation brought tears in his eyes. He walked up to the chariot with his pupils. The boys ascended the vehicle, and it moved away. They turned back towards the Guru and looked in his direction with folded palms, for a long distance. The guru, too, stood at that place, his cheeks wet with tears. Dasaratha noticed this bond between the teacher and the pupils; he was greatly pleased.

They reached home. The guru entered the hermitage with a heavy heart. Wherever his eyes were turned, he noticed darkness and no light. He feared that the attachment he had developed might confirm itself as a shackle; he decided to sit in Dhyana in order to suppress the rising tides of memory. Soon, he overcame the outer illusion and merged himself in inner Ananda. He realized that the boys were embodiments of Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha – the Four Goals of Human Life (Righteousness, Welfare, Endeavour and Liberation) and that they had taken human form in order to re-establish on earth these grand ideals of gracious living. This gave him unruffled peace.

Dasaratha resolved to supplement the education the boys had received, by training them in the use of arms; so, he called in expert archers and others and made arrangements to teach them the science of attack and defense. But who can claim to be the teachers of these boys who were already pastmasters in every field of study? They were only ‘acting’ the roles of humans and pretending to learn.

To Him who holds the strings of this puppet show, who can teach to pull the string? Men who could not recognize their Reality underneath the camouflage of Maya sought to train them and teach them the objective skills useful for external living. They have come to save the world from disaster; so, they have to be in the world and of the world, respecting the conventions of the world, so far as they subserve their purpose. Men could not understand their acts, for, they are beyond human intellect or imagination; they will be helpless if asked to explain them. But people must learn the ideals they put into practice. So, Rama was presenting himself as a cinder covered with ash, or a lake with a thick float of moss or the moon hidden by a curtain of clouds. The brothers were following the footsteps of Rama.

Rama and Lakshmana were revealing knowledge of stratagems and skills which even expert instructors did not know about. They were wonder-struck and were even a little fear-stricken. But, the four Princes never shot an arrow at an animal or bird. They never broke the vow taken solemnly by them that they will use arms only on occasions of great urgency, not for the pleasure of killing or wounding. The trainers took them often to the forest for hikes and game-shooting; but, when they spotted animals or birds and invited them to shoot, they remonstrated and said, “These arrows are not to be used against innocent targets; they are to be used for the protection of the good, the welfare of the world, and the service of the people. That is the purpose for which they are with us; we shall not insult them, using them for these silly pastimes”, they averred and desisted. The teachers had to accept their arguments. Every word, every deed of Rama demonstrated his compassion. Sometimes, when Lakshmana aimed his arrow at a bird or animal, Rama came in between and protested “Lakshmana! What harm has it done to you or the world? Why do you long to shoot it? It is quite against the code of prescribed morals for kings to punish innocent beings; don’t you know?”

The Emperor often sat among his ministers with the princes near him, and discussed with those around him the problems of political administration, judicial trials and the application of moral principles in the governance of the state. He related stories of their grandparents and others of the royal line, how they earned the love and loyalty of their subjects, how they fought wars with ‘demons’ and for ‘gods’ and how they won the Grace and support of God in their endeavours. The father and the sons were both exhilarated when these tales were told. Many a day, the ministers took turns in this pleasant task.

As they grew with the passage of years, the ministers became confident that they could be entrusted with some fields of governmental activity. The people dreamt that when they came of age and took hold of the reins of government, the earth will be transmuted into heaven. When people saw the princes they felt a bond of affectionate attachment springing between them. The conversation that ensued among them was marked by sweet concord. The city of Ayodhya had no one who did not love those simple, humble, virtuous, selfless Princes, or who did not evince a desire to watch them. They were as dear to the children of Ayodhya as their own bodies, as precious to the city as its own heart.

5 Responses to "Episodes from the Ramayana – Chapter 6"

Featuring Recent Posts Wordpress Widget development by YD