[Advaita-l] Sundara Kanda

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 10 23:39:58 EDT 2017

SundaraKhanda of Ramayana
This write is somewhat based on the discourses by Swami Advaitananda, at 2017 Chinmaya Maha Samadhi Camp held in Chicago July 29 – Aug. 3rd. -----------------------We will be covering Ramayana sundara KhanDa. Sundara khanda can be thought of two parts that deals with Lord Shiva called Shiva kaachi (essentially as Rama bhakta Hanuman, and his journey to find Sita and return). The second part deals with Vishnu, called Vishnu kaachi that involves Rama’s journey to Lanka that includes Vibheshana Saranagati.Ramayana is Ramasya ayanam - ayanam has many meanings. One meaning is House; hence Ramayana is where Rama dwells. We can find out in Ramayana where and how Rama lived. That includes his external path as well as his internal journey. Ayanam also means Life. In Ramayana we will find the entire life history of Rama. ‘Home’ is a place where we can definitely meet a person, whether formally or informally. To start with, if we have not met him already, we can see how owner looks like or what is his nature – that includes all his naama, ruupa, guNa, leela, (name, form, attributes, and his glories), etc. Rama is considered as sakala kalyana guNa aashrya or ayanam. That is he is the home of all auspicious qualities. Home is his dhaama or where he dwells or where he did his leelas. Hence Ramayana we can see his form with all his auspicious qualities since technically ‘form’ represents all his attributes. Naama or name is considered even more powerful than the form. It was said that Hanuman became invincible by the protection of Rama-naama, and even Rama could not defeat him. The name remains even when the form is not seen. In Vishnusahasra naamavali – Lord Shiva says chanting the name of Rama is equivalent to chanting the whole naamavali. 
Shree rama rama rameti rame rame manorame|Sahasra naama tat tulyam rama naama varanane||
Ayanam also means path. Here Rama’s path involves first Ayodhya then going to forest with Sage Vishvamitra, then Janaka puri to marry Seeta, and back to Ayodhya only to go to the forest, to kishkindha to meet Hanuman, then to Lanka to rescue mother Sita, and back to Ayodhya. That is his external path. The internal path is the Dhaarmic-path or path of dharma that is to establish Dharma by first following and next by enforcing it. ‘Ramo vigrahavan dharmaH’ – Rama is the embodiment of Dharma, says Maricha Raakshasa, while praising Rama. It is said that Rama teaches us how one should follow Dharma – Do what I do – says Rama. While Krishna says – ‘do what I say’ (since you cannot do what I do)- as the times or yugas have changed from tretayuga to dwarpa yoga, with kaliyoga in the horizon. 
Sundara khanda is so-called since it is sundaram or full of beauty. The word sundaram itself gets repeated many times in the khanda. Sundara kanda is not the name of a place as in Ayodhya kanda, aryanya kanda or ksikindha kanda or leela of Rama as in bala kanda. Sundaram means beautiful. There is a famous sloka that says - 
sundare sundaro ramah sundare sundari kathasundare sundari sita sundare sundaram vanam,sundare sundaram kaavyam sundare sundarah kapiHsundare sundaram mantram sundare kim na sundaram?
It says, in the Sundara Kanda, or the beautiful chapter, beautiful is Rama, beautiful is the story; Beautiful is Sita Devi, beautiful is the Asoka Vanam; Beautiful is the poem; beautiful is the kapi, Hanuman; Beautiful is the mantra; what is not beautiful in Sundara Kandam?
Sundaram is that which is always fresh and beautiful, that which attracts your mind and feel like looking at again, that which is naturally beautiful (not after makeup or made-up), that which deals with Bhagavan( the one who has bhaga – the auspicious qualities), and that which invokes bhakti or devotion – sarvam ramate, that which everyone enjoys. For example, when we see a beautiful flower, along with our eyes our mind gets arrested. In those moments we become one with the natural beauty. Similarly is the story of Sundara kaanda. It is sundaram, since Hanuman keep chanting Rama-naama all the time. Rama naama is such that where one cannot stop chanting once. It is so enchanting that even if one pronounced backward, mara mara mara ..,it made a butcher into a sage. Ramayana everybody knows – it is not a history of Rama but contains His-Story that everybody wants to listen to again, again. If someone gives a photo album, we tried to turn the pages as quickly as possible, particularly when he/she is not watching. However, if it contains our pictures we like to look it again and again. We do not get tired of seeing ourselves again and again. Ramayana is not only His-Story, but it is the story of our own self; hence we do not get tired of listening to or telling our glories again and again. It fascinates a child as well as an old man. It is a story that brings a transformation of the mind by purifying it, by arresting the mind from external dissipating pursuits. Hence Rama’s story is sundaram, or beautiful. 
In Sundarakaanda, the hero is Hanuman; it is primarily not the story of Bhagavan, but the story of Bhaagavata or the ideal disciple of Bhagavan. He is the Rama Bhakta. Most of us are only the devotees of the Lord so that we can get what we want for Him. Hence we go to the Lord with a big list of what we want. Hence our love is not for the Lord but for the goodies that we want. Hanuman does not want anything for him, other than the unending devotion to the Lord. He has no desire for any objects of pleasure. His bhakti is called nirmala bhakti or devotion without any impurity, where a desire for an object to get happiness is considered impurity since in the process, the mind gets entangled in the worldly desires. Happiness that one gets by fulfilling the sense-desires has three fundamental problems or doshas; a) duhkha misritatvam, b) asantRiptikaram and c) bandhakatvam. Duhkhaa misritatvam means it is mixed with unhappiness. Any happiness that one gets by fulfilling desire involves a) struggle to get it, b) struggle to preserve it what one got by effort, and c) suffering when one loses what he got after considerable effort. asantRiptikaram means the happiness that one gets in fulfilling the desire is not full and complete since there is still a longing mind, now desiring something else. For example, I was desperately looking for a hot cup of tea, but once I have a tea, I need some cookies to go with. The mind is not fully satisfied by just the tea, and there is still a mind that is longing for something more. I wanted a million dollars but once I got it, I needed more millions. The third problem is fulfilling the desires make the mind to depend more and more on external things for happiness, and these are called vaasanaas and contribute to bondage. The vaasanas become the cause for birth life after life. The only way to get rid of these vaasanas is to surrender the mind to the higher truth. 
Coming back to our story, when all the monkeys have assembled and heard Jatayu’s brother Sampati informing them that he could see mother Seeta in Lanka, which is far away, the question came up in terms of who will go there by jumping across the ocean to land in Lanka. Every one of them said they do not have the strength to cross the ocean. Prince Angada said he can cross the ocean but not sure if he can return from Lanka. Since Angada is young and Lanka may be enchanting to the extent that he may not have the strength to come back. Hanuman was listening to all these talks, but he did not mention about his strength. When Jambavan asked Hanuman why he was quiet, he responded saying that he was quiet since he has no strength of his own, for anything. All his strength belongs to Shree Rama. Since the purpose to go to Lanka was for Rama’s sake, he went and came back. By invoking the presence of Rama in his heart, he expanded his size and felt all-powerful to do Rama’s job. He becomes a mountain-like person to do Rama’s job. When we are tuned to the totality, we can tap the strength from the totality. A puny man with a stick in his hand, and with a handful of salt could shake the whole British empire only because he has surrendered his will to the will of the nation – it is called samashTi sankalpam. Higher the goal and higher is the commitment to the goal, higher is the energy that one can draw from the goal itself – That is the secret of success discussed in the 3rd Ch. of Geeta. If one performs for the sake of yagna, then one is likely to succeed – ‘yagnaartham karma, anyatra lokaH ayam karma bandhanaH’. Otherwise, the action also becomes bondage. Yagna also means the Lord, and Lord involves totality. Hence action performed for the totality – that which benefits all – gives greater strength for performance of action. 
Hanuman says, I will go to Lanka, see Seeta Mayya and return; then we can all go back together to Rama. He does not want to take the credit for himself. He wants it to be considered as TEAM effort (TEAM stands for Together, Everyone, Achieve, More) effort. Sundarakhanda reminds us of the karma yoga. 
Sundarakhanda is also contained the journey of Seeta- how Seeta progresses and reaches her goal. It is an adhyaatmic journey – journey of self-realization. Seeta is the embodiment of peace, power, and devotion – shanti, shakti and bhakti. One gets the ultimate peace when one revels in the ultimate – shantam shivam sudaram. The final state is also called shantam or peace (that passth understanding). .. Mandukya Up. says … shantam shivam advaitam, chaturtam manyante, sa aatmaa sa vijneyaH. It is peace, auspicious, non-dual, and is called the fourth state of consciousness (beyond the waking, dream, and deep-sleep states); and it is the Self within that has to be known or dis-covered. One who is reveling in Brahman is always peaceful in spite of his external activities. Shankara says – yogaratova bhogaratova, sangaratova, sanghaviheenaH, yasya brahmani ramate chittam, nandati nadati nadati eva. One can be a yogi, sitting in Himalayas, or one can even be bhogi enjoying all the goodies in the world, one can be in the masses or one can remain aloof – as long if his mind is all the time reveling in the totality – he is the realized soul. Who is a samsaari – who is at every step feels – sorrow – sorrow– sorrow- one who faces the ocean of sorrow – Bhava saagaram or maaya samsaaram. Bhagavan says one cannot cross this ocean of samsara or mayaa – Only by surrendering to Me one can cross since this maaya of Mine is of divine origin; daiveem esha guna mayi, mama maaya durtyayaa, mam evaye prapadyante maayam etaam taranti te. 
Hanuman represents an ideal seeker who has surrendered himself completely to Bhagavan Rama, and is able to cross the ocean of samsara to reach the Peace, represented by Sita mayya. Hanuman represents dhairyam (courage), Bhakti (devotion), Shakti (power), and shraddhaa (faith in the Lord and the goal). He has no other desire other than to reach the highest goal. He does not tolerate any obstacles on his path to reach the highest. He has no self-contended desire to satisfy his BMI (body, mind, and intellect). We need to identify with our BMI only to the extent it is needed to go beyond the BMI. Thus we need to use it and even maintain it as required to reach the goal. 
Tulasidasji says Hanuman’s flying to Lanka is like Rama’s arrow that was shot. He paints the picture of how arrow was shot and how it is heading to reach the target. It is amogham or unparalleled, and it cannot but hit the target, since it is Rama’s arrow. The mountain from which Hanuman jumped is viewed as bow needed to shot the arrow, and the shooter is none other than Rama since Rama’s name was reverberating all over not only in Hanuman’s mind but in the minds of all monkeys assembled there. The arrow itself has Rama’ name as Hanuman was chanting the name. An arrow does not deviate from its path, whatever may be the obstacle. Arrow does not have its own desires that can dissipate its path. Force does not depend on arrow but on the archer, Rama. 
Hanuman says I am the instrument in the hands of Rama. No personal agenda. Thus, Hanuman shows how a karma yogi should act. Karma to become yoga, bhakti is required. Bhakta has to become a daasa (servant), the main ingredient in the Ramanuja’s vishiShTaadvaita. Bhakta asking for please give me this or that only causes divergence from the goal. Lord gives only what we deserve and what we want. Hence one has to serve to deserve. Once surrendered (sharaNaagati) like Hanuman, then Lord will take care of his bhakta – that is the promise Krishna himself makes. Ananyas chantayantyomam ye janaaH paryupaasate, tesham nitya uktaanaam yogaskehmam vahaami aham; if one does not have any other thought other than their constant remembrance of Me in a prayerful attitude, I will take care of their welfare – says the Lord. Hence there are no more notions that I am the doer, even. Only the thought that He is doing this through this BMI remains. When He does, rest assured it will be only that which benefits all since He is all in all. Hence even the doer-ship notion is surrendered, as Hanuman shows. Then, the phalam or fruits of the action also belong to the Lord who represents the totality. Thus such an action will become loka kalyaNam or that which is beneficial to the world at large. 
Hanuman also shows until he accomplishes Rama’s work, there is no rest. As Gurudev Swami Chinmanandaji says – ‘If I rest, I rust’. Gurudev demonstrated by his own example served like Hanuman working and passing on the knowledge of the great sages until his body could not take anymore and dropped. I remember that the last spiritual camp of Gurudev, it was at Washington D.C. The doctors on duty were cautioning him not to talk so much but he was not ready to listen since he said many are here to listen to these talks and I cannot stop now until I am finished. After the camp is over we requested him not to go to San Diago to do the next camp. But he just laughed and just said – Let Him decide. He went in spite of the body’s inability and after a couple of days body gave up. The BMI is only to serve Him. In VishiShTadvaita tradition, the disciples' imprint on their shoulders the emblem of the Lord Vishnu – shanku and chakra – implying that from that day on, the BMI belongs to the Lord and His service. The function is called sama ashrayanam – which also has deeper meaning. Sama is equal or equanimity in terms of attitude and ashrayanam is shelter. After the function, every one becomes a daasa or servant of the Lord – there is no disparities in the servants – all are equal, and everybody is serving what Lord wants. What does Lord wants? He wants everyone do His duties with devotion? Why does He want service?-asks a rational intellect? Since He represents the whole universe, doing His duties only means serving the whole creation, and beautifying it by one’s service. That is the real decoration of the Lord, that is, beautifying the whole creation in whatever capacity one has or one can. That is also the meaning of yagna - hence Krishna says, do the action for the sake of yagna. 
In our journey, we will face many obstacles. Hanuman also faced some. The first one obstacle is that which gives comfort, in the form of Minaank, the mountain. Minaank wanted Hanuman to take some rest before he proceeds on the difficult job. Hanuman diplomatically says that there cannot be any rest until one completes the Lord’s work. Saying that he just touches the mountain and taking its permission and blessings proceeds straight towards his target. 
End of the first talk. Hari Om!

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