The joy of Ram Navmi celebrations
The importance of Lord Rama - his avatar and name.
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The truth which is indicated in the Vedas as Brahman along with all His powers is also called Ishvara. Ishvara is the One from whom this whole world has come into existence, it is sustained in Ishvara and then merges back in Ishvara. The same Ishvara has taken avatars: Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna and Buddha. For us, in this Yuga, His avatar as Kalki will come in the future. The leelas of these avatars and the stories relating to them are also very powerful and helpful to seekers in their sadhana.
One of the avatars is Shri Rama. The name Shri Rama is extremely potent. It is the name of the Lord and was present even before Shri Rama’s avatar. Rama means the One who revels in the hearts of all, the One who dwells in the hearts of all.
सर्वे रमन्ति इति रामः|
It also represents the One who gives joy to everyone. Another meaning of Rama is the One who is the ocean of happiness.
There are some mantras from the Vedas which are subtle and esoteric. They have to be learnt and chanted properly. Since the swaras and chhandas are important while chanting Vaidika mantas, it may not be possible for all to chant them correctly. Therefore, out of kindness, the Puranas gives us some simple mantras which can easily be chanted by everyone.
There is a very famous shloka:
वेद वेद्य परे पुंसे जाते दशरथात्मजे, वेद प्राचेत सादासेत साक्षात् रामायणात्मना|
It is mentioned that when the Lord, took avatar as Rama, the Vedas felt that they too must manifest in a tangible form. They took avatar as the Ramayana through the renowned Sage Valmiki.
As pointed out earlier, the essence of the Vedas and all mantras is Om. In the Gita, Shri Krishna says that He is Pranava in the Vedas:
प्रणव: सर्व वेदेषु|
Just as Om is the essence of the Vedas, "Rama" is the essence of Ramayana.
The benefit that one gains by chanting Vaidika mantras and Om can also be gained by chanting "Rama". The word "Rama" by itself is considered a mantra. It is actually a mahamantra. In addition to being a profound mantra, it is also the name of the Lord. So by chanting "Rama-nama" one is doing namasmarana – remembering the Lord by chanting his name.
Indeed, this mantra is exceptionally powerful. This is established by the belief that when a person leaves his body in Varanasi, Lord Shiva himself comes and gives Rama-nama diksha to the dying person. Lord Shiva chants Rama-nama in his ears and the person gains moksha.
As explained earlier, chanting Rama nama is not only a prayer, but a mantra and the name of the Lord as well. His name itself becomes a prayer.
Name as mantra
When we say "Rama", we are calling out to the Lord. When a child calls out to his mother, she, intuitively, understands what the child needs and takes care of it. The child need not know the name of the mother, but he is born with a mantra to call out to her. What is that mantra? The cry of the child is the mantra! All mothers can recognise the need of their children from the sound of the cry. The mother knows whether the child needs milk, whether he is troubled or whether he just crying for attention. Sometimes the child cries to enjoy his own sound! The mother knows all this and responds accordingly.
Similarly, when we chant the Lord’s name, Bhagavan who is our mother, and father takes care of us. In Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna says:
पिताहमस्य जगतो माता धाता पितामहः।
The whole world is created by the Lord and He is our father, mother, brother, grandfather.
Chanting Bhagavan’s name is very good habit; His name is extremely powerful and has His blessings in it. When we chant His name we are calling Him directly. Sant Jnaneshwar Maharaj gives the example of a child who keeps on calling out to his mother; ultimately she will listen to him even though she may be very busy.
Similarly, when we chant Bhagavan’s name, our focus should not be on the number of times we chanted, but on whether we are calling out to Him with love and devotion.
Our faith and trust in Ishvara is important.
The Lord has many names and different people call Him by His various names. Some call Him by the name Om, others may call Him Shiva, Vishnu or Mahadevi. Bhagavan knows why the devotee is calling Him. He knows whether it is for worldly desires, spiritual longing or whether we are just calling Him to pass time! He also knows if the devotee is calling Him out of love or out of despair. The Lord fulfils our desires. He understands our cries and responds accordingly.
बंदउँ नाम राम रघुवर को। हेतु कृसानु भानु हिमकर को।। बिधि हरि हरमय बेद प्रान सो। अगुन अनूपम गुन निधान सो।
Sant Tulasidas, the renowned devotee of Sri Rama, after prostrating to everyone, pays his respects to Rama Nama. He extols the glory and brilliance of the name and points out how its chanting led to the liberation of countless people. The essence of the Ramayana is Rama Nama. By holding fast to the Lord’s Name, we can attain worldly as well otherworldly goals.
There are three letters in "Rama" - "ra", "aa" and "ma". As mentioned earlier, each and every akshra is like a beejakshara.
"Ra" is the beeja akshara of Agni; it has the hidden power of fire. The sound "aa" is Bhanu beeja. Bhanu is another name of Surya – sun. The sound "ma" is Chandrama – moon. Thus Rama Nama has the seeds of Agni, Surya and Chandrama.
When we chant the name "Rama... Rama... Rama..." it affects our entire system. It is a well known fact that every sound, every vibration leaves an effect on our personality. Yogashastra mentions that there are seven chakras in our body. Each is controlled by its own typical sound - Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham, Om. They are beejmanatras. The chakras start vibrating when we chant these particular sounds.
Rama Nama is a combination of all the three - Agni, Surya and Chandrama beejmantras. The characteristic of Agni is heat and that of Surya light; darkness and ignorance disappear with the coming of Surya Devata. Chandrama’s quality is sheetal - cooling light. All these three traits are hidden in Rama mantra. When we chant "Rama... Rama... Rama..." the power of this potent mantra is invoked.
It is said that one should chant a mantra one crore times multiplied by number of words in it. For example, since there are two words in Rama one should chant it at least two crore times.
When we chant Rama, the "Ra" wakes up the agni tattva in our body, mind and senses. Often, the whole system becomes warm. Mahatmas stress that the agni tattva burns our papa (sins).
रकार उच्चार मात्रेण निर्याति सर्व पातकम|
Our scriptures point out that just by chanting "Ra", all our past sins start getting burnt. Papas are samskaras. They are negative vibrations. When positive vibrations are created by chanting the mantra, the negative vibrations start disappearing.
Sins are stains on our antahkarana - the inner instrument of man, buddhi, chitta and ahankar (mind, intellect, memory and ego). They are present from beginning-less time. Just as stubborn stains are removed by strong detergents, the hidden papas of anger, greed, jealousy, fear and so on are removed by chanting the powerful mantra Rama. The "Ra" akshar within us is activated. In fact, all these vibrations are present in our body in a dormant state. By chanting potent mantras, we awaken their latent shakti.
Sage Valmiki was the evil dacoit Ratnakar before he became a rishi. He robbed people and committed innumerable sins. His heart was filled with negative emotions. Then, he met Devarishi Narada who pointed out the immorality of his actions. Ratnakar accepted Narada Muni’s reasoning, but did not know how to change and wipe out his sinful past. The sage advised him to chant Rama Nama with love, faith and devotion.
Rama Nama is both the name of Ishvara, and of Brahman. It can be chanted as the name of Ishvara, Brahman or as the name of an avatar of the Lord. When Goswami Tulasidas took Rama Nama, he was remembering the Lord in His avatar as Rama. The renowned saint Kabirdas states, “My Rama is different. My Rama is not the one who took avatar and fought Ravana. My Rama is nirguna Rama. The name ‘Rama’ is of Brahman alone.”
When the "Aa" akshar – Surya beeja - starts manifesting, it bestows the light of knowledge – Jnanaprakash. Many great saints and sages have gained Knowledge just by chanting Rama Nama with reverence and devotion. They did not go to schools or colleges. Neither Meerabai nor Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was given any formal education, but they became capable of understanding and interpreting the Vedas.
This knowledge is hidden in us and gets revealed when we chant the Lord’s name. It is the knowledge of "Who am I? Who is God? What is this world?" These three appear to be different but they all are one. All beings also appear to be different, but essentially all of us are one. The world appears to be inert, but it is chaitanyarupa. This sacred knowledge is revealed when we chant Bhagavan’s name. The light of this knowledge dispels the darkness of ignorance, confusion and chaos.
"Ma" – the Chandrama beej gives sheetalta. Calmness, peace and quietude are the characteristics of "Ma". This beej gives us the experience of our own being which is like Chandrama – pure bliss and peace.
Thus, when we chant Rama Nama, all sins get burnt; we gain knowledge and experience bliss and peace. Rama Nama is a very simple, but extremely powerful mantra.