As Narasimha, Vamana and Krushna, the Lord came to earth and exhibited divine powers. Normal humans could not emulate His actions. But, when he came down to earth as Rama, he vowed to live like a normal human being. He was the Lord before taking Rama avatara and also post the avatara. But, as Rama he showed by example, a normal human being can elevate to the level of divine by knowing and acting responsibly within limits. Thus, acting within the boundaries of human compulsions he fulfilled all his duties effectively and became “MaryadaPurushotham”. Apart from acting within the limits, he never lost his balance. He was clear in his thoughts and acted with a sense of direction even during trying times.
When he had to leave to the forests, when Bharatha asked him come back to Ayodhya and occupy the throne, when he had to kill Vali by hiding behind a tree, when Sita was abducted by Ravana, when Sugriva forgot his promise to Rama, when he had to give protection to Vibheeshana, when he had to send pregnant Sita to the forest, examples are many… during each of these trying situations, Rama acted in perfect balance and made the right decisions. When Raj dharma had to be given first priority he did so, by keeping aside personal dharma.
Was Rama always like this? No. When Rama went with Viswamitra to protect his Yajna, he hesitated to kill Tataki, as she was a female. Viswamithra had to intervene and give the right direction.
How and when did Rama, gain the ability to take right decisions and act wisely?
Sage Valmiki starts the story of Ramayan describing the exemplary qualities of Rama in the first sarga (sub-unit) of Bala kanda (chapter). From Ayodhyakanda onwards, he details how Rama exemplified all the qualities described in Bala kanda. But, Bala kanda is dominated by the story of Viswamithra. Contrary to popular understanding that Bala Kanda describes the childhood of Rama, it hardly has any mention about Rama and his brothers’ childhood. This chapter describes trials and travails of Sage Viswamithra, how he finally overcomes them before attaining a state of balance. In Janaka’s court, Viswamithra maintains his poise, even when Sathananda describes all his earlier short comings to the entire court. This is because he had elevated himself above those limitations. Saying all this, Sathananda praises Rama for having had such a great Guru.
His Guru’s story, all the wisdom, skills and abilities he gained from Sage Viswamitra acted as a directing principle for Rama. Lakshmana also gets all the wisdom from Sage Viswamithra, but it was only Rama who could receive them in toto through complete surrender. At several times when Lakhmana loses his poise, Rama intervenes and counsels.
The relationship of Viswamithra and Rama is exemplary of Guru-Sishya relationship. Rama under the guidance of his Guru elevates to the level of maryadapurushotham. Viswamithra, by providing all the wisdom to an exemplary disciple like Rama, attains fulfillment of life’s purpose.
All our achievements attain meaning only when they are directed towards common wellbeing. The purpose of Rama avatara is to show to the world how an ideal human being should live. It can also be likened to practical display of the theory of Bhagavad Gita that is scheduled to come later. Viswamithra’s wisdom, through Rama was directed to fulfill the above objective. Hence, after uniting Rama with Sita, Viswamithra completely disappears from the scene as his life’s purpose is now fulfilled.
By placing their story in Bala kanda, before narrating the rest of Rama’s story, Sage Valmiki hints to us the need for such a Guru-Sishya relationship to elevate one to the highest level.
Some thoughts to ponder upon Guru-Sishya relationship during this Guru Poornima…
– What should I seek from my Guru?
– What are the unsaid lessons I get from my Guru’s actions and life-story?
– How am I going to put to use what I learnt from my Guru, for the benefit of all?
– What actions am I willing to take to put into action what I learned from my Guru?
– What will I do when I fail to put into action what my Guru has taught me?