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Remembering Ram the old way

morefromlifestyle Updated: Jul 26, 2015 17:13 IST
Renuka Narayanan
Renuka Narayanan
Hindustan Times

Remembering Ram

When truth has no value or the name of Sri Ram is steadily misappropriated, some old theological issues come to mind. For instance, by tradition and instinct I'm a puritanical Shaiva at heart whose Shiva is 'One', 'All' and is neither born nor begotten. 'He' has no caste or creed and is found in the Word alone as 'Ik Onkar Satnam'. He is 'God Almighty' Mahadev with the difference that he is considered incomplete without his sacred feminine, the Devi. I don't go around thinking of him as three-eyed, that's symbolic and poetic, not literal. A Shaiva needs no human intercession, nor an image, though not explicitly forbidden. Despite this Wahabi orientation, both my names are solidly Sahabi Vaishnava.

When I asked, I was given to understand that the path of Hara (Shiva) is too stern for most people to negotiate in the wear and tear of daily life. For confidence and courage through it all, regular people, be they literate or illiterate, woman or man, rich or poor, require the doting Beloved who will suffer for our little sakes: the concept of Hari (Vishnu), the One as mystically 'seen' by us. 'Hari' conflates accessible aspects of the formless Unseen to comfort and encourage us puny mortals. Hence the poetic concept of avatar (descent on earth), hence the assurance in the Bhagavad Gita:

Paritranaya sadhunam, vinashayacha dushkrutam/Dharma samsthapa nathaya sambhavami yuge yuge. 'For the protection of the good, the destruction of the wicked and the establishment of righteousness, I appear in every age.'

So we worship the One as 'Roop Narayan' Hari because WE are frail and emotionally needy, because we need the One, if there is one, not because we vainly imagine that the One needs us. Vaishnava worship is congregational and richly festive compared to austere Shaiva worship. Nevertheless, we are cautioned that the 'Creator' made creation as a lila (cosmic play) and that our spiritual duty is to live sincerely and kindle inner realisation of the 'One Truth'. Some Vaishnava temples even keep a large mirror outside to say, 'The world is a transient illusion. Enter and refresh your awareness of the one abiding Truth.'

We are unreservedly fond and foolish with 'Hari' but though we cannot resist singing and dancing in praise, we keep it simple around 'Hara' for whom we are urged to make rigorous efforts at self-mastery as in 'greater jihad'. It seems that's how Hindus reconciled the One-ness of 'Hari-Hara' with 'subjective' freedom to customise the approach and 'objective' acknowledgment that the Unseen is unseen (while poetically wish-fulfilling the craving through Arjun).

Regarding Hari, Valmiki says at the start of the Ayodhya Kandam that even as a trainee Yuvraj, Ram was beloved of commoners because "He was scrupulously just. He always spoke gently and never used hard words even where deserved. If someone approached him, Ram greeted him first. He forgave hundreds of wrongs but gratefully remembered even the smallest kindness. He never participated in profane talk and disdained to lie… "He is dearer to the people than I am," thought Dasarath."
What now, for a nation apparently lost to both truth and 'Truth'?