Many and varied are the storms of life. Any change in our comfort zone can precipitate a storm, an unpleasant state of being. Overnight, friends can become enemies, wealth and security amassed over a lifetime can go down with the market or fritter away quietly until one day we realise all is lost. The resulting inner conflict drums up a storm of worry and discord brought on by conflicting demands – we are not able to determine which of our duties should take precedence or the course of action we should take. When a storm hits, if we do not wish to become victims, our only real choice is to act.
The ‘Ramayana’ is replete with illustrations of how one can act amidst a storm. Under the rule of King Dashrath, Ayodhya – which literally translates as the land of ‘no conflict’ – was a perfect place to live in. It represents those moments in our life when everything is so promising, we wish it would last forever. But before we know it, all havoc breaks loose, and we find ourselves amidst a major upheaval again.
Such was the crisis that befell Ayodhya. The most momentous day in the city’s history was about to dawn. The people’s prince, Ram, heir to Dashrath, was to be crowned king. But overnight everything was turned upside down.
Dashrath, bound by a commitment to one of his queens, Kaikeyi, became utterly ineffectual. Ram had to go into exile for 14 years, relinquishing the throne in favour of Bharat. While Sita and Lakshman took it upon themselves to accompany Ram, the city’s people became totally disillusioned. Dashrath, the pride of the Solar Dynasty, was defeated and distraught. Conflict abounded. Should the citizens maintain allegiance to Dashrath or rally around his son, Ram? Should the younger prince Bharat be made sovereign? If Bharat ascends the throne without the people’s mandate, would he still be a legitimate ruler?
Ram, Sita and Lakshman, who enjoyed the security and comforts of a privileged existence, now faced 14 years of exile in the forest. Beset with such difficulties, they upheld their core values and sworn duty. Not once did they falter in their commitment. They continued to shine as portraits of human excellence despite their harsh conditions.
We cannot always control or predict how things will unravel. Yet, one thing is certain: We are made stronger, greater and tempered when adversity strikes – if we choose to become so. Had Ram and Sita remained in Ayodhya, we may never have seen the faithfulness, resilience and compassion that Sita demonstrated in the events following her abduction by the despotic King Ravan. We might also never have glimpsed the prowess and wisdom of Ram as he stood up to Ravan; the remarkable decency and brotherly devotion of Bharat; the all-round competencies of Hanuman; and the unflinching dedication to duty of Lakshman. The potential for greatness which lay in all these players may not have surfaced were it not for the stormy experiences they had to go through.
We all experience storms in our lives. The challenge is to face them and harness their energy to strengthen our character and bring out the greatness in us.
Swamiji, global head, Chinmaya Mission, will speak on ‘The Inner Ramayana’ in Hindi on YouTube Chinmaya Channel from April 13 to 21, 7.15-8pm