INDIAN FESTIVALS : Ramayana
Aadi Kavi Valmiki and Rama Nama
By S. Ramakrishnan
One who repeats the names ‘Sri Rama, Rama, Rama’ and rejoices in the name of that Lord who delights everyone, derives the same benefits as that got by reciting the whole Sahasranama

Rare and incredible indeed are noble transformations in the annals of mankind through the ages. But to those who know our India that is Bharat, such miracles are inherent in the very nature of her ancient tradition-unique transformations, soul-elevating episodes and inspiring instances that reinforce man’s faith in love, piety, dharma and God. Significantly enough, even in modern times dacoits who surrender are given a copy of our national epic, the Ramayana, along with the Gita. Is not Sri Rama, since time immemorial, worshipped as Patita-pavana-Redeemer of the fallen?

The very name Ramayana conjures up in the Indian mind the memory of India’s Aadi Kavi, Valmiki, a bandit-turned-saint. Chabyan’s son, Ratnakar, as Valmiki was known before his spiritual transformation, was a fierce dacoit who indiscriminately waylaid, beat up and robbed unsuspecting wayfarers. The heartless highway robber, Ratnakar, once chanced to confront Brahma and Narada when they were passing through the forest.
The thug who knew no mercy cursed his fate for having run into some impecunious mendicants. Little did he suspect that he was to get from them the richest of possessions!

In soft and loving words, Brahma asked him: "Beloved son, will you tell me why you rob people and indulge in such heinous crimes?" Came the nonchalant reply: "Of course, to support my family." Brahma and Narada knew that Ratnakar was honest in his conviction that a householder had to support his family. This was a duty ordained by dharma hence he felt no qualm of conscience while robbing or even killing people for discharging his duty. But the all-knowing divines wanted to kindle the spark of divinity embedded in him.

"Noble indeed is your objective. But you must know that to loot, plunder and kill is sinful, even if it were to maintain one’s family. Members of your family no doubt share your booty. But who will share your sins? Have you ever pondered over that? Will you please ask those for whose sake you are living the life of a dacoit, whether they would also be sharers in your sin of harming innocent people?"

Ratnakar had no doubt that they would all say ‘yes’. Yet, he ran home and put the question to his father, mother, and wife. Each one of them, of course, for some plausible reason, answered ‘no’ in unambiguous terms. Ratnakar was stunned. He ran to Brahma and Narada and fell at their feet. "Mercy, O Holy Ones," he beseeched them with tears."What I robbed was shared by the four of us and I thought they would undoubtedly share my consequent sins as well. But, alas, one by one I asked all the three and none was willing to share my sins". "My dear child," flowed forth the soothing words of the Holy Ones, "That is the way of the world. Each one is for himself. Everyone is selfish. As long as you are able to get wealth, so long will your kinsfolk be attached to you. When your body becomes infirm, no one will speak to you, even in your own home. When the life breath ebbs away from your body, even your wife will be afraid of it. God alone is unselfish. He alone is unswerving. He alone is full of compassion. You should turn to Him".
"But, how can I, an unlettered brute, so sinful, so fallen, think of Him?"
The Holy Ones consoled Ratnakar and initiated him into the sacred Taraka mantra-Rama Nama. Days, months and years rolled by and the bandit Ratnakar was reciting Rama Rama day and night.

Instead of Rama Rama he unanimously recited mara mara enveloped by an ant-hill. When his heart was purged of all sins, out emerged from the ant-hill, a new man-transformed as Valmiki, the Aadi Kavi, who bequeathed to mankind the immortal Ramayana in words of matchless beauty. It is a superb delineation of the tale of the Lord and His Consort born as mortals, undergoing sorrows and sufferings, and upholding the supremacy of satya and dharma on earth. And Brahma’s benediction of over 5,000 years ago, has come true: "As long as the mountains stand and rivers flow, so long shall the Ramayana be cherished among people and save them from sin." In this Kaliyuga, what is obtained through meditation, sacrifices and rituals is obtained by soulful chanting the names of the God.

Once Sri Parvathi asked Parameswara: "Lord; pray, tell me by what easy means a learned man can manage to read the Sahasranama every day." Lord Siva replied: "One who repeats the names ‘Sri Rama, Rama, Rama’ and rejoices in the name of that Lord who delights everyone, derives the same benefits as that got by reciting the whole Sahasranama."

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