For city bred siblings, summering at our grand parents home in Bhatkal was essential nirvana. In the orchard, we tied strings to dragon flies and watched them fly. We foraged for bird eggs in old trees. With a sling shot, we brought down mangoes – not because our aim was any good, but because the trees were laden with fruit. Listening to abbu (grandpa) in his pharmacy store, we learnt a smattering of Kannada and many more swear words. On dark nights without power, gazillion fireflies flickering on mud walls, guided us home.
There was one place we knew never to touch: In the jagli (entrance hallway), was a bare wooden writing table with a single drawer. There, grandma kept her “writing-book,” black framed reading glasses and a ball point pen.
It was an inexpensive, ruled book in which she penned in Kannada script, the short mantra of Shri Rām: Shri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram! End to end till the end of the line; between lines and in margins. The page was filled with a repeating geometric pattern of the Shri Rām mantra. All pages and eventually the whole book. Every evening at dusk, after she had “lit the lamps” around the house, she’d sit at her desk and meditate on the sacred name of Shri Ram. [Ram is pronounced as Ralm, rhyming with 'palm.']
I see grandma at her table; glasses perched on her nose, a purple bindi carefully painted on her forehead. Looking up, I see her lips quiver as she silently mouths the mantra. The pen hisses across paper and the divine words appear; again and again.
Decades ago, I started to write the Shri Ram mantra in Devanagiri script. First in a tiny booklet, and then is this old diary that sits on my desk. Every now and then I write a few lines in it. Some days I write more, on other days less. Some days, nothing. Many days, pass. Months, pass! When the book catches my attention, I write.
Every time I write, a calm blankets me. My worries evaporate, time stands still, the earth frozen in space, the Universe paused. My pen hisses over glossy paper. Shri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram is on my breath, heart pulses slower, blood oozes, pen slides, the ink leaves a trail. I breathe, heart beats dhub dhup, an invisible hand guides the pen along. The mantra forms, a never ending stream, rippling in bliss.
I pause, noises filters in, the earth has resumed its march; the Universe expands!
A few months ago I chanced upon a beautiful copy of Goswami Tulsidas’s RamCharitraManas (in Awadi, with Hindi and English translations). As I studied it, I was amazed at Tulsidas’s mastery of language and presentation. His philosophy is crisp and so relevant today. How succinctly he describes that Shri Rām IS the saguna form of the nirguna Absolute Divine! I have not seen a clearer explanation of nirguna (no material attributes) and saguna (with material attributes) Brahman.
Following along, Tulsidas beautifully and convincingly posits (doha # 23) that the Name of Shri Rām is actually greater that the person of Shri Ram; greater too than the Absolute Nirguna Divine! At first I was puzzled, but Tulsidas makes his case so convincingly and in such beautiful verse.
In the chaupai verses (chaupais follow a repeating metre of 4 syllables) following the doha, Tulsidas explains (paraphrased):
- Shri Ram had to take a human form and himself suffer miseries in his life to destroy evil and alleviate the sufferings of his devotees;
But by simply chanting His Name, the suffering of countless of his devotees is destroyed, leaving them in bliss.
- With his touch, Shri Ram redeemed Ahalya, wife of the Sage Gautama;
Simply chanting His Name destroys evil and redeems countless devotees! No personal touch from Shri Ram is necessary!
- To ease Sage Vishwamitra’s problems, Ram defeated the demons Tadaku and his army;
Simply chanting His Name destroys the cause of all our problems, as easily as the appearance of the Sun does away with darkness!
- By his footsteps, the person of Shri Ram brought life and sanctified Dandaka forest;
By simply chanting His Name, the hearts and minds of millions of his devotees are so easily liberated and sanctified.
- Shri Ram himself crushed scores of demons;
By chanting His Name, ALL the demons in all our hearts are defeated!
- Shri Ram offered protection to Sugriva and Vibhishana;
By chanting His Name, Shri Ram’s protection and grace is easily extended to ALL of us.
- Shri Ram himself had to recruit an army of monkeys, bears and other animals, and take great pains to build a bridge and cross the ocean to Lanka;
But Goswami Tulsidas convinces us that simply by chanting the Name of Ram, the ocean of misery in our lives, easily dries up!
- Edited by RC Prasad, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers, Delhi, India
- Gita Press, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh (free download of RamCharitraManas!)
- Ram Navami – battle against terror continues to this day
Here, Tulsidas gifts us a easy way to end the torment and bring peace and content to our hearts. Chant the name of Shri Ram!
Now I start my day with a few verses from the RamCharitraManas and write the Shri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram mantra more often. I hope to fill this diary one day and keep it under Meera’s bed. Then start another diary!
(friezes are from the outer wall of the Hazara Ram Temple, Hampi, India and depict scenes from the life of Shri Ram)
Cited editions of RamCharitraManas:
My other posts on Shri Rām: