June 7, 2023
In our subcontinent’s culture, it is believed that a King should embody the finest qualities, much like how You, as our revered King, symbolise strength, righteousness, and nobility. You are regarded as the epitome of virtue and authority. In a famous couplet written by Allama Muhammad Iqbal, a prominent philosopher, poet, and politician from the Indian subcontinent, he acknowledges You. In this couplet, He recognises India’s pride in its spiritual and cultural heritage associated with You.
है राम के वुजूद पे हिन्दोस्ताँ को नाज़
अहले-नज़र समझते हैं इसको इमाम-ए-हिन्द।
India is proud of Rama’s very name
To the discerning; he is Imam-e-Hind
Unfortunately, in the current political disposition, the singular notion of You (Lord Ram) has been exploited to suppress the diversity of worship, contradicting the very essence of true devotion and the concept of Bhakti.
Dear Bhaktavatsala (or the Lord, the one who is affectionate towards his devotees),
If you pardon my scepticism, I must contradict this, for this idea of perfection contradicts the concept of Bhakti, which is about transforming oneself. The idea of a perfect King goes against the concept of Bhakti, and the notion of perfection goes against spirituality, which is an internal process.
The spiritual heart is filled with love, and introspection often results from love. Rumi, a great philosopher, sees spirituality as a journey of the heart and opening oneself to the divine. For Rumi, spirituality is not about achieving a perfect state of enlightenment but about living a life of love, compassion, and service.
I reiterate the story of the Son of God, also called the King of Kings. The King of Kings suffers. The Passion of Christ is the story of Jesus’ final days on Earth, leading to his crucifixion and death. It begins with his betrayal by Judas Iscariot, one of his twelve disciples. Judas betrays Jesus to the Jewish authorities for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus is then arrested and taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Pilate finds Jesus innocent, but the Jewish leaders pressure him to have him crucified. Jesus is then flogged, mocked, and forced to carry his cross to Golgotha, the place of his crucifixion. He is crucified alongside two criminals and dies after six hours on the cross. The Passion of Christ is a story of great suffering and sacrifice. Jesus willingly endured all this pain and humiliation to save humanity from its sins.
Is it possible for the Son of God to feel pain? How did the Son of God manage to withstand the pain? What was the reason behind taking on a human form and allowing himself to endure humiliation and agony? It is widely believed that he did it to serve humanity and redeem us from our sins.
If the pain endured by the Son of God was to deliver us from sin, You, Lord Ram, also suffered the betrayal from a loved one and the agony of losing a loved one amid vanwas. Your unwavering response of calmness amid calamity is profound and inspiring. I ponder if, by choosing to become human, you took one step further to guide us. You needed to embody more of our humanity than divinity to inspire us truly. Would you, Lord, have been willing to commit sins to bear the weight of guilt? If Jesus endured physical pain as a human to save us from sin, I wonder if you experienced betrayal, love, and even the burden of guilt to be more relatable to us. This raises the question of how we should perceive you, Lord. If you, too, are capable of making mistakes, who should we look up to as an exemplar of perfection?
I find a hint in the poem by Hazrat Amir Khusrau, a 13th-century Sufi poet, musician, and scholar, where he expresses his love and devotion to his spiritual master, Ali.
Khusrau’s line “Dara Dil-e Dara Dil-e Dar-e Daani” means “The heart of the lover, the heart of the door of knowledge.”
The heart is the gateway to higher spiritual understanding and connection. It indicates that a seeker can explore and experience a profound realm of wisdom and spiritual realisation within the depths of their heart.
If the idea of Ram is internal, it cannot be perfect, like that of a lover. If we believe Bhakti is searching for this internal Ram within us, then Lord, your imperfections and sins are reflections of us. When we criticise, we find faults in You, and You become a mirror for us to reflect upon ourselves.
The notion that Sita lacks agency and your obedience to the Caste order to kill Sambhuka may be what troubles our hearts. If we strive to find perfection in your story, we will never find ourselves and create a distorted sense of justice. A just society can only be imagined when we discover love within ourselves. That is why Jains envision you as a non-violent Prince, the Buddhist Jataka portrays you and Sita as siblings, and the Mappalar Ramayana opposes the worship of The Idols. This imagination is congruent with their imagination of a just world.
In the Adbhuta Ramayana a Sanskrit text from the Shakta tradition that highlights Sita’s divine aspects and emphasises Shakti’s worship. It showcases supernatural elements, rituals, and the interplay between deities. Sita revealed that Ravana’s slaying was less significant than his older brother, Sahastra Ravana’s. Rama assembled an army and confronted Sahastra Ravana, who dispersed Rama’s forces. In their battle, Rama’s powerful weapon was shattered, and he was rendered unconscious. Sita transformed into Mahakali, destroyed Sahastra Ravana, and caused havoc. The Devatas calmed her down, and Rama regained consciousness. Sita explained her divine nature, and they prepared to return to Ayodhya, triumphant over Sahastra Ravana.
The question of whether You (Lord Rama) are the true lord or perfect deity is not the ultimate inquiry. The essence lies in discovering the presence of You within us. We are bound to encounter love; we can connect with the divine through love.
Dear Shrutavanta, the one who listens attentively.
You, Lord, cannot be confined to a singular manifestation. Exploring Rama’s essence goes beyond rigid definitions and fixed interpretations, and it is a deeply personal and transformative quest that transcends boundaries and embraces diversity.
In grand temples,
with incense ablaze,
Devotees kneel, singing hymns of praise.
They see Ram as the perfect divine,
A deity adorned in splendour and shine.
For Jains, Ram is a symbol of peace,
In non-violence, their faith finds release.
Gandhi’s Ram, the force of truth,
hope for restless youth.
No one owns the imagination of Ram,
In every heart, a unique Ramayan.
From different paths, we seek the divine,
Yet Ram’s love, in all, does entwine.
I humbly acknowledge, Lord, that I do not question your imperfections, for in doing so, I am drawn to discover my own. I recognise that the burdens of sin, the weight of the cross, and the pursuit of redemption are essential elements of my personal journey towards love.
If You find yourself bothered by my introspection, please accept my apologies.
(The author is a financial professional with a master’s degree in economics. I am strongly interested in the arts, academia, and social issues related to development and human rights)