The Ramayana is an epic story of the life of Rama, a prince in a kingdom of ancient India and an avatar of Vishnu (god in form, sent to restore balance). There are many versions of the epic tale. The original was told by Valmiki using his yogic vision. While Valmiki was visited by Rama, their time together physically was brief. He later wrote this epic poem about Rama’s life and taught it to Rama’s sons, who Rama didn’t then know existed (it’s complicated).
To give a sense of the scale of the story, it took 300 episodes to tell as a TV series.
Part of the epic tale is his instruction by the court sage Vasishtha. The entire court, subjects and even devas came to hear this teaching. This section is known as the Yoga Vasishtha and I’ve written several articles about the teaching stories used. (one story was about events several thousand years later)
Recently, I’ve read a new translation of the epic story: The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic – Complete and Comprehensive by Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy. As this text is half the size of the abridged Yoga Vasishtha, we know it is very heavily abridged. In fact, the teaching above is just a passing mention in this version. Instead, the writing is focused on the major events in Rama’s life.
The full text goes into a lot of detail, like how each shop is decorated, food presentation, the look of flowers, and so forth. It is thus straightforward to shorten it and get the main points of the journey. However, I’ve found the quality and clarity of translations varies widely.
For example, I’ve mentioned the animated film Sita Sings The Blues, an interpretation of the story from Rama’s wife’s perspective. I can’t say this interpretation is very good, but it’s beautifully done.
The authors of the new book were involved with All Love Flows To The Self, a beautifully illustrated and presented translation of some key stories from the Upanishads (key excerpts from the Vedas). This is my favorite translation of the stories so I had high hopes for their Ramayana. They didn’t disappoint.
The new translation, mainly from the original Valmiki, is uncluttered and very well written. The descriptions are still rich but focused on the unfolding main events. It includes parts of the story I was not as familiar with.
As soon becomes clear, even the enlightened who have achieved equanimity in pleasure and pain still experience the full range of emotions. Occasionally they have to be reminded not to get lost in their drama. This is in the nature of being human.
For a westerner, the responses to events may occasionally seem over the top. But India is a culture where emotions are freely expressed. And the challenges the protagonists face are profound.
Also notable that even Rama doesn’t know his destiny.
It’s fascinating to see how the cycles of time affect everything. While Rama overcomes the great demon and brings peace and prosperity to the world for a long time, he does so in a specific circumstance.
Rama restores balance and becomes king but with a descending group consciousness. The people continued to doubt the purity of their queen despite proof and are thus denied the divine feminine in form. This state continues to this day. (There are several people who embody the divine mother but they are not full embodiments.)
Also worth mentioning that gods and demons were well known to humans then (this was also true in the west). Further, demons then lived in luxury and could choose a spiritual path. Some were even beautiful, had won boons, and upheld dharma. But with the descending age, some gods went to sleep, and the demons fell into greater darkness.
For context, the story comes from a time about 7,000 years ago (based astronomically) when the world was descending out of a Silver age into the lower Bronze age. Krishna came later, during the descent from the Bronze to the Iron age. We’re now (roughly) into a rising Bronze (energy) age.
Those who read or hear the Ramayana
gain blessings from nature.
Those who listen to these verses with devotion
live in heaven forever.
Whosoever recites or listens
to the story of Rama daily
with reverence and devotion
banishes all sins
and attains a long life.
– Uttara Kanda 111.19 (closing verse of the Ramayana)
We too read and loved the Egenes/Reddy version of the Ramayana.
Yes, it’s well done. The nuances of meaning can be lost or shifted with lower quality. Yet it’s tricky to find authors who are well-versed in eastern texts while also mastering English.
And further, who understand the larger context of the story and thus don’t get in the way of it.
Thanks for commenting.
Thank you for bringing our attention to this skilful modern clarification of the epic exegesis of the human condition. Marvellous, that I was able to download the whole book in minutes. Its powerful wisdom bathes us again in the sweetness of Reality like an elixir … Thank you once more.
You’re welcome, Keith.
I am touched that you posted on the Ramayana. I just finished listening to the Sundara Kanda (in Telugu). In India, the Ramayana is told and re-told in the form of discourses during festivals or even in non-festival times. Usually the story tellers gently touch on the philosophy. There is a whole other Ramayana called Adyatmika Ramayana which re-tells the entire story in terms of the Self. Sita is the Atma or the individual self, separated from Brahman (Rama) and the Guru (Hanuman) shows the way back. Has anyone read this Adyatmika Ramayana? I have looked for it and while there are a lot of discourses on the Ramayana available on the internet – I have not found one on Adyatmika Ramayana,
Yes, the Ramayana and Mahabharata are very much alive even today. Though I’d say some of the understanding has been lost.
You may be looking for the Adhyatma Ramayana, meaning the study of the Self. Apparently, it’s about 1/3 of the Brahmānda Purana.
One source mentioned it being developed in medieval times. Another said it was prepared by Veda Vyasa, the sage who first wrote down many of the ancient texts to save them during the dark age. He gets the name as he’s the one who compiled the core Vedas in their primary format. Prior to this, they were handed down within families and traditions. Some still are although much of that has been lost.
You may be able to find a copy under either name.
I’ve also heard it said that world events today are the same story unfolding.
You have written about the yugas (read the link in your article) and about the predictions of Krishna. How do you bring them both together?
It’s an interesting question and one I’ve long pondered. I’ve studied several calendarical systems. All of them point to an age change +/- 150 years.
The Yukteswar Yuga cycles match experience best but I have observed that the age cycles are not always an even sine wave. For example, the story of Rama suggests he sustained a higher quality during a descent. Later there was a more precipitous drop.
In the current time, we’re seeing a faster-then-usual rise. That corresponds with Krishna’s remarks.
Similar to the dasha and sub-dasha cycles in jyotish, it could be that there are ages within ages. Thus, the Yukteswar cycle is happening within the larger devic cycle of ages in which we’re still early into a dark age for light beings.
During the descent cycle, it took an avatar to bring such changes but it appears the current time may not need it?
I’m sure this will be clearer in retrospect. (laughs)
I’m reading The Ramayana and read this:
“It is the way of Dharma for a son to honor the words of his father and his mother, so I must obey,” said Rāma. “The wise say that there is nothing in the three worlds that cannot be won by honoring father, mother, and guru.”
How do you understand this quote? I have read in several texts, from different traditions, that honoring parents and following their instructions are important. Is this correctly understood and to what extent should one do so?
Well – theres 2 things here. One is the culture and the other the time. This precept was written at a time when most people were clearer-headed and families followed spiritual precepts. In other words, the advice of parents and gurus was likely to be wise and advisable. Honoring them was honoring the spiritual traditions which would bring quality of life and progress. They’re also sharing the wisdom of their life experience.
It is still valid to honor your parents for bringing you into the world and raising you. But their advice may require more discrimination. (laughs)
We can see this as honoring our life and our source. This has multiple levels – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
On the other hand, we shouldn’t see this as a literal rule that you should follow their direction in every case. If your gangster father tells you to kill someone, thats probably not advice to follow.
In our culture, I’ve found it useful to develop an adult relationship with parents. That does take resolving some of our own junk and habits. And it takes two to tango. They may be unwilling. Then we can only give them our gratitude and leave it there.
A parent never stops experiencing themselves as a parent, wanting the best for their kids. Some of their advice may be good. And some… I had a parent who felt computers were a passing fad so employment in the industry was a mistake. 🙂 Most of his grandkids ended up in some sort of tech role…
Perhaps thats where gurus could be useful, consulting experts in a field…
Right, that makes sense. Thanks.
Haha, yes, I remember the computer thing. That’s funny. And a good example.