Do Hindu scriptures say that Rama is the Supreme God?

I would like to share my answer to a Quora question. The answer tries to reject some of the misconceptions people have about Lord Rama. Though Rama has been established as the Supreme God in most Hindu scriptures, some individuals continue to propagate the false viewpoint that he is not divine.

If a human being does not want to believe that Lord Rama is Purna-Brahman — and all-knowing, — no literature support for this fact will be sufficient for him or her. On the other hand, if someone has developed faith, he or she will unambiguously recognize Rama’s divinity in all authentic versions of the Ramayana — including those written by Maharishi Valmiki, Maharishi Ved Vyas, and Goswami Tulasidasa — and in other devotional Hindu scriptures. So in the end, it is Rama (God) himself — the Real Doer — who decides if Rama will be perceived as the Divine by an individual soul (jiva) or as a mere human being or as an allegory. This is where faith and trust on Rama become important.

Unfortunately, today we do not have access to many scriptures in their original forms [1]; many scriptures appear to have later additions in them with internal logical inconsistencies or errors. Because we did not have a printing press in earlier times, it came down do hand-written manuscripts being transferred from generation to generation and memorization by later scholars. This is where unnecessary words may have been inserted, in spite of good intentions.

What can be a solution to deal with this situation? Rather than developing a My favourite scripture is perfect or My favourite scripture is better than your scripture kind of paradigm, we should learn to absorb what is useful in any scripture and skip what is not relevant for us. Moreover, equally importantly, we can also request Rama to directly guide us towards himself. In Hinduism, Rama’s being the Supreme God is not solely a scripture-dependent concept; it is more dependent on the personal experiences of devotional saints who have met him in person [2] and the experiences of commoners, some of which have also been documented in scriptures.

[1] Some relatively newer scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita may have had a higher chance of reaching us in their original state or with minimal modifications. In North India, the Ramacharitamanasa was more recently written and may have reached us in its original state.

[2] For many exclusive devotees of Rama like Sri Ramananda, Goswami Tulasidasa, Saint Thyagaraja, and Samarth Guru Ramdas, Lord Rama happens to be the source of Lord Vishnu and all incarnations. For many Vaishnava saints like Mirabai and Surdas, Rama is an equal of Krishna; for some, he is an incarnation of Vishnu. In spite of the superficial differences, Rama has been considered divine by all Vaishnava saints.

Ramayana’s SunderKand: Its Significance

The Sunder Kand has innumerable benefits, some of which are mentioned below.

Growth of devotion for Lord Hanuman. Sunder Kand, a selection of Hanuman’s divine plays on Earth, can be recited as a distinguished prayer to Lord Hanuman. Its recitation may develop bhakti (devotion) towards Lord Hanuman, who can grant the bhakti of Lord Rama (God), leading to eventual liberation. As I have already summarized on this page, Hanuman “is worshipped among Hindus for his delight in connecting jivas [individual souls] to God.”

Growth of devotion for Lord Sita-Rama. Reading about Hanuman can develop bhakti for Sita-Rama. As mentioned in this post on my blog, “we can learn from [Hanuman’s devotion for God] and add bits of selfless service in our own path of devotion.”

Protection from sufferings. Hanuman can protect beings from all kinds of sufferings, including physical, mental, and spiritual ones. One of the main messages from a popular prayer titled “Sankatmochan Hanuman Aashtak” is that when Hanuman has the potential of even rescuing Lakshmana, Devi Sita, and Lord Rama, (there appears to be a figure of speech here, given that Lord Rama is the Supreme God himself), what can stop Hanuman from removing the suffering of a simple human being? Along these lines, the Sunder Kand supposedly has a protective effect on the beings who recite or study it. Note that reading this prayer may antidote many bad karma of the past as well.

Astrological Benefits. Like the Hanuman Chalisa, the Sunder Kand has astrological significance. An astrologer may recommend the Sunder Kand to nullify one or more malefic planetary infleunces (if applicable) — from Mars, Saturn, Rahu, and Ketu.

Recognition of Lord Rama’s grace. Lord Rama has given Hanuman a major role in his divine play, the Ramayana, demonstrating Lord Rama’s love for all his devotees. Sunder Kand celebrates this grace of Rama on beings in his creation.

Source: My answer to a Quora question on this page.

Can God give us money too?

God takes care of his devotees’ security and needs. He inserts difficult lessons in our lives, at times, to create ways for our liberation.

While God takes care of every being in his creation, desire for money and its accumulation becomes irrelevant for the advanced spiritual seeker who has learned to think about God fulltime, leaving all worries about his or her future to God. In contrast, beginners in spirituality may find it difficult to leave their liking for money or may be bound by circumstances to work for money.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, God has given us the freedom to work or perform actions but has not given us the right to its results. Also, we must remember that God works according to his own calendar, not that of individual souls. A lag may exist between our hard work and our returns. And what we gain at the end of the day may be unrelated to the intensity of our desires.

To teach us some lessons, God may, at times, deliberately delay the results of our hard work or not fulfil many of our wishes. If we request God to give us a chocolate, God may give us an ice cream. If we ask for an ice cream, God may provide us with chocolate. The actual choice of food becomes only available to the seeker who no longer wishes for chocolate or ice cream but can observe that it is God who provides everyone with food. Many advanced seekers become naturally trained in leaving the results of their work to God, which is one of the classical paths of yoga (karma yoga) by which individual souls can escape the universe to reach God.

The path of devotion (bhakti) takes a somewhat different approach towards renouncing the results of our karma to God. On this path, we are expected to hand over or surrender our soul to God. When this happens, separate surrender of karma is not required. Surrender of the self includes surrender of our karma. It includes recognition of God as the real doer. In other words, bhakti yoga, in some its versions, includes karma yoga as an internal part. This devotional approach may begin with simple prayers, remembrance of God, and learning some basic spiritual principles. Later, we may also have to learn lessons by experiencing difficulties and creating our own possible solutions while remembering God. A well-developed habit of remembering God may make it easier for us to surrender ourselves to God.

Workplace spirituality involves a delicate balance between desire for money and remembrance of God; the two cannot exist together in the same mind at the same moment. Once we recognize that God is omnipresent and always watches us from within our heart, we may become more vigilant in making ethical decisions and may develop the power to counter yearning for money. The more often we remember God, the better are our chances of triggering karma yoga involuntarily.

When we only have God in our mind, we no longer absorb negative energies like anger from the environment. Our remembrance of God eliminates all negative thought processes that create a major separation between the individual soul and God, who is the source of all knowledge and infinite virtues. Consequently, the karmic cycle breaks and we recognize our own divine origin.

When we are spiritual beginners, our prayers to God can include requests for forgiveness for our bad karma, requests for spiritual guidance, and requests for God’s proximity (liberation). Because prayers are karma of the present moment, prayers can always overcome some of our negative karma from the past. Moreover, every prayer to God is responded to by both God and Nature, demonstrating the love from God for the individual soul.

God, being the perfect parent, does not make the parenting mistakes that human beings can make. By nurturing the universe according to his own plan and by inserting difficult lessons at times, he creates ways for the liberation of every soul.

Last edited on July 31, 2019.

Does Rama need the prefix “Bhagavan”?

Beings who like Rama are free to use the term Bhagavan as a prefix to his name if they wish to. In fact, they can alternatively choose any other word from a big list of similar words, including Paramatma, Para Brahman, Parameshwara, Para Shakti, and Purushottama. Yet the truth is that Sita-Rama, unlike many other forms of the Divine, does not need any of these titles. Such terms can not be combined to create the beautiful sound of Ramanama, but these terms simply remain eternally seated around Rama’s name as adjectives [1, 2].

Though Rama is extremely calm, his leela speaks out for itself. During Sita Devi’s swayamvara, right after Rama broke Shiva’s bow, an incarnation of Vishnu had begged Rama for his own karmic purification. Because this incarnation, who accepted Rama’s grace, can also be addressed to as “a form of the Divine” by jivas, the incident highlights the extensive difference between Sita-Rama and other divine beings. Besides, in today’s world, more and more mortals have started claiming themselves to be Bhagavan or Brahman. This gives another reason to why these words no longer eulogize Rama as they could.

Happy birthday to Rama, who is beyond thought!

[1] The same also holds for Bhavani-Shiva, whose name is independently blissful and beyond such theoretical adjectives.
[2] Also read an earlier post on why Goswami Tulsidasa feels that we can never praise Rama enough.

Rama-nama

Devotional saints have sung the glories of Rama-nama (“the name of Rama”) in intriguing ways. Goswami Tulasidasa considers Rama-nama superior than Nirguna Brahman as well as Bhagavan Rama himself [1] because Rama, during his visit to Earth, liberated only a limited number of devotees, but chanting his divine name has provided the highest bliss to countless beings, including immoral ones [2]. Mirabai, in her poems, considers Rama-nama the highest gem that her guru has granted and advises everyone to drink this nectar to make their lives meaningful. Similarly, Tukaram says that Rama’s name, “the essence of nectar,” destroys all suffering and attachment to karma.

What do we need to be able to chant Rama’s name? The most significant blessing, according to Tulasidasa, is Shraddha-Vishwas (“Reverence-Trust”). If our mind does not want to recognize Rama as the Divine, reading numerous versions of the Ramayana and devotional literature may not change our views. On the other hand, once we have been gifted with trust, we can easily admire Rama’s divinity and grace everywhere. Ultimately, it is Devi Parvati and Lord Shiva, the “personifications of reverence and trust” [3], who connect a jiva to Rama. This is why Tulasidasa remembers the Divine Parents on the first page of the Ramacharitamanasa, “without whose grace even mystics can not recognize the Ishvara living in their own minds” [4].

[1] This is probably a figure of speech.
[2] Shloka 31-32, Dohavali; Gita Press.
[3] Bhavani-Shankarau vande shraddha-vishwas-rupinau
[4] Like Lord Rama, Lord Shiva is considered the Supreme Being by many in mainstream Hinduism. Note that most of Goswami Tulasidasa’s writings are primarily Vaishnavite, where Lord Rama is the Supreme Being and Lord Shiva is his heart.

Can we praise Rama?

In the Ramacharitamansa, Goswami Tulasidasa says that his Lord, Sri Rama, is beyond comparison and “Rama is only comparable to Rama.” This implies that all the metaphors and adjectives that we use in our glorification of the Divine are false or incomplete. “If one compares the Sun to a billion fireflies, it is, in fact, a criticism of the Sun,” for the Sun is nothing like them but much more. But we make this mistake everyday and will continue to do so, for we (this includes all saints and rishis) can never have the right words to describe the Unknowable.

Still, as Tulasidasa continues, it is the Lord’s grace that he accepts the love in our praise and feels contended on listening to our words that do not truly describe him. Because of his grace, he understands our limitations, which are created by the effect of his own maya on us, accepts our prayers and devotional actions, and continually guides us so that we may build a factual foundation in spirituality.

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