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.

Rama’s forgiveness for Kak Bhusundi

What is the role of Divine forgiveness in Kak Bhusundi’s story? How do chanting and the grace of God relate to our spiritual evolution? To find out, please read my new article from the Speaking Tree section of the Times of India (Sept 16, 2019).

You can right click on the images below and select “View Image” to read the article.

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-edit-page/the-story-of-an-enlightened-crow/

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.

Nine forms of Bhakti

We have already talked about the Navadha bhakti summarized in the Ramacharitamanasa. For a quick comparison, the nine forms of bhakti from the Puranas are listed in the table below.
 
FORM
FOCUSES ON
AN EXEMPLAR
Shravana
Listening
Kakbhushandi
Kirtana
Chanting
 Valmiki
Smarana
 Remembrance
 Kaushalya
Padasevana
 Lord’s Lotus feet
 Bharata
Archana
 Worship
 Shabri
Vandana
 Prayer
 Vibhishana
Dasya
 Service
 Jambavan
Sakhya
 Friendship
 Nishadraj Guha
Atmanivedana
 Surrender
 Lakshmana

Though the examples selected in the table above are all from the Ramayana, the nine forms of bhakti, being timeless, are experienced by contemporary devotees of all forms of the Divine. Also, because one form of devotion generally attracts the other forms of devotion in the heart, most bhaktas radiate more than one type of bhakti.

And if you are searching for Lord Hanuman on the list, he has been excluded. Why? Because his name can not be placed on a list with others; all beings, mortals and immortals, receive Rama-bhakti solely by his grace.

Please feel free to use the comments section to share the name of your favorite bhakta/saint (Vaishnava, Shaiva, and/or Shakta) and indicate the type(s) of bhakti that he or she focused on.

Navadha Bhakti

Besides chanting God’s name with faith and satsang, the classical nine kinds of devotion listed in the Ramacharitmanasa include adoration of God’s legends; ego less devotion to the Guru; singing praise for God with an honest heart; leading a spiritual life characterized by the control of senses, integrity, detachment, and saintly karma; recognizing God in all creation and treating saints higher than even God; contentment in whatever one gets in life and abstinence from criticism of fellow beings; and a combination of simplicity, lack of deception, and faith in God coupled with the absence of joy or sorrow. The presence of even one of these forms of devotion is said to be sufficient for a lifetime.

Out of the above, the last four forms of devotion are more likely features of great souls and cannot be classified as preliminary remembrance techniques for reaching God. As for adoration of God’s legends, it involves thinking about our chosen Personal God and our favorite sacred narratives associated with him or her in Puranas and Epics. Out of the innumerable tales that exist, devotees enjoy the freedom to remember and discuss the instances about their Personal God that they love the most….Singing hymns or praise for God with an honest heart is similar to chanting names or adoring stories, except that music is also used as a means in this form of devotion. When lyrics for God are served with music, the expression of devotion gets amplified, for music is itself composed of divine sounds.

Excerpted from Devotional Hinduism by M.S. Goel (2008), p. 22

Dussehra: The subjugation of tamas

The first Dussehra was celebrated on Earth when the nectar in Ravana’s body was dried up by a weapon from Sri Rama’s quiver and Ravana, the symbol of unrighteousness, died after being hit by another divine weapon. As soon as the evil king fell on the ground, an extremely bright divine light soon emerged from his body and entered Rama’s own body, according to the Adhyatma Ramayana. For the spiritual, this moment was not less significant than Ravana’s getting killed, for it showed Rama’s acceptance of Ravana’s soul, which was also a fragment of the Supreme Soul.

This moment showed the world that Bhagavan Rama did not really fight a battle with an evil jiva on that Dussehra. Rama, who is beyond all karma and nature, had only relieved Ravana from his tamoguni prakriti (dark nature) and his previous bad karma. Rama’s sharp weapons did not destroy Ravana, the individual being, but conquered the root cause of his negativity* — the tamas qualities he had gathered over a lifetime or more. Why did Ravana need Brahman-incarnate Rama to cleanse his karma? We could say that the amount of tamas (coupled with power) accumulated by Ravana was so high that a major adjustment to the world was needed. Not only Ravana but beings who were suffering because of his bad karma, including saints, gods, planets, and the citizens of Lanka, also had to be freed from the influence of his ignorance. And nothing is more liberating than the darshan of Rama.

*It would be worth revising that no being is everlastingly evil in Hinduism. Being good or bad is a consequence of the functioning of the three modes of nature.

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