December 2018

Dassehra is the victory over the senses, over the mind, which ends in the disappearance of the dreadful shadow ‘I’, that cauldron of weaknesses, yearnings, slavery and imperfection. – Chinmaya

Dassehra is a major Hindu festival celebrated at the end of Navaratri every year. It is observed on the tenth day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October.

In the northern and western states of India, the festival marks the end of Ramleela with Lord Rama‘s victory over Ravana. On Dassehra, the towering effigies of Ravana symbolizing the evil are burnt with fireworks marking evil’s destruction.

In India, no festival is without a spiritual message.

Dassehra or Dashahara is a Sanskrit term which is Dasha (=ten) + hara (=destruction). The ten-headed monster Ravana was killed by Lord Rama on this day.

Who is Rama?

Rama is the Self in us. The nature of the Self is Existence-Consciousness. The Self is ever with His consort Seeta, representing Bliss, Happiness and Peace.

Who is Ravana?

He is the ego, the impure ‘I’ in us, the cauldron of imperfections. He is called ‘Dashamukha’ and is picturised having ten heads. These ten heads are nothing but our ten organs – five organs of knowledge (eyes, ears, nose, tongue to taste, and skin) and five organs of action (hands, legs, tongue to speak, genital organ and anus). The ego in us is ever in search of happiness in the external world through sense gratification.

Ravana is so powerful that by his sheer might, he brings the three worlds under his control. Whipped by greed, stung by hatred, wounded by revenge, burnt by jealousy and anger, our ego can make us work hard to attain the greatest of material heights.  It can instigate us to acquire anything we want – be it power or position, pleasure or possession.

Ravana lived in Lanka, an isolated island in the ocean. So too, the ego lives in isolation from the rest of the world due to its strong sense of individuality. Ravana’s Lanka was surrounded by fort walls made of gold. “I and mine” becomes the golden wall, where the ego suffers in isolation.

The city of Lanka had everything except one thing – a temple for God.

Likewise, the heart which the ego rules, is a heart devoid of God.

Ravana kidnapped Seeta but he could never possess her. Seeta always belonged to Rama. So too, peace accompanies only the Self, and not the ego. The ego may command material comforts, but never peace. 

Life is miserable as long as Vibheeshana, the jeevatma (the individual self) is living under the tyrannical rule of Ravana, the ego.

It was Vibheeshana’s practice to chant Ram’s name while getting up from bed in the morning. It is this chanting which Hanuman (who was in search of Seeta) hears, and consequently prompts him to seek his company. So too, it is the spiritual samskaras (tendencies) which make a person fit to receive a Guru.

The sufferings of Vibheeshana, the jeeva, come to an end once he meets Hanuman, the Guru.

When the ego rules, the life is miserable. Vibheeshana tells Hanuman, how he lived in Lanka:

सुनहु पवनसुत रहनि हमारी । जिमि दसनन्हि महुँ जीभ बिचारि ||
(O Son of Wind God! Listen. I live here like the poor tongue living amidst teeth!)

The soft and tender tongue has to silently forebear the atrocities of the hard teeth surrounding it. So too, an individual under the rule of his ego is ruthlessly tortured by likes and dislikes, anger and greed, passion and confusion. They are like the attendants ever accompanying the king ego.

Vibheeshana feels that he is unfit for His grace. He says:

तामस तनु कच्छु साधन नाहीं । प्रीति न पद सरोज मन माहीं |
(“Born in the race of demons, no spiritual practice is possible with this tamasic body. How can I, who has no love at the lotus feet of the Lord, ever deem myself fit to receive His grace?”)

In the beginning, no seeker feels confident in the spiritual path. Doubt always lingers whether one is qualified for the spiritual journey.

Hanuman, a perfect teacher, assures him giving his own example:  “O Vibheeshana! Look at me. In what way I – a monkey, an animal, a highly restless being – am superior to anyone? Even then, the Lord showered His infinite grace on this wretched being.” As Hanuman speaks these words, his eyes get filled with tears and voice chokes with emotion.

It is the Guru, who with his own life, inspires the disciple. The Guru, through his own personal example, shows the disciple that a limited individual can indeed transcend all the limitations of matter envelopments, that a mortal can very much attain the state of Immortality.

Hanuman persuades Vibheeshana to surrender unto Lord Rama and seek His protection. So too, it is the Guru who connects the jeeva to Eshwara.

Hanuman successfully returns, burning the Lanka and giving hope to Seeta. Guru’s entry into our life burns away our delusions regarding life and gives us hope of attaining everlasting peace and happiness.  

Vibheeshana tries his level best to persuade Ravana to surrender to Lord Rama, but in vain. On the other hand, Ravana kicks him and says, “Get out from my kingdom, you, a traitor! You eat my salt, but sing the praise of my enemy.”

Vibheeshana leaves Lanka to surrender to Lord Rama.

Ego and God cannot go together. Who should rule us – the ego or the Lord? The choice is ours. Vibheeshana, a true seeker, chooses the Lord.

Vibheeshana introduces himself to Rama and says, “O Lord! I am Ravana’s brother. Having been born in the demon race, my body has the element of tamas (inertia and ignorance) and I have a natural affinity for sins even as an owl is fond of darkness. But I have heard Thy fair renown. Save me! Save me O Lord!!”

Thus saying, Vibheeshana falls flat at the feet of Rama.

The Lord, delighted to listen to these words of utter humility, gets up immediately, runs towards him, lifts him from the ground and embraces him. The Lord makes him sit beside him!

The only thing Lord expects from a jeeva is total surrender. And once this condition is satisfied, the Lord takes the entire responsibility of the jeeva.

The bridge is built. Through surrender, the jeeva allows the Lord to enter into his life.

In the final battle, Rama takes on Ravana. For the heart throne of the jeeva, there is a constant battle between the Divine and the devil. Vibheeshana assists Rama in killing Ravana. The throne is won by the one whom the jeeva assists.

Rama could not kill Ravana even when his heads were chopped off countless times. But when, as suggested by Vibheeshana, Rama’s arrow strikes Ravana’s navel, the monster dies. So too, the ego doesn’t die with japa, austerity, fasting, yajna, charity etc. The root of the problem has to be addressed. Ego’s existence is rooted in Self-ignorance. It dies only with Self-knowledge.

Finally, Ravana is killed by Rama. Ego can be destroyed only by the Lord, not by the jeeva. Hence the Lord says in the Bhagavad Gita:

तेषामेवानुकम्पार्थम् अहमज्ञानजं तम: । नाशयाम्यात्मभावस्थो ज्ञानदीपेन भास्वता ||
(I shower My Grace on My devotees by lighting the lamp of knowledge and destroying the darkness of ignorance residing in their heart.)

The Lord coronates Vibheeshana as the King of Lanka. With the death of the ego, with Self-realisation, one is no more ruled by the BMI (body-mind-intellect), but he becomes the king of BMI.

In the end, Rama rules Ayodhya along with Seeta.

The heart of the devotee, which is ruled by the Self (Rama) and which experiences infinite Bliss (Seeta), becomes verily Ayodhya, i.e. a place free from conflict.

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