There is an epic story about King Dasharatha, who had three wives, but no children. He and one of his wives, Kaushalya, did a yagya called Ashwamedha, after which they got four sons.
Medha means purification (ceremony); ashwa means today, now; that which was not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today.
Dasharatha means one who can run ten chariots at a time. Kaushalya means one who is very skillful. So, when Dasharatha and Kaushalya came together, and did the Ashwamedha yagya, which means purifying the present moment, that is when Rama was born. This is the spiritual significance of Sri Rama’s birth.
You don’t need to get stuck in material belief only. Material laws are there, physical laws are there, but there is something higher than the physical laws. The understanding of mind over matter, and consciousness over physical reality; this is what we need to attend to. So, don’t underestimate your love, your faith and your strength. All that we need to do is to keep our heart clean.
Your body is Dasharatha, the ten chariots, which include the five organs of senses and the five organs of actions. The five organs of senses are eyes, ears, nose, tongue, taste. The five organs of actions or karmendriya enable us to interact with the material objects of the world; these organs are hands, feet, rectum, genitals, and mouth. The five organs of senses and the five organs of actions take the mind into ten different directions, and make life go in ten different directions.
The words - rays, radiance; all these come from the Sanskrit root word Ra , which means to shine, radiance, brilliance, and light. Ma means within me; in my heart. So, Rama means the light in my heart. When the mind with some skill in this body, gets into the present moment, and purifies the mind and the heart, then, Rama, which means the light in our heart, shines.
Four things come out of you when Ashwamedha is done.
Rama, which means the light in our heart shines; Lakshmana, means awareness, mindfulness; Bharata, means talent; and Shatrughna, means one who has no enemies.
Ashwa has two meanings; one of them is horse, and medha means purifying. So, what is the horse? Your senses. When your senses are purified, then what comes up is the Divine light in your heart (Rama), and awareness (Lakshmana). Then, you have no enemies (Shatrugnan), and all the talent (Bharath) come to you. (Ravana means ego.)
Three types of thoughts or blames bother you.
First, you have so much talent, but you are unable to use it or bring it out, you feel that you are not being used; that causes frustration in you.
Second, you think you know, but nobody understands you. This is another point of contention where you feel miserable.
Third, you feel you are lost, you should have done better, or differently; then you blame the past, oneself and everybody else around.
These three types of blames or thoughts bother you; they can pull your energy down. There could be a million reasons for you to feel down on the planet. Anything can pull you down, because things are not happening the way you want them to happen.
Using knowledge, just sail over it all, forget about it, it doesn’t matter, so what! So many people use their talents, they all died, and they all have been forgotten!
Who sits and watches Michelangelo’s paintings every day? Once you watch it, then it is forgotten. Beethoven was such a talented musician. Do you think people are sitting every day and listening to it? People listen, and then they forget.
Here, nothing is permanent; in this world, everything is changing. From the changing world, lift your eyes towards the unchanging. Otherwise, we get stuck to righteousness, ‘I am right and I want to stick to it.’
When you think you are right, often you think others are wrong. Then you feel angry. If you feel the others are right, often you think you are wrong. Then you feel guilty, sad and miserable.
In both cases, you lose balance.
The mind vacillates between this duality (of being right or wrong). To get out of this duality is the whole purpose of life; that is called moksha. Moksha means to rise above this duality; so swallow these bitter pills in life, they do come, incidents occur.
In Rudram (a Hindu hymn dedicated to Rudra (an epithet of Shiva, taken from the Yajurveda), this is said so beautifully. It is said that in this world, there are all types of people. There are people who betray, people who are not faithful, people who don’t keep up to their words, people who are intelligent yet not up to the mark, people who are so dumb, and all types of people are present on the planet. Sometimes your own mind, forget about others, your own mind goes up and down. So, what to do in these times? Ashwamedha is to be done, purifying the present moment.
Medha also has many meanings, it also means intellect. Ashwamedha also means bringing the intellect in the present moment.
Shwa means yesterday or tomorrow. Ashwa means not yesterday, nor tomorrow, that means it is eternal and the present moment.
When medha, your intellect is so deep in the present moment, nothing can shake it. What can shake your intellect is only the past. If you can snap yourself out of the past every moment, you are free, that is liberation. You are liberated because you have snapped out of the past.
Ashwamedha is when one’s intellect is in the present moment. Another meaning for ashwamedha is purifying. By being in the present moment, purifying the spirit, the senses, the body-mind complex; going deep in the spirit.
Don’t take life for granted! Every moment there is a miracle happening; every moment, there is grace; and there is something new.
In the ancient days, one of the practices in a yagya; a very elaborate ceremony, was to tie a horse with some flags and jewels, and let it free. The horse would roam around, and wherever it went, that part of land was conquered by the king. Suppose the horse went into another kingdom, then that part of the kingdom went to the king who had done the Ashwamedha yagya. That is the story about Ashwamedha.
Through Ashwamedha yagya, king Dasharatha begot the sons.
The three names of the queens are also very interesting. (The Ramayana is not just a story which happened some time; it has a philosophical, spiritual significance too.)
The first wife’s name is Kaushalya, which means skill. In Hindi, you say ‘Kushalatha’, meaning skillful.
The second wife’s name is Sumitra, which means good friend. There could be many friends, but not all are good friends. Many times, friends drag you in the wrong direction; take you in the wrong way. Sumitra is one who takes you in the right direction.
The third wife’s name is Kaikeyi, one who sacrifices herself and brings benevolence. Kaikeyi is one who stands by your side, although she appears differently; but deep within, she does benevolence, with a cover. It is like a doctor who gives you a bitter medicine, or a vaccination. As soon as the children see him, they start yelling and crying, but the vaccination does good to them. Similarly, Kaikeyi who apparently, outwardly, is not pleasant, but inwardly, does that which is good for you.
So, these are the three wives of Dasharatha.
You can go on analyzing the Ramayana from a spiritual perspective. It gives you some knowledge, some idea about the spiritual significance, which is so eternal. These stories are made so that everyone - children, elders, the common man, whosoever reads it, gets something from it, some philosophy of life. From a spiritual perspective, if you see, there is deep truth in it.
The Rama-Dhyaan (meditation) was so dear to Mahatma Gandhi. He once said. ‘You take everything away from me, I can survive, but if you take Rama away from me, I cannot survive.’ When Gandhiji was assassinated, the last words that came out of his mouth, were ’Hey Rama.’ He did not blame anybody, yell or shout or cry, he simply said, ‘Hey Rama!’ (Rama is also associated with the navel center.)
I would like to tell you one more story tonight, from the Ramayana. Actually, they are two stories coupled in one story.
When Sri Rama was building the bridge to Sri Lanka, a lot of monkeys were helping him build it. So the monkeys were picking up stones, writing on the back of the stones Sri Rama and putting it in the water. When they put the stones in the water, they would float.
Again, this has a spiritual significance. When the name of the Lord is with you, you will not sink in society, you will float through the ocean of misery; you won’t sink in the world of misery.
All the monkeys were writing Sri Rama, and all their stones were floating. When Sri Rama saw this, he was so surprised. He thought, ‘What? These stones are floating!’ He wanted to try it himself. So he took a stone, wrote Sri Rama and put it in the water. The stone sank! Sri Rama was surprised.
One monkey was sitting somewhere and watching. Sri Rama went where he thought nobody was watching (whenever we think nobody is watching, there is somebody who is watching). So, one monkey who was watching, he started laughing. Sri Rama was a little embarrassed. The laughing monkey said to Sri Rama, ‘Those who you throw away from your hands, how they will float? They will only sink!’
This is to say that the devotees are so much more powerful than the Lord himself; devotees can do so much more than the Lord himself. This is the lesson from the story.
While this was happening, a little squirrel was also moving around. It was taking little pebbles, and putting them in the water. Some laughed at the little squirrel, saying, ‘How can a squirrel be a contributor?’
The squirrel said, ‘I am contributing for my own joy. I am also a part of this huge thing that Sri Rama is doing, and I am so proud of it.’
Even today in India, we call it the ‘Squirrel’s Contribution’; it is a sign of humility. Even when we do a little bit, it doesn’t make a big significance; but being part of something big, saying, ‘I have also done something’, gives that inner satisfaction.
So, the squirrel also started contributing by throwing little stones in the water.
The lesson from this story is that devotees are more powerful than Rama himself. This means that when your heart is filled with love, and compassion, you are so powerful. Never underestimate yourself.
There is a similar incident that happened last October in The Art of Living. Do you know about the cell phone story?
I was going to a particular village, where 2,000 youth had been doing lot of work for several years. While going to the village, I told the person who was travelling with me, to take three new cell phones.
When I went there, I asked, ‘How many of you lost your cell phones?’
Only three people stood up. They were working in villages, where cell phones are very expensive for them. The cost of the phone was the equivalent of maybe one or two months of their salary or more, and so they were so pained. So, I gave these three people new cell phones. Of course, it was just a coincidence!
Nothing is permanent in this world, everything is changing. From the changing world, lift your eyes towards the unchanging.
One boy then stood up and he came to the stage and said he wanted to share something. He was in an advanced course and his wife was at home, and he had to talk to her. There was no battery on his phone and he had forgotten the charger at home. So he put the phone in front of my picture and asked, ‘Gurudev, let the phone be charged.'
The next morning, when he woke up, the phone was fully charged.
This boy showed me his phone and said, ‘Look, for one and a half years I have thrown away my charger, and now I only keep my phone in front of your picture and it gets charged.’
He threw his charger away!
I said, ‘My goodness, I need a charger for my phone! I can’t charge my phone by keeping it in my hand, or near my picture!’
That innocent village worker said that it has been a year and a half since he threw away his charger; he showed everyone his cell phone which was fully charged.
I thought this is a very exciting story. I came and shared it with around 150 internationals in the Bangalore Ashram. There were people from Russia and Europe.
With a lot of excitement I said, ‘Look, the power of a devotee is so much. The love is so much.’ They said that it has happened to them as well, as though it is not a big deal!
People from Scandinavia, Sweden, Russia, they all said, ‘It happened to me also!’
Miracles are in abundance! I think everyone has had some miracle or the other. We don’t look for it, they just happen.
Let me tell you about another incident.
There is a committee for eradication of superstition in Maharashtra. And this Committee is headed by a President, who goes from village to village propagating, ‘All the Sadhus, Gurus are all fraud, don’t believe in them. Don’t believe in any of those things.’
The Committee President’s son had attended the program where the village boy told everyone about his phone being charged without a charger.
So last February, the Committee President was very upset since his calculator broke down; it cost around Rs.30000. His son then said, ‘Papa, why don’t you keep it near Gurudev’s picture? Then let us pray.’
He kept it for two days, and nothing happened. The father said, ‘Look, I told you! All this is nonsense, nothing happened.’ However, the son said, ‘Papa, it is not like that. You keep it and ask for it. Ask, and it shall be given. Ask! You did not ask with faith.’
The father said, ‘Okay!’
Since the son told him, he asked. The next morning, the calculator became alright!
Now, the father says, ‘What do I do now? I am the president of this organization and such a thing has happened with me!’ He was so perplexed!
The lesson from this incident is, don’t take life for granted!
You can’t take anything for granted. Every moment there is a miracle happening; every moment, there is grace; and there is something new.
Even if something appears to be not so good for the moment, in the long run, something good happens out of it.
You don’t need to get stuck in material belief only. Material laws are there, physical laws are there, but there is something higher than the physical laws. There is something higher than the obviously seen physical creation of names and forms. The understanding of consciousness; mind over matter, and consciousness over physical reality; this is what we need to attend to.
So, don’t underestimate your love, your faith and your strength. All that we need to do is to keep our heart clean.