So the story begins in the Kingdom of Ayodhya, where all is well, all is perfect. The king, Dasharatha, is very wise, and his eldest son, Rama, scheduled to move from the prince position to become the next king, is the one that everyone realizes deserves that position. He’s the great warrior, the great nobleman, the one with eminent moral virtue, and purity of heart, and all is well with the world. So we have a state that is very, to use the Jungian term, pleromatic. We’re in the pleroma. The word itself, Ayodhya, comes from, the middle part comes from yod, which means conflict, and the a means no—so the word itself, “the kingdom of no conflict”, right? There is total peace and harmony in this kingdom, and a kingdom in which there is wisdom and there is divine royalty.
Interestingly, Rama’s father, the king, Dasharatha—I guess I should probably spell that—Dasharatha, literally means “ten chariots”. Now why ten chariots? Well, he was supposedly such a great charioteer that he could go faster than any ten chariots in the kingdom, and he could go in different directions at the same time. It’s like he is omnipresent, he is an invincible warrior. So he is, in a certain way, an image of God, of God-consciousness, but God as Imperial Ruler, God as King. At the same time, Rama is God as the being of preeminent moral virtue, the Son, the Father and the Son. So Rama is very Christlike in his purity, his loyalty, his faithfulness to the law of the Father and to the Dharma.
And we can see that the story will, as it will unfold, the supreme power, which is the other way that God appears is the power of divine love, and that this is the origin of the divine right of kings. If you want power, the only way you get it is becoming totally loving, and that being of love will create nobility and worthiness to rule. And thus the divine right will be fulfilled. But if you’re power hungry in another way that doesn’t involve love and surrender, it will not lead to divine royalty, but to criminality and Kali Yuga.
So this is a story of the loss and the regaining of that divine right. Now, what happens in this prologue to the story is that Dasharatha—and by the way, the word ten, the signifier ten, is very important, and you’ll see that it repeats in this story, not accidentally. For example, the archvillain, you’ll find out, is Ravana, who is a being with ten heads. OK? Ten chariots, ten heads. The ten will appear in a number of ways in the Ramayana.
So Dasharatha has three wives. Rama is the son of the first wife, but the second wife has a son named Bharata, who that wife would prefer to be king over Rama. And that wife had in her dowry, or in the negotiation for becoming queen, she asked Dasharatha for a boon of “whatever I ask for when I want it”. And Dasharatha said, “Of course, my dear.”
So many years later, just as Rama is about to be declared as the next king, she taps Dasharatha on the shoulder and said, “Remember that boon? Well, I want Rama kicked out of the kingdom and banished for fourteen years, and my son put in place as the king.”
Well, Dasharatha, because of his goodness, cannot break his promise, right? So this is where we get the conflict between good versus good. It would be not good to break his promise to his wife. It’s also not good that the rightful king is being banished. But nonetheless, in the mind of Dasharatha, the promise has the higher priority. And so Rama simply agrees, “ha ji”, and he leaves the kingdom. His wife Sita says, “Of course I’m going with you.” And the brother of the other son who is going to be the king, says, “Well, I’m going with Rama.” Lakshman, right. Lakshman, who is studying archery with Rama and is, in a certain way, I think, representing the ego ideal of the archetype of Rama wants to go with him. So the three of them, you could say, the Atman, the ego ideal, and the soul, as a trinity now leave the kingdom, and they begin the journey of wandering.
Shunyamurti writes on whiteboard
So let’s say 2 is Exiled and Wandering: they become nomads, and they leave the civilized Aryan kingdom of Ayodhya, and they enter into the forest, and let’s see, well, the first beings that they meet are the sages who live on the outskirts of town, of course, and who never go into the city because they’re wise enough not to get involved. And as they wander through the outer limits of the civilized area, they meet the Aghori yogis in the cemeteries and the burning ghats. And then they go into the hills and meet the real ascetic sages who are wandering. And as they keep going deeper and deeper, they finally go beyond the land that is charted on any of their maps, and now they’re in the deep wilderness. And in the deep wilderness, they meet another group.
But before that happens, the three of them settle down in a camp that they make, and at one point, Sita is simply gazing out at the jungle in front of her, and suddenly a golden deer walks by, and Sita is literally captivated by this incredible being. And she says to Rama, “Get me that deer. I have to have it! I want it as a pet, and I got to be able to connect with this incredible being!”
And Rama said, “No, it’s not really a good idea. These could be magical beings that can cause trouble. Let’s not be attached or desirous of anything.” And she starts crying, of course, and says, “I really want that deer!”
“OK, dear.” And he goes out after it to find it. And then suddenly, from the wilderness away, she hears what she thinks is the voice of Rama saying, “Help! Help! I’m in trouble!” And she says to Lakshman, “Go help your brother! He’s in trouble!”
And he says, “My brother’s in trouble? He’s the greatest archer in the world! He’s God. He’s not in trouble! Don’t worry about it.”
She says, “No, you have to go and help your brother.”
And he said, “Yeah, but Rama told me to stay and take care of you, not to go and help him.”
And she said, “I don’t care. He’s calling!”
So Lakshman says, “OK.” But he draws a magic circle around Sita and does a whole prayer and a whole quick ritual, and he says, “Stay in this magic circle no matter what happens, and you’ll be safe.”
And then he runs off trying to find Rama, who is off chasing this deer, who turns out not to be a deer. It turned out to be a shapeshifting demon that was imitating a deer in order to accomplish this subterfuge. And then a mendicant, a brahmin beggar comes, who is seeking funds, seeking some kind of assistance, he’s begging for either food or for a coin or for something, and he comes up to Sita and he said, “Please help me. I’m starving and I’m on a prayer retreat and I have to remain in this state, but I really need some help, if you could provide anything at all.”
And she wants to give him a coin, but she knows she can’t cross over the magic circle, so she pushes it to the edge of the circle, but her fingernail goes slightly over the edge of the circle, and suddenly he grabs the fingernail and yanks her out of the circle and captures her and kidnaps her. And this turns out to be Ravana, who is masqueraded as a brahmin sadhu. And she is taken off, and when Rama and Lakshman return, she’s gone, and they have no idea where she went.
OK, so this is part 3: The Capture of Sita. Interestingly, we said that the state of Rama-consciousness is a state of equanimity that is not affected by anything that happens—right? It’s all perfect. But the later renditions of the Ramayana begin to dramatize Rama’s distress at the loss of his wife, and they depict him crying and ripping his clothes and mourning, and he’s in total grief and he’s in a total state of devastation. But there’s a myth that the Shaivites tell about this, and in that myth, Shiva and Parvati are on a kind of magic carpet flying over this forest, and they see Rama wandering around crying like this, and Parvati says to Shiva, “I thought he was like an incarnation of Vishnu? Why is he crying? This can’t be!”
And Shiva said, “Don’t worry, he’s playing his part according to the script. He’s not really upset.” And she says, “No, no, look, he’s crying! This is genuine.”
He said, “No, no, no, I’ll tell you what, Parvati, you’re a shapeshifter, I want you to make yourself look identical to Sita and go down there in front of him and see what happens.”
So she does that, and he wanders around crying, “Oh, my beloved, I’ve lost you! I can’t stand it!
I can’t live another day without you!” And he’s looking directly at this impersonation, this deepfake of Sita, and he’s saying, “Oh, my beloved, where are you?” And then he whispers, “Parvati, what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be in this story. And why are you dressed up like that anyway? Well, and anyway, whatever you’re doing, it’s fine. Give my regards to Shiva.” And then he goes, “Oh, my beloved! I can’t!” And he goes back to crying and she goes back to Shiva, “Yeah, you’re right, it was fake.”
But nonetheless, that’s the way the story gets written in the later versions. So of course, then, let’s see, where do we go from here? Let’s call it The Search. OK. Now this is where the story gets interesting and especially controversial, because of the shift from its original nature to how it gets retold, because of theological and racial politics that enter into the story.
The Search takes Rama and Lakshman into a very deep place in the forest that they’ve never been, but that is occupied by indigenous forest dwellers, OK? And they are called the Vanara, and the word Vanara is actually made up of two words, van and nara. Nara means “man”. Van, as in vrindavan, madhuban, the word van means “forest”. So it means men who live in the forest, the forest dwelling tribes, OK? Not monkeys. OK? Hanuman is not a monkey. That is a later iteration of it. He’s a forest dwelling indigenous tribesman. Now, it’s true that the tribesmen learn to climb trees, to get fruits and coconuts and everything, perhaps even better than monkeys could, but they are not monkeys, OK?
So that’s the first thing to understand about Hanuman and the chieftain of the Vanara, whose name is Sugriva. Sugriva, he meets in the forest first. And Sugriva is, is or was, the rightful king of the Vanara, but he was overthrown by his brother and banished—so you have an identical replica of what happened to Rama, except it happened in a more violent way. And eventually, Sugriva will make a deal with Rama. “You help me get back my kingdom, and then I’ll help you get back yours, OK?” Or get your wife back from capture, and my captain, Hanuman, will be assigned to give you special help. So Hanuman is a high level member of this military organization of the Vanara.
And another element of the story of Hanuman that changes in the later versions, you have that famous scene where Hanuman opens his chest to prove that in his heart is the loving image of Rama and Sita, that people didn’t believe, that they thought that he wanted Sita for himself. And no, he was pure, he was only saving her for Rama and had no personal interest in it. That’s why he opened his chest. And that doesn’t happen in the original story—there’s no distrust of Hanuman and he doesn’t have to rip open his flesh in order to prove it. So, don’t think that’s part of the original archetypal tale.
So, Hanuman—by the way, the concept of Hanuman is taken over by the Korean Zen tradition, and there the term is Hanmaum. Hanmaumis the mind of Nature, the mind and heart that are unified of the natural Self. And so in a certain way, that’s really what he represents, the natural Self, not the self cultivated and spiritualized by effort, but the self that has a natural purity of heart and innocence and goodness, that doesn’t need to be trained to have that. And he’s an example of that. His role and status is very similar to that which is developed by Gilles Deleuze, with Felix Guattari in their books of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, by the way. And I would say he’s the equivalent of the “body without organs”, which is a term that they use, that they took from Antonin Artaud, which is that representation of the bodiless presence of natural intelligence that has a yearning to bring healing and goodness.
And he has a mark on his jaw; it’s not a cleft chin or anything that is often depicted, but it’s a mark that he was able to leap up and touch the sun, and he has a slight burn from the sun. But what it means is he’s connected to Surya, to the God of the Sun, and to that solar dynasty, that solar power that is eternal and part of the Adi Sanatana Dharma. And so Hanuman is considered to be an immortal who lives from the Sat Yuga all the way to the end of Kali Yuga, and is part of the guiding nature of the inherent goodness of the pure Spirit.
But what I think the role is, more importantly, that he plays here is what I would call the Jungian term of the animus. I would say Sita is the anima, the feminine aspect of the soul, and he is the masculine aspect of the archetypal mind that serves the heart and rescues the heart, but has that willpower that the anima doesn’t have, especially once she falls into desire.
So Sita has been captured by Ravana, who does represent desire. So let’s go to the next.