Lord Ram – the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu

Bronze Lord Ram Set with Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman

Bronze Lord Ram Set with Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman

Shri Ram is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is one of the most worshiped deity by Hindus in India. Diwali, the festival of lights, is probably the most celebrated and biggest festival, and is observed by Hindus, Buddhist, Jain’s and Sikhs, commemorates Lord Ram’s victory over the demon king, Ravan, and the return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile.

Purpose of the incarnation: The purpose of incarnation of Vishnu was to slay the demon Ravan, the king of Lanka. Ravan acquired a boon from Lord Brahma, which made him invincible and indestructible by Devas (The Gods) or Asuras (The demons). The sages were put into great misery and hardship by this demon and it became necessary to put an end to his reign, this lead lord Vishnu to to the earth as a man as only a human can slay the demon Ravan.

Sri Ram: According to the great epic Ramayan, Ram was born in Treta Yug (era), as the son of Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya. Dasharatha had three wives and four sons, Ram being the eldest and his mother was Kaushalya. He was an ideal son, and idol of chivalry, prowess and virtue. Ram and his brother, Lakshman grew up to the princely stature and became masters of all weapons under the guidance of the great sage Viswamitra. In the mean time, Ram got married to Sita, daughter of Janaka, the princess of Mithila, and Lakshman marries Urmila, sister of Sita. Dasharatha was planning for the coronation of Rama as the king of Ayodhya, but he was in extreme agony, when this idea was strongly objected by Kaikeyi, one of his wives, as she wanted her son, Bharath to become the king. She also demanded that Ram must not enter the kingdom without completing 14 years of exile.

Bronze Hanuman statue friend of lord Rama

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Exile: Knowing the demands of his step-mother, Ram agreed to go for the exile and ignoring his contempt Lakshman and Sita joins him. Even though, Urmila wanted to accompany her husband, Lakshman. However, Lakshman refuses the wish and assigns her to take care of his parents. Though disappointed, the broad minded Urmila accepts her husband’s orders and stays back to look after the old in-laws. During the period of exile, Ram meets Lord Hanuman, the great monkey, who is a true devotee of Ram. During his exile, Lord Hanuman protected the Saints from the vindictive actions of the demons.

During the exile, Ram settled in a calm and beautiful place, Panchavadi and lived a happy life. In the mean time, Surpanakha, the sister of Ravan, meets the charming brothers and becomes so attracted to Ram and proposes to marry him. Ram denies the request, and asks her to propose his brother, who is alone without a wife. Surpanakha follows Ram’s advice, but Lakshman rejects her, and this makes her angry. The outraged demon tries to harm Sita as she considers Sita to be the obstacle that prevents her from getting the love of Ram. Ram saved Sita and asks Lakshman to teach Surpanakha a lesson. Lakshman attacked her with his sword causing injuries to her nose and breast.

Disgraced and mutilated, Surpanaka, thirsty to take revenge, complains to her brother about the attack and how she was insulted by the two handsome princes. Ravan came to know about the immense love Ram had for Sita and this made the clever Ravan think of separating Sita from Ram, as Ram will not be able to bear the departure of his love. Ravan in his golden chariot reaches the ashram of Maricha and seeks his help to work out his plan. Maricha first denies the request for help from Ravan, but coming under the pressure of his king, finally he agrees to help him. Maricha gets killed by Ram, during the abduction, while Ravana succeeds in kidnapping Sita away from the ashram.

Ravan was much enchanted by the beauty of Sita, and pleaded her to marry him. However, Sita denied the powerful demon. She was taken to Lanka, where she spent her days alone in her beloved memories and wept. Ram was so desperate, and began to search for Sita everywhere. Finally he meets Jedayu, who witnessed the cruel act of Ravan. Jedayu reveals Ram that she was taken to Lanka in a flying golden chariot. With the help of Hanuman and army of monkeys, Ram constructs a floating bridge “Ram Setu” to Lanka and reaches Lanka to regain his kidnapped wife. After a ferocious war, which lasted for many days, ended with the carnage of Ravan, and Ram got his wife back, safe and sound.

Return to Ayodhya: After 14 years of exile, Ram, Sita along with Lakshman reaches Ayodhya and resumes the throne, as per the wish of Bharath, who was ruling the empire on behalf of Ram. The death of Ravan restored peace and happiness to the world. People began to worship Ram and it still continues. You can find a lot of temples around the world where Ram is the main idol of devotion.

You can easily identify statues of Lord Rama.  He is always depicted in a standing position, with a bow and arrow in his left and right hands respectively. He always carries a quiver on the back and is normally accompanied by Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. He will be always be wearing princely adornments.

Ram and Sita started to live a happy life again, but the fate was cruel to Sita, as the people of Ayodhya began to talk ill about her. Ram who was an ideal ruler, felt unhappy to know that his people doubt about the innocence of his wife. Finally, he decides to leave Sita, even though she proves her loyalty in the fire ordeal.

Even though, Sita was so devoted and loyal to Ram, she had to live a lonely life. Urmila is often considered as a forgotten heroine since no one values her sacrifice as she sacrificed her valuable 14 years away from her husband for the sake of Ram and Sita.

After reviewing all these points, whom can we consider as the real leading lady – Sita or Urmila?

What is the Buddhist & Hindu Concept of Dharma?

Many people wonder about the Buddhist and Hindu word Dharma and what it signifies.  Dharma is one of the core concepts within both Buddhism and Hinduism.  When capitalized and referred to as the Dharma, the word means the collective teaching of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, or the Enlightened Buddha.  Much the same way Christians study Jesus’s teachings within the Bible, Buddhists study and worship the Dharma.  Simply put, the Dharma is the Buddha’s Teachings.

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When presented in a lowercase form as dharma, the word translates to mean simply ‘the way things are’.  Just as the Taoists follow the Tao, or the Way as they call it, dharma represents the laws of nature or why things are the way they are.   It is thought to be our ultimate aim in life to realize the dharma or understand the ways of the universe.  Dharma is thought to an unchanging universal law just as gravity is an unchanging presence in the universe.

The first writings about dharma can be found within the Vedas among various ancient writings.  At the time it was thought that knowledge of dharma could only be passed on from Sages.  Later on, however, it was thought that through ritual practices or duties one could achieve ultimate understandings, the dharma.

Although the dharma was referenced in the Vedas it was never clear how a lay person really could achieve it.

Within Buddhism, the dharma was the main focus of the Buddha’s meditations.  Dharma was thought to be infinite containing both material and immaterial elements of the world.  It is believed to become a sense in just the same way one can smell a flower they can develop the sense of dharma.  Dharma carries goodness and it is thought to be a person’s duty to seek it out.  Through his meditations, the Buddha sought the dharma, or the ultimate meaning to life.  It was underneath the Bodhi tree in which the Buddha ultimately attained it.

What’s your dharma?

Symbols Surrounding Lord Brahma

Hindu God Lord Brahma symboliism

Bronze Meditating Lord Brahma Statue

When one comes across statues of the Hindu God Brahma, the God of Creation, he is dripping in symbolism.   Brahma is unique in that he has four faces and four hands.  He often carries a book and prayer beads.  In all Hindu sculpture the things the gods carry; weapons, books, bowls, the amount of faces and arms the god has, how they wear their clothes, the crown or jewelry they wear each have symbolic meaning going back centuries to the origins of Hinduism.  Lord Brahma the creator is no different.  Here we will outline some basic symbols of Brahma.

Brahma’s Four Hands:  Brahmas four hands symbolize each of the four Vedas: Rk, Sama, Yajuh, and Atharva.  The Vedas are a body of ancient Sanskrit texts originating in India.

Brahma’s Four Faces:  Brahma has four faces that point in the four main directions north, south, east, and west.  In a more figurative sense they represent the more virtuous qualities of the mind, intellect, ego, and self-confidence.

Book:  Brahma often holds with one of his hands a book which symbolizes knowledge in the world.

Swan:  Brahma is often seen riding a swan, his sacred vehicle for which he travels upon.  The swan is a supposed to symbolize grace.  The kind of grace fitting of the great Creator.

Crown:  Brahma wears a crown which symbolizes his supreme authority over the world as the God of Creation.

Lotus Flower:  Brahma is often depicted with a lotus flower.  The lotus flower represents nature and the all-encompassing energy of creation.  The lotus is more commonly associated with the Hindu Goddess of wealth Lakshmi.

Gold: Brahma’s golden face and adornments represent his most active role in the creation of the universe:

Prayer Beads:  Prayer beads symbolize all the substances that go into the creating the universe.

The Vedas: Ancient Sanskrit Works of India

Sarswati holding the vedas

Bronze Meditating Saraswati Holding the Hindu Holy book, the Vedas

For those of you unfamiliar, the Vedas are the most sacred books of India, thought to be some of the earliest written works of their kind.  Much like the Bible within the Christian religion, the Vedas hold the earliest religious writings of the Hindu religion.  They are said to contain spiritual knowledge encompassing all aspects of living; a guide to Hindu thought and teachings.  The word ‘Veda” translates to mean wisdom with their contents acting like a river of Hindu thought.  Many believe that the writings are the language of the Hindu Gods, translated into words of human understanding.  The laws within hold precedence and regulate Hindu society in social, domestic, legal, and religious matters still to this day.

Many wonder of the origin of the Vedas.  We can only speculate as to when they first came into existence it was so long ago, however, by some they are thought to be the earliest works of human kind.  Many believe that they were not written by humans at all, but by sages receiving sacred knowledge directly from the Gods themselves.  Others believe that sages became enlightened with the ideas to write in the books through sacred transference of the Gods.  Whether the Gods actually spoke to the sages or not, the knowledge within the Vedas is not only sacred, but still holds its magnificent power to this day.

The Vedas themselves are broken down into four main sections: hymns for singing, rituals for practice, theological thought, and philosophies.  Although they are not widely read by followers in present days, the principles within are strictly followed.

In Hindu sculpture the Hindu goddess of Wisdom, Saraswati is often shown holding a copy of vedas.  This is an apt book for the goddess of wisdom to carry as it holds the spiritual knowledge encompassing all aspects of living!

Avatars of Hindu God Vishnu

Yoga Narasimha, avatar of hindu god vishnu

Bronze Narasimha statue, 4th avatar of Lord Vishnu

When most people think of Avatars they think of the recent Blockbuster hit by James Cameron.  But the original concept of Avatars stems from the Hindu Religion and is most widely associated with Hindu God Vishnu.  Within Hinduism, Avatars are thought to be descendants of Hindu deity’s, deliberately placed upon earth.  The reason Hindu God Vishnu, the Preserver, is most closely associated with this concept is because he is thought to have many, each with a specific aim or purpose in existence.

 

Within the Bhagavad Gita there is a passage that describes the purpose of these destined Avatars of Vishnu as bringing about dharma back to the social order of the world:

 

 

 “Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases I send myself forth.  For the protection of the good and for the destruction of evil, and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being age after age.”

 

Another reason for the close association with Vishnu and his Avatars is because his descendants are thought to be integral to his teachings.  Other deities do not have such close ties to their descendants.

Although there are thought to be countless descendants of Vishnu in some respects, there are 10 main avatars that are often referred to as Dasavatara.  Krishna and Rama are the most widely known of Vishnu’s 10 avatars.

The other 8 are as follows:

1)      Matsya- fish avatar

2)      Kurma- tortoise avatar

3)      Varaha- boar avatar

4)      Narasimha- half man-half lion avatar

5)      Vamana -dwarf avatar

6)      Parashurama- sage avatar

7)      Gautama Buddha

8)      Kaliki- who has yet to come