“Since with intelligence I have always been speaking the words ‘Rama’ ‘Rama’ and thinking of Him, in that manner I am seeing and hearing His story corresponding to that.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.11)
rāmeti rāmeti sadaiva buddhyā vicintyā vācā bruvatī tameva |
tasyānurūpaṃ ca kathāṃ tadarthā mevaṃ prapaśyāmi tathā śṛṇomi ||
- “You can’t get to heaven unless you believe in so and so.
- Only people born into this religion can be a member of it.
- Women are not allowed to hear this sacred sequence of words.
- Children are too young to understand a supreme controller and life and death.
- The lower class men, who work in dirty areas and are too busy seeking sense gratification, are not intelligent enough to understand the difference between matter and spirit.”
Perhaps we’ve heard one or more of these statements before. Maybe we have been a victim, on the receiving end, left puzzled as to why we are prohibited from understanding the person from whom everything has come. This verse from the Ramayana proves that the Supreme Lord is for everyone and that He can manifest anywhere and everywhere. This is the true import to the philosophy of the Ramayana, and it is confirmed in many other works as well.
The person speaking here is Sita Devi. She is the wife of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing on this earth in a full incarnation form many thousands of years ago. Their marriage in the earthly realm is described earlier in the Ramayana itself, both by the author Valmiki and by Sita when speaking to Anasuya, the wife of the rishi Atri.
upabīta byāha uchāha jē siya rāma maṅgala gāvahīṁ |
tulasī sakala kalyāna tē nara nāri anudita pāvahīṁ ||
“Those who sing of the auspicious occasion of the initiation and the wedding of Sita and Rama with excitement get countless auspicious blessings day after day, says Tulsi.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 24.2)
The same marriage has been described many times since then, including several times by a single author, as in the case of Goswami Tulsidas. In the last verse of his Janaki Mangala, the famous poet says that singing of the auspicious event of Rama’s marrying Sita will bring all auspiciousness every day. He specifically mentions nara and nari, or men and women.
The men part should be obvious. They are referenced often in famous works. Usually the term represents a whole, like the entire human society. The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America contains the famous line, “all men are created equal.” This means that Tulsidas just as easily could have referenced only men and not been blamed for it.
Yet he mentioned women as well, and it was done on purpose. In traditional Vedic culture, women did not receive a formal education. Education itself was different than it is today; each person learned knowledge that was vital to their occupation only. The workers generally didn’t need to go to school; they could learn by watching others. The mothers taught their daughters how to be mothers and wives. The men who received the highest education were brahmanas. They were taught about Brahman, the singular spiritual force whose sparks appear in various bodies. Every living thing is Brahman, and Brahman is the same. This means that the cat and the dog are the same constitutionally. The human being and the deer are identical also, and so the women and men within each species are naturally the same on the inside.
The wife gets the same destination as her husband, so if the husband is spiritually realized, there is no explicit need for the woman to learn about Brahman or other concepts from Vedanta, the highest philosophy. Bhakti-yoga, which is the soul’s eternal yearning, transcends all designations. It is simply love for God. Love is not the exclusive property of any race, gender, or species.
The Janaki Mangala is a work of love for God, so Tulsidas attempted to make it available to as many people as possible. If the women were not allowed to read the original Ramayana or prohibited from studying the Vedas, they could sing his work about the marriage of Sita and Rama and receive auspiciousness every day.
How that auspiciousness comes is explained by Sita in this verse from the Ramayana. She has just heard a monkey describing the great deeds and character of her husband. As it is odd to hear such a thing from such a source in any circumstance, Sita thought that maybe it was all a dream. Here she speculates that maybe since she has been saying Rama’s name constantly and been thinking of Him, she is seeing Him now and hearing a discussion about Him.
This is not mere speculation, but a fact that can be proven by experiment. If someone says Rama’s name over and over again, with intelligence, they will surely see Him. Intelligence means knowing that His name is not an ordinary sound vibration. It means understanding who Rama is and His divine nature. It takes intelligence to constantly repeat that name, since one should at least theoretically know that the name is non-different from the person itself.
Sita always thinks of Rama, so she doesn’t need to bring Him to her through saying His name or thinking about Him. Rama is always with her. Here the event nicely symbolizes the truth which is for all others to understand. Sita heard of Rama through the words of Hanuman, who is Rama’s representative. Similarly, one who daily sings the glories of Sita and Rama will attract their bona fide representatives roaming the earth at the time. The representatives increase the scope of hearing, creating many new devotees to swim in the auspiciousness of the divine mercy.
No one is prohibited from saying Rama’s name or any other name that addresses the same person. Man and woman alike can regularly repeat that name and have the Lord manifest before them. It is for this reason the saints of the Vaishnava tradition, who follow bhakti-yoga as their principal way of life, ask that we always chant the holy names in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy.
Though containing the word men,
To address all society is meant.
Still, sometimes women excluded,
Like from education not included.
Since cycle of birth and death to end,
Bhakti all designations does transcend.
Benefit coming to men and women the same,
Rama’s presence through chanting His name.