Chaitanya Charan is a mentor, life coach, and
monk, Building on his engineering degree from
the Government College of Engineering, Pune, he
complemented his scientific training with a keen
spiritual sensitivity. For over two decades, he has
researched ancient wisdom texts and practised their
teachings in a living yoga tradition.
Author of over twenty-five books, he writes the
world's only Gita-daily feature (gitadaily.com),
wherein he has penned over two thousand daily
meditations on the Bhagavad-gita. Known for
his systematic talks and incisive question-answer
sessions, he has spoken on motivational and
spiritual topics across the world at universities
such as Stanford, Princeton, and Cambridge, and
companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and Google.
As a speaker on spiritual subjects, I am often
given specific topics to talk about. Once I was
asked to speak on the Ramayana as Ram Navmi
was just round the corner. I wanted to make
the class relevant for the audience. And I was
especially concerned about two of my friends who
had been close to each other, but had recently
become alienated because of a misunderstanding.
Somehow I felt inspired to speak the Vali-
Sugriva story. I spoke how the two brothers
had been the best of friends,' but had ended
up as mortal enemies-all due to a series of
misunderstandings. While speaking, I felt
intrigued by the close parallels of that story
with the situation on my mind. Later I came
to know that those two friends had felt moved
by that talk to come together for clarification
I felt grateful because my talk had emerged
without any conscious preparation on my part.
But as I journaled about the incident later, I
sensed I might be on to something bigger. So I wrote an
article on that talk's theme and published it on my website
thespiritualscientist.com. When several readers appreciated
the article, I felt inspired to write more similar articles. I
decided to reread the Ramayana from the perspective of
relationships and I discovered a treasure trove hidden in
Hidden in Plain Sight
As an Indian, the Ramayana had always been in plain sight
for me, being integral to the country's cultural fabric. I was
introduced to the Ramayana in my early childhood through
the stories told by my grandparents and parents. Right
next to our house in Chandrapur, Maharashtra, was a small
Hanuman temple, and just behind our house was a Rama
temple. When I was in primary school, we relocated to
Nasik, the place where Rama had lived during exile. In our
house in the bedroom hung a picture of Hanuman carrying
a mountain. That picture is one of my foremost memories
of the Ramayana. My father, who always provided me with
abundant books, gave me Amar Chitra Katha issues that
depicted various Ramayana stories. When the epic was
televised for the first time, I watched it eagerly.
When I was studying engineering, I was introduced
to the intellectual depth of the bhakti tradition through
the writings of my paramguru Srila Prabhupada and his
followers. I found the wisdom so appealing and fulfilling
that I decided to dedicate my life to studying and sharing
it. During my studies as a monk, I heard Ramalila narrated
by my guru Radhanath Maharaja and was swept in by its
sweetness. I also came across the Ramayana retold by
Krishna Dharma and was captivated by its vivid visual
imagery and linguistic elegance.
But when I stumbled on the relationship-focused
perspective for approaching the epic, it came alive for me
like never before-its relevance was no longer hidden.
Thereafter I re-studied the epic, referring to the original
Sanskrit and its translations, those published by Gita press
and those available at valmikiramayan.net. I also found
illuminating the many commentaries available at valmiki.
illuminating. I scanned through the various retellings of the
Ramayana in the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and in the
All these studies deepened my appreciation of the
Ramayana, especially its eminent relevance.
Relationships-Human and Divine
The Ramayana presents an intriguing blend of human-
divine relationships. The name 'Ramayana', which means
'the journey of Rama', is an eponym referring to its central
character. While Rama is understood in the bhakti tradition
to be God descended to this world in a human form, the
Valmiki Ramayana focuses not on his divinity, but on his
seeming humanity. Indeed, the seminal question that leads
to the unfolding of this original Ramayana is: What are the
qualities of an ideal human being? In answering this question,
the epic places the divine in the midst of human relationships.
The Ramayana's beauty lies in, among other things,
the sweetness and selflessness of the relationships it
features. Its central characters exude a timeless charm that
has spoken to the hearts of millions for millennia. While
the Ramayana's world features some characters that might
seem mythical to us now, still they have emotions like ours;
they face dilemmas like we do; and they make choices and
endure consequences just as we do. Thus, they are more
similar to us than they might appear at first.
Our specific situations will be different from those of
the Ramayana characters; still, underlying those differences
are universal principles that can guide us even today.
This classic speaks to us not by asking for replication
of everything it depicts, but by inspiring us towards
emulation of the timeless principles it demonstrates. By
coming to know its characters from this principle-centred
perspective, we can come to know ourselves better.
Additionally, reading the Ramayana nourishes our
relationship with the supreme divinity, Rama. And as
Rama is all-pure, contemplation on him helps free us
of the impurities that make us act impulsively, thereby
undermining our efforts to improve our relationships.
Our essential self-the soul-is like a precious stone
buried under the layers of impure mental impressions.
Just as the effulgence of a jewel shines forth once it is
excavated and cleaned, similarly, the natural qualities of the
Soul shine forth when we excavate it from layrs of impure impressions and purify ourselves by cultivating devotional impressions. Meditating on the Ramayana offers such purification and thereby helps us to discover moral muscles that we didn’t know we had. Thus, reading the Ramayanana from the perspective of relationships is immensely empowering. The epic offers not just knowledge about the right action, but also moral strength to act rightly.
**Book's Contents and Sample Pages**
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