[Reciting excerpt about Agasthya & Rama from Thunjathu Ezhuthachan’s Adhyatmaramayanam]
In Ramayana, we find the meeting of Agasthya and Rama at two points. The portion which I recited now is from Aranyakandam. It is the section of the epic in which Sri Rama, Sita Devi and Lakshmana are travelling through the forest. They visit Agasthya’s ashram. This episode illustrates Agasthya seeing Rama for the first time and the joy it brings him.
Agasthya appears later at a totally different location in the epic. Where?
There Agasthya teaches Rama the Aditya Hridaya Mantra which praises the Sun God. In part that I recited, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are in the forest with Sutheeshna and they reach Agasthya’s ashram.
We can see Agasthya appears in Ramayana, Mahabharata, the Vedas and the Upanishads.As we are now celebrating Ramayana month of Karkidaka in Kerala,
it is auspicious to reflect on Agasthya’s important presence in the Ramayana.
Agasthya has been waiting for SriRama for so long that his joy has no bounds. He had waited for the “darshana” of Parabrahma in human form as Vishnu avatar of Rama. This is how their Within a short span of time,conversation begins. But it touches upon so many other deep spiritual and philosophical topics. Agasthya talks about the universe’s creation, the “guna” or qualities within man, how Maya creates this illusory world around us and so on. We hear the discussion about Vidya and Avidya ie Knowledge/Awareness and Ignorance. For anyone who is on a spiritual quest, the goal is attaining knowledge or wisdom or Vidya. Vidya is pure knowledge. It is the ultimate quest of each of us. From wherever we attain it, within us, we realise the ultimate peace. We call it Ananda. Each human birth is a progress or work towards this Ananda or Peace. It is the eternal serenity, ultimate peace. It is also called Mukti. In the short episode in the epic, Agasthya clears the doubts about this journey towards Moksha. That underlines the importance of this legendary sage.
Upon their meeting, Agasthya is not discussing other matters. He goes straight to the heights of spirituality clarifying several difficult concepts like Maya, creation, knowledge and ignorance.
We get very clear descriptions of Jnana (knowledge) and Ajnana (Ignorance) in these verses.
Recites from the Adhyatmaramayanam]
“Maya devi is called Moola Prakriti, Those who have risen above Maya, call it Samskriti”
Root of nature is Maya. The ignorance of our intellect fails to reveal it. We do not get the higher perspective. Why? Because Maya blinds our vision. Those who go beyond it, evolve a higher culture. For higher thinking, we need to rise above Maya. Agasthya urges us to attain this higher perspective through clear vision and deeper reflection.
Now, what does Maya lead to in a human mind?
Maya leads to different types of characteristics (culture) in man. The trigunas or three qualities are developed in the character. Satvik, Rajas and Tamas. These are creative wonders of Maya. Those who go beyond Maya, attain the higher thinking.
If we look at the epics or mythology, Agasthya appears quite unexpectedly and suddenly. He appears within the story at the right moment. And he packs his brief presence with incredible wisdom. In all the different appearances he makes in Ramayana and Mahabharatha, he shares the pearls of wisdom. His exits are just as quick.
The part in Aranyakanda is titled Agasthyasthuthi of Rama. Along with the praise of Rama, the avatar of Vishnu, he also discuss the core ideas of ancient Indian wisdom. He cannot but help it. As people who have attained enlightenment and live through pure wisdom, they are always excited to share this pure knowledge. They always try for different paths to bring such knowledge to the larger society. Creating such paths will be the major preoccupation of the enlightened Siddhas. So each moment of meeting, they try to share the nuggets of pure knowledge. This beautiful section from the Ramayana triggers different thought streams in our minds.
Here Agasthya connects the Satva, Rajas, Tamas gunas with Creation, Preservation and Destruction which are attributed to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Along with that he talks about the three states of mind: Jagral, Swapna and Sushupti. Our minds commonly move between these three states. Jagrath is the conscious state of being awake during the day. The sense organs and intellect are active in this state. Our organs of action are also active. Swapna is the dreamy state. When we are asleep, the sense organs and other parts of the body are not very active. But the mind is. We see dreams in this state. Next is the state of deep sleep without dreams. Mind is also inactive there. Only the awareness of “I” exists in that space. So Agasthya covers these qualities and states as well within this short conversation.
As Rama comes to Agasthya, the meeting initiates a meaningful discussion about the universe, the mind and consciousness.
We must always approach the epics seeking these gems of spiritual wisdom embedded in them. We must strive to adopt them into our lives. We should reflect and delve into them deeper so that our level of thinking is improved.
Rama-ayanam is Rama’s journey. After Aranyakandam, we have the abduction of Sita, the search for her, the meeting with Hanuman and the monkey force, the Sethu Bandhana or bridge building….and at that time once again, Agasthya appears before Sri Rama with the Aditya Hridaya Mantra.
As far as our earth is concerned, Sun or Surya is its God. All the plants and animals, everything alive on this planet depends on the sun. We wake up with the sun and go to sleep with sunset. It’s from the importance of sun’s presence in providing us vital energy that the Mantra is derived.
[Recites Aditya Hridaya Mantra opening lines]
Sage Agasthya delivers this Mantra to the world and to Sri Rama.
Thus Agasthya appears in two critical junctures in the epic Ramayana. And in both instances, he provides incredible spiritual wealth that is rich enough for mankind to contemplate for a lifetime. He reiterates that only through true knowledge can one attain Moksha or liberation.
[Recites from Adhyatmaramayanam]
He says that only through devotion, knowledge can be sparked. And from knowledge comes liberation. Through higher perspective comes enlightenment. There is no other path. Ignorance has blinded us. The root cause of all the misery in this illusory ocean of existence is avidya or ignorance. We try to improve, correct and control our intellect through this ignorance filled mind. That is the cause of misery, sorry and unease. This understanding we get from Agasthya in the Ramayana.
So Agasthya instructs us to seek and gain the pure Knowledge and become higher beings through it. Knowledge is the path to salvation.
This wisdom that Agasthya shares through his two sudden appearances is more than enough to inspire mankind for deeper contemplation and meaningful action as signboards to the spiritual path.