In the philosophical or theological context, an incarnation is manifestation of God upon earth in corporeal form, which can be that of a human being or any living being. As an incarnation, God lives upon earth, goes through the same lifecycle as other living beings to resolve some fundamental problems of existence. In a way you may consider it an intervention or micromanagement when we collectively fail to put our world in order. Although God is impartial, indifferent and without attachments, he is not a mere passive witness, but an active and dynamic force who keeps a firm hold upon his creation. An incarnation of God also points to the need to remain on guard in the mortal world and stay free from evil.
During his incarnation of Ramavtar, Vishnu appeared upon earth as Lord Ram, or a perfect human being, to exemplify human virtues and slay the demon king, Ravan, who became increasingly oppressive with the boons he obtained from Brahma and Shiv, He slew him with the help of his brother Laksman, a huge army of monkeys and several great warriors including Hanuman, Sugriv and Angad.
Apart from restoring balance and fighting evil, Lord Ram played His Divine role in:
- Restoring and strengthening people’s faith in God and righteousness.
- Restoring the forgotten or lost knowledge of sacred scriptures for the welfare of the humanity.
- Reviving the lost knowledge of liberation or revealing the secrets of creation according to needs of the time.
- Serving as a role model and a source of inspiration to his devotees.
- Protecting those who seek his protection against evil and helping them on the path to liberation.
- Granting liberation to the souls who have completed their spiritual journey.
The incarnation of Lord Ram served as a role model for the human race. Through his life and deeds he exemplified virtues such as purity, nonviolence, detachment, truthfulness, non-covetousness, self-control, austerity, humility and demonstrated how human beings should live on earth, uphold Dharma, and cultivate divine qualities. As a person, Rama personifies the characteristics of an ideal person (purushottama). He had within him all the desirable virtues that any individual would seek to aspire, and he fulfilled all his moral obligations. Ram is considered a maryada purushottama or the best of upholders of Dharma.
Lord Ram was willing to become the king as a service to Maharaj Dasarath and He was also willing to go to the forest as a service to His father. He could have easily started a rebellion to ascend the throne of Kosala Kingdom, he was the popular choice had the strength charm and support to be the next king. Yet he chose, mind you he “chose” exile over kingship. He personified attachment to service and not to position.
He was always the protector of those who asked for help. Sage Vishwamitra even though very powerful himself needed Ram, who at the tender age of 16 fought seasoned warriors like Tadaka, Marich and Subahu. He also protected everyone in Chitrakoot and Dandakaranya.
In the most difficult of all situations he didn’t go back home asking for help, instead he went ahead on his search for his wife. He sought allies in an alien place and He made friends. Ram fought for his friends. He killed Sugriv’s rival brother and restored his kingdom; and reunited him with his wife.
Lord Ram respected the people who fought for him when they were alive or dead. Jatayu was among the many other valiant warriors who fought for Ram. He showed by example that good leaders inspire people to work even when they are not present.
In a country that is so obsessed with caste, Ram broke the barriers and the traditions by eating not only at a tribal woman’s house but the berries that she Shabari literally tasted. He also granted liberation to her since she was a noble soul.
Ram managed to defeat one of the most powerful kings of his time,Ravan who was never defeated in any battle so much so that he was considered immortal. The battle was legendary. He defeated two kings of two big kingdoms namely Kishkindha and Lanka but gave them to their new rulers unconditionally.
After returning home he established an ideal kingdom with people’s rights. His rule was so popular that till date a perfect administration is called “Ram Rajya”. It is said that when Ram exiled Sita, even he lived the life of an exile, slept on grass and had simple food. His royal regalia were limited to the courts and formal meetings only. He refused to marry a second time. The pain of separation was visible in his presence.
The divine role played by Lord Ram exhibits that one must pursue and live life fully, that all three aims of life – virtue (dharma), desires (kama), and legitimate acquisition of wealth (arth) – are equally important:. Ram exemplified that one must also introspect and never neglect what one’s proper duties, appropriate responsibilities, true interests and legitimate pleasures are. What he said and what he did was a union of self-consciousness and action to create an ethics of character. Ram’s life combined the ethics with the aesthetics of living.
Rajiv Kaicker, New Delhi