What the Ramayana teaches us about seeking joy
Ancient scriptures and epics carry the eternal truths and secrets to prosperous living. ‘Ramayan ka Gyan’ is a program by Demonstrative Learning where author and storyteller Shubha Vilas ji narrates stories from the Ramayana and conveys what the holy scripture has to say about aspects of life. In its fourth session, he discusses what according to Ramayana entails in finding joy in small things.
The beauty of life lies in small things and events. As humans with a supposed grown up and mature mind, we always tend to ignore this simple fact. A child is known for his innocent joys. He/she finds joy in very simple things of life and is always happy, but as we grow up, we restrict our source of joy in big things by compromising our innocence with arrogance and we lose out on finding innocent joys of daily lives. True joy lies in innocent realizations and not in artificial desires of arrogance and overarching achievements. As Shubha Vilas ji puts it, there is a difference between being child-ish and being child-like. While being child-ish is never recommended, being child-like is something one must cherish and preserve, only then can we observe joy in small things.
In the course of the session, Shubha Vilas ji also narrates a few stories from the Ramayana which show how finding joy in simple aspects of life can reform one’s life. One such story is that of Mata Sita. When Lord Sri Ram went to the forests for exile with Mata Sita, instead of finding it difficult to live in the forest, Mata Sita found utmost pleasure in it. Being a princess who had never stepped beyond palace walls, she was so pleased to live in the lap of nature among the trees and woods. She followed a simple routine, adapted and sought learnings from the ecology around her. Her joy lay in observing the simplicity of the forests and nature. What we get to learn from this story is that joy lies in simplicity and beyond that, it is a state of mind. How we perceive things around us shapes our living. If we perceive simple things and learn to accept it with joy, ours will be a happy life.
The Ramayana, as Shubha Vilas ji puts it, is a scripture narrating how great personalities led simple lives. It has a lot to teach us about simplicity, dedication, commitment and joy. We often locate our joy in externalities of the material world. We struggle to seek joy by doing what the society wants us to do and showing to the world our externalities. To explain how our artificial joy is based upon compliance and show, Shubha Vilas ji narrates the inspirational story of Sumanthara, the Prime Minister of Ayodhya. Sumanthara, being the highest office bearer in King Dasharatha’s court, held a position next to the King. By virtue of his position, he commanded respect and prestige throughout Ayodhya. However, to Sumanthara, real joy did not lie in statecraft, his enjoyment in turn lay in driving the chariot of King Dasharatha. To seek this simple act of joy, Sumanthara drove the King’s chariot daily even after being as the Prime Minister of Ayodhya. While driving the chariot was a menial job, unexpected from a royal office bearer, he did not care for what others thought and continued to pursue this simple act, just because he found an immense source of joy in it. Sumanthara’s life is exemplary in establishing that acts of joy needn’t be lavishly crafted or shaped by what others think. It is inherently sought by internal and simple facets of life.
Our life is often mostly about running after the semi-permanent aspects of joy. So much so that in a run for semi permanent facets of joy, we stay in a delusion and engage in seeking temporal happiness. The cycle of sorrow and temporal joy begins with our pursuit of material happiness which proves to be sorrowful in the long run. Only when we commit to such joys which are permanent in nature that we can be internally happy, capable of self-satisfaction and ever-joyous. This commitment requires simplicity and spiritual pursuit. As Shubh Vilas ji puts it, “your simplicity can be tested by throwing temptations before you”. He illustrates this commitment through a story in the Ramayana involving Bharata, the younger brother to SriRam who was committed to serving the Lord and found joy in his service. So committed was Bharat to serving the Lord and his brother that nothing mattered more to him. When Bharat embarked into the forests of Chitrakoot with the entire Army from Ayodhya to find where Sri Ram was residing in the forest, Rishi Bharadwaj decided to test Bharat’s intentions and commitment. He themed a delusionary park before Bharat and the army by creating a huge palace out of the thin air, surrounded by two rivers- a river of alcohol and a river of juices. They were surrounded by trees which were laden with beautiful jewels and dresses instead of fruits. Apsaras surrounded the forests, serving delicacies to the army who enjoyed this delusion. Bharat was headed right into the palace by apsaras where he was offered to sit on a grand and elated throne in the grand palace. However, instead of sitting on the throne, he sat beside the throne on the ground with folded hands and imagined Lord Sri Ram sitting on the throne. Unaffected by temporal aspects of power and material want, Bharat was committed to finding joy in the service of Lord Sri Ram. Rishi Bharadwaj was immediately ascertained of Bharat’s intentions and led him to the place where the Lord resided in the forest.
Such stories from the Ramayana convey the untold yet simple secrets to living a life guided by spirituality, prosperity and happiness. To hear more stories and learn more lessons from Ramayana, watch the full episode at: