Defining Purpose Of Life – A Pespective From Ramayana

Very often we are confronted by an intriguing question “ What is the purpose of life?”

While the question is simple and straight forward,there is no answer which can adequately satisfy a genuine seeker. There are several ways of looking at the issue and here I have tried to take a perspective from our epic Ramayana to seek some answers.

In Sundara Kanda of Valmiki’s Ramayana,one would find innumerable descriptions of nature,places and Rama himself. The descriptions of Rama appear in the text at various levels – his physical form and astounding beauty,his mental or intellectual prowess, his moral principles and exemplary conduct as a ruler,as a brother,as a son etc.

I will only quote two lines from the text,which describe the noble qualities of Lord Rama and it reads as follows:

“Satya dharma parah Srimaan Samgrahanugrahe ratah”(the word ‘samgrahanugrahe to be split as ‘samgraha’ and ‘Anugraha’) . Before we analyse this line,let me quote the the second line which is also relevant for our discussion. At a different part of the text ,Sita describes Rama’s qualities to Hanuman in the following line:

“Utsahah Pourusham Satvamanrshamsyam Kritangnyata Vikramascha Prabhavascha santi vanara Raghave”. (The expression ‘Satvamanrshamsyam’ is to be split as ‘Satvam’and ‘Aanrshamsyam’).

These are part of a dialogue between Sita and Hanuman when the latter meets the former in Lanka. The first line was spoken by Hanuman while the second line was a description of Rama’s qualities by Sita herself.

Let us now analyse the significance of these lines in the context of our present discussion. In brief,the first line sets out the purpose of life beautifully while the second line describes the qualities needed to accomplish the purpose.

Let us at the outset take the literal translation of the first line. It translates as “Rama is established in Truth and righteousness and He revels or rejoices in ‘acquiring’(samgraha) as well as ‘distributing’/ ‘blessing’ (anugraha ). This line tries to capture some of the infinite noble qualities of Rama. Our scriptures abound in such descriptions of the Lord in order to provide role models for ordinary mortals like us to emulate.

Let us examine as to what precisely Rama acquires and distributes liberally. The answer is very simply combination of material,intellectual and spiritual wealth. Rama has been described by Valmiki at several places in the scripture as one endowed with infinite intellectual and spiritual prowess exemplified by his learning and mastery of Vedas,highl degree of proficiency in Dharma shastras besides attaining mastery in techniques of warfare needed to protect his kingdom as a ruler etc etc. One can go on endlessly in compiling Rama’s great qualities acquired in his incarnation as a human being. In the same manner the list of people who were protected and blessed(Anugraha) by Him is also countless. The epic is full of examples of compassion and kindness shown by Rama to the people who sought his help or simply surrendered to Him.

It is also interesting to note that the line starts with ‘Satya dharma parah’. This beautifully sets the framework within which we need to ‘acquire’ whatever it is that we want to ‘acquire’ in our respective lives. Truth and righteousness should be the guiding principles for our pursuit of any worldly objects. The second line further elaborates the qualities essential to achieve our purpose or mission in life. Rama is described to have enthusiasm or initiative,manliness (or courage of conviction),Truthfulness,Compasion(or kindness),gratitude,Valour and nobility.

Let us try to understand the significance of the stated qualities. One can clearly see that qualities such as enthusiasm,initiative,courage of conviction,valour are essential in order to acquire wealth through Satyam and Dharma. We need to identify a cause to work for,feel passionately about it,be totally enthusiastic to take initiative and be bold to take it to its logical end with the firm belief that Truth and righteousness will ultimately prevail.



Let us now turn to the other qualities – Compassion,kindness and Gratitude. Compassion and kindness are the qualities that prompt us to part with what we acquire in good measure. These qualities will evidently allow us to identify with a chosen cause and create a feeling of empathy. It is also very easy to see that Compassion and kindness can be felt only if we develop a sense of gratitude to God as well as fellow human beings who made it possible for us to acquire in the first place. It comes out of the understanding that after all,we are not operating in isolation in this world. We are constantly interacting with others,who are directly or indirectly contributing to our success in acquiring. We just happen to be at the right place at the right time. It is this sense of gratitude which fills our hearts with Compasion and kindness when we see others suffering. Once we have this understanding we will automatically distribute whatever we acquire(whether it is material wealth, intellectual wealth or spiritual wealth).

Thus one can draw inspiration from these two lines alone and shape our individual purpose in life in tune with our capabilities and circumstances

Published on October 26, 2008 at 6:11 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautifully Said!

    Always great things are so simple.. 🙂

  2. So nicely expressed.Thank you so much for your valuable explanation!!!


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