yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate
“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” Bhagavad Gita (3.21)
Great persons who make a powerful impact on people’s lives are emulated by the masses. The late president of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam was an admired leader. He had wonderful qualities that attracted children and students to him wherever he went. He inspired everyone by his words, actions and qualities. Whatever standards such leaders establish, the rest of the people follow. Knowing that the living example of a great person inspires human society, the Supreme Lord Himself descended on earth as Lord Sri Ramachandra (Rama), to set the highest standard of behavior and character of a human being and especially of a king.
Rama, The Perfect Leader
Ramayana, the life history of Lord Sri Rama, is full of anecdotes of Rama during His presence here on earth. Each one of them helps us appreciate how a great king and human being should be. These pastimes (lilas) of Rama have shaped our country’s ethos and character for centuries. In fact, Lord Rama has been one of the most influential persons in India since time immemorial. Even more remarkable is that His influence has remained undiminished through several centuries. We have the responsibility to teach our children and the younger generation about the great qualities of Lord Sri Rama. He earned the confidence, trust and respect of people through his very personal behavior.
Rama, The Renunciate
Carrying out the order of His father, who was bound by a promise to his wife, Lord Ramachandra left behind His kingdom, opulence, friends, well-wishers, residence and everything else, just as a liberated soul gives up his life, and went to the forest. Renouncing the kingdom and accepting a life of hardship demonstrate one of the opulences of Bhagavan: Renunciation. This also revealed that whenever a situation called for enormous amount of sacrifice to uphold dharma, Rama was ready for it.
Sita Devi’s Agni-Pariksha
A great example of the Lord’s spirit of sacrifice was the agni-pariksha of mother Sita, towards the end of the yudha kanda in Ramayana. As a great ruler, Rama was extremely concerned about public criticism. He was conscious that His actions should be above the highest standards of morality. After killing Ravana and gaining victory, the Lord coronated Vibhishana as the king of Lanka. The Lord then arranged for mother Sita to be brought in a palanquin to meet Him. It was a great moment of joy for both Rama and Sita. In the public gathering amidst the presence of Vibishana and other court memebers, Rama began to speak very somberly. He revealed that exact reasons for which Ravana was killed: Ravana had committed a great sin by abducting Sita. So he deserved to be punished and therefore Rama killed him to set the right standard of conduct. If somebody commits such a heinous act, he should be killed. Rama had established and demonstrated that important principle.
Ravana had brought great disgrace to celebrated dynasty of Ikshvaku. Killing Ravana had restored that glory of the dynasty. Also, for a Kshatriya, it was a great insult to have his wife abducted. So Ravana was killed and that insult has been avenged. Finally, Lord Rama declared openly that He had killed Ravana and his whole clan not for the sake of Sita but to set the right standards of human behavior and the right code of conduct. He told mother Sita that since She had been under the shelter of another man for a long time, as a king of the prestigious Ikshvaku dynasty, it would be inappropriate for Him to accept Her as His wife again. Such a decision was not only painful to Sita but to Rama as well. But the Lord was willing to undergo the pain personally in order to set the right example for his people. Sita devi, being goddess Lakshmi Herself, proved Her chastity by Agni Pravesh and was reunited with Lord Rama.
Lord Ramachandra’s life is considered to be exemplary in every way. Followers of India’s Vedic culture see Him as the ideal king, the most powerful warrior, and the most faithful husband. He set the standard for heroism, morality and good governance. It is said that He ruled His kingdom just as a loving father cares for his children. Lord Rama’s nobility, integrity, decency, and virtue are spoken of with reverence even today. Lord Ramacandra appeared in this world to set the ideal example of how a king should be. Therefore when there is good governance, it is often compared to Rama-Rajya (the kingdom of Lord Rama). This is so because everyone was happy in Rama’s kingdom.
Associating with Lord Rama
There were many kings (Maharaja Yudhisthira and Maharaja Pariksit) like Ramacandra. However, we are not concerned because Rama was a king. He is the King of all kings, parameshvara. Therefore, we celebrate his appearance day as Sri Rama Navami. If we hear about Ramacandra’s life, activities, pastimes, then we are actually associating with Him. As the Lord is Absolute, there is no difference between His form, His name, His pastimes, and Himself. Therefore, whether we chant the holy name of Rama or see the deity of Rama or talk of His transcendental pastimes, we are associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By His association, we become purified and attain the highest perfection of human life.