Joseph Campbell, author of the famous book titled The Hero with a Thousand Faces, illustrated his timeless observations about the heroes whom humanity has worshipped for their divine journeys for truth and justice, such as Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ. He noticed that all these “Heroes” follow a common pattern in their journeys. This pattern includes phase of separation where the hero leaves his kingdom or home to answer to a call, phase of initiation where he completes his quest through navigating the arduous challenges, and the return portion where the hero comes back to his kingdom or home with the tale of his triumph and passes on what he has learned or gained on the journey. These journeys have worked as profound inspirations for humanity to search for truth and justice. Campbell believes that there is a great value in the way in which a story is told. Here is my point: “the way in which a story is told”. What emotion the way of telling invokes? Where does it direct our minds?
The great epic Ramayan is a tale of a hero Bhagwan Ram whom humanity has worshipped as an ideal self since time immemorial. Respected Akhilesh Gumashta’s book titled Ramayan: the Hymns of Himalaya is the poetic expression of Valmiki Ramayan and an output of seven years of tireless and unconditional efforts and past being in the present and celebrates the union between Eastern styles of devotion, surrender, contemplation and Western poetic styles of modernity. The style of this great book motivates the mind to understand the spirit of the age-old Ramayan to cope with the crisis of postmodernism that leaves no foundation in relationships, belongingness and identity.
The book starts with praises to different faces of the divine that reminds us of the divine that reminds us of the necessity to reconnect ourselves to the ultimate power of divine before the ultimate power of divine before we start any great work. Such humble praises make the mind completely silent to embrace the spirit of this book. Every chapter has a quote by a sage of our time to remind us how these great sages of our time have imparted the teaching of Ramayan. I am particularly drawn to the quote of chapter eleven that starts with Swami Vivekananda’s quote “every idea that strengthens you, must be taken up and every thought that weakens you must be rejected”. As an academic of gender studies, I found this quote to be very empowering to understand a particular phase of Bhagwan Ram’s journey. The whole book is full of such magnificent quotes that have added a blessed touch of the avatars of our time. In devotion for Bhagwan Ram. When I began to read this great book, I felt a strong sense of surrender of my egoistic self to the divine. At the study circle of the students, the spontaneous devotion arose in my mind to grasp the spirit of that book. It was the style of writing that brought that state of mind “the in which a story is told’.
Although his book is about an epic that I knew, it appears new, fresh and interesting to me due to its way of telling. His style connects to the book and has created immense interest due to its writing style. The students found its poetic style extremely intriguing and powerful. The style demonstrates strong command over language skills and radiates spiritual depth.
The style of this great book motivates the mind to understand the spirit of the age-old Ramayan to cope with the crisis of postmodernism that leaves no foundation in relationships, belongingness and identity
Both are very lucrative for young minds, and very lucrative for those who seek answers to endless questions about life. The style helps them connect to the spirit of Ramayan in addressing their concerns and questions in today’s uncertain world. While discussing with the students how they perceive Sita’s Agni Pariksha, I come across insights that go beyond mern abyssal thinking, which constantly makes distinctions between true and false. Can the Agnipariksha be considered a strength of love and mutual understanding between the righteous king and his queen, who were extremely devoted to fulfilling the responsibility for the service of others? Or was it a sacrifice of a people-centred king to respect people’s will in which his queen collaborated for the sake of a greater cause of love? While exploring such multiple possibilities and their nuances and in-betweenness, I and my students became aware of similar contexts that unfolded in our lives where we had to negotiate with our love, commitments, friendship and good relationships for some greater causes.
Our conversation on the basis of Ramayan inspired us to encounter such events with calmness, devotion and reflections of a greater cause of life. The book offers huge potential for such therapeutic conversations. The study circle of my students on this book revealed that young minds need such conversations around day-to-day sadness, grief, questions, concerns and dilemmas. I hope that more young people read this book to find answers to their complex questions that originate from the crisis of representations, extreme fluidity and collapse of foundations in today’s post modern world. One student said that if someone has any question about life and reads Ramayan with strong devotion, he/she will get the answer. May this book help to get the answers that the young minds of our generation are looking for.
(The writer is a Assistant Professor, Asian University for Women, Bangladesh who is running Ramayana Study Circle in Bangladesh)