The story of Rama showed his difference in perceptions. He rose far beyond guilt, beyond duality of good and bad, right and wrong, black and white, God and devil, heaven and hell. Yes, He did!
The Shooting of King Bali
Several of his actions would not be judged by mere mortals as ‘acceptable’. One of the very controversial stories in the epic Ramayana is where Rama shoots King Bali who was the brother and adversary of Rama’s ally, Sughreev. King Bali had the blessing that he could capture half the power of anybody who fights him face-to-face. No one could face him, with half their power amalgamated in his, thus he was undefeated. So Lord Rama hid behind a tree and shot an arrow into the back of King Bali, thereby ending his reign.
The Delusion of the World
Readers of this epic have criticised Lord Rama for killing a man in the back, by no means considered an act of valour in any society or form of warfare. Actually it was considered an act of cowardice. But Lord Rama was a student of Guru Vashisht, who had taught him that this world was a delusion of the mind. Nothing was real, and everything was a figment of imagination, thereby making duality unworthy of merit. He was beyond guilt. And therefore did not feel guilty or embarrassed by his action.
It is only when you reach a level ‘X’ in your evolution can you harbour that philosophy. If Rama had not thought like that, would he not be susceptible to loss of self-esteem?
Another story in the Ramayana, is the one where a mere washerman challenges the chastity of the Lady Sita, the divine wife of Rama. Even though Sita had faced a trial by fire, where she sat in a fire to prove that her chastity was sacrosanct, the washerman opined that Sita should give a trial by fire in the capital.
Being the king, Lord Rama could easily have ignored this comment but he did not. He asked her to sit again in another trial by fire to satisfy the doubts raised by the washerman. Was there any logic in that? Doesn’t make Lord Rama look either wise or intelligent, does it? And yet he did ask this of her and she, disappointed by his judgement, asked for Mother Earth to consume her. Evidently, or as myth has it, this happened at a place which has now been called Sitamari, somewhere between Varanasi and Allahabad.
To the hero of the Ramayana there was nothing right or wrong, so he just went about doing whatever he thought was needed, without looking at two sides of the coin: right and wrong, good and bad. When one of the poorest people in his land wanted him to request his wife to give another trial by fire, he decided to accept it. He realised that if people did not see him as a champion of moral values, they could resort to immorality as a backlash, so in order to sustain moral values (which were far from relevant in my personal opinion), he made this demand of his wife and lost her. He did punish King Ravana for abducting his wife but held no malice towards him because he understood the whole series of events as nothing more than maya.
You may have your own take on this subject and you are entitled to. Personally, I always looked upon Lord Rama without much respect. I thought he was a character unworthy of worship. These examples and more that I have cited above were enough justification for my disrespect. But when I read the teachings that he had undergone as a pupil of Guru Vashisht, I understood the man and learned to look up to him. (I have not forgotten that the divine spark in Rama is no different than the divine spark in you or me – there is only a difference in stages of refinement. Different timing, different level, and different destiny).
Then Vashisht asked Rama:
‘O Rama, what else do you want to hear from me? How do you perceive the world-appearance now? What is your inner experience?’
‘By your grace I have attained supreme purity, all the impurities have cleared away. All my misunderstandings and delusions have been dispelled. My bondage has been cut. My intelligence is pure like a crystal. My mind does not crave for more instructions, I have nothing to do with anything – neither instructions nor any objects, neither relatives nor scriptures, nor even renunciation. I behold the world as the pure, infinite, indivisible consciousness. The world is otherwise a void which disappears the moment the illusion vanishes.
I shall do whatever you wish that I should do, and I shall live doing whatever I have to do or wish to do, without exultation or depression, for my delusion has been dispelled. Whether this creation becomes something else, whether the winds of cosmic dissolution blow or whether this country be prosperous, I am established in self-knowledge. I am at peace. My vision is clear. It is difficult for my real state to be seen and understood. I am free from hopes and desires. I shall live and rule like other kings; whether they are enlightened or ignorant, but without mental agitation and endowed with equal vision. As long as this body lasts I shall rule this kingdom, endowed with a pure vision and freed from all doubts concerning the nature of this samsara, just as a child engages itself in play.’ (from Supreme Yoga by Venkateshananda)
The path to a spiritual climb has to be off the beaten one. If there is no difference in your approach, how will there be a difference in your destination?
You do not need to wear a placard of MISFIT. You just have to be a different fit. Climbing Mt. Everest is not a walk in the park.
Guilt brings you down to self non-acceptance. It blinds you to the reality of who and what each human being has the potential for. You will need to follow societal norms when you live in society. You will need to heed social governance, undoubtedly. You may pay fines for breaking traffic rules, but you cannot burden yourself with that guilt. It will end up becoming a samskara for one, and it will not allow you to realise your self-worth either.
We have to lead our lives at multiple levels even as some of those levels will contradict each other. When at work we get paid for achieving productivity. We may need to punish others or reprimand them. This may not suit our spiritual nature, but it’s just role play. There are many such examples: on one hand you like to help people but on the other, you may have to reduce their perks or salaries in order to make the organisation profitable. My company has tenants who are not willing to give back our premises. They are demanding ridiculous amounts as compensation. It did not hurt me spiritually to get our company to file a court case against them for receiving justice.
We have to do what we have to do.
Our lives have to be practical but fair. If we behave like teddy bears, we will be treated as such. A snake needs to show its fangs to keep others in awe otherwise people will just trample it (old Indian saying). We have to have double standards for self-evaluation. Many of you who read this may disagree. Accepted!
Don’t forget, climbing a mountain involves not a straight path, but several twists and turns. The choice is yours. But regardless, surmount GUILT!