Over a Thousand versions of Ramayana ,one of the two Great Epics of India,the other being Mahabharataha!
Of these versions many are in Sanskrit in which it was composed and that too by the same author,Sage Valmiki.
Some versions are meant for Higher Beings,some abridged,and some short and some stressing the Abstract Reality embodied in Lord Ramachandra,the Emperor of India.
Ramachandra was also the Emperor of the entire landmass on Earth and He is mentioned in ancient texts of the world including the Sumerian Kings List.
He was also referred to as RA and Rama worship is found in Americas ,Africas and ancient Europe.
While there are various versions in Sanskrit, in regional languages of India and in the Far East,all of them are in agreement with the fact that he was a Historical personality and not a figment of imagination of a creative poet.
Notwithstanding language barriers and the varied locations where/in which the Ramayana is composed,basic facts mentioned by Sage Valmiki in his Ramayana are adhered to.
In some versions certain changes are made in the narrative to enhance the quality of the literary work and the poets ensure that hints are made available in the text that there are such variations from Valmiki Ramayana.
While some of these versions enhance the quality of the work through characterisations,some provide more details in respect of Geography:some include the regional customs.
As the very name Ramayana implies Ramayana is the ‘Path of Rama’.
Rama Ayana meaning Path followed by Rama.
The Path travelled by Rama during his life was marked as Ideal and as such is recommended for people as it is deemed to be the Righteous one.
As Rama was not a fictional character,the writers felt that it would be more authentic to present Rama as the Ideal one to follow for He was Real.
There are some versions which are subtle and they convey the message of various philosophical concepts of Hinduism that are to be practiced by one to Realize the Self,Brahman.
One can read the Valmiki Ramayana as History and also as an explanation of Karma yoga and lokayata,the worldly way of performing one’s duties in accordance with Dharma,come what may.
There are some versions that stress on the Divine aspect of Rama and emphasize Bhakti yoga,the Path of Surrender to God.
Saint Tulsidas’s Ramcharitamanas belongs to this category where RamaBhakti takes priority and as Bhakti yoga implies Duality or Qualified Duality.
Dwaita and Visishtadvaidha,are two aspects of the Reality,Brahman as explained in the Vedas.
The other system Vedic Thought on Reality needs to be brought out.
This Thought is Advaita,the system that explains the Reality as One,non dual, Advaita.
This aspect is brought forth in Adhyaatma Ramayana.
It is said to have been composed by Veda Vyasa,the compiler of the Vedas and the Puranas.
There is also a view that Adhyaatma Ramayana was composed during the middle ages.
Adhyaatma Ramayana stresses Advaita system of them,made popular later by Adi Shankaracharya .
The Advatic thought runs through Adhyaatma Ramayana and the Rama Gita, where Rama’ discourse on Reality to Lakshmana is pure Advaidha.
The term Adhyaatma Ramayana indicates it to be Advaidha.
the Sanskrit scriptures have a very precise definition of the word spirituality (adhyatma): “aatmani adhi iti adhyatma”, meaning all that which is performed in accordance with the wishes of the soul (aatma)is spirituality.
From Bhagavad Gita, 8.3 : अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमं स्वभावोऽध्यात्ममुच्यते । means:
The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called adhyātma, the self.
The text represents Rama as the Brahman (metaphysical reality), mapping all saguna (attributes) of Rama to the nirgunanature (ultimate unchanging attributeless virtues and ideals). Adhyatma Ramayana raises every mundane activity of Rama to a spiritual or transcendent level, the story into symbolism, thus instructing the seeker to view his or her own life through the symbolic vision for his soul, where the external life is but a metaphor for the eternal journey of the soul in Advaita terminology.
The book is aimed to be used as a guide and a ready source of instruction for a spiritual seeker, as it presents the Ramayana as a divine allegory.
Adhyaatma Ramayana has Seven Cantos,Chapters,4500 verses.
Apart from this there are variations to Valmiki Ramayana in Adhyaatma Ramayana.
Comparison with Valmiki Ramayana
In a study of Adhyatma Ramayana it is essential to know where it differs from the Valmiki Ramayana.
Valmiki’s object seems to describe Rama as an ideal human character though he accepts him as an avatarof Maha Vishnu; but the divinity of Rama is always kept latent. This objective of Valmiki is made clear at the very beginning of the epic in verses 1 to 18 of Chapter 1 of Bala Kanda. Here Valmiki asks Narada the following questions:
1. “Who in the world today is a great personage, endowed with all virtues, who is courageous, who knows the secret of Dharma, who is grateful, who is ever truthful and who is established in sacred observances”?
2. “Who has great family traditions, who has got sympathy for all creatures, who is most learned, who is skilful, and whose outlook is ever kindly”?
3. “Who is courageous, who has subdued anger, who is endowed with splendor, who is free from jealousy, who, when angry in the field of battle, is a terror even to the Devas”?
In reply to this question, Sage Narada narrated in brief the entire Rama Katha which formed the basis for Valmiki to expand and make it a vast, beautiful and unique epic poem of great literary value which came to be called Valmiki Ramayana. (Narada’s brief exposition of Rama Katha to Valmiki is called ‘Sankshepa Ramayana’ which is used in many households for the purpose of daily recitation).
The object of an epic which begins with such a description of its hero is obviously to give us a picture of human perfection. But this does not mean that Valmiki did not recognize divinity in his hero. When a person is described as a Deity, it happens that ordinary human beings start worshipping him and are not inclined to treat him as a role-model to imitate and follow. This probably must have been the reason for Valmiki to propound the divinity of Rama in subdued tones and paint him prominently as a great human being with all the human frailties and weaknesses so that the people at large may learn from his life.
While Valmiki’s great epic is the saga of Rama in respect of its direct approach, Adhyatma Ramayana is a direct elaboration of its spiritual implications. In the former Rama is a great hero, in the latter he is a deity- Maha Vishnu, covered in thin apparel – held before all to worship. This is made clear in the very first chapter of the book entitled ‘Sri Rama Hridaya”.
The text of Adhyatma Ramayana projects Rama as the Supreme Self; but while doing so it takes care to see that Rama is also a Personal Deity, the Supreme Isvara, who is to be prayed and sought after by all those who seek knowledge of non-duality. It teaches Bhakti of the most intensive type and stresses that through devotion to Rama alone the saving Jnana would arise in the Jiva. The teaching of the Adhyatma Ramayana is an extension of the declaration of the Svetasvatara Upanishad, “it is only in one who has supreme devotion to God and to his spiritual teacher that this truth – knowledge of the non-dual Self – when taught will shine”.
Thus to establish Rama’s divine status, as an object of worship and devotion and to teach that Bhakti and Jnana are not only reconcilable but always go together is the prime object this great text. In order to achieve this objective, the Adhyatma Ramayana, while sticking to the main trends and incidents of the Rama Katha described in Valmiki’s epic, makes various deviations in the course of its extensive narration. A few such instances are cited below.
The major alteration in the fact of the story found in the Adhyatma Ramayana is the introduction of a “Shadow Sita” throughout the period of her abduction. The real Sita disappears into fire just before the golden deer episode. Tulasidasa also follows the Adhyatma Ramayana in this respect.
Compare Tulasi’s Sri Ramacharitamanasa, Aranya Kanda, Doha 23 and the Chopai: “When Lakshmana had gone to the woods to gather roots, fruits and bulbs, Sri Rama, the very incarnation of compassion and joy, spoke with a smile to Janak’s daughter (Sita):- Listen my darling, who have been staunch in the holy vow of fidelity to me and are so virtuous in conduct: I am going to act a lovely human part. Abide in fire until I have completed the destruction of the demons.”
“No sooner had Sri Rama told Her everything in detail than she impressed the image of the Lord’s feet on Her heart and entered into the fire, leaving with Him only a shadow of Hers, though precisely of the same appearance and the same amiable and gentle disposition. Lakshmana, too, did not know the secret of what the Lord had done behind the curtain.”
In the Adhyatma Ramayana, Sita emerges from the fire at the end of the war when the shadow Sita enters into it. (The whole drama is preplanned and enacted at the bidding of Sri Rama Himself).
Other alterations in the Adhyatma Ramayana include: Ravana treats Sita with the respect due to a mother and Sri Rama establishes a Sivalinga at the site of the bridge to Lanka.
The major contribution of the Adhyatma Ramayana lies in the casting of Rama in the role of the spiritual teacher and in the several exquisite hymns sung in praise of Rama. There are four occasions when Rama assumes the role of the teacher and gives philosophical disquisition.
Rama reveals himself as four-handed Mahavishnu at his very birth, a feature that is not seen in Valmiki
Sage Valmiki depicts Sri.Rama as an ideal man while admitting his divinity, whereas Sage Vyasa present him as the Supreme Being incarnate with the full remembrance of his divinity and the recognition of it by all wise men.
In response to Lakshmana’s questions on different occasions he teaches knowledge, devotion and detachment, methods of worship and the way of emancipation. In reply to Kaushalya’s query, Rama teaches the three Yogas of Karma (action), Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakti (devotion).
The well known Ramagita is part of Adhyatma Ramayana. It contains teachings on Advaita Vedanta. The real contribution of this work is in its repeatedly propounding the doctrine that Rama is Brahman the Absolute and that Sita is His Maya-shakti or Prakriti, thereby raising the personality of Rama to the highest level and providing a firm base to the worship of Rama.
Ahalya the wife of Sage Gautama is in invisible form in the Valmiki Ramayana, whereas in the Adhyatma she has been depicted in the rock form.
In the Ayodhya Kanda of Adhyatma Ramayana the section opens with a visit of Sage Narada to Sri. Rama to remind him of the purpose of his incarnation, which Sri. Rama acknowledges. All these incidents are not in Valmiki.
In the Adhyatma, banishment of Sri Rama is accomplished by the Devas through Goddess Saraswathi, by possessing the two women i.e. maid servant Manthara and Kaikeyi. In Valmiki this incident is explained as a simple court intrigue.
Sage Valmiki’s evil past has been explained in detail in Adhyatma, but not in the other.
In Adhyatma, Lakshmana requests Rama to instruct him on the means of attaining Salvation. Rama also gives him an elaborate discourse on Jnana and Bhakti, conveying the quintessence of Vedanta. This is not there in Valmiki Text.
According to Adhyatma, Ravana is aware of the fact that Sri. Rama in human form is Lord Vishnu incarnated to kill him. Ravana is also aware of the fact that destruction at Sri. Rama’s hand is easier way of gaining salvation than through spiritual practices (devotion through confrontation – an example for vidvesha bhakti).
In Adhyatma – unknown to Lakshmana, Rama informs Sita that Ravana will be coming to abduct her, and that therefore he is handing her over to the Fire deity Agni for safe custody, till he takes her back again. In her place Maya Sita is left in Asrama, and it is this illusory Sita that Ravana abducts. This is unknown in the Valmiki.
In Valmiki, it is Kabandha who advises Sri. Rama to make friends with Sugreeva and gives details about the place of his residence, whereas in Adhyatma it is ascetic Sabari who first tells Rama about Sugreeva and informs him that Sita is confined in Ravana’s palace.
After the death of Vali it is Hanuman who consoles Tara in Adhyatma Ramayana, whereas in Valmiki Sri. Rama gives her an elaborate advice of philosophy of Vedanta and the practice of devotion, besides consoling her.
In Adhyatma while Rama is staying at Mount Pravarshana after the coronation of Sugreeva, he gives an elaborate discourse to Lakshmana on the ritualistic worship of Lord Maha Vishnu (i.e Himself), thus revealing his identity with the Supreme Being openly.
Swayamprabha comes to meet Rama and praises Him, identifying him as Supreme Being. According to the advice of Rama she goes to Badari to attain Mukthi.. This episode is absent in Valmiki.
Sampati gives an elaborate discourse to the monkeys who meet him He quotes Sage Chandramas, while telling about the divinity of Sri. Rama. This incident is available in Adhyatma only.
A conspicuous addition in the Adhyatma is Rama’s installation of the Sivalinga in Rameswara, before the construction of Sethu for the success of the enterprise. Rama also declares about the merit of Pilgrimage to Rameswara and Sethu Bandha here. These elaborations are not available in Valmiki.
Sri Rama is well aware of his divinity during the Nagapasa missile episode and Garuda’s arrival to release them. In Valmiki, Rama is not aware of his Divinity till the end when Brahma imparts that knowledge to him.
Kalanemi obstructs Hanuman while he is on his way to bring Mritasanjivani, a herb that can revive one who is almost dead. This incident is absent in Valmiki.
Narada praises Rama after the death of Kumbakarna in Adhyatma. This is absent in Valmiki.
Killing of Maya Sita by Indrajit and illusion created thereon by black magic is available in Valmiki but not in Adhyatma
Before going to battle Ravana, for gaining invincibility in fighting, begins fire rite, as per the advice of his guru Sukra. This rite is blocked and stopped by the monkeys. These incidents are absent in Valmiki Ramayana.
Rama cuts down the heads of Ravana repeatedly, but could not kill him. Vibhishana informs Rama that Ravana has got amrita deposited in his umbilicus and that until it is removed he cannot be killed. This is available in Adhyatma Ramayana. But in Valmiki Ramayana as per the advice of Sage Agasthya Rama chants Adhithya Hrudaya and worships Lord Soorya to kill Ravana.
According to Adhyatma on the death of Ravana, his spirit, having luminosity of lighting enters into Rama and attains salvation. This explanation finds no place in Valmiki.
After the death of Ravana, Sita’s fire ordeal is only to replace the Maya Sita by Rama. The whole event is given the appearance of a real ordeal in Valmiki.
In Adhyatma Ramayana every one praises and chants the hymn on Rama starting from Vamadeva, Valmiki, Bharadwaja, Narada, Viradha, Sarabanga, Sutikshna, Agasthya, Viswamitra, Vasishta, Jatayu, Kabhanda, Sabari, Swayamprabha, Parasurama, Vibhishana, Hanuman etc. This is absent in Valmiki.
Reference and block quote citation.
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