We reproduce here below a lecture about this festival given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada at Hawaii on March 27, 1969.
Prabhupada: (chants mangalacarana prayers)
ramadi murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan
nanavataram akarod bhuvanesu kintu
krisnah svayam samabhavat paramah puman yo
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
This is a verse from Brahma-samhita in which the incarnation of Lord Ramachandra is described. Ramadi. Not only Rama, but there are many other, innumerable incarnations. They are compared with the waves of a river. As the waves of the river or the waves of the ocean cannot be counted, similarly, how many incarnations are there of the Supreme Lord it is not possible to count. But out of them, the principal names are mentioned in the shastras. Therefore it is said ramadi. Ramadi means Rama and also other, many incarnations. And they are existing. Not that one incarnation appeared and it is finished. No. Not like that. Just like Lord Ramachandra appeared on this planet, say millions of years before. He appeared in the Treta-yuga. We have passed only five thousand years of this age, Kali-yuga. Before that, there was Dvapara-yuga. Dvapara-yuga means 800,000 years. And before that, there was Treta-yuga, which continued for twelve hundred thousands of years. That means at least two million years before Lord Ramachandra appeared on this planet.
So now Lord Ramachandra appeared in Ayodhya. There is a place in Ayodhya, in northern India. There He appeared. As Krishna appeared in Mathura… That is also northern India. And Mathura is about ninety miles down southward from New Delhi. You have heard the name of New Delhi, the capital of India. So Ayodhya is also situated about five hundred miles northeast of New Delhi. So Lord Ramachandra appeared on this day. Today is called Sri Rama Navami. On the ninth day of the moon Lord Ramachandra appeared. His father was the king of Ayodhya, and he had three wives. No. He had two wives. So out of two wives he got four sons. Ramachandra is the eldest son. The life and activities of Lord Ramachandra is in a book which is called Ramayana. You have heard the name of Ramayana. Ramayana is also accepted as history. Vedic literatures are histories also. The Puranas, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, and Ramayana, they are counted amongst the history.
The history of Ramachandra is that His father wanted to retire. Maharaja Dasharatha. And he decided to enthrone Lord Ramachandra and retire. So everything was settled, but just one day before, his youngest wife turned the whole thing into different way. Sometimes Maharaja Dasharatha was suffering from what is called whitlow, some trouble in the finger? And this queen served him very nicely, and he was pleased. And he said, "My dear Sarmistha, if you want some benediction from me, I can give you." And she replied that "I shall ask you for the benediction when I require it. Not now." So just one day before Lord Ramachandra's coronation, she approached her husband Maharaja Dasharatha and reminded him, "My dear husband, you promised to give me some benediction, and I told you that I shall ask you when I require it." Maharaja Dasharatha said, "Yes, I remember. You want some benediction just now?" She said, "Yes." "And what is that?" She said that "Ramachandra cannot be seated on the throne. My son should be coraneted, Bharata." He was surprised. It is a big demand. So he said, "All right. That will be done. Your son." Because formerly, the kings… Not only formerly, even up to date, there are many kshatriya kings in India. They have more than one wife. And they are, naturally, there is rivalry between different wives. So the same thing. Human psychology is the same. Even two million years ago the same mentality was there, and she asked that "My son should be the king, not Ramachandra." Ramachandra happened to be the son of Kausalya, the elder queen.
So Maharaja Dasharatha agreed and called for Ramachandra. "My dear boy, your…" She asked also that… She was very diplomatic. She wanted that Ramachandra go to forest for fourteen years. The idea was political, that "The king may agree to install my son just now. Now, after a few days, this Ramachandra may come with His army, and there may be some difficulty to continue the kingdom." So she wanted that Ramachandra should go to the forest and He should not come back till the end of fourteen years from this day. So Maharaja Dasharatha agreed. Because he was kshatriya. Just see the promise. A kshatriya never goes back from the promise, never refuses any challenge. If a kshatriya is challenged by somebody, that "I want to fight with you," oh, he cannot refuse. This is kshatriya spirit. He cannot say that "I am now busy." Suppose somebody comes to you, that "I want to fight with you." You may say, "What nonsense fight? I have no time. We are in the temple." But a kshatriya cannot deny that. A kshatriya at once must accept. "Oh, yes. Come on." And the weapon should be, if he has no sword or weapon, he should be supplied weapon and fight. This is kshatriya spirit. They were highly charitable and chivalrous and keeping promise and with a great tendency for ruling over. They shall rule over. Administrators.
There are different prescriptions for different classes of men for their livelihood. The brahmanas, they can pull on their livelihood by six ways. Pathana pathana yajana yajana dana pratigraha. Six. And they must be qualified with twelve high qualities. We have many times discussed. Out of that qualification, truthfulness is the first item for a brahmana. A kshatriya may speak lies. That is allowed, because he has to be diplomat, politician. But a brahmana, oh, he's not allowed to speak lie. This is the system, caste system or varnasrama system. Everyone was trained. Because these four classes of men are required in a society. For proper upkeep of society, one class of men must be very intelligent, highly qualified, with all good qualities. They must be trained in that way, ideal character so that people can see and follow them. Therefore brahmanas were taken to so much respect because they're ideal character, learned, and godly, knows the science, spiritual science. Therefore they're held in high estimation and topmost of the society.
The next, the administrative class, kshatriyas. They are trained how to kill. The kshatriyas were allowed to hunt in the forest to learn the art of killing because that was necessity for the kshatriyas. If the king finds somebody is doing wrong, he can immediately chop off his head if he likes. The king was so powerful. And it is not that if there was some war, it is not that the president or the king shall sit down comfortably at home and ordinary soldiers will go and lay down their life. No. Formerly, the king or the head of the state, he should first of all go there in the fight. You see in the picture, the chief men of the fighting in the Kurukshetra, both sides, they were arrayed, this side, that side, with their chariot. Not that the head man, the chief man, or the commander is taking shelter back side, protecting himself, and poor soldiers are (chuckles) thrown into the fighting. No. These were kshatriya spirit. And it is necessary that a class of men should be trained up in that way, kshatriya, fighting men. In India, because this training was there since a very long time, so there is no difficulty in recruiting soldiers there. There is a class of men; they are very much forward in fighting still. They are called… Just like the Gurkhas, the Nepalese. You have heard the name of Nepal. Still a small state, independent state. They are not within India. Between China and India. The whole Nepal population, they are kshatriyas. Oh, they are very good fighters. Similarly, the Sikhs, the Jatas. There are classes. So they're always forward for fighting. And you'll be surprised that the British Empire was voluntarily liquidated because they lost India. The Britishers, they understood that because we are now losing India, there is no more possibility to keep our eastern empire. Therefore they liquidated. Why? Actually, the whole British Empire was being administered or managed by Indian soldiers, these Sikhs and Gurkhas. They extended their empire. After taking their position with India, they extended British Empire in the Middle East and Far East simply by these Sikhs and Gurkha soldiers. They got supremacy on Burma and everywhere.
So there is necessity of a class of fighting men. You are finding in your country difficulty in recruiting because the recruiting process is wrong. You are training persons just like shudras, and you want them to fight. How they can fight? It is not possible. So as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, that catur-varnyam maya srstam guna karma vibhagasah... [Bg. 4.13]. Lord Krishna said that "The four classes or orders of the society, brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra, are planned by Me according to work and quality." So this kshatriya quality men is also required, the brahmana quality of men is also required, the mercantile community, they are also required, and the laborer class, they are also required. Of course, laborer class, they do not require any training. Laborer class means one who cannot do anything, neither become brahmana, nor become kshatriya, nor become vaishya. That means the last balance of the population; they are called laborer class, shudra. Shudra means one who has no training. Shudra has no samskara. Samskara means training. Everyone is accepted as shudra by birth. Janmana jayate sudrah. Janmana means by birth. By birth, everyone is born a shudra, a fourth-class man. It is to be accepted, and actually so. Just like a child, innocent child, what does he know? He has to be trained. Either you train him as a brahmana or train him as a kshatriya or train him as a vaishya. Or otherwise, he is shudra already, born shudra. Shudra has no training. Everyone, the basic principle, basic foreground, everyone, it is accepted shudra. Now, if you train him as a brahmana, then he becomes a brahmana. If you train him as a kshatriya, then he becomes a kshatriya. If you train him as a vaishya…
So I think this system is very scientific so that if you want help of a really intelligent man or God realized man, it is ready, the brahmana class. Just like if you require the help of a lawyer, we have got so many lawyers. If you require the help of medical man… Because there are trained men. Similarly, the society requires to train a certain class of men to become brahmanas. Just like we are training the Krishna conscious. The Krishna consciousness is meant for the brahmanas. They are not meant for fighting because they are not being trained for fighting. They have been trained for becoming brahmanas. Who is brahmana? Brahma janati iti brahmana. The four divisions are described like this. Janmana jayate sudrah, everyone is born shudra. That is accepted. Samskarad bhaved dvijah. Now if you train him, never mind in which family he's born, you have to train him. Just like boys are sent to school for being trained. So everyone is accepted as shudra, but you now train him. He goes to the guru-griha.
Guru-griha means teacher's house. Formerly, for being trained, there was no such big scale school and colleges. Fifty years before in India, in every village there was a small school conducted by the brahmana, and the village children would be trained up there. So he was sent for training. And there was no school fee. The boys will go there, and on behalf of the teacher or spiritual master, they will go, brahmachari, door to door, and beg and bring forth alms, rice, dahl, grains, and everything. That was the system. There was no school fee. There was no problem how to send a boy to the school. Samskara. Now he's trained up. The teacher sees the psychology of the boy, in which way he should be trained. Either he should be trained as a vaishya or he should be trained as a kshatriya. So everyone was trained like that, but generally, the son of a kshatriya... Just like Maharaja Ramachandra or Arjuna, from the very beginning they were trained as kshatriya. Naturally, if somebody is the son of a medical man, his father trains him to become a medical man in future. That is the natural tendency. If the boy is different altogether that is another question, but naturally, that is the tendency. So a kshatriya's son was trained as kshatriya. A brahmana's son was trained as a brahmana and a vaishya's son was trained as a vaishya, and shudra had no training. So gradually this became a caste system. Brahmana's son became brahmana. Because formerly, the training was there. But when it is vitiated, although a person born in the family of a brahmana, he is doing the work of a shudra.
So according to Vedic scripture, one is classified according to his work and quality, not by birth. That is the classification of shastra. Just like in the Bhagavad-gita the Lord says catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah [Bg. 4.13]. Guna means quality and karma means work. One must be qualified for the work and he must actually work. Then he is counted classified into that, I mean to say, category. Just like if you are simply trained or educated as a lawyer, and if you are not practicing in the court, nobody comes to you to consult as a lawyer. Nobody cares for you. You must be practicing also. Similarly, to become a brahmana means first of all, he must know what is Brahman and he must be actually situated in the activities of Brahman. So devotional service are activities of Brahman. Activities in Krishna consciousness means activities in Brahman. Brahme carati iti brahma brahmachari. Carati means acts. Actually, he acts in life, applies the principles of brahmana in his life, he is called brahmachari. So these were the trainings.
So just see how the training was, that a kshatriya cannot refuse his promise. So Maharaja Dasharatha, he fulfilled the promise of his youngest wife and asked his son, eldest son Ramachandra, "My dear boy, You'll have to go to forest for fourteen years. That is the desire of Your youngest mother. And I promised that I shall fulfill her request. So please accept." Ramachandra said, "Yes father, I am ready." Just see. This is the quality. Out of the six opulences of God, this is one quality.
viryasya yasasah sriyah
sannam bhagam itingana
(Vishnu Purana 6.5.47)
How one becomes God? God is not manufactured by vote. There are definition who is God. God must be the proprietor of all the riches. Aisvaryasya samagrasya. Samagra means all. Nobody can compete with Him. Here, in this world, material world, I am rich man, and there is another rich man who can compete with me. There is another rich man who can compete with him. But nobody can compete with God in richness. That is one qualification of God. Nobody can say that "I am richer than God." You can say "I am richer than Ford or Rockefeller" or this or that. You can say. But nobody can say that "I am richer than God." Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita it is said mattah parataram nanyat asti kincid dhananjaya. Mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya [Bg. 7.7]. Dhananjaya is a name of Arjuna, and Krishna said that, "My dear Arjuna, there is nobody greater than Me." So if anyone claims that he is God, he must prove by practical example that nobody is richer than him. That is the first. But unfortunately, we are accepting so many Gods. A rascal in the street, he also claims that "I am God."
So similarly, the other qualification, nobody can be stronger than God, nobody can be wiser than God, nobody can be more beautiful than God, and nobody can be more renouncer than God. So here Ramachandra, Lord Ramachandra exhibited the quality how He renounced the whole kingdom simply on the order of His father, His obedience to father. He could have argued with His father, "My dear father, you, simply for keeping your promise and actuated by the dictation of a woman, you are doing this. Let us stop it. Everyone is expecting that tomorrow My coronation will be there, and they love Me so much." Just like Krishna was so much loved, similarly, Lord Ramachandra was the life of the people. They were very much expecting that Ramachandra was going to be enthroned tomorrow. So how they were celebrating, how they were decorating the whole city. He never argued. He accepted immediately: "Yes, father. I am ready."
So then one of the brothers, Lakshmana, He also requested Ramachandra, "My dear brother, You also take Me. I am Your constant companion. I must go with You." So He said, "That's Your wish. Voluntarily, if You want to come, You can come with Me." Then Sita, His wife, young wife, She also said, "I'll go with You." Ramachandra requested His wife, "Oh, you cannot go with Me. It is very difficult. You are a king's daughter, and you are brought up in so nice way, and you are so beautiful. You cannot go. You cannot take the trouble of living in the forest." So she said, "Oh, I am Your wife. Married wife. So I must go even if You go to hell." This is ideal wife. She could have refused: "Oh, Your father has ordered to go to forest. You can go. I shall go to my father's house or I shall remain here." No. This is ideal wife. She must be prepared to accept any circumstances of the husband. Not that when the husband is rich the wife is very faithful, and when he has come down to be poor or he's going to forest the wife gives up his company. No. Wife means better half. She must abide. Just like, it is said, just like a shadow follows the reality, similarly, the wife is the shadow of the husband. Wherever the husband goes, she must go. Whatever the husband wants, she must carry out. Of course, in this country this interpretation is taken differently, that wife is made a slave. But actually, it is not so. When Sita was kidnapped in the jungle, Ramachandra expected that, that she was beautiful, she was young, and "We shall be in open jungle. It may be some demons may come," and actually it so happened. So for Sita, Lord Ramachandra massacred the whole family of Ravana. Only for Sita. So as the husband, so the wife. The wife was so faithful that she could not remain alone. She must accompany the husband even in the forest. And the husband was so faithful that, "Oh, my wife has been kidnapped." So He massacred the whole family of Ravana.
So these are ideal history how Lord Ramachandra appeared in this world to educate or to place ideal example of a king. How the king should be. Therefore when there is good government… The example is given, Rama-rajya. It is the kingdom of Lord Rama. Because everyone was happy. There are so many instances in the life of Ramachandra. Somebody came to Ramachandra. Because at that time there was no court like this, that you have to go to a court and apply with stamp fee. Then your judgment will be delivered after six years. It is not like that. Anyone who has got some complaint, the king used to sit in the open audience, and the citizens were allowed to approach the king and place their complaints. Because there was no complaint practically. Everyone was happy. Very minor complaint. So somebody came to Ramachandra, and he charged Ramachandra, "My dear king, my son has died. How is that, in the presence of his father, son can die? There must be something wrong in Your government." Just see. The charge is "Why my son has died before my death? This is unnatural." So there was nothing unnatural. The king was responsible even for severe cold, severe heat. That we get from history of Srimad-Bhagavatam. That is stated. So the kings were so much responsible. They were always thinking of the happiness of the citizens, and the citizens were also so nice. One citizen approached Lord Ramachandra and His next assistant, His brother, Lakshmana, informed Him that "He is a brahmana. You were absent on Your tour for, I think for a fortnight or a month, and this brahmana has not eaten even a drop of water during Your absence." Why? "Because he comes here to see You, darsana." Just like we come here in the temple to see the Deity.
So Lord Ramachandra was present personally. So he used to come. After seeing Ramachandra, offering his obeisances, then he would go home and take something, his breakfast. That was his vow. And because he could not see for a fortnight or a month Lord Ramachandra because He was out on political tour, he did not eat even. Just see. The citizens were similar to the king. So at that time, there was a statue of Ramachandra which was being worshiped in the family from Maharaja Iksvaku. Maharaja Iksvaku, the son of Manu, happens to be the forefather of the family in which Ramachandra appeared. So he was devotee of Lord Rama, and he was worshiping the statue of Lord Rama. So that statue was being worshiped by the family one after another. But when Ramachandra was actually present He kept that statue in the closet of the room, and when this brahmana approached and Ramachandra was informed by Lakshmana that he is so steady and strong in his vow, so Ramachandra ordered that he may be delivered that statue so that in My absence he can offer respect to the statue and do with this. That form, I mean to say, statue, or archa of Ramachandra is still existing in South India. It is being worshiped from that time.
So these were the dealings of Ramachandra. Then He, His younger brother Lakshmana and His wife went to the forest, and His wife was kidnapped by the diplomacy of the demon Ravana, and there was fight between Rama and Ravana. Ravana was materialistically very strong. But the thing is for fighting with Ravana; Ramachandra did not come back to His kingdom and take His army. No. He did not come back because He was ordered to live in the forest. So He organized army with the jungle animals, the monkeys. He fought with Ravana, an organized materialist, with the monkeys. You have seen the picture. And He constructed a bridge between India's last point to the other side. Ceylon is considered to be the kingdom of Ravana. So there was a bridge, and the stones were floating.
So there are so many historical incidences in the life of Ramachandra, and we should remember, because if we remember why we are observing today fasting for Ramachandra… There were many kings like Ramachandra. Because the kings were trained in that way. Maharaja Yudhishthira was also as good as Ramachandra, and Maharaja Parikshit was as good. There were many such kings. But we are not concerned because He was a king. He is the King of all kings, Paramesvara. Because He is God, therefore we are observing today. Ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan [Bs. 5.39]. So He is not original form of God. The original form of God is Krishna, and Krishna expands Himself in various other forms. Advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam [Bs. 5.33]. Ananta-rupam means millions and millions. The Manu is also incarnation of Krishna. So in one day of Brahma there are fourteen Manus. So Brahma lives for one hundred years. Just see how many incarnations of Manus are there even for one Brahma, and there are innumerable Brahmas also.
So, as stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that nobody can count how many incarnations are there, but some of the chief incarnations are mentioned, and Lord Ramachandra is one of them. So Lord Ramachandra, He killed Ravana and He installed his brother. His brother was devotee, Vibhishana. So He did not go to conquer Ceylon, because He was emperor. He went to punish that culprit Ravana, and He installed his younger brother Vibhishana in that… And He came back with Sita, and again He was installed after fourteen years, and His brother was so faithful that so long His eldest brother was away, Ramachandra requested Him that "Your mother wants that You should be king, and I also wish that in My absence You should be king." Bharata, He was so faithful brother, He replied, "No. You are king. So long You are living, nobody can be king. So I cannot be king." Then He requested, "At least You administer." Because after the departure of Lord Ramachandra, Maharaja Dasharatha died out of the shock because Ramachandra was very pet son, eldest son. He was going to be king, and by his order He was sent to the forest. The father could not tolerate the shock. He died.
So Ramachandra's life, God's activities, pastimes, if we hear, that means we are associating with Ramachandra. There is no difference between His form, His name, His pastimes, and Himself. He's absolute. Therefore either you chant the holy name of Rama or you see the statue of Rama or you talk of His pastimes, transcendental pastimes, everything, that means you are associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So we take advantage of these days when the incarnation of God appears or disappears, and we try to associate with Him. By His association we become purified. Our process is purification. Krishna consciousness means simply we are purifying our consciousness. From the birth, as I have explained, everyone is shudra. Shudra means one who laments. That is called shudra. For a slight loss or slight inconvenience, one who laments, he is called shudra. And brahmana means one who tolerates. A shudra has no toleration. So kalau shudra sambhava. Kalau means… This age is called Kali. So it is the statement of the shastras that in this age the whole population is shudra. And formerly also, by his birth, everyone was considered shudra, but there was training, samskara. At the present moment, there is no samskara, there is no training. The training is only for earning livelihood. No other training. How one can earn money and enjoy senses — that is the training at the present moment. But actually, to make successful the human life or the mission of human life, the Vedic culture is very nice. And by spreading Krishna consciousness, by adopting the process of Krishna consciousness, you can revive that cultural life, sublime life. If not wholesale, if there are a few people trained up in this line, and they become ideal examples to the society, immense benefit can be derived from their examples of life.