Once upon a time, in India, a King was nearing the end of his life. Before his death, he desired to see his son, Rama, installed as king. All of the arrangements were made, and the Prince was set to take the throne. The night before the coronation, one of the King’s co-wives asked that he make good on his promise of granting 2 wishes to her. The King, always true to his word (as a King must be) assured that he would grant what ever she asked. The Queen’s first wish was that her son be installed as king rather than Rama, and the second, that Rama be sent into exile for 14 years. The King was broken, but bound by duty. Rama, without questioning the request nor displaying any malice toward his Step-Mother, obeyed the order of his father, and entered the forest along with his wife and one of his brothers.
The series of events which followed make up the oldest epic poem in human history: a story of love, honor, great heroes, horrible enemies, a great war, and, my personal favorite, a flying monkey.
At the end of 14 years, Rama had lost and recovered his wife and had slain a 10-headed, 20-armed demon who had wrought havoc upon the heavens and earth.
The celebration of Rama’s return from exile is celebrated on Diwali, this year falling on Wednesday 26 October.
The story of Rama, The Ramayana (Lit. “The wanderings of Lord Rama”) is full of ideal actions: we have the ideal king, father, husband, wife, brother, bad guy, and servant. To study the Ramayana is to study the very Vedas themselves. When he was a boy, Krishnamacharya (the preceptor of Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar among many, many others) was given a copy of The Ramayana by his grandfather, and was told “This is all you will ever need.” In his Autobiography, Gandhi states that The Ramayana of Tulsi Das is “The greatest piece of devotional literature ever written.”
The story of Rama is the light which dispels darkness for 1/7th of the world’s population. Diwali is a festival of lights, internal and external: candles are lit, fireworks light the sky, and all enmity is forgotten.
I welcome you to join me for class on Wednesday night where we will celebrate Diwali with stories from The Ramayana. Move your body with asana practice while moving your mind with the greatest story I know how to tell.
This will be a bit of a primer for the final Training for Students session (Nov 12th) which will focus more deeply on the stories from and poses inspired by The Ramayana.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll tell you the second greatest story I know, about a specific character in The Ramayana. In Hindi. If anyone wants to bring and play the harmonium, I’ll tell it to music.