There was once an occasion when the great celestial sage Narada met up with sage Valmiki at the hermitage at Bithoor, Uttar Pradesh, India. There he spoke about an individual with exquisite qualities, which took sage Valmiki by surprise. Sage Narada remembered all the great qualities of Sri Rama, but waited for emotions to overtake him, before he spoke about them to sage Valmiki. The qualities of Sri Rama were so exalted that it melted the heart of the great sage, such that it choked his voice and filled his eyes with tears of joy. Sage Narada said “He is from the great clan of King Ikshavaku of the Solar Dynasty. I will describe to you in brief, about Sri Rama, who is unparalleled in this whole universe.” Then came forth the 32 short verses of the “Valmiki Ramayana”, the spoken words of sage Narada, the initial of the 24,000 verses of the great scripture. The Ramayana is such that 24,000 verses can be heard for a month, a year, for many years. A single verse is of so much depth that, even one verse can be heard for a day, a year or for many years. The glory of the verses of the Ramayana cannot be measured.
The profundity of the Ramayana as a scripture, begs a deeper study so that it can be used as a great tool to replenish one’s consciousness and bring in purity and freshness. Sage Valmiki was interested in knowing the inner qualities of Sri Rama, but Sage Narada spoke about the physical beauty of the Lord, through the initial verses telling sage Valmiki that, first you should know this, before you understand Sri Rama’s qualities. Thus the first 8 verses represent the beauty of Sri Rama. The question is, why did sage Narada not answer Valmiki. This is interesting to note. Unless one is able to identify a person through one’s physical identity, the mind shall never be able to appreciate the inner qualities of the person. If I talk about a person without giving details of the looks of the person, can one appreciate the qualities of the person? Instead if I give a reference photograph of a person and then discuss the inner qualities of the person, will that not be better? Hence there should be an order while presenting the characteristics of a person. It should begin with the outer descriptions and then it shall be fruitful if one discusses the inner qualities.
For example when the devotees of the South of India, the Alvars remember the Lord in their heart, they sing “Oh Lord, you are the solidity of the earth, you are the heat and light of fire, You are the blueness of the sky.” There are some tales that are popular in South India. The Lord says “You have found me in so many ways. Be happy by finding me in Earth, Fire and the Sky.” To this the Alvars say “Oh No, Lord. Do not punish us this way. We shall only be happy to receive you the way our mind has beautifully conceived you. We want your greenish-blue form, with your chest bearing the great Srivastava mark (The mark is a tuft of hair that represents Goddess Laxmi), with your forehead marked with the great tilaka (mark of vermillion) of the Solar race, wielding the bow and arrow and garments of silky yellow and blue with a crown bedecked with precious gems that are only found on your crown.” Thus the form of the Lord is most important. Everything else only follows later. There are two terms rupa-guna (रूप-गुण) and then there is swarupa (स्वरूप). Rupa-Guna represent the physical form of the Lord and the qualities that the form represent. Next comes swarupa which describes the qualities and the greatness of the Lord, which represent the existential reality of the Lord. The salient quality of Sri Rama is that He protects His personal associates as well as takes care of the whole Universe. Sri Krishna will take care of the whole Universe, but is capable of letting down His personal family members, just as He let down His family in Dwaraka, after the culmination of the Mahabharata war. The great Tamil female sage Srimati Andal (திருமதி ஆண்டாள்) says “Oh Krishna you do not care for your lovers, who have left everything behind, for your Love.” In the same breath she says “Oh Rama, you are so caring, you care for every emotion that arises in the heart of your lovers. Who can be more caring, Oh Rama?” Sage Narada while describing Sri Rama’s quality of anger says that Lord Rama does not get angry if anybody demeans Him, or insults Him or shows Him low, but can never control His anger if somebody raises a finger against His dear devotees. This is the Love that He harbors towards His devotees.