The Ramayan and the Mahabharat are the two Itihas, a narration of historical events coupled with the deepest philosophy.
The Mahabharat also contains the Yogshastra Bhagvat Gita, which is a step by step guideline to what you deeply desire. In the Ramayan there is the Aditya Hrudaya stotra which in my opinion is the highly condensed ‘Gita’ of the Ramayan. If you are on the spiritual path, you must listen/ recite this once in a while.
There was a question on the Sundar kand so writing a detailed post on it.
The original Ramayan written by Rishi Valmiki is in Sanskrit (Devbhasha Samskrutam) and ends with the coronation of Shri Ram. Ramayan means Ramasya ayanah iti Ramayan. It talks about the travels of Ram. It ends when the Rajya-abhishek of Ram as the King of Ayodhya ie Ram’s travels end with this event. The coronation is on the first day of the new year Chaitra Shukla pratipada. The death of Ravan, the King of Lanka, occurs on the last day of the year on Falgun Amavasya. Ram travels back to Ayodhya immediately after Ravan’s death in the Pushpak viman and is immediately crowned King of Ayodhya. The Ramayan ends here.
There are 6 main sections/ Kaand in the original Ramayan.
- Bala kand has the part of the birth of the main characters and their childhood is described. (It has some interjected stories which were added later and not connected to the main story.)
- Ayodhya kand – the princes live in Ayodhya, grow up, get married etc.
- Aranya kand – the first part of the exile of Ram, Sita and Laxman.
- Kishkindha Kand – Ram and Laxman interact with the Vanars of the kingdom of Kishkindha
- Sundar kand – Hanuman realises Himself. This section is exclusively related to the activities of Hanuman.
- Yuddha kand – describes the war between Sri Ram and Ravan, the King of Lanka. Ravan is killed at the end of the war. This section ends with the coronation of Ram as per Rishi Valmiki’s original text. The Ramayan ends with the coronation of Shri Ram as the King of Ayodhya.
Now about Hanuman. His other equally popular name is Maruti. Maruti indicates his connection to the breath, wind, storms, war, divinity, movement, power, etc.
Maruti has several other names, Anjaneya, Kapish, Vajradehi, Kalanabha, Chiranjeevi, Manojava, Jitendreya, Vatatmaja, Vanar-yuth-mukhya, Ram-doot, Pavan-putra, etc. And because these are all Sanskrit words, each describes some trait of his. To understand the real meaning of Sanskrit words, you have to add intention and the energy of the Akshar. So Maruti is the son of Anjana, the one who was hit on his chin, the king of everything that moves, his body is tougher than lighting, indestructible, the navel of time, the one who exists forever, he is produced by the Mind/Manas, the one who conquers the organs of sense/action, the one concealed in the pran, the leader of the other-dimensional intelligence, the messenger of the ultimate happiness, etc.
Maruti is a ‘Vanar’, this word does not mean a monkey. In Sanskrit, ‘Markat’ is the animal ‘monkey’. So saying that Hanuman was/ is a ‘monkey’ is extremely offensive and demeaning. Vanar is ‘Vansaya narah iti Vanarah’. The ‘Nar’ who are of the ‘Van’. Nar are a class of beings like the Yaksha, Kinnar, Gandharva etc. ‘Van’ is the forest, distant lands, other dimensions, running water, sun-ray, vehicle, residence, desires, abundance etc. A Vanar can be understood as a being from the other dimensions as the simplest meaning. Our human body is composed of all the 5 panchabhoot, Akash, Vayu, Agni, Aap, Pruthvi. The other dimensional beings have other types of bodies composed of differing proportions of the mahabhoot, eg Yaksha have bodies composed of only Akash, Vayu and Agni.
The Ramayan is also a guidebook to self realization. Ravan the anti-hero is an embodiment of the ego, the tremendous and discordant vibrations created by a sense of personal-ego. (In the Mahabharat this role is fulfilled by Duryodhan, ‘the one who is extremely difficult to defeat’.) If you follow the Ramayan as your guide, you will see your self-ego as Ravan in the very last confrontation when you are finally required to destroy it in the highest stages of Dhyan.
So, in all this, who or what is Hanuman?
He is the embodiment of pran, the vital energy flowing in the energy channels/nadi of your pran-mai-kosh body layer. He is also called the Mukhya Pran devata. The energy of the seed of the vital energy. There are 5 different main types of pran, the panch-pran. Pran, Apan, Vyan, Saman, Udaan. Maruti is the combined conscious intelligence of the Panch-pran. You might have seen some images of Hanuman with 5 terrible faces. Now if you do your Dhyan sincerely there will come a time when you will see these the conscious energies of these 5 main types of pran and yes they are very Ugra, terrible and terrifying. The power of pran blasting in your nadis and in the universe around can indeed be terrifying, so you have to do your spiritual practice to prepare yourself.
The objective of every spiritual aspirant is basically to control the movement of pran consciously. To be able to shut down its movements in the rest of the body and to drive it into the Brahmanadi within the Sushumna. Then to guide it with infinite precision through the chakras till it reaches the top. This movement of pran in the Brahmanadi ‘cleans’ it, makes it through so that when the Kundalini starts moving, it can simply move from the Mooladhar chakra to the central Bindu with the Sahsarar chakra in one smooth sweep. This movement of the Kundalini grants Moksh in one stroke.
So to be able to control the pran, you must absorb the energy of Maruti. He is of supreme importance in spiritual practice. Unless you are able to control the pran/ vital energy flowing in your nadi/ energy channels, you cannot get anywhere.
Now the question I was asked was on doing a Parayan of the Sundar kand.
The Sundar kand is that part of the Ramayan where Hanuman realises his power. He goes through several experiences and events which makes him aware of his reality. This is the reason why doing a Parayan of this section is very helpful. ‘Parayan’ पारायणं is reciting mantras with intention, absorbing the energies completely. The Ramayan is an esoteric text and each verse/ shlok is a mantra. So if you recite the Sundar kand with the intention that you gain the blessing of Maruti you will get it. You will gain the ability to control the pran, so this parayan will benefit the spiritual aspirant. This will also regulate the movement of the pran and bring it to the best possible levels. So if you are ill, or under mental stress, or suffering from negativity, evil eye energy, nightmares, psychic attacks, impending danger etc, all this will be removed. On the material levels too, power, courage, health, ability to win, destroying enemies, finding what you want, success, emotional stability, strength, peace of mind etc will be granted.
Doing the Sundar kand Parayan.
The original Valmiki Ramayan, the Sundar kand is 68 chapters long and is extremely powerful. Sundar kand parayan is an Anushtan, a powerful practice to use the mantra. Ideally a Brahmin is required as there is a specific way of reciting the shloks. But if you wish to do it on your own, this is the basic minimum you should do. The easiest method is this,
- You start on any any auspicious day. (post here)
- Get a small image of the deities or a photo. Set it on a small wooden altar in front of you.
You will sit on your Asan facing either the north or east direction. And obviously facing the deities image.
- Begin with a small puja of Shri Ram and Devi Sita. Then do a puja of Maruti. Here you can offer flowers, saffron, sandal-wood, turmeric, incense, light a lamp, do an arti with camphor etc as per what is available in your house.
- You can blow the Shankh thrice if you have it. Or sprinkle the Ganga water if you have it. Or at least visualise golden/silver aura around you, feel the kindness of the deities surrounding you in a loving cocoon. Recite ‘Jai Shri Ram’, while you are setting up all this.
- You have to keep a sweet dish/ Naivedya for the deities. Panchamrut is mixing some milk, curd, honey, sugar (khadi-sakhar) and desi cow ghee. Or keep 5 types of fruits. Or 5 pieces of dry fruits, almonds, cashew, dried grapes, dry coconut, apricots, figs etc with some jaggery/sugar. Keep this Naivedya in a silver or glass bowl. (Never use iron/ steel in any form in your pujas.)
- Then speak aloud to the deities and tell them briefly why you are doing this parayan. eg for getting well from an illness, for resolution of disputes, or spiritual growth, or just because you love them.
- This is the Sankalp, the intention, so take a few drops of water in your right palm and drop it to the ground after you finish speaking.
- Also request that they help you complete the parayan and protect you while this is going on. This request for protection is necessary. As you progress in your parayan, you will accumulate positive energy, your aura will glow like the Sun. Then the souls/entities roaming around trapped in our dimension will come to you and request you to use this energy to set them free. This can manifest as actual problems eg falling ill, or some unexpected event which makes you break the parayan.
- There are 68 chapters in the Sundar-kand. Ideally you should read it all in one sitting but this is not possible for regular people. eg. so try to recite 6 chapters daily for 11days and finish the remaining 2 chapters on the 12th day. (I think this is a reasonable time frame in which you can manage)
- The small puja and sweet dish/ naivedya has to be offered on every day you do your parayan. After you finish for the day, eat the sweet dish as a Prasad or distribute it among your close family members.
- After you finish on the 12th day, thank the deities for the love they have showered on you. Then do a Dhyan, Soham 108 times, or the Gayatri mantra, or the Mantra you are doing etc. ie relax your mind and absorb the energy of the Sundar kand parayan into yourself.
This is the simplest way you can do your Sundar kand parayan.
Now the other part of the question which was asked to me.
The actual Ramayan has been simplified and abbreviated into other languages over these thousands of years. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states of India, the commonly used ‘Ramcharitmanas’ is a version in the local dialect called Avadhi. It was written by Tulsidas a few hundred years ago. This version is written in very typical old time language and is a highly abbreviated form of the original Ramayan.
The Sundarkand in the original Valmiki Ramayan is 68 chapters long and in this ‘Ramcharitmanas’ it is a mere 63 verses. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, people think that reading these 63 verses in Avadhi is ‘Sundar kand parayan’. It is not. But then faith and intention is important so even if you recite these 63 verses in Avadhi you will get some benefit. Something is always better than nothing. But to answer your question, this is not Sundar kand parayan.
The actual Sundar kand parayan is reciting the 68 Chapters of the original Ramayan written by Rishi Valmiki in Sanskrit.
Sanskrit is the Devbhasha Samskrutam, the words cannot be translated and each word is a mantra, the Shabda-Brahma, the divine Intelligence manifested in perfection. You can try doing the parayan yourself in the highly simplified method as per what I have written above, or you can get it done through a proper Brahmin pandit for the maximum auspicious effects and positive results.
Jai Sri Ram ..
Edit : I got a comment that what should someone do if cannot read Sanskrit? So here is a youtube link to the entire 68 sarga of the Sundarkand. Some kind soul has recited it beautifully in Sanskrit. So listen to it and try to follow what is being recited in your book.
Also buy a book with the Sanskrit text of the Sundarkand. Gita press has the Ramayan in Sanskrit with the Hindi translation. The book is priced at very very affordable rates. And now you may have to do fewer sarga per day depending on the recitation time/ sarga. So your parayan might continue for more days. During this Parayan period you should avoid non-veg, alcohol etc and live a satvik life style to derive the max auspicious benefits. (And later give yourself 10mins daily to learn some Sanskrit at least. It is our mother tongue, post here.)