We all know that the epic Ramayana was written by Valmiki. Almost everybody agrees that the credit for the first version of this epic goes to him. He was considered as one of the foremost writers and poets. He was not a writer from birth. He also did not belong to a family of writers. In fact he was a highway robber and killer and his real name was Ratnakar. His profession was to rob and kill people and earn his livelihood. He was taking care of himself and his family out of the earnings of robbery and killing.
One day a strange thing happened in his life. He came across sage Narada and wanted to rob him and kill him. Narada said that it is okay with him but Ratnakar must answer few questions before he could kill him. Narada tells him, “all this that you are doing amounts to bad actions and bad karma. And it has its own consequences. It is true that you are taking care of your family by the earnings of all this bad karma but how confident you are that your family members also equally share the consequences of your bad actions and bad karmas.” To this Ratnakar says, “yes. I am absolutely sure and certain that they all equally share my actions and the consequences of my actions. He affirms that his family is an equal partner to all his actions.” Narada does not agree to this and tells Ratnakar to go and ask his family and take a word from them. He goes to his family and asks them. They all deny and resent sharing the consequences of all his actions. He feels disgusted and disdained on hearing all this from his family and comes back and shares the whole thing with Narada. Now he had no other option but to repent for all this. He requests Narada to show him a way. Narada gives him a Mantra. Mantra is a method or a tool that transforms our mind and consciousness. Mantra is a Sanskrit word and is made of two words - Man and Tra. Man means the mind and Tra means to transform and transcend. Narada tells him to chant the word “Rama”. Ratnakar was uneducated and he could not even pronounce the word properly and he pronounces it as “Mara”. Since he was a robber and a killer the only word he could pronounce so well was “Mara”. It can also mean to beat or kill. The alphabets in “Mara” and “Rama” are the same but their meanings are totally different. Narada was a perfect sage. He knew the secret. He tells him to chant and repeat this word “Mara”. You will be surprised to know that when you repeat the word “Mara” for long it will get pronounced as “Rama”. If you don’t believe me, please just try yourself.
He followed this Mantra and eventually transformed himself. It is same like how a raw gold is transformed into a 24 carat gold. It is same like how a seed is transforms into a flower and a fruit. It is same like how a caterpillar is transformed into a fluttering beautiful butterfly. The method and process of transformation is same. And then he became a renowned poet and a writer. And later on he was counted among the sages. He writes the epic Ramayana and becomes the first person to write the first version of the great book. Later on after him, many versions of Ramayana have arrived from many other writers.
This is the value of education. The willingness to learn should come from within. This is very important. And through this process even a robber may transform into a sage. A father may send his son or daughter to Harvard or Oxford and if he or she has no willingness to learn then this learning and education is of no use. On the other hand, Ravana was a great king and a great scholar. He had knowledge of all the scriptures. He also had great boons from the Gods. And just see what happened eventually. He remained a Rakshasa (a demon). Anything can happen in life. Life is really a great mystery. The emotions, thoughts and actions are very powerful people. And what is really important is in which direction they are moving. The direction determines the destiny and destination.
You will be surprised to know the meaning of the word Valmiki. It is a Sanskrit word made of two words - Val and Miki. Val means an ant and Miki means a hill. Valmiki, therefore, means an anthill. It is said that he studied and did penance for months and years and he had no idea as to what was happening around him. Well the story says that an anthill grew around him. This was his devotion towards learning, education, knowledge and wisdom. This is how eventually Ratnakar, a highway robber came to be known as Valmiki, a great writer, poet and a sage.
He then wanted to show this epic Ramayana to Narada. His wish was that Narada should review his first book. He meets and requests Narada to read and review his work. Narada says to Valmiki, “I have seen your work and indeed it is a great work. And I am not a right person to judge your work. I heard that Hanuman also had written a Ramayana. And I heard that his work is that of a genius. I suggest you meet him and show your work to him. And let him review your work.”
Valmiki visits Hanuman with his epic Ramayana. Hanuman shows his Ramayana to Valmiki. Valmiki sees the work very patiently. It was written on the palm-leaves. Valmiki is surprised to see the work of Hanuman. There was no comparison really. The work of Hanuman was really far greater than that of Valmiki’s. Valmiki says to Hanuman, “your work is so great that after reading your epic Ramayana nobody will read mine. Everybody will then remember you only and nobody will remember me and my work.” Seeing this behaviour of Valmiki, Hanuman picks up all the palm-leaves of his Ramayana and chews all the leaves and gulps them. This is how he destroys the first version of the epic Ramayana and tells Valmiki to go ahead with his work and not to worry any more. And while departing Valmiki wanted to know the secret of Hanuman’s great work. Hanuman says to Valmiki, “I have written the Ramayana so that people would know Rama and his deeds, and remember him, emulate him and imbibe him. Whereas you have written your Ramayana so that people will remember you forever as a great writer. This is the only difference. And if you wish you can call it a secret. And that is your word and I have nothing to do with it. And what is most important to me is my devotion towards Rama. You please do not worry. You go ahead with your work. I assure you that the whole world will admire your work and your epic will be considered by the world as a first version.”
This was really a great insight and a great learning to Valmiki. He thanked Hanuman for all this and parted his way.
This is the difference between a disciple and a devotee. Between a disciple and God there is a Guru who is standing in between. And the disciple has to cross the barrier. And between a devotee and God there is nobody standing in between. The devotee and God are almost closer to each other, the dividing line is very thin and it can get dissolved in any moment.
I think this is the reason why the scriptures are divided into Smritis and Srutis. Smritis are the work of remembering. They are not very authentic. They could be the collections of the disciples from the sayings of their Masters. Only the Master knows what he means by what he says. The disciple could say this only as part of his intellectual understanding. The Smritis mention the name of their authors. The Srutis on the other hand are revealed scriptures. They are directly coming from the Masters. They are more authentic and existential. They are not part of the memory. And the Srutis do not mention the name of their authors. They remain anonymous. Almost all of the Upanishads do not mention their authors. Generally, all great works - paintings, sculptures, and scriptures, do not give the name of their creators. These greatest ones are always known as anonymous. Is this the same reason why God is called the true creator? I think for the same reason God also remains anonymous. And we are ever searching for God within and without.