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Book One: Chapter One

Translation and Commentary by: Marilynn Stark

Dedication: This page is lovingly dedicated to Swami Dayananda Sarasvati


tp>SvaXyay inrtm! tpSvI vaiGvdam! vrm!,

nardm! pirpCD viLmikr! muinpu<gvm!. 1-1-1


The religious ascetic, the sage Valmiki, striving in the sacred study, put forward an inquiry to Narada, chief among the most excellent in knowledge of speaking.  1-1-1

tps/!  Burning, distressing, tormenting; m. Heat, hot season, penance; tp!  vt. or vi. To trouble, to be powerful;] SvaXyay m. Sacred study; inrtm! a. Devoted to; tpSvI m. Religious ascetic; vaiGvdam = vac! f. Language, speech + acc. sing. of ivda f. Knowledge, or learned in speaking; vrm!, a. Most excellent; [v& to cover, to choose]; nardm! m. Narada, acc. sing.; pirpCD Inquired about; vaLmIik> muin> m. The sage Valmiki; pu<gvm m. Bull; hero, chief among, most excellent of.

Commentary :

     In the opening verse of the Ramayana Valmiki is introduced in his posture as one who is in the heat of an inquiry;  he seeks out the one who is the best of those most endowed in the oral tradition of the sacred knowledge, the Veda.  The word tapa as an adjective can be understood for its reference to the strife which will accompany true inquiry after satyam. This inquiry may therefore be described such that it can be distressing and filled with torment.  Therefore, the same remarkable strife when tapa is considered as a noun is defined as penance since there is a price one pays for succeeding in gaining knowledge.  

     However, the word tapa as much as it may denote trouble of some kind (as in its verb root form, tap where it can mean to trouble) also implies that the source of the trouble is the key to why there should be pain or trouble or remarkable strife in the first place.  The consonant takara denotes a launching of an inquiry after satyam, universal or absolute truth.  The consonant pakara denotes that which is dualized in the physical world by its nature; therefore, when the two consonants appear in conjunction with one another in the word tapa and adjacent to one another, this signifies that such an inquiry will lead to the salient feature of the physical world itself.  That feature most salient in the physical world is in fact its dual nature even though satyam lies in and through the physical as much as beyond it.  Therefore, to see the word tapa used adjectivally in description of Valmiki, one is immediately informed that Valmiki is deriving all that which arises from the absolute; moreover, one is informed that in the process he will be presented the nature of the dual opposites as he transcends them in his quest to attain to the highest knowledge available.  Those very dualities are what hide the nature of the absolute truth.  Although this quest unto the absolute may be known as distressing since the reward of such method in understanding and realizing satyam is of such a pinnacle of accomplishment, a kinder word in translating tapa in describing the work of Valmiki in studying the sacred scriptures, svadhyaya, would be striving.  If the proper attitude is assumed in the strict study and knowledge of the power of titiksha is placed in the forefront of the mind always, then what may appear as torment to others will actually be rewarding to the one who discovers deeper knowledge of satyam through such a slated inquiry.  Such an inquiry takes courage, as well.

     In understanding that Valmiki is of the mind to seek after knowledge of satyam through the sacred scriptures and that his method as defined by the word tapa will derive truth as from the absolute always one is consoled to hear that Narada is the one for Valmiki to consult.  Narada is placed as the best of the best of those whose knowledge of language, of the spoken word, is known about among those who similarly engage in proper, elavated inquiry and knowledge of the scriptures, of the Veda.

     Establishing the kind of people who are introducing the Ramayana is of the utmost importance to an understanding of the meaning of the inquiry and of the dialogue between them.  Once the standards of truth which apply are set up in the minds of those who wish to learn of the story of the great ones who star in the Ramayana, then those stars can be best understood.  Such an understanding will lend a value for proper inquiry; forsooth, it will teach respect for the outcome of such an inquiry since everyone can learn from an elevated inquiry even if it is the inquiry of another.  Such individuals who can pursue satyam at the pinnacle of their own capabilities set the example for others, and also they become heroes of truth itself as much as heroes of others whom they serve in the face of battle.  Rama is the shining hero of Sita in this epic; however, the truth which is told in the story lives on and serves in the lives of those who hear of it for centuries upon centuries thereafter.  This opening verse gives the underlying theme which makes possible such level of heroism that it would never die in its telling; that is the power of one Valmiki whose mind seeks unerringly after truth which derives from the absolute, satyam.  It derives right from the sound of the takara coupled to the pakara to make tapa in the unique language of samskrtam, a meta-language which is perfectly endowed to enchantingly sound the tale of truth as it applies to a great man whose great lady is taken away in dire battle by evil-minded people. ( January 4, 2006 )

k> nu AiSmn! s<tm! laeke gu[van! k> c vIyRvan!,

xmR}> c kt}> c sTy vaKyae x&F t> . 112



caire[ c kae yuKt> sRv -Ute;u kae iht>,       

ivan! k> k> smwR> c k> c @k iy dzRn>. 113



AaTmvan! kae ijt aexae *uitman! k> AnsUyk>,

kSy ib_yit deva> c jat rae;Sy s<yuge. 114



@tt! #CDaim Ahm! aetum! prm! kaEtUhlm! ih me,

mh;eR Tvm! smwaeR=is }atum! @vm! ivxm! nrm!. 115



uTva c @tt! ilaek}ae vaLmIke> nardae vc>,

Uytam! #it c Aam<y ae vaKym! AvIt!. 116



bhvae lR-a> c @v ye Tvya kIitRta gu[a>,

mune v:yaim Ahm! buωva tE> %Kt> Uytam! nr>. 11 .


 #vak v<z -vae ramae nam jnE> ut>,

    inyt AaTma mhavIyaeR *uitman! x&itman! vzI . 11 .  



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