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Adhyatma Ramayana Of Ramanandacharya – Emphasis On Advaita

Adhyatma Ramayana is one of the versions of the Ramayana with emphasis on Advaita or non-dualistic mode of thought. Modern scholars ascribe its authorship to Ramanandacharya of the 14th or the 15th century CE.

The works makes no secret of its intentions to preach Advaita Vedanta as the highest philosophy, and devotion to Rama as the practical way of securing salvation. Here, Rama is identified with the universal spirit, the Vedantic Parabrahman, essentially sat-chit-ananda, unique, devoid of all adjuncts of the nature of existence, beyond mind and speech, blissfully pure, peaceful, quiet, timeless, omnipresent, self-luminous, sinless and the very self. The primordial prakriti, which is the cause of the evolution, sustenance and dissolution of the universe, is identified with Sita.

The work, consisting of 4,242 verses, is divided into seven kandas (sections) – Bala, Ayodhya, aranya, Kishkindha, Sundara (Lanka), Yuddha and Uttara. Over and above this, it is usually prefixed by Mahatmya Adhyaya of sixty verses, which are said to be part of Brahmanda Purana. The work is in the form of a dialogue between Parvati (or Yogamaya) and Shankara (Shiva). The incarnation theory plays a dominant part in this work. Sita and Lakshmana are represented constantly as the incarnations of Parabrahman, as well as the primordial prakriti (Yogamaya) and Shesha, respectively. Vishwamitra, Vasistha, Janaka, Kausalya, Kumbhakarna, Ravana and others are said to have been familiar with this secret of incarnation.

The story of Rama is presented in this work is essentially the same as Ramayana of Valmiki but with additions warranted by the Vedantic doctrine sought to be projected in it. For example, it is asserted that Sita, who was carried away by Ravana was illusory, while the real Sita lived hidden in fire as instructed by Rama. She came out of the fire at the fire ordeal when the illusory Sita entered the fire. Moreover, in Ayodhya Kanda, Narada is made to visit Rama on the eve of this coronation for dissuading him from accepting the throne by reminding him of the true purpose of his incarnation, i.e. to destroy Ravana and his demons.

In all probability, Adhyatma Ramayana was composed sometime between 1490 and 1550 CE. The Ramayana of Valmiki is an epic in spirit, conception and characterization while Adhyatma Ramayana is more a work on theology and philosophy.