Ramacharitamanas tells the story of Rama and Sita as narrated by Shiva to Parvati. It is a commentary on faith and the most powerful tonic for generating bhakti.
After thoroughly studying the Vedas, Upanishads, Bible, Koran and many other spiritual books, I stopped my reading with Ramacharitamanas. This one book paved the way in my life. The greatest obstacle was that I knew too much about God, but He only remained within the precincts of my mind; I couldn’t go beyond. This book took me out of the gravitational force of mind and intellect, and now it is the only book I read.
The Bhagavad Gita contains knowledge, but Ramacharitamanas has the sweetness of nectar. The biggest contribution it has made to my life has been to establish a concept of God with form. Sakara is the one who has a shape, a form, and nirakara is the formless one. God is everywhere, but I want a God who has a name and a form, so I enshrined Lord Raghunath in my room and He is mine. From Ramacharitamanas I learned that God is everywhere, but you have to hold Him in one place. I also learned that this light which you see comes from the sun, but it is not the sun. It has the warmth and brilliance of the sun but it is not the sun. In the same way I may have a spark of divinity, but I am not the Divine. I may be a part of Him, but I cannot be Him.
In Ramacharitamanas the story is the skeleton structure over which the teachings are delicately woven. The real instruction is about life. There are lessons on the philosophy of life, on relationships, be it love between brother and sister, between two brothers or between father and son, how relationships should be lived and how they become distorted. That is the specialty of Ramacharitamanas.
Ramacharitamanas deals with the conflicts, frustrations and disappointments of life from birth to death. You cannot call it a religious book. Ramacharitamanas will give you a complete idea of the timetable of life. Life is a journey and you should have a timetable. The whole book, including Sita and Rama’s wedding, Rama’s exile, the abduction of Sita, Sindhu Tarang, the burning of Lanka, the killing of Ravana, reflect the spiritual journey of the jivatma, the individual soul, from bondage to liberation. The Ramayana happens every day. Do not say that Rama never was; he is spiritual philosophy personified.
Most people first understand the esoteric meaning and then accept Sita and Rama. The second mentality is to first understand the personages of Sita and Rama and then turn to the underlying philosophy. The Indian village mind functions like this. A villager first understands Sita to be the daughter of King Janaka from Mithila, who was taken away by Ravana, the king of Lanka, who was killed by Rama. The uneducated villagers understand this in story form first and then go into the spiritual dimensions, thus experiencing both the exoteric and esoteric Ramayana. But their urban intellectual counterparts go about it by interpreting the symbolism before the human side of the story. The story becomes important for them only as a representation of a philosophy.
Chant Ramacharitamanas, read it devoutly, profoundly and with understanding. The formless God becomes manifest in a recognizable form. It is futile to concentrate on deciphering the inner meaning and explaining the symbolism behind all the characters. Instead, read the Ramacharitamanas as it is, feel and understand it as it is. If you apply your brain, God becomes still more elusive.
Rama should not be taken as allegorical or symbolic. Rama and Sita should be worshipped as a god and goddess. Go to God through your heart, not the intellect, and see him as Tulsidas has described him. A sadhaka should take Rama as a sakara purusha, a manifestation of God. Sita’s beautiful character should move our hearts and bring tears to our eyes. Our hearts should become softer and softer, more and more tender, and slowly we should merge in the formless.