The ancient epic Ramayana is the most widely read story in the world and many consider it to be the ultimate spiritual guide. The stories are celebrated over fire dancing Kecaks in Bali to reenactments all over India and Thailand. It tells the tale of an enlightened prince who was unjustly banished to the forest for 14 years. But he didn’t go alone. His super devoted wife and brother followed him. The three had encounters with friends and foes—from wise sages to horrific demons to flying monkeys and wise bears. The climax occurs when the prince’s wife is captured by an evil demon-king and the hero must battle armies of demons and liberate the earth from darkness. Noted scholar Michael Sternfeld says in the introduction to The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic—Complete and Comprehensive (just out from TarcherPerigee), “the Ramayana has been described as the original epic quest—comparable to the Bible, Star Wars, and Romeo and Juliet all rolled into one.”
With the explosion of yoga and meditation in the west, there are readers who also want to understand this story more deeply. The problem is that because the original tome was in three volumes, the translations were very long and cumbersome to read, or were very short and lacked spiritual depth. Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy spent the last 18 years writing this new version to fix that. They wanted to portray the poetry of the original text and still illuminate the profound spiritual heritage of India. This book is so lyrically rendered that you won’t even notice the wisdom seeping in. (Tweet this)
In a conversation with Linda Egenes, she says, “this story has endured because the theme is dharma, a Sanskrit term that refers to living in a way that upholds the path of evolution, maintains balance, and supports prosperity and spiritual freedom.” Adulting would be way more fruitful if we used this guide to achieve balance, abundance, and yogi-hood. (Tweet this)
Linda tells me, “The Ramayana makes the abstract principles of dharma concrete, and the life of Rama, the hero, serves as an example.” In this story we see that even when prince and princess are pressed to their limits, they demonstrate compassion and forgiveness to friends and foes alike. One of the most telling moments happens at the climax of the story when the demon-king has been destroyed. The prince mourns the death and consoles the demon’s brother and tells him, “Death quells all enmity. We have achieved our purpose. Perform his rights with honor, for he is as dear to me as he is to you.” The Ramayana offers practical wisdom to anyone on a spiritual path. The role of meditation and yoga in developing wisdom and enlightenment are clearly exemplified in Rama’s life not only as a prince, but also as a warrior and enlightened yogi.
Linda has been a longtime practitioner of the Transcendental Meditation technique and was fascinated to find that throughout the story, Rama is guided by wise sages who practice meditation and yoga deep in the forests where he is exiled. She says, “It has been an amazing undertaking to work with this manuscript during the past 18 years, and in many ways it has inspired my own journey of transformation and growth.” Throughout the book, the authors use novelistic techniques to keep the modern reader turning the pages and being transported into a land and era that propels the transformation of those who read it. Linda says, “The heart-stopping story of Ramayana unfolds in layers of meaning and feeling, revealing hidden values that transform us and speed us on the path of self-realization. This was my experience, and I hope it will be yours too.”
Linda Egenes, M.A., and Kumuda Reddy, M.D. have collaborated on four other books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda. Linda is an adjunct assistant professor at Maharishi University of Management, and Dr. Kumuda Reddy is a retired professor at State University of New York and practitioner of Maharishi Ayurveda health care. Linda can be reached at www.lindaegenes.com and Dr. Reddy at www.allhealthyfamily.com.