Festival days such as Rama-navami are a prime opportunity for spiritual advancement and purification. Srila Prabhupada stated in a Rama-navami lecture in Hawaii on the 27th March, 1969:
“There is no difference between His form, His name, His pastimes, and Himself. He’s absolute. Therefore either you chant the holy name of Rama or you see the statue of Rama or you talk of His pastimes, transcendental pastimes, everything, that means you are associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So we take advantage of these days when the incarnation of God appears or disappears, and we try to associate with Him. By His association we become purified. Our process is purification. Krishna consciousness means simply we are purifying our consciousness.”
Thus by associating with Lord Rama on His appearance day through hearing and speaking about His pastimes, chanting His holy name, and seeing His Deity form, Vaishnavas can become purified and further develop their love for the Lord.
When the Lord appears as Krishna, He descends in His original form as the enjoyer, and through His sweet pastimes captures the hearts of His devotees. However, many of Lord Krishna’s pastimes are confusing for ordinary persons because He acts in ways that ordinary persons should not. Lord Ramachandra appears in a different mood; in this incarnation, the Lord’s activities are such that ordinary and materialistic persons cannot find fault with Him. Rama sets an example of the perfect king, husband, son, friend, and master.
Without complaint, Lord Rama obeyed His father’s command to abdicate the throne on the eve of His coronation and go to live in the forest in exile for fourteen years. He was always dutiful in every way. Once upon the throne, He acted as an ideal king and due to His good governance, everyone experienced happiness. A citizen once came to Lord Rama to complain because his son had died at a young age; this demonstrates how idyllic the kingdom was under the rule of Lord Rama – the death of a son before the death of the father was at that time so unusual that it was worthy of complaint to the king Himself.
Although Lord Rama was certainly the ideal king, Srila Prabhupada explains that we do not worship Him for this reason. Srila Prabhupada states: “Maharaja Yudhisthira was also as good as Ramachandra, and Maharaja Pariksit was as good. There were many such kings. But we are not concerned because He was a king. He is the King of all kings, paramesvara. Because He is God, therefore we are observing today.” (Rama-navami Lecture – 27 March 1969, Hawaii)
Lord Ramachandra exhibits all of the opulences of the Lord in full. He has limitless strength, wealth, fame, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation, and all of these He demonstrated in His pastimes. He was so renounced that although He was the most beloved crown prince of Ayodhya, and the ideal future king, he renounced everything without hesitation for a life of austerity in the forest.
However, although Lord Rama is completely renounced, another important lesson to learn from His pastimes is what happens if someone other than the Lord attempts to enjoy the energy of the Lord. Lord Rama was completely renounced, but when the demon Ravana kidnapped Rama’s wife Sitadevi, wanting to enjoy Her, Lord Rama completely destroyed him.
Srila Prabhupada explains: “Sita is Lakṣmiji, or the goddess of fortune, but she is never to be enjoyed by any living being. She is meant to be worshiped by the living being along with her husband, Sri Ramachandra. A materialistic man like Ravaṇa does not understand this great truth, but on the contrary he wants to snatch Sitadevi from the custody of Rama and thus incurs great miseries. The materialists, who are after opulence and material prosperity, may take lessons from the Ramayana that the policy of exploiting the nature of the Lord without acknowledging the supremacy of the Lord is the policy of Ravaṇa. Ravaṇa was very advanced materially, so much so that he turned his kingdom, Lanka, into pure gold, or full material wealth. But because he did not recognize the supremacy of Lord Ramachandra and defied Him by stealing His wife, Sita, Ravaṇa was killed, and all his opulence and power were destroyed.” (Rama-navami Lecture – 27 March 1969, Hawaii)
However much opulence a person may possess, any attempt to exploit the Lord’s potency will result in suffering. Ravaṇa’s attempt to exploit Sitadevi is an extreme example, but this principle applies to the ever-present and more subtle desire to enjoy and exploit the Lord’s creation in all of its manifestations. Thus, the pastimes enacted by Lord Rama teach that success can only be achieved in service to the Lord and never through attempts to enjoy the Lord’s energy.
In the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, Rama-navami is celebrated with a morning class on the glories of Sri Rama followed by an abhishek of the Lord. In the afternoon, the Deity of Lord Rama is taken on procession around the Mayapur campus and greeted and honored by all the resident devotees. In this way, the devotees of ISKCON Mayapur celebrate Sri Rama-navami and associate with the Supreme Lord Sri Ramachandra.
sitayai pataye namah
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Ramachandra, who is all-auspicious, the Lord of the Raghu Dynasty and the husband of Sitadevi.”