Ramayana: Abilities, not resources, determine success

The life of śrīrāma continues to inspire millions like me across the world. On this rāmanavami, as I reflect on the lessons from śrīrāma’s life, I am reminded of this saṁskṛta subhāṣita:

विजेतव्या लंका चरणतरणीयो जलनिधिः
विपक्षः पौलस्त्यो रणभुवि सहायाश्च कपयः।
तथाप्येको रामः सकलमवधीद्राक्षसकुलम्
क्रियासिद्धिः सत्त्वे भवति महतां नोपकरणे।।

It means: Even when faced with extraordinary challenges, namely, (a) defeating Lanka, one of the most powerful kingdoms of the time, (b) crossing the sea by foot, (c) fighting rāvaṇa, a mighty opponent, and (d) having only monkeys as help on the battleground, śrīrāma solely destroyed the entire clan of monsters. Success depends on your inherent abilities, not on external resources.

In the traditional way of conveying a principle (सिद्धान्त) via examples (दृष्टान्त), this subhāṣita paints a lively picture of śrīrāma leading the vānarasenā across the sea, launching the attack on Lanka, and defeating rāvaṇa and his entire army to restore peace on earth.

He was a prince of Ayodhya on a mission to rescue his abducted wife – he could have asked his younger brother bharata, the ruler of Ayodhya, for help. Instead, he gathered the forest dwellers, built an army, overcame all the challenges, and fulfilled his destiny.

He had the ability to build an army, cross the sea, and kill rāvaṇa. He did not wait for resources or complain about their lack. He continued manifesting his abilities, and the resources kept coming along the way.

This message reflects in the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji, who inspired the peasants and villagers to fight against the injustice of Mughals, Nizam, and Adilshah, and established the swarajya after more than 300 years of oppression.

This message reflects in the life of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, who, rose from a humble background, earned two doctorates (PhD in Economics from Columbia University and a DSc in Economics from the University of London), inspired millions of untouchables to take to education, chaired India’s Constitution Drafting Committee, and ushered an era of equality.

This message reflects in the life of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, a fisherman’s son from a small Tamil Nadu village, who grew up to lead the satellite and missile programs of India, played a crucial role in successful nuclear tests (Pokhran II), went on to become the most popular President of India, and continues to inspire millions of students through his legacy.

This message reflects in the life of Smt. Chhutni Mahato, a tribal woman who was once accused of being a witch and abandoned by her husband, has worked on creating awareness on the matter and single-handedly saved over one-hundred women from witch-hunting.

This message reflects in the life of Sindhutai Sapkal, who was abandoned by her husband with an infant girl, went on the become the mai (mother) of over 1500 orphans.

This message reflects in the life of Pappamal, who works in her farm even at the age of 105, runs a successful business of growing millets, pulses, and vegetables, entirely using organic fertilizers.


स्वरूप जोशी
स्वरूप जोशी
Assistant Professor

Researcher, Educator, Developer