At the beginning of the great Hindu epic, The Ramayana, the sage Valmiki takes an early morning walk with a student in a beautiful forest, by a river. Valmiki is ecstatic about the beauty and peace of the place, and praises the pure water for being like a good man’s heart. He bathes and prays there, and drinks from the stream.
Then, just as he notices a pair of curlews mating on the banks of the stream, a hunter (with evil intention) shoots the male bird and the female bird’s wrenching cries of grief fill the air.
Valmiki’s own sadness at the slaying of the male bird takes expression as the first “sloka” of the Ramayana. Lord Brahma himself visits Valmiki’s hermitage and advises Valmiki to turn his soka (grief) into sloka (verse) and recite the story of Lord Rama.
It is moving to think that profound grief about man’s disregard for nature, man’s cruelty to other life, is what led Valmiki to recite the entire Ramayana.
Jun 25, 2022
Radhapriya Chawla, ISKCON Toronto Communications