Vedic Audio Knowledge Presents
The Historic First Audio Recording in English of the Unabridged


RAMAYANA OF VALMIKI

Welcome to the historic first audio recording of the unabridged Ramayana. The Ramayana is the story of the supreme hero-Rama-whose divine purpose was to purify the world of ignorance and negativity. Cognized by the illustrious sage Valmiki, the Ramayana was composed in Sanskrit, the language of the Vedic civilization of ancient India.  The date of composition of the Ramayana cannot be fixed, since for thousands of years, in the tradition of Vedic knowledge, Vedic literature was handed down orally singer to singer, generation after generation. Reading Rama's epic tale is powerful, but listening to it as part of this original oral tradition yields even deeper experiences.

Of the many different aspects or branches of Vedic literature, the Ramayana belongs to the Itihasa branch, which also contains another great epic, the Mahabharata. The Ramayana was written in poetry of unsurpassed dramatic power and richness and contains over 24 thousand couplet verses, or slokas, making it one of the longest epic poems ever written (after the Mahabharata).

The translation chosen for this recording is the Srimad Valmiki Ramayanam, by renowned Indian journalist, N. Raghunathan (Vighneswara Publishing House, India). His translation is a literal translation, not a paraphrase, and with his direct and simple style, using rhythmic prose, rather than poetic meter (which often does not translate well), he has captured the essence of the original. His translation has also adapted beautifully from the written to spoken word.


Volume I

Volume I, read by Richard Ross, contains the first two books--Bala Kanda, the book of Rama's youth, and Ayodhya Kanda, which describes the affairs of Ayodhya, the capital city of Rama's realm. This volume describes the betrayal by Kaikeyi, Rama's exile to the forest, the grief of his father and the country, and the famous debate between Bharata and Rama in the forest.

The beauty of these first two books is also contained in the many "stories-within-the-story" featured only in this unabridged production. Stories such as the battle between the great rishis Vasishta and Vishwamitra and the origin of the Ganges offer a rare glimpse into Vedic civilization in the time of Rama's realm.

The reader, Richard Ross, an artist and singer with a life-long interest in Vedic literature, was chosen for his refinement of speech and beauty of voice.


Volume II

Rama's epic tale continues in the next three books of the Ramayana: Aranya, Kishkindha and Sundara Kandas. As the story builds in dynamism in these sections, it is fitting that Volume II features a new voice that of talented Shakespearean actor Stephen White, who adds a dramatic power and depth to the production.

Some of the most beloved scenes of the Ramayana unfold in Volume II, beginning with Aranya Kanda, the Book of the Forest Life, including: Rama's meeting with the wise rishis of the forest, the gaining of Agastya’s divine weapons, Rama's slaying of the 14,000 Rakshasas at Janasthana, the allure of the golden deer, and Ravana's abduction of Sita. Next, Kishkindha Kanda continues with the alliance with Sugriva, king of the monkeys; Rama's friendship with Hanuman; the slaying of Vali; and the worldwide search for Sita by Rama's Vanara allies. Volume II concludes with Sundara Kanda, including Hanuman's great leap across the ocean, his discovery of Sita and his faith-restoring message to her, the burning of Lanka, and Hanuman's triumphant return to Rama with a message from Sita.


Volume III

Volume III, read by Michael Sternfeld, explores the classic completion of every heroic quest—the return home.  Now it is time for Rama to come home--home, victorious, to Ayodhya and home to our full acknowledgment of the wholeness of his (and our) Being.  The Ramayana builds to a stunning climax in Book VI -- Yuddha Kanda, where Rama and his allies battle Ravana and his seemingly undefeatable forces.  The battle waxes hot and long, but you may enjoy listening to each wave of the battle as waves of purification of some aspect of yourself. As this process unfolds, your own invincibility is cultured.

Then the final seventh book, Uttara Kanda, elevates the entire story to cosmic dimensions.  This book reveals all the secrets  -- who the characters really are, and their purpose in playing out their roles in the divine play of Rama Lila.  In the process, you may also gain deeper insights into your own role in this grand play of life.

And so Rama's story comes to an end.  Or does it?  The epic began as Rama's unknown sons, Kusha and Lava, sing to Rama his history.  In the end, the story curves back upon itself as Rama asks his sons, whom he now knows, to unfold the rest of his story -- a circular loop, bringing out the never-ending, eternal play of the Ramayana.  Perhaps, as it has been said, the Ramayana is an ever-present reality happening at every point in creation.  If so, we hope you find this "cosmic biography", which nourishes the light of life, inside your very own Self.

Volume III also features a new voice--Michael Sternfeld--who was the producer and director on Volumes I & II.  His extensive knowledge and experience of the Ramayana enriches this final stroke of the production.


Final Note

While these events recounted in the Ramayana represent its outer value, the deeper action resides at a much subtler level within our own consciousness. The impulses of the Ramayana are actually structures of our own consciousness, our own Self. At this level, the Ramayana can be experienced as the "blossoming of totality", the living reality of the absolute level of life within boundaries. All the characters in the Ramayana, then, are aspects our own nature, playing out all its possibilities and tendencies. The vanquishing of ignorance and the reestablishment of Rama's realm are really our own "inner" drama, within our own Self.

After seven years in production, this project is now complete.  Never did we imagine that this production would take so long to complete, but never did we imagine the extraordinary richness, power and depth that would unfold within us during the retelling of Rama's sublime drama.  We hope that on all levels, your experiences will fathom equal or greater depths as you listen to the story of Totality on the move--the new audio Ramayana.  Enjoy!


Biographies

The Translator
N. Raghunathan (1893 - 1982)

N. Raghunathan Mr. N. Raghunathan was a brilliant writer, a profound scholar in English and Sanskrit, and the doyen of Indian journalism. After thirty years as Assistant Editor of The Hindu, the well-known national English daily of Madras, he retired as its Chief Editorial Executive in 1957. At the age when most individuals would have retired comfortably, Mr. Raghunathan undertook the monumental task of translating both Srimad Bhagavatam and Srimad Valmiki Ramayanam from Sanskrit into English. After a decade of work and well into his eighties, and with failing health, Mr. Raghunathan devotedly completed his translation of the Ramayana shortly before passing on at age 89. There is perennial vitality in the Ramayana, and N. Raghunathan's translation in English, faithful to the original and attuned to modern ears, should help to enliven the age-long tradition of Vedic knowledge and inspire those outside the tradition with the secret of the eternal charm of Sita and of the hero in whom goodness and greatness were uniquely combined.


The Producer/Director
Michael Sternfeld

Michael Sternfeld Art inspired from the depths of consciousness has been Michael Sternfeld’s life-long passion.  Michael began his performing career as a professional dancer with the Chicago Moving Company, and over the next twenty years went on to produce, direct and/or perform in over four hundred theater, music, dance, video and performance art events. After returning to graduate school to earn an M.A. in Vedic Studies, he discovered the Ramayana. He went on to co-direct a full theatrical production of the Ramayana, created an educational program for students called RamQuest, and developed The Hero's Quest, an outdoor theme park based upon themes from the Ramayana.  He has also produced numerous audio books, including a collection of stories from the Upanishads and several volumes of Panchatantra stories for children. His work on this production was awarded the “2004 Outstanding Project of the Year” by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Humanities Iowa. Michael continues to lecture, teach, and publish in the areas of myth and world literature.


The Readers
Richard Ross (Volume I)

Richard Ross Richard Ross is an artist, singer, and actor whose work celebrates the revival of Vedic knowledge -- knowledge which, when applied to the arts, illumines the link between the higher states of consciousness and artistic fulfillment. For the past twenty five years he has been a member of Purusha, a group of single men dedicated to creating enlightenment for themselves and peace and prosperity for the world.




Stephen White (Volume II)

Stephen White Stephen White is a graduate of the Trinity Rep. Theatre Conservatory in Providence, Rhode Island, and the British American Acting Academy in London. He has worked as an actor, director, and stage combat fight choreographer with the Camden Shakespeare Co., the National Shakespeare Co., the Montana Shakespeare Co., Washington D.C.,’s Arena Stage, Seattle’s Group Theatre and many others, including three of his own theater companies in Fairfield, Iowa. Stephen, a long-time practitioner and teacher of Transcendental Meditation®, is originally from Los Angeles, where his father was a cameraman for Cecille B. DeMille and his uncles were pioneer film producers and directors in the “Golden Age” of Hollywood.


Michael (Volume III)

After being the Director of Volumes I and II of this production, Michael switched to the other side of the microphone as the Reader on Volume III (see biographical notes above).


Additional Direction
Scott Smith (Volume III)

As an ardent explorer of the relationship between art and the nature of life, Scott Rodman Smith has expressed his talents in the fields of writing, visual arts, performing arts, music, and the pure spoken word.  He has performed on stage and film, and during an eight -year sojourn in Hong Kong, directed the dubbing of Asian films into English.  He has also voiced several ESL
proficiency tapes for Oxford University Press and Macmillan Publishers Limited.  A longtime practitioner of the Transcendental Meditation® program, Scott became a teacher of the program in 1975.  Scott is currently flexing his creative muscles in the visual arts and working to foster a deeper appreciation of art in society as a necessity for spiritual transformation.

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